This is the What Hi-Fi? Hall of Fame, celebrating more than four decades of landmark consumer electronics products. This is part five, featuring our pick of the best products from 2010 to the present day, including products from Roksan, Chord and Naim.
You can read all the parts of the feature by following the links below.
Roksan Caspian M2 (2010)
Roksan’s Caspian integrated stereo amp had been knocking around in one guise or another for the best part of 15 years before the M2 hit our test rooms. At a stroke, Roksan redefined what was possible at the price – in terms of build, usability and performance, the Caspian M2 set a dizzily high standard.
The inevitable Awards followed – Roksan, emboldened, shifted the price of the M2 upwards to a point it ceased to be a bargain and became simply cracking value. Nevertheless, its appeal is undimmed and we don’t envisage falling out of love with it any time soon.
MORE: Best stereo amplifiers
Audioquest Dragonfly (2012)
Though expensive in terms of cost per square inch, for its effect on your music the Audioquest Dragonfly was superb value for money.
Recognising that consumers were starting to use computers for listening via headphones or streaming to a system, Audioquest took the crucial work away from computers and made sure it was done properly.
Plug your headphones into your laptop and have a listen. Then plug your headphones into a Dragonfly plugged in to your computer and do the same. Hear the difference? Of course you can.
Chord Hugo (2014)
There’s a strong case to be made for quite a number of Chord products to appear in this list. But it’s the oddly named Hugo that gets the nod, and we’ll say here and now it’s a classic-in-waiting.
Everything Chord does differently to any of its competitors is in place here, from the delightfully tactile casework, through the lovely shades of illumination indicating what Hugo is up to, to the inputs that are just slightly too close together for comfort. But what elevates Hugo is the sound it serves up when amplifying your headphones or converting your digital audio files.
Unlike its nominal competitors, Chord doesn’t buy in DAC chipsets but instead uses bespoke programmable circuits of its own design – and the results are unarguable, as a brace of What Hi-Fi? Awards demonstrates.
MORE: Chord Hugo TT review
Naim Mu-so (2014)
New ground can be broken only once, and so it was that Naim – venerable Salisbury doyen of ‘real’ hi-fi – established the wireless speaker as ‘real’ hi-fi.
And, at the same time, it established a market for £1000 wireless speakers where none had existed beforehand. If your product is available in John Lewis and Apple stores, at precisely no discount whatsoever, you know you’ve conquered the mainstream.
By refusing to compromise – in the quality of materials and components, on the functionality and aesthetic of design – and by treating the (previously relatively low-rent) wireless speaker market with the same seriousness brought to bear on its more traditional products, Naim at a stroke invented a product category, inspired any number of imitators and raised its profile no end.
MORE: Naim Mu-so review
KEF LS50 Wireless (2017)
KEF has taken a pair of Award-winning speakers and transformed them into the hi-fi of the future. It really is that simple.
Although some manufacturers have flirted with solutions such as this before, none has executed it as spectacularly as KEF. The company has managed to marry expert speaker engineering with electronic wizardry and transform an already stunning pair of passive standmounters into something sensational.
And despite all the extra functionality there’s no compromise to the sound. These speakers are beautifully balanced, with impressive vocals and articulate bass. Their sense of musicality and timing is marvelously captivating.
When people think of a hi-fi system, traditional images of multiple boxes stacked on a rack spring to mind. Now is the time to rethink that concept, thanks to the KEF LS50 Wirelesses.
MORE: What Hi-Fi? Awards 2017