As we march boldly into 2021 (metaphorically speaking), the reality is that many of us are holed up indoors for a bit longer – which means there's no better time to make one or two carefully-considered upgrades to your sound system and home cinema set-up.
All things considered, now is an ideal moment to put your coat and face mask to one side, stick on some good music and hunker down with your new copy of What Hi-Fi? – because boning up on the best new kit to hit the shelves in 2021 is never a chore.
Want the pint-sized lowdown? The February issue of What Hi-Fi? – on sale on newsstands today – features nine amazing amps that all come in at under a grand, the six best sets of wireless on- and over-ear noise-cancelling headphones you can buy for £150 or less, a hotly-contested all-in-one systems group test, plus several big-hitters in our extensive First Tests section.
We're amplified, come alive
Your amplifier is the driving force behind your sound system – we don't need to tell you that. So of course, the nine bold amps in this carefully curated sub £1K amplifier round-up can hardly be described as timid, shy or retiring beasts.
Kicking off with the affordable Cambridge Audio AXA35 (£299) and working our way up to the Rega Elex-R (£949), we'll explain the pros and cons of each model for the price, and what, if anything, you should be wary of when partnering your powerhouse to the rest of your system.
As always, we’ve gone the extra mile and done the tough comparisons and heavy-lifting so that when you select one of these fine amplifiers, you'll know it inside out long before you set it down on your hi-fi rack.
Effective noise cancelling inside a pair of wireless on-ear or over-ear headphones: a recipe too rich for most? Not so. It's true that when these tech-laden cans first arrived on our shelves, many of us simply couldn't afford them, but these six pairs of noise-cancelling headphones buck that trend.
Here at What Hi-Fi?, we are firm believers that when it comes to price-competitive kit, it is imperative that you see each product next to its nearest in the category, alongside star-ratings, pros, cons and unbiased verdicts. And that's exactly what you'll get here.
With options from Sennheiser, Sony, AKG and Philips to pick from, each costing under £150, your quest for uninterrupted music needn't be a project cancelled (well done if you got the Red Money Bowie reference).
A New Star System Has Been Explored
We want to tell you about the best and most notable products to bring music to your ears in 2021, so that's where our all-in-one systems feature comes in.
In this issue, we put four all-in-one streaming systems under our microscope – the kind of one-box solutions that simply require a good set of speakers. Many respected hi-fi brands now have such options in their catalogues, but which represents the best value for your hard-earned coin?
We'll lead you through the quartet – including models from Linn, Arcam, Naim and NAD – and give you our honest appraisal. Which is the best? Our verdict is in, but you'll have to pick up the new issue to find out...
As anyone who's picked up What Hi-Fi? knows, we deliver detailed, independent reviews of notable products in the hi-fi or home cinema sector. And our First Tests section is where you'll find 'em – you can't miss it, it's right at the front of the mag.
This month, you'll get no fewer than six reviews, including an exceptional – and aggressively priced – Philips OLED TV which we loved so much we had to hand it a Best Buy Award for the best TV over £2000.
You'll also get the latest spherical flagship smart speaker from Amazon, Bose's newest noise-cancelling buds, Mission's affordable LX-4 MKII floorstanding speakers and more...
Don't sit under the Apple tree
After several months of unofficial rumours about supply chain delays and technical snafus, Apple's hotly-anticipated over-ears arrived – and they sound splendid. However, a set of mass-produced headphones costing £549 alters the wireless headphones discussion somewhat. Has Apple overcooked the pie? And crucially, is anyone prepared to shell out that kind of cash to own a set, particularly in the current financial climate?
Our Insider feature compares the AirPods Max with their main competition (albeit starting at £200 cheaper) and asks whether these class-leading headphones can justify their fee. Our conclusion may surprise you...
Another fine mesh
This month, our Temptations section features a set of standmount speakers that are finely crafted, finely tuned and capable of delivering nothing short of a fine performance – whether you can afford them or not, we think you'll love reading about the Fyne F1-8s.
Also in this section, we go 12 rounds with the Luxman D-10X – a £15,000 SACD/CD player. Yes, that's an eye-wateringly expensive disc-spinner. But you still want to know, don't you?
On top of all this, you'll also get our Insider Top Five (the definitive hi-fi or home cinema products that need to be on your radar this month), our pick of the 10 best albums we're looking forward to in 2021, and don’t forget our extensive and regularly-updated guide to the best home entertainment your money can buy, our Buyer's Guide.
If you take just one piece of advice away from here, let it be this: don't click 'buy' on a home cinema or hi-fi product – no matter how good the deal – unless you've consulted What Hi-Fi? first.