Competition among stereo speakers this year was, as ever, stiff as a frozen cadaver. Such was the quality we even had to add an extra Best Buy Award for desktop speakers.
Bowers and Wilkins was given a fair fight in the £400-800 standmounter sweet spot, in particular by Triangle and the remarkable Esprit Titus EZ, but the 685 S2 retained their Product of the Year crown. They are at once solid, clear and agile; we said last year they’d be the speakers we’d put on to get our friends into hi-fi, and we stand by that lofty claim.
The only other standmounters to hold position are the ATC SCM11, who shooed away the advances of Pro-Ac’s five-star Studio 118 to win their fourth Award. They were joined this year by big brother the SCM19 who took our most expensive speaker award at £2000.
Tannoy’s infectiously energetic Revolution XT 6F stole the Best Buy Award for floorstanders priced between £600 and £1200 from Bower and Wilkins’ 683 S2, while Spendor retained the £1200+ Award with the gloriously nuanced A6R. At entry level Q Acoustics outdid itself, the 2050i speakers being bettered by the 3050, the most affordable towers we’ve come across that can hold their own against the best standmounters around.
Leading the desktop speakers pack is the KEF Egg system. Armed with KEF’s trademark Uni-Q driver, in which the tweeter is placed in the middle of the mid/bass driver to aid precision and dispersion, and displacing Ruark Audio’s MR1, the Eggs excel when it comes to agility and clarity.
For a budget below £200, Wharfedale picked up a Best Buy Award for the DS-1, which, though of diminutive stature, produce a thoroughly grown-up sound with no spiky edges to the treble or boominess in the bass line.
See all the What Hi-Fi? Awards winners