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 kit do we want to appear in this world in the near future? 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 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 arrived. So now, naturally, we want more.
And don't forget to let us know which products you want to see with a comment below!
It's only natural that a successor to our favourite pair of true wireless earbuds sits high up this wish list. The Sony WF-1000XM3 currently lead the field when it comes to premium noise-cancelling earbuds, but while Sony doesn't need to rush out an improved model right now to stay top of the class, it's likely the XM4s will make an appearance at some point in the near future. After all, the XM3 have been knocking around since summer 2019, and new competition is constantly arriving.
When they do, our fingers will be crossed for aptX HD Bluetooth support and a slightly more compact case design.
3D holographic football
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, despite being a distant dream now, it won't take off in the future?
KEF LS50 Wireless... as floorstanders
KEF has won back-to-back 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 Award-winning LS50 Wireless II, which are – you guessed it – 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 propositions (as we've seen from the likes of Dali) from KEF would be most welcome, given the brand's track record.
Chord Mojo sequel
It's been five 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.
You can't really blame Chord Electronics for that; a current Award-winner, the Mojo is still at the top of its game, and the company has recently been working on sequels and streamers for its more advanced Hugo offering. Still, that doesn't stop us wanting an update – one that doesn't run quite so hot, and one accompanied by an all-new Poly streaming accessory at that.
Sony STR-DN1080 successor
Five years is 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. You can see why Sony hasn't been in a rush to replace its STR-DN1080 budget powerhouse, though – it's still a What Hi-Fi? Award winner. That said, a successor has to be on the horizon, especially as HDMI 2.1 features are increasingly present in current receivers.
Compact, affordable Sennheiser Ambeo
Sennheiser's most premium soundbar is 127cm wide, 14cm tall and costs over £2000/$2000 – and probably 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 & IKEA’s next collaboration
It's 2020 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. Seeing as both their Symfonisk bookshelf speaker and Symfonisk lamp speaker proved pretty impressively good value for the interior design-conscious music fan, though, we'd like more please. A singing table and shower-friendly speaker would be up there for us.
It's gone quiet in the Spotify camp regarding lossless streaming. It's been more than three years since some subscribers reported being offered access to a Spotify Hi-Fi option, and here we are today, still listening in a measly 320kbps. We'd like to see Spotify finally green-light higher quality, but the fact Amazon now offers a competitive CD-quality and hi-res option begs the question: does the world need it?
Cheaper Apple over-ear headphones
When Apple's first pair of over-ear headphones, the AirPods Max, were finally announced after years of speculation, they were met with a sea of Shocked Emojis. Why? Well, they, er, cost £549 ($549) – almost double the price of the rival wireless noise-cancelling competition from the likes of Sony, Bose and Sennheiser.
Whether or not they are worth such an outlay or not (we hope to find out very, very soon), that price tag will simply put them out of reach for many. Thankfully, cheaper, sport-friendly versions that would 'only' cost $349 are reportedly in the pipeline. Fingers crossed.
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 a sequel to the original, 2018-released HomePod ("the best-sounding smart speaker you can buy") seems as likely as the launch of another iPhone – especially as the HomePod has now grown into a family with the recent arrival of the HomePod mini.
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.
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 a few years back. So it's about time the sub-£1000 battle was reinstated by their successors, especially as the pricier options in the Nait range were advanced last year, with both the Nait XS 3 and Supernait 3 receiving best-in-class Awards.
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.
Apple AirPods 3
Apple didn't invent the category of true wireless headphones, but its original AirPods did very much take them mainstream. The second-gen AirPods that were released in 2019 upped the ante with improved sound, but with with stellar offerings from the likes of Sony, Cambridge Audio, Sennheiser and Bose, there's no shortage of competition in the market.
Third-generation offerings are rumoured to land in the first half of 2021, and could well set themselves apart from their predecessors with shorter stems (as adopted by the AirPods Pro), a brand-new Apple processing chip, sensors for health- and fitness-tracking features... and, we hope, better sound again.
AirPods Pro 2
Speaking of AirPods, we are also expecting a sequel to Apple's AirPods Pro in 2021. Apple's inaugural noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds came out in late October 2019 so, again, an update is arguably due. All rumours at this stage point to a fourth quarter release date – October at the earliest, then – and on the cards is an all-new Apple chip for perhaps better 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 Samsung Galaxy Buds+ and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2.
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 efforts lie in the huge, modular The Wall (which goes up to a 583in 8K variant), but the company has on a number of occasions promised that a consumer version will be available soon. 2021 will be the year that happens, with Samsung having announced a 110-inch flatscreen MicroLED TV. But rumour has it, it could cost over 100-million Korean won, which translates to roughly £70,000 ($90,000, AU$125,000).
Could a more affordable offering appear next year, though? We certainly hope the technology becomes more accessible sooner rather than later as, from what we've seen, it looks exceptional.
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 couple of 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.
Sonos Move... Mini?
Sonos finally entered the portable Bluetooth speaker market in late 2019, but not perfectly. While the mighty Sonos Move instantly impressed with its atypically open, large-scale sound and, naturally, all the Sonos smarts you'd expect, one of its let downs (and barriers to a fifth star) was its rather large size – 24cm tall and 3kg heavy. "if you were expecting a battery-powered, Bluetooth version of the Sonos One, think again," we said in our review. "It's more suited to becoming a semi-permanent fixture in a room of your house and taken for occasional spins in the garden when the weather permits."
So how about a portable speaker that people can easily throw in their luggage and take away on holiday, then Sonos? We don't know about you but we think 'Sonos Move Mini' sounds pretty cute.