We are exceptionally spoiled when it comes to the consumer electronics available to us – arguably we have too much choice – but, as human psychology asserts, no matter how much we have and how good it is, we always want more and better. That condition is, importantly, what paves the way for continuous innovation, after all.
So, what audio and AV, hi-fi and home cinema kit do we want to appear in this world next year? Naturally, we want successors to and spin-offs of the class-leading kit we already have, but we also fantasise about concepts that haven’t yet been introduced to the world.
Here you’ll find no fewer than 16 examples of appealing yet unannounced products on our wishlist – some are expected to appear on the horizon, others we'll have to cross our fingers tighter for. When we first penned this article, this list included sequels to the Sony WH-1000XM3, Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 and Marantz 6006 series components, as well as Apple over-headphones – which have all since materialized. So either we're good at guessing (and listening to rumours) or this list is simply a good omen for things to come. So now, naturally, we're onto our next batch of wish-list kit...
And don't forget to let us know which products you want to see with a comment below!
Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones
It's only natural that a successor to our favourite pair of wireless headphones sits high up this wish list. The Sony WH-1000XM4 are the world's best-value wireless noise-cancelling over-ear headphones, as its current What Hi-Fi? Product of the Year award represents. And if habit prevails, they will be succeeded by what will almost certainly be called the WH-1000XM5 in the third of fourth quarter of 2022.
While Sony doesn't exactly need to rush out an improved model right now to stay top of the class, it usually runs on a two-year cycle with its headphones and earbuds, so it's likely the XM5 will make an appearance next year. Perhaps to go head-to-head with a new, long-awaited Sennheiser Momentum arrival or cheaper versions of the AirPods Max.
When they do bless us with their existence, our fingers are crossed for aptX HD Bluetooth support and an IP waterproof rating.
3D holographic football
You probably won't be surprised to read that this one has been on our list from the start and hasn't moved from it. But we can dream, can't we! After all, with 4K, HDR and Dolby Atmos now part and parcel of sport broadcast coverage, football has never looked or sounded so good in the home. But what if matches could be augmented into 3D hologram-style projections that you could watch on your dining room table or even true-to-size at a local stadium?
Researchers from the University of Washington have already experimented with such a concept, using AI and FIFA gameplay analysis to create 3D maps of pitches and players, and watching such reconstructions back on a domestic surface through Microsoft’s HoloLens smart glasses. So who's to say that, while probably years off, it won't take off in the future?
KEF LS50 Wireless... as floorstanders
KEF has won multiple What Hi-Fi? Awards for its all-in-one stereo speaker system efforts – first for its LS50 Wireless standmounters, then for its smaller LSX standmounters, and most recently for its LS50 Wireless II, which are – you guessed it – sequels to the originals and also standmounters. So how about a floorstander version, KEF?
For those who want a room-dominating, bass-rich performance without the hassle of extra boxes and lots of trailing cables, such all-in-one system/source/speaker propositions in tower form (as we've seen from the likes of Dali's Callisto 6 C and Q Acoustics Q Active 400) from KEF would be most welcome, given the brand's track record.
Chord Mojo sequel
It's been six years since the Chord Mojo redefined expectations of portable digital-to-analogue converters, and while many portable challengers have come into the marketplace since, namely from iFi and Audioquest, a new Mojo hasn't. Yet.
The company has recently been working on sequels and streamers for its more advanced Hugo offering, so a Mojo update is now due – especially since the original is now no longer in production (and so couldn't win a What Hi-Fi? DAC Award this year). We'd like one that doesn't run quite so hot, and, if we're really pushing our luck, one accompanied by an all-new Poly streaming accessory at that.
- The best DACs you can buy right now
Sony STR-DN1080 successor
The Sony STR-DN1080 is another example of a product that's obsolete before a successor has come 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's not surprising that Sony's multi-Award-winning entry-level home cinema amp is no more. But where's its heir? Especially as the category is now crying out for a truly excellent amp at the budget price point.
Fingers crossed that Sony has plans up its sleeve for one to materialise when logistics allow, naturally with support for the next-gen features (such as HDMI 2.1) in its arsenal.
Compact, affordable Sennheiser Ambeo
Sennheiser's (and perhaps the world's) most premium soundbar is 127cm wide, 14cm tall and costs over £1800 ($2500, AU$4000) – and is undoubtedly the best-sounding soundbar we’ve ever tested. But while the Ambeo is a hugely impressive beast, we wish its rich, natural and spacious sound signature and effective Ambeo mode could be trickled down to a slightly smaller, more affordable form. You know, for those with more modest budgets and living quarters.
Sonos has effectively repackaged its high-end Dolby Atmos Arc into a smaller Atmos offering with its 2021-released Sonos Beam (Gen 2), and there's certainly room for Sennheiser to muscle in on that growing market. If only it would.
Sonos & IKEA’s next collaboration
It's 2021 and the world feels weird enough not to make a massive deal out of a bookshelf and a lamp that can sing, so we won't dwell on the arguable absurdity of Sonos and IKEA's first collaborative efforts – especially considering both their Symfonisk bookshelf speaker and Symfonisk lamp speaker proved pretty impressively good value for the interior design-conscious music fan. The collaboration cheerfully continued this year, bringing in a sequel to that lamp with swappable lampshades, as well as the Symfonisk Picture Frame WiFi Speaker, which combines "both room-filling sound and a beautiful piece of art".
It's likely we'll see more from this prolific partnership in 2022, then. A singing table and shower-friendly speaker would be up there for us.
In case you didn't know, Spotify HiFi is the ubiquitous music streaming service's long-anticipated entry into CD-quality streaming. It was initially teased in 2017 and promptly disappeared from consciousness. Then, in February this year, the company officially announced Spotify HiFi to the world at its 'Stream On' event and promised the tier would be with us by the end of the year. A leaked video and a cheeky icon glimpse in the iOS app gave us our first look at HiFi in the wild. Things were looking good.
Since then we have been mostly waiting. And waiting. And it's looking increasingly likely, as we approach the final week of December, it won't land before 2021 expires.
We'd like to see Spotify finally green-light higher quality, but the fact Amazon and Apple now offer a competitive CD-quality and hi-res option begs the question: does the world actually need Spotify HiFi?
Cheaper (or updated) 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. Why? Well, they, er, launched at £549 ($549, AU$899) – almost double the price of the rival wireless noise-cancelling competition from the likes of Sony, Bose and Sennheiser. AirPods Max deals have seen that figure come down considerably since, but the fact remains that they're still much more expensive than rival pairs.
We think the asking price is actually pretty justified, considering they're the best sounding of their kind we've ever heard – and, being an Apple product, they work a treat (especially for Apple users). But that AirPods Max success naturally only makes us want to see more Apple headphones designs, whether that's in the form of sequels (now that the originals are a year old) or cheaper variants.
There were reports that cheaper, sport-friendly versions that would 'only' cost $349 were in the pipeline, although they have somewhat died down in recent months.
Apple HomePod 2
The HomePod 2 is coming. We don't know when (it's been years since the first HomePod 2 rumours surfaced), but an imminent sequel to the original, 2018-released HomePod ("the best-sounding smart speaker you can buy", we said) seems as likely as the launch of another iPhone. Late last year, the HomePod family gave birth to a HomePod mini, and that miniature smart speaker is now riding solo in the HomePod empire following the 2021 discontinuation of the original HomePod.
Face ID recognition and 3D hand gestures are rumoured features, and Apple's spatial audio technology, intercom functionality, and Dolby Atmos support with Apple 4K TV would undoubtedly be integrated.
- Apple HomePod 2: release date, leaks and all of the news
Next-generation 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 the £1000 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 to hoping they're on Naim's 2022 roadmap.
AirPods Pro 2
Like 2021 marked the year we got the AirPods 3, 2022 will surely be the year of the AirPods Pro 2. Apple's inaugural noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds came out in late October 2019 so, again, an update is arguably due. And all rumours at this stage point to a third-quarter release date, around the time of the rumoured iPhone 14 launch perhaps.
On the cards is an all-new Apple chip for improved (and perhaps granular) noise-cancellation, usability functions and battery life; fitness tracking features courtesy of ambient light sensors that are able to take biometric measurements; and a stem-less, rounder design, as adopted by the likes of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2. Also on the rumour list: 'through-body' controls that mean you could control them by touching your face, clicking your tongue or making in-air hand gestures. We'd also take a step up in sound quality too please, Apple.
- Apple AirPods Pro 2: release date, price, design, leaks and all of the news
Affordable MicroLED TV
Labelled the 'Future of TV' and the heir apparent to 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 is its current expense. Samsung's renowned first efforts were exclusively huge and modular ('The Wall' as it is called goes up to a 583in 8K variant), but this year it launched a considerably more practical (but still outrageously expensive) 110-inch flatscreen MicroLED TV. That will reportedly be joined by 89-, 101- and 114-inch sizes in 2022, but it's QD-OLED TVs that are set to controversially become Samsung's more prominent offering next year (and perhaps the most game-changing TVs of 2022).
We certainly hope MicroLED technology becomes accessible to consumers sooner rather than later, though; from what we've seen, it looks exceptional.
Sonos wireless noise-cancelling headphones
Arguably more exciting than cheaper AirPods Max or next-gen Sony noise-cancellers: Sonos's first headphones. This is another product launch that has been teased more times than snowfall at Christmas, with the latest rumours suggesting Sonos is going for an over-ear wireless model (as detailed by a patent that emerged in September last year) that might cost around £220 (the proposed figure according to Bloomberg sources) and feature Sonos-exclusive features like Swap (which debuted in the Roam and would lets the headphones seamlessly 'swap' the music they're playing to your home Sonos system).
Back in March, Sonos CEO Patrick Spence said the firm would launch a product in a new category "in the next year", so if that's going to be headphones, we'd expect to hear something within the next three months.
- Sonos wireless headphones: release date, rumours, and all of the news
Sky Glass... without the TV
Everything you could possibly want to know about Sky's latest (and perhaps surprising) product can be found in our Sky Glass review. But for the uninitiated, a mini summation: Sky Glass is a new Sky TV platform delivered entirely over the internet and therefore free of a satellite dish, and right now solely delivered as a TV.
Yes, while the only way to get the Sky Glass service right now is to buy a Sky Glass TV that has it built in, we hope that won't be the case for long. If you're listening, Sky, our (and no doubt many others') wish for 2022 is the standalone availability of the Sky Stream Puck so that people can bless their existing TVs with Sky Glass.
At the moment, you can't buy the Puck without a Sky Glass TV – it's purely intended as a multi-room solution, for Sky Glass TV owners to add it to other TVs in the house. If the Puck were available as a standalone device (preferably with a hard drive for proper recording), we'd be all for Sky Glass as a concept.
- Read our full Sky Glass review
PMC Cor pre/power amps
If at first you don't succeed, try again. And if you do, well, keep going! We hope that is British speaker brand PMC's attitude to designing amplifiers, because its first standalone domestic amp, the Cor, proved just as capable as the class leaders when it arrived a few years ago. Because of its proficiency, we'd be interested to see how PMC would turn out a Class A/B pre and power amplifier pairing too.