In 2016 What Hi-Fi? celebrated its 40th anniversary. To mark the occasion we picked our 40 most influential products from those four decades.
- The What Hi-Fi? Hall of Fame, part 1: 1970s
- The What Hi-Fi? Hall of Fame, part 2: 1980s
- The What Hi-Fi? Hall of Fame, part 3: 1990s
- The What Hi-Fi? Hall of Fame, part 4: 2000s
- The What Hi-Fi? Hall of Fame, part 5: 2010s
Sony WH-1000XM4 (2020)
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)
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)
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