Here at What Hi-Fi? we spend a lot of time trying to get you the best value for your money. Long-time readers will also know that, for the very best sound, we have recommended the use of separates to make up a hi-fi system – specialist pieces of kit to undertake each vital part of the music-recreation chain, from source, via amplification, to loudspeakers.
However, we also know that many people have neither the space nor the inclination to take up a lot of volume in their living rooms with six or seven boxes – no matter how great they may sound. Not to mention the expense of such a set-up.
Now, with impressive advances in tech, the gap between separates and a good all-in-one or just-add-speakers system is now relatively small – and in February 2023's What Hi-Fi? we highlight five of each that are great value and give superb sound.
Also, don’t miss our feature on home cinema systems that use our recent 2022 Award winners as a starting point. Blockbusters all... Read all this and more in this month's What Hi-Fi? magazine.
And, as usual, we also have reviews of the very latest hi-fi and AV products in our First Tests section.
Less boxes, great sound
Simplify. Streamline. Declutter. These are the buzzwords of our time as so many of us attempt to navigate a clear path through the complexities and consumables of 21st-century life. And they have their place when it comes to choosing a hi-fi system too.
All-in-one music systems have been around in one form or another ever since Thomas Edison first turned the handle on his prototype phonograph, but only recently has the just-add-speakers principle of source equipment spawned the high-quality one-box streaming systems that are available today.
Of course, separates still have their place in the streaming world, but for those that want to keep their hi-fi kit neat and discreet – or who are short on space – installing a single unit that can supply all their streaming needs is a tempting option. And the market is varied too, offering equipment with widely differing features and designs.
To help you find the one-box unit that suits you, we have rounded up five of the best products between £800 and £1800, all of which will stream music in hi-res from multiple streaming services (as well as other sources) and have their own amplifiers built in.
You don’t have to limit yourself to streaming your music either, because everyone of our quintet carries a range of inputs so you can also connect other sources (such as a CD player). So, all you have to do is add your favourite pair of speakers, select your favourite armchair, and enjoy your favourite piece of music.
And we're not done there. If your space is really limited, or if you just want a system that fits neatly on your desk or a bookshelf, we've also rounded up our favourite small systems to suit a range of budgets and that size-wise run from dinky to, um, slightly less dinky in size.
Sure, these systems are small. But, as they say, size isn’t important – it’s what you do with it that counts.
Award winning AV
You don’t need us to tell you that raiding your bank account to buy a telly or projector is rather a waste of cash if you don’t have great sound to match the gorgeous images.
For that reason, it makes perfect sense to boost the sound quality of your picture source, either with a soundbar or full-scale home cinema system.
The question is; which products work best together? And what about the budget? That’s where we come in. We thought this a great time to put together a collection of systems – four in all – based around the latest What Hi-Fi? Award-winning AV equipment. In February's What Hi-Fi?, we can reveal the results of our mix-and-match deliberations as we bring you four great AV systems from a modestly priced soundbar combo right up to a ‘dream’ surround-sound set-up for those with the appropriate money to spend.
Scary monsters, super sound
While the nostalgia of mono audio and grainy pictures may be part of the attraction of the horror genre’s history, it pays for today’s horror films to look and sound their best. After all, why wouldn’t you want to really feel as though you’re in an old, creepy haunted house? With the lights off... stood in silence... waiting for a killer to strike?
And two of the things central to achieving that sense of engagement are the music and the sound effects. We have rounded up 14 (because 13 would have been just too meta) of the best horror movies with soundtracks dead-certain to send shivers down your spine – and give your surround sound system a run for its money.
First with reviews
New year, more great gear. 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.
To kick off with, we look at Sony's super OLED TV, the XR-55A80K. Clean, pure detail and texture reproduction is just the start of what this five-star telly can do. Find out more in this month's mag!
Sennheiser's Ambeo soundbar has been a long-time favourite of ours, and while the original Ambeo has been rebranded the Max, Sennheiser has also released a newer version, the Ambeo Soundbar Plus. It commands the room with a wide and immersive sound that's earned it five stars this month.
Røde are better known in the world of pro audio, but the Aussie brand's NTH-100 are aimed at the home headphones market, and they're a cut above – proof that wired headphones are still a great option if you want premium sound quality.
We also had Razer's Barracuda Pro gaming headset and Chord Company's Clearway Analogue RCA (2022) in for testing, as well as Philips' 65PUS8807 – the company's choice from its range to be designated as 'The One'. Is it as good as Philips reckons? Find out this month! Finally, the Elac Debut ConneX DCB41 is a compact system that mightily impresses.
Find out more about all these products in February 2023's What Hi-Fi? issue.
The best (lots of) money can buy
Our Temptations section of What Hi-Fi? is where you'll find high-end hi-fi and AV products with a price-tag to match.
This month we take a look at a pair of sumptuous standmounters from Triangle – the Magellan Duetto 40th. They cost a pretty penny, but as we found out, "These are exciting front-footed performers that grab the listener and take them straight into the action." Find out more in February's What Hi-Fi?
That's not all though. Chord's Ultima Pre 3 and Ultima 6 combination of pre and power amplifiers also get a run-out this month. The effortless way this pairing steps out of the way to let us focus on the music is something that, should you be lucky enough to have the £13K to spend on them, would be worth every penny.
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 February 2023 issue of What Hi-Fi?. Grab a copy today, or simply download it onto your tablet or smartphone. Enjoy!