Pick of the Month: Sony XM5 earbuds excel, iconic Naim NAP 250 is reborn, and more

Pick of the Month July 2023
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

It’s the end of the month which means yet another entry into What Hi-Fi?’s regular Pick of the Month column, where we round up the top-scoring products to pass through our test rooms over the past 30 days.

This month’s been particularly hectic for our team of reviewers, with five products managing to impress them enough to earn perfect scores. These include everything from top-of-the-line amps to affordable DACs and flagship wireless earbuds. 

Without further ado, here are What Hi-Fi?’s Pick of the Month products for July.

 Sony WF-1000XM5 

in-ear headphones: Sony WF-1000XM5

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Sony WF-1000XM5 are the successor to the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winning Sony WF-1000XM4 – and based on our testing they could be a serious contender for best-in-class.

In a year of modest updates, the XM5 come with some pretty big additions to Sony’s winning earbuds offering.

These include quality-of-life upgrades, like a smaller, lighter design and enhanced touch controls that give you the ability to adjust things like sound modes. Audio quality improvements have been made too, primary due to the introduction of a new “Dynamic Driver X” – which, at 8.4mm, is much larger than the 6.4mm unit used in the outgoing WF-1000XM4 – and dynamic head tracking for spatial audio. The XM5 package delivered great results during our testing, leading our reviewers to conclude:

“The new design is a big positive: they’re comfortable, nice to use and noise-cancelling and call quality are up there with the competition. And if you’re looking for the clearest and most detailed sonic performance on the market right now, then the WF-1000XM5 produce it, and by quite some distance.”

Score: 5/5

Read our Sony WF-1000XM5 review

Sony X95L (XR-65X95L) 

Sony X95L Mini LED TV

(Image credit: Future)

The X95L is the second generation of Sony TV to use a Mini LED panel, following on from the X95K we tested last year.

And based on our time putting it through its paces in our TV test room, we can safely confirm it is a big step forward for the tech, with it addressing nearly all our quibbles with the older model.

We were particularly impressed with how well the X95L dealt with blacks and HDR content, an area where TVs that use any form of LED traditionally suffer when compared to OLED rivals. Here it delivered uniformly deep, immersive picture quality that enthralled our testers and will delight home cinema fanatics, leading our reviewer to conclude:

“The X95L proves that Sony can deliver the goods from seemingly any screen technology. Its improved light control takes everything from black levels and contrast to colour and even detail consistency to another level – a level so high, in fact, that it succeeds in making the set look like a bit of a bargain.”

Our only real quibble is that, as with most non-LG sets, it doesn’t feature enough connectivity for next-gen gamers with PS5 or Xbox Series X/S consoles, being limited to two HDMI 2.1 ports, one of which doubles as an eARC input.

Score: 5/5 

Read our Sony X95L review

Cambridge Audio MXN10

Cambridge Audio MXN10

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

It's safe to say we've been excited to get the MXN10 music streamer into our test rooms ever since Cambridge Audio launched it earlier this year. The brand's stellar reputation with Award-winning streamers coupled with the tiny size and a very affordable price tag for a music streamer made the MXN10 instantly appealing. 

Thankfully, the combination is a winning one. The unit itself is a tad basic but the petite size is welcome, and everything is controlled via the StreamMagic app. File compatibility and music streaming methods are extensive, including DSD (but not MQA) and there's support for a wide range of popular music streaming services. 

It sounds hugely impressive, too. Musically and dynamically expressive, rhythmically cohesive and energetic – it's a delight to listen to. We said in our review: "We like that the Cambridge remains composed when the music becomes demanding, and the way it renders the tone and texture of instruments in such a convincing way. There is a good sense of scale here combined with a surprising dose of authority."

Score: 5/5

Read our Cambridge Audio MXN10 review

Rega Fono MM Mk5

Phono stage: Rega Fono MM Mk5

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The Rega Fonno MM Mk5 is the follow-up to the much beloved Rega Fono MM range, which has been one of our recommended affordable phono stage for years.

Unlike the Sony earbuds at the top of this month’s column, the changes made to the new model are limited, with its internals being all but identical to its much-loved predecessor. The small tweaks that have been made are positive though, with the new compact aesthetic giving it a more modern appeal.

This plus its cohesive, lively musical performance, expressive dynamics and strong rhythmic drive make it an easy recommendation, with our reviewers concluding:

“Rega may not have pushed the boat out with this latest upgrade, but it really didn’t need to. The new casework is smart enough, though the secret to the Fono MM’s success really comes down to its performance. Judged by sound quality, the Rega Fono MM Mk5 phono stage remains the one to beat at this level.”

Score: 5/5

Read our Rega Fono MM Mk5 review

iFi Go Link DAC

(Image credit: Future)

The iFi Go Link is a small, slim, incredibly inexpensive DAC designed to help boost the audio quality of everyday audio devices, from phones to laptops, whose audio circuitry hasn't likely been a priority. The middleman between a device and pair of wired headphones, the iFi is a great way to affordably improve desktop or on-the-go listening.

Featuring robust connectivity including a built-in USB-C plug, with interchangeable USB-A or Apple's Lightning connector adapters, it’s a wonderfully flexible bit of kit that performs surprisingly well given its modest price.

There's support for PCM audio playback up to 32-bit/384kHz along with DSD up to 11.2MHz (DSD 256), and MQA which makes it a great option for any Tidal Hi-Fi Plus tier subscriber.

In fact, our only concern is that the unit does feel a little fragile around its connection point, so you wouldn’t want to use it with a phone in your pocket on the go. The combined package led our reviewers to conclude: 

“The iFi Go Link feels like the perfect device for enhancing your headphones on the move and on a budget, living up to its brief of providing discernible sonic enhancements in a portable package without forcing you to fork out a fortune for the pleasure.”

Score: 5/5

Read our iFi Go Link review

Naim NAP 250

Naim NAP 250 power amplifier

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The NAP 250 is the sixth generation of Naim’s iconic amplifier line and a key part of the firm’s ongoing 50th birthday celebration.

That gives it some pretty big shoes to fill with the original 1975 unit holding an iconic place in hi-fi history. Thankfully, the NAP 250 delivered in spades during testing.

The unit features a wonderfully discreet modern aesthetic with a solid set of features. Under the hood is a Class A/B design that uses eight of Naim’s custom-designed NA009 output devices.

Connected to our reference system, it delivered great audio – even with challenging tracks and genres, leading our reviewers to conclude:

“It displays a level of sonic stability and control that is admirable, even at this price. Play something demanding like Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring and the power amplifier’s composure is exceptional. It delivers the music’s savage dynamic shifts with enthusiasm; there is no sense of holding back and that makes this product so thrilling to listen to.”

Score: 5/5

Read our Naim NAP 250 review


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Alastair Stevenson
Editor in Chief

Alastair is What Hi-Fi?’s editor in chief. He has well over a decade’s experience as a journalist working in both B2C and B2B press. During this time he’s covered everything from the launch of the first Amazon Echo to government cyber security policy. Prior to joining What Hi-Fi? he served as Trusted Reviews’ editor-in-chief. Outside of tech, he has a Masters from King’s College London in Ethics and the Philosophy of Religion, is an enthusiastic, but untalented, guitar player and runs a webcomic in his spare time.