2023 is in the rear-view mirror, and that means we have a special treat to kick off 2024 – What Hi-Fi?’s first Pick of the Month column for the year.
In it, we detail the latest products to earn perfect five-star scores after our team of product experts put them thoroughly through their paces in our dedicated listening and viewing rooms.
December was a particularly interesting month, with only five products meeting our reviewers' high standards and achieving perfect marks. These included everything from top-of-the-line speaker cables to brilliant OLED TVs.
Without further delay, here are the What Hi-Fi? reviews team’s top picks for December 2023.
QED Golden Anniversary XT
Our reviews team described the Golden Anniversary XT as “five decades of knowledge distilled into a new speaker cable”.
We don’t often give praise like that, but based on our testing there’s no other accurate way to describe this stellar speaker cable.
Plugging it into our reference system – which combines a Naim ND555/555PS DR, Burmester 088/911MkIII amplifier and ATC SCM50 speakers – the results were brilliant. The set-up delivered a detailed and neutral presentation with high levels of clarity across multiple genres of music.
This makes it a great option for any hi-fi fan building a premium set-up and led our testers to conclude:
“There is no doubt that the QED Golden Anniversary XT is an excellent performer. If your system merits a speaker cable at this level, put this one on your shortlist.”
Read our QED Golden Anniversary XT review
Q Acoustics 5040 5.1 Home Cinema
The Q Acoustics 5040 5.1 Home Cinema pack is the latest speaker package to pass through our test rooms and a direct rival to the What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Bowers & Wilkins 606 & 607 S3 speaker package.
This gave it some pretty big shoes to fill, but once we plugged it into our reference system our testers were impressed with the results.
The moment we took it out of the box, it delivered in nearly all the key metrics we care about: ease of use, audio quality and aesthetics.
Highlights include a surprisingly compact form factor that makes it easier to set up than most rivals in smaller spaces, and a wonderfully energetic clear sound, with impressive levels of detail.
This led our testers to heap praise on it and conclude in our review:
“If you want a home cinema package that's easy to live with, delivers punchy, energetic and theatrical sound, and you don’t mind losing a touch of warmth, then the 5040 5.1 Home Cinema is easily one of the best speaker packages on the market.”
The 778X is a modern integrated amp that bears the same name as the classic amp Mission released many moons ago. While the only common factor between it and the original version is its name, we found the new 778X is a fantastic performer and an ideal option for any hi-fi fan on the hunt for an integrated amp.
As well as being able to cope with 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD256 music files through the USB, and up to 192kHz PCM with optical and coax, it also has modern streaming smarts with aptX Bluetooth support included.
Plugging it into our reference system – which included a Naim ND555/555 PS DR music streamer and ATC SCM 50 speakers – the results were fantastic. Whether it was Mount The Air by The Unthanks or Dvořák’s New World Symphony, the 778X delivered an even-handed and unobtrusive presentation.
This led our testers to conclude:
“This Mission is up against some tough competition, and maybe its slightly understated sonic manner won’t draw the attention as strongly as its rivals, but make no mistake, this is a well-rounded product that deserves plenty of success. Retro appeal or not, the Mission 778X convinces.”
Read our Mission 778X review
The GS3000x are Grado’s top-of-the-line, wired open-back headphones. Sitting well above the infinitely more affordable Grado SR325x we reviewed and gave five stars to in October last year, based on our testing, for discerning listeners with cash to burn they are an excellent choice.
As the successors to the five-star, previous generation Grado GS3000e the new GS3000x offered noticeable and impressive improvements. Chief of these are the new 52mm drive unit (up from the older model’s 50mm) which comes with a more powerful motor unit, lower mass voice coil and a revised diaphragm. These work together to try and reduce distortion, improve efficiency and boost responsiveness.
During our listening tests the improvements were noticeable with the GS3000x delivering brilliant sonic performance, delivering effortlessly detailed and fluid sound with an impressively articulate midrange.
This led our reviewers to conclude:
“Give them a signal of suitable quality and they also produce one of the most articulate and musically cohesive performances we’ve heard anywhere near this level.”
Read our Grado GS3000X review
The 808 is the last OLED TV we tested in 2023 and despite coming late, it left quite the impression on our team of testers. A direct rival to the LG C3 and What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Sony A80L, we found it delivers an incredibly competitive performance.
Technical highlights include Philips’ custom Ambilight technology, HDMI 2.1 support and a pleasingly easy-to-set-up design and software. But it was the 808’s dynamic but balanced picture that really sold us.
Despite not having next-generation MLA tech, like the more expensive Philips OLED908, the 808 performed wonderfully during all our checks, offering great contrast, solid HDR performance and surprisingly reliable (by inbuilt TV standards) audio. This led our testers to conclude:
“[Philips has] squeezed every drop of performance out of its ‘standard’ OLED panel while still delivering cinematic authenticity.”
Read our Philips OLED808 review
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