You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy your favourite music. Of course, many of us get understandably carried away with our hobbies; and, in truth, there is nothing wrong with a little self-indulgence every now and then.
And it is true that you get what you pay for, and there are some undoubted, often serious, improvements to sound and picture quality to be had the more you invest in the equipment that provides it.
However, you can get remarkable performance – most of the performance provided by premium products indeed – from kit at the more affordable end of the market.
Which is where we come in. In September's What Hi-Fi?, we take a look at the entry-level kit that we love from stereo amplifiers to turntables to speakers – and we suggest three systems that will do a terrific job for a very reasonable outlay.
And, as usual, we also have reviews of the very latest hi-fi and AV products in our First Tests section.
Top tech for bottom dollar
As the pesky old cost-of-living crisis rumbles ever on, it’s only natural to want to rein in your spending on what we can loosely term ‘luxury’ items such as hi-fi and AV equipment. However, if you're a fan of What Hi-Fi?, we’re guessing that this is less of a luxury than something of a necessity.
So, while we can’t make money grow on trees for you, we can certainly help you make wise purchasing decisions when it comes to your hi-fi set-up.
This month we’ve picked out our favourite gear at the more prudent end of each category of hi-fi – from budget turntables to affordable amps, bang-for-buck speakers and capable but reasonably priced digital sources.
Each of these carefully considered choices absolutely hit the bullseye when it comes to What Hi-Fi?’s sacred pound-to-performance mantra. They are stellar performers at their level, from some of the best names in the hi-fi business, that won’t break the bank but will provide you with the best sound possible for their relatively modest outlay.
Once you’ve taken a gander at our pick of amplifiers, turntables, CD players and speakers, on the pages that follow you’ll find our recommendations for using this great gear in a trio of amazing value systems that prioritise great sound for not too much money.
In short, you won’t need to over-reach with the overdraft in order to get yourself a fantastic hi-fi set-up, whatever your needs.
Sound soundbar investments
Well known fact: most modern televisions – including many of the expensive ones – sound as flat as the panels they are made of. Lesser-known fact: for very little cash you can significantly boost the sound quality of any flatscreen TV by hooking it up to one of the many affordable soundbars on the market.
Since elsewhere this month we are focussed on the affordable end of the hi-fi market, we thought we'd give entry-level AV sound a fair hearing – and we have assembled this standout trio of modestly priced soundbars to help you improve on the sound offered by your TV’s onboard speakers.
These soundbars vary in size, shape and features so you can pick the one that best suits your needs (and your telly), and all of them are Bluetooth-equipped so you can listen to music as well as get more from film soundtracks and effects.
Vinyl direct to your door
This month we round up vinyl subscription services that enable you to get new and used records delivered direct to your door. No crate digging necessary (except virtually), these services will help build your record collection nicely.
Affordable and super-portable speakers
To carry on the theme of affordable kit this month, we also round up the best value portable Bluetooth speakers. These are a convenient and easy way to stream music from your smartphone without having to worry about cables, proximity to sockets etc, which also means they’re great for taking to the beach, the garden or anywhere you need your tunes to sing out. The speakers we’ve picked out here represent great performance-per-pound, and all will do a fine job of presenting your music wherever you need it.
First with reviews
Our First Tests section is where you'll find our famously in-depth, impartial and expert reviews of the very latest AV and hi-fi kit.
This month we begin another packed reviews section. We kick off with a five-star review of Technics' SL-G700M2 streamer. Our review team found that it provided a "controlled and clear delivery that works well regardless of what we play". Read more in this month's mag!
We also took an in-depth and expertly critical look at Astell & Kern's A&norma SR35 music player, and also thoroughly tested the Sony Xperia I V smartphone, LG's USC9S soundbar, the Roberts Revival Uno BT and Sennheiser HD660S2 over-ear headphones. Finally we round things off with a First Test of Sony's new XR-5590L LCD TV. Does it match rival backlit sets at the price? Find out in this month's mag!
Find out what we thought of all these products in the September 2023 issue of What Hi-Fi?
We can dream, can't we?
The Temptations section of What Hi-Fi? is where you'll find the very best high-end hi-fi and AV products.
And this month, the stars of the show are the Naim NAP 250 and KEF Reference 1 Meta. Firstly, the Naim. This undoubtedly pricey power amp is a thing of beauty, and as our review team discovered: “It delivers the music’s savage dynamic shifts with enthusiasm, and that makes the Naim a thrilling listen.”
Then we have those KEFs. These new standmount speakers are literally packed to the tweeters with KEF's innovative tech – specifically the company's, ahem unique, Uni-Q array where the tweeter sits in the throat of the midrange unit; and MAT (Meta Material Absorption Technology) – find out just how all this innovation justifies the lofty price of these brilliant speakers in September's What Hi-Fi?
Finally, don't forget to check out our Buyer’s Guide, featuring a definitive list of all the best home entertainment kit you can buy – including winners of 2022's What Hi-Fi? Awards. If you’re looking to purchase anything from a pair of wireless headphones to a home cinema speaker system, this section will tell you where to spend your money wisely.
Whatever you do, don't miss the September 2023 issue of What Hi-Fi?. Grab a copy today, or simply download it onto your tablet or smartphone. Enjoy!