This time last year, after writing our Christmas list to Santa and popping it in the post box, we started on our wishlist of audio and AV products we wanted to see in 2022. And guess what? Many of our wishes came true. Of the 16 products on the list, seven have indeed launched this year – the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones, KEF LS60 Wireless speaker system, Sky Stream streamer, AirPods Pro 2 earbuds, Chord Mojo 2 DAC, Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus and the just-announced Sonos and IKEA Symfonisk floor lamp speaker.
Of course, that means we didn't get all we desired, including cheaper Apple over-ear headphones, a HomePod 2, a second PMC amplifier design (i.e. follow-up to Cor) and, almost incredulously, Spotify HiFi. But that is (mostly) OK – we wouldn't want to be too spoilt now, and it simply means our anticipation of these perhaps arriving in 2023 is even higher.
Some of these no-shows reappear in our wishlist for 2023, but like a kid by 1pm on Boxing Day, our fickle attention has also moved on to new whims and desires. Below you’ll find no fewer than 15 examples of attractive yet unannounced products – some expected to appear on the horizon, others we'll have to cross our fingers more tightly for.
Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds
It is pretty likely we will see the next pair of Sony flagship wireless earbuds next year. The WF-1000 line has historically followed a biannual launch schedule – the current XM4 were revealed in June 2021, while the XM3 before them were announced in August 2019. So a summer 2023 release date for the XM5 would be right on cue.
The XM4 have been – and still are – one of our favourite pairs of wireless earbuds since they arrived, though new arrivals in the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II and AirPods Pro 2 have challenged their dominance so Sony will no doubt want to pull away once more with a next-gen effort.
How it would do so is by setting a new benchmark for sound quality in the category – something Sony is well versed in doing. But it could also add features such as aptX HD Bluetooth and spatial audio support, as well as slim down the design and supply more ear tip sizes, to advance its all-round offering.
One-box KEF system with Uni-Core
How can you deliver good amounts of bass from a small box? That’s the question KEF answered when it created its Uni-Core driver arrangement, which enabled it to design the successful LS60 Wireless speaker system and KC62 subwoofer – two products whose bass output far belies their diminutive physical form.
Uni-Core won our 2022 Innovation Award because of those achievements, and there are no doubt big plans to implement the design into future KEF kit. We imagine one of those could well be a one-box wireless system in the same vein as the Naim Mu-so 2, Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin and Sonus Faber Omnia – and we certainly wouldn't want to put the brand off such an idea.
Out of everything on our wishlist for 2022, Spotify HiFi was probably the most likely to materialise this year. After all, the green streaming giant had publicly set a 2021 release date for its lossless streaming tier, so when it still hadn't appeared last December we were almost certain its delay by weeks or months would see it instead arrive sometime in 2022. Well, as the year draws to a close, even that is looking unlikely.
In January, Spotify responded to the endless queries on its Spotify Community Forum with this statement: "We know that HiFi quality audio is important to you. We feel the same, and we’re excited to deliver a Spotify HiFi experience to Premium users in the future. But we don’t have timing details to share yet. We will of course update you here when we can." Since then, nada.
At this point, we can only hope that Spotify can find a way to bring lossless quality to the masses – whether that is indeed part of a reported Spotify Platinum package or not – as reports suggest the rollout is being held up by licensing issues. We have been waiting years for better-sounding Spotify, so what's another few weeks, months or years, eh? *Sigh*
Gaming-friendly QD-OLED TV
QD-OLED TVs have come out of the gate to the best start possible. The Samsung S95B and Sony A95K have both received five stars this year for their vibrant, dynamic and authentic pictures, putting them amongst the best premium TVs we have reviewed this year. But there is room for improvement – where features are concerned at least – because if you want a QD-OLED TV that has every gaming spec, including Dolby Vision gaming up to 4K/120fps, you're currently out of luck.
That is something 2023 models could hopefully resolve, perhaps most probably a Sony A95K successor considering Samsung is likely to stick with HDR10+ over Dolby Vision.
Updated NAD D 3020 amplifier
Considering not only the consistent success of the NAD 3020 model over its generations since 1978 but also the dearth of excellent budget stereo amplifiers being released today, the market is in a good position to welcome a third generation of the digital-friendly D 3020.
The D 3020 V2 arrived in 2020 to great acclaim as the sequel to the Award-winning D 3020, the first NAD 3020 version to include both physical digital connections and wireless Bluetooth support. But it is the Marantz PM6007 that sets the benchmark today and in its two years has so far been untroubled by contenders. If anyone could cause a stir here, it is NAD with a D 3020 V3 – one with improved sonics and, fingers crossed, aptX HD/Adaptive Bluetooth and a USB input.
Budget Sony AV amplifier
The Sony STR-DN1080 was a somewhat rare example of a successful product that strangely became obsolete before a successor came to take its place.
Five years was a long time for an AV receiver to sit on a shop shelf – most models are replaced on an annual basis, arriving each year like clockwork – so it isn't surprising that Sony's multi-Award-winning entry-level home cinema amplifier is no more. But, now two years after it was discontinued, we are still waiting for an heir. While the Award-winning Denon AVR-X2800H (£899 / $1999 / AU$2199) is a superb 'budget' option, the category is crying out for a truly excellent amp at the price point below.
More Apple over-ear headphones
When Apple's first pair of over-ear headphones, the AirPods Max, were finally announced in December 2020 after years of speculation, they were met with a sea of Shocked Emojis. Or rather, their price tag of £549 / $549 / AU$899 was. That parameter pushing has led other such similarly priced pairs, such as the Focal Bathys, to surface this year, and AirPods Max deals aren't exactly rare around Christmas and Black Friday, but the fact remains that they aren't accessible to the masses in the same way that the AirPods and Sony over-ears are.
We actually think their asking price is pretty justified, considering their excellent sound quality and features – being an Apple product, they work a treat for Apple users. But that AirPods Max success understandably has us and the tech world begging for more (and preferably, more affordable) Apple over-ear headphones. Our AirPods Max 2 preview rounds up the latest rumours of a forthcoming pair, though in short we would cross our fingers for improved battery life, a 3.5mm audio port and way to listen losslessly... and, of course, a better carry case.
Next Rega Planar 3 turntable
We can’t think of another product in the past 50 years that has dominated its market sector with the authority of Rega’s Planar 3 turntables. The latest iteration has thoroughly dominated since its 2016 release, winning a What Hi-Fi? Award every year. That is, until this year! Finally, after an unbelievably good run, the Planar 3 has been overthrown in its price category – by the Pro-Ject Debut Pro.
It is a title the British company will no doubt be keen to take back with a refreshed Planar 3, which is arguably due anyway. Perhaps that new model should have a built-in phono preamp, at that – or at least a variant that has one integrated – considering the success of Rega's phono stage-toting Planar 1 Plus.
Generally, Rega furnishing its products with more features of late has paid off, as represented by its latest Elicit and Elex stereo amplifiers boasting digital connections for the first time. While we are on the Rega wishlist, then, can we add an entry-level Brio that is digitally friendly too?
Next-gen Naim Nait pair
Naim's Nait 5si amplifier and Nait CD5si CD player were reliable What Hi-Fi? Award winners before they were ousted by newer competition some years back. So it's about time the battle around their mid-range price point was reinstated by some all-new SI Series successors, especially as the pricier options in the Nait range were advanced in mid-2019, with both the Nait XS 3 and Supernait 3 receiving best-in-class What Hi-Fi? Awards that year. (The Nair XS 3 hasn't lost its crown yet either.)
A new Nait CD spinner would hopefully feature some digital inputs, while the next-generation amplifier would undoubtedly have an upgrade path for Naim's power supply, and perhaps even a built-in phono stage. Here's hoping they're on Naim's 2023 roadmap. After all, next year is a big deal for the company...
Big birthday launches from Naim, Linn & Rega
Three of the biggest household names in hi-fi are celebrating their 50th birthdays in 2023 – indeed, 1973 was, retrospectively, a significant year for the industry. So we can only cross our collective limbs for commemorative product launches from the British trio that are worthy of those impressive milestones.
All three have no shortage of past and present successes in their catalogues, so limited-edition anniversary creations of them could be pretty special. Naturally, we will be pinning our hopes on modern-day reimaginings of classics or even something entirely new altogether.
Apple HomePod 2
The HomePod 2 is coming. We don't know when exactly (it's been years since the first HomePod 2 rumours surfaced), but a sequel to the original, 2018-released HomePod ("the best-sounding smart speaker you can buy", we said) to join the HomePod mini seems as likely as the launch of another iPhone. Next year should be when the next Apple smart speaker finally emerges, with reliable Apple analysts Ming-Chi Kuo and Mark Gurman seemingly in agreement that it will likely launch sometime in 2023.
Face ID recognition and 3D hand gestures are rumoured features, and Apple's spatial audio technology, lossless and hi-res audio support, intercom functionality, and Dolby Atmos support with Apple 4K TV would undoubtedly be on the menu.
Sonos surround speaker for Dolby Atmos
Sonos went after the Dolby Atmos soundbar market hard with its latest Beam and Arc and absolutely nailed it. Those two soundbars offer the best Atmos experience from single bars that you can get at their respective price points, as their What Hi-Fi? Awards attest.
Owners of either (likely the Arc) can wirelessly connect a pair of Sonos One SLs to be used as dedicated surround speakers/rear channels to enhance the surround sound experience, but what if Sonos offered an alternative wireless surround sound speaker that had an upward-firing driver and could therefore better convey the height information in a Dolby Atmos soundtrack? Now that would make for a more immersive Sonos home cinema experience.
- Sonos Arc long-term review: the highs and lows
Affordable MicroLED TV
The heir apparent to OLED and QLED (and yes, QD-OLED), MicroLED appears to have a bright future in home cinema. It's like OLED with its self-emissive properties, but instead of using organic light-emitting diodes, they use tiny, non-organic LEDs – three per pixel, which can be turned off individually and display a completely different colour to the next.
The promise is of perfect contrast, colour control and high peak brightness. The problem? It is bloody expensive. Samsung's renowned first efforts were exclusively huge and modular ('The Wall' as it is called goes up to a 583-inch 8K variant), but in the past couple of years, it has announced considerably more practically sized versions (89 inches is the smallest)... that still cost a bomb. Tens of thousands at least. There have also been delays in their production, apparently due to both technical and supply chain issues, so their emergence as a real-life proposition for people's living rooms is still some way off.
We certainly hope MicroLED technology becomes a 'thing' sooner rather than later, though; from what we've seen, it looks exceptional.
Wharfedale Diamond 13 speakers
Wharfedale's celebrated entry-level Diamond speaker range tends to get an update every three years, so considering the latest Diamond 12 series blessed us with their presence in 2020, well, you can work out the rest.
The Diamond 12.3 floorstanders and overall Diamond 12 speaker package remain What Hi-Fi? Award winners, recently having picked up their second successive Best Buys at their respective price points, though there are ambitions that could be reached (and crowns that could be succeeded) by a new Diamond range in the standmount market.
Whether or not the next generation of Diamond speakers (likely named Diamond 13.1, 13.2 and so on) will also be designed by Karl Heinz-Fink – the winner of our special Contribution Award 2022 – remains to be seen, but expectations for Diamond models are always high and that is a testament to both their inescapable legacy and quality consistency.
In the last two years since the rather large PS5 launched, fans have been crying out for the anticipated slimmer variant to appear. Dubbed the 'PS5 Slim' in keeping with Sony's typical moniker for its slenderised, lighter-weight console, the new machine is expected to arrive in time for Christmas next year, in line with the console's typical hardware refresh timeline of three years.
While its name or even existence has not been confirmed by Sony, reports from The Leak state that a smaller, lighter console is in the works. It will reportedly have a die shrink (a more efficient CPU) that would reduce power consumption (and production costs), and a slightly redesigned chassis wouldn't require a stand to sit vertically. Further PS5 Slim rumours suggest a mid-way model could be made more compact and affordable by instead having its disc drive feature detachable and portable.
Either way, we would very much welcome a leaner, cheaper PS5 console in 2023.
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