As pubs, theatres, and other live music venues reopen their doors to punters, sweet sound (and sweet-sounding systems) can finally be enjoyed collectively once more. And with the burgeoning 2021 music scene available in our homes as well as out and about, it's high time you made a few upgrades to your hi-fi kit, whatever your budget.
Getting the independent, unbiased scoop on all new hi-fi and AV product releases is now as easy as a sunny saunter to your local newsagent (or a quick click online if you're shielding, we're easy like that) to purchase a copy of the latest issue of What Hi-Fi? magazine.
Ready for the lowdown? The July issue of What Hi-Fi? – on sale on newsstands today – features a dedicated round-up of the best turntables you can buy from £150 up to £14k, B&O speakers and B&W's hotly-anticipated earbuds in our Insider Top Five feature, plus five integrated amps that'll get more from your deck and save on space.
Plus, there's also a round-up of five stand-alone phono stages if you're happy with your amplification but want to add vinyl to your system, the lowdown on a superb new personal music player as well as LG's new 65in OLED in our First Tests section, the Nagra Classic Phono and Wharfedale's Elysian 4 floorstanding speakers in our Temptations slot, and so much more...
To everything turn, turn, turn
What if you have precisely £200 to splurge on a new vinyl spinner? Read this in-depth special. And if you have £500, or £2000... or £13k? Also read this feature.
You see, within our 19-page illustrated and star-rated special, you'll find in-depth reviews of some of the best decks currently on the market, with prices attached. We can't include every turntable out there, but VPI, Technics, Rega, Pro-Ject, Vertere and SME all feature. Have we included every model worth adding to your shortlist? We'd like to think so.
As always, we’ve done the tough testing and arranged our findings within the pages of the magazine, with separate star ratings for easy comparison. Our goal? Before you select one of these classy decks and click 'Buy', you'll know the player inside out. No surprises, just a purchase that will bring you joy for many years.
The second stage turbine blade
Full marks if you got the Coheed and Cambria reference above – bonus point if you know the year (answer below). As the rekindled global passion for vinyl continues to burn, several manufacturers have seen the light and decided to add a phono stage to their new integrated amps. Here, you'll find five such models, from revered brands Rega, Marantz, Naim and Electrocompaniet.
Prices start at £379 for the Rega io and go all the way up to £2900 for the Electrocompaniet – an offering from a Norwegian brand we hadn't heard from in over ten years. How does each contender do under review for features, build and sound? It's all in the new issue...
Firsts are the best – they are new beginnings
When it comes to new hi-fi and audio-visual kit, we aim to give you the insight other publications may not, as and when the models hit the shelves. Our First Tests section is where you'll find them. Handily, it's right at the front of the magazine too: detailed, independent reports on noteworthy kit entering the hi-fi or home cinema sector.
This month, you'll get no fewer than seven of these missives, including an inexpensive Hisense Roku 4K TV, Swiss brand Piega's Ace 30 stereo speakers, a remarkable matchbox-sized portable music player from Cowon, the Humax Aura set-top box and KEF's first pair of true wireless noise-cancelling earbuds. Is LG's latest OLED (above) worthy of a £2.5k outlay? It's all in our First Tests section.
It won't be the focal point in your lounge and its raison d'etre isn't particularly glamorous, nevertheless, your system's phono stage is critical to its performance. If you already have a pre- and power-amp and want to integrate a turntable (especially a deck that doesn't come with its own phono stage fitted) you'll need this essential ingredient to get everything up and running.
These five models are proof that even if your chosen deck comes with a budget phono stage under the hood, there's no substitute for a dedicated unit if you want it playing at its best. Expect iFi, Rega, Cambridge, Moon and Vertere to feature, so take your time over choosing one. Your turntable will thank you for it.
Tempted to touch
Another point if you got Barbadian artist Rupee's single, released in 2004 (two years after Coheed and Cambria's debut studio album). This month, our Temptations section features Nagra's Classic Phono. At £17,500, you may be tempted to touch, but that's the beauty of a Temptation review – there's no obligation to buy.
Also in this section, we spend quality time with Wharfedale's Elysian 4 floorstanding speakers – £6500 a pair, hugely ambitious and worth every penny. Go on, why not treat yourself to a read?
On top of all this, you'll also get our Insider feature on whether there really is such a thing as 'British hi-fi sound', our pick of the nine best rock and metal songs to test your speakers, an exclusive interview with celebrated composer Nils Frahm, plus our extensive and regularly-updated guide to the best home entertainment your money can buy, our Buyer's Guide.
So, don't buy that new amp, speaker, streamer, DAC, turntable, headphones, TV, tablet or phone – no matter how big the discount – unless you've consulted What Hi-Fi?'s extensive reviews, buying guides and deals pages first. Enjoy your music.