Last year, Bluesound swooped in as newcomers to the multi-room scene and took the 2014 Product of the Year crown from long-time winners Sonos (which was still a winner at under £500). This year, the hi-res system has done it again.
Even more impressive, it has done so with a bigger, almost entirely new range. While the Duo 2.1 sub sat system and the Pulse all-in-one speaker remain from last year, there’s a new-look second generation of the Node streamer, Powernode streamer/amplifier and Vault music server and CD ripper, plus a few completely new additions in the shape of the Pulse Mini and Pulse Flex wireless speakers.
As well as a sleeker design there have been a few other tweaks – namely optical and analogue inputs across the range, built-in aptX Bluetooth and a headphone amp and jack for private listening.
Of course, its headline feature remains the fact that it supports hi-res music up to 24-bit/192kHz, which is delivered with insight, subtlety and dynamic punch.
But then, anything you throw at this system sounds superb, making it one of the most musical, most flexible multi-room experiences you can get – and for that, it gets the top Award.
It all comes with a rather high price tag though, and if you don’t value the hi-res audio support, you can start a Sonos system for much less - there's a multi-room solution in its line-up for almost every situation, and the most affordable speaker, the Play:1, can be yours for less than £170.
It also remains one of the easiest, most intuitive ways to go multi-room – not to mention that it sounds great too. That’s why it still wins our Best Buy for best multi-room system under £500. With a new Play:5 on the horizon, it seems like 2016 could be a big year for Sonos.
For now though, it’s Bluesound that takes the Product of the Year Award with a second generation that’s stronger than ever. It might not be the cheapest way to go multi-room, but with a range and feature set as good as this, and hi-res support to boot, the investment is worth every penny.