The What Hi-Fi? Hall of Fame: the best tech products of the 2020s

In 2016 What Hi-Fi? celebrated its 40th anniversary. To mark the occasion we picked our 40 most influential products from those four decades. 

We've been adding a new product to our Hall of Fame every year since as part of the annual What Hi-Fi? Awards. Here are our most recent choices from the 2020s...

Sony WH-1000XM4 (2020)

Sony WH-1000XM4 - Hall of Fame 2020

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony has come to dominate our headphone category in recent years, perfecting not only the art of true wireless earbuds, most recently with the WF-1000XM4, but also the business of over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones. And the WH-1000XM4 are the best example yet, continuing the company's dominance of the category in fine style.

Sony didn't need to reimagine the design but with the XM4s it did manage to make them slightly lighter while increasing the size of the pads for a more comfortable fit. Noise-cancelling technology and the ability to adjust the level of ambient sound were still on board, while there was also Sony's LDAC tech for higher-quality wireless audio quality. Sony moved from the DSEE HX to DSEE Extreme processor, promising better delivery of lower-quality files, while there was also support for 360 Reality Audio. Elsewhere the battery life was boosted and Sony promised an improvement to the noise-cancelling.

Crucially, the overall sound quality continued to keep ahead of the pack. Despite an increasingly competitive market, the XM4 headphones continue to set the pace for timing, dynamics, punch and entertainment. They're simply the best sound-per-pound wireless noise-cancelling headphones we've had the pleasure of hearing.

The XM4s become the third pair of headphones to make our Hall of Fame (following the Sennheiser HD600 from 1998 and the Bose QuietComfort 15, 2009) and are the perfect poster child for what has become one of the most popular product categories in the tech world.

Read the full Sony WH-1000XM4 review

Marantz PM6007 (2021)

Marantz PM6007 - Hall of Fame 2021

(Image credit: Marantz)

The best companies never rest on their laurels. Not content with winning a What Hi-Fi? Award in 2018 for the PM6006 UK Edition, Marantz went back to the drawing board and set about creating another Award winner, the PM6007.

The improvements are numerous. Chief among them is a new DAC, the AKM AK4490 (which replaces the Cirrus Logic CS4398 found in its predecessor). This is complemented by two digital filters – a slow roll-off and sharp roll-off – that users can choose between when playing from a source connected to either of its two optical or single coaxial inputs. Such versatility has trickled down from the brand’s more premium digital processors.

There are new components in the power amp and phono stages, the latter of which also has upgraded circuitry for a higher signal-to-noise ratio. Throw in a subwoofer output, and you've got enough improvements to tempt even PM6006 loyalists.

This all has an effect far beyond the spec sheet. The sound is smooth, balanced and full-bodied, besting its predecessor for clarity, precision and rhythmic punch. If you’re familiar with the PM6006 UK Edition, you’ll know that’s no mean feat. We’re intrigued – and quite excited – to see where Marantz takes it next. Whatever it does, one thing’s for certain – it won’t be resting on its laurels.

Read the full Marantz PM6007 review 

Sonos Arc (2022)

Sonos Arc - Hall of Fame 2022

(Image credit: Sonos)

The Sonos Arc is the company’s first soundbar with Dolby Atmos, and the first soundbar to enter the Hall of Fame.

Atmos-capable soundbars are becoming more widespread, and hence more affordable. Which makes it all the more impressive that the Arc managed to stand out. It does so thanks to its excellent sound quality and very reasonable price.

Put it under your TV and you’re in for one of the most immersive experiences you can get from a home cinema speaker. Listening to music? It’ll help there too, acting as a wireless speaker that slots seamlessly into your Sonos network. That also means it plays nice with every major streaming service going. Which is another box ticked.

Sonos has had a bit of a mixed run of late, with some supposedly ‘budget’ devices (namely the Sub Mini) not hitting their brief, and a – since fixed – annoying bass buzz plaguing the Ray budget soundbar. But the Arc knocks it out of the park, and shows that when Sonos aims at the high end, it hits its target with pinpoint accuracy.

Read the full Sonos Arc review

Cambridge Audio CXN V2 (2023)

Cambridge Audio CXN (V2) lifestyle

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

A music streamer has entered our Hall of Fame for the first time, and about time too! If the category is old enough to have a legend, this mid-priced Cambridge Audio network player is most certainly it. The CXN (V2) has won six What Hi-Fi? Awards on the trot, and if you include the original CXN's gongs too, the model has been decorated every year since 2015 – some feat.

It may be near the end of its life (will it survive, or even live to see, the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2024?), but it's lived a good life that has seen it ward off arriving competitors over the years. That's mostly been down to the strength of its all-round performance, but also commendable has been Cambridege's efforts to keep the relative veteran up to date, with streaming features such as Chromecast and Tidal Connect having come to the machine's StreamMagic platform via firmware updates.

No other streaming source has made quite as big – or as long-lasting – an impact in the fast-moving streamer market since it was established, and that's why you see the CXN (V2) before your eyes here.

Read the full Cambridge Audio CXN (V2) review

Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.