What Hi-Fi? Awards 2017: all about the base and the bar

In the budget (under £500) soundbar category, Q Acoustics’ Media 4 relinquishes top spot after three successive years of wins and makes way for the more dynamic and expressive Yamaha YAS-207 (above).

While Yamaha’s higher-end YSP soundbars create immersive ‘virtual’ sound through Yamaha’s proprietary Sound Projection technology, the YAS-207 achieves it by using DTS’s latest codec: DTS Virtual:X. For £350, the bar/sub combo is a superb “in” to boosting your TV sound.

But there is nevertheless a win for Q Acoustics. The British brand keeps a presence in the competitive TV-sound-boosting category with its first-ever soundbase, the M2 (above).

So if your budget is around the £300 mark, but your set-up is better suited to a soundbase than a soundbar, look no further. Ousting the Canton DM 55 (our 2015 and 2016 winner), the M2 mirrors the success of the company’s soundbars with a crisp, punchy and expressive sound that warrants a place beneath your telly.

Back to soundbars - and we have a trusty old-timer in the mix. This year, the Dali Kubik One (above) picks up its third gong in the £500-£100 price bracket.

Despite Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbars from the likes of LG, Philips and Samsung all putting up a good challenge to the Dali, none has matched it for pure entertainment. It just goes to show that, while Atmos is the 'latest thing' in the soundbar (and indeed wider home cinema) market, it isn’t yet a must-have on the spec sheet.

The only Atmos soundbar to truly bowl us over is the Sony HT-ST5000. And it’s good enough to inspire an expansion, not only of our soundbar Award count, but also the price bracket in which they all sit.

At £1500, the Sony (above) is pricey. But if you can open your wallet wide enough, your money will be well spent. Not only does the bar/sub combo deliver an immersive soundfield, class-leading insight and gut-churning bass, it also opens doors to myriad streaming options - including Spotify Connect, Google Chromecast (for Tidal and Google Play Music) and Bluetooth.

And there you have it: three soundbars and one soundbase, each with a chance of winning our Product of the Year Award. The odds are fair, but you’ll have to wait and see which finds our favour on the night…

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Simon Lucas is a freelance technology journalist and consultant, with particular emphasis on the audio/video aspects of home entertainment. Before embracing the carefree life of the freelancer, he was editor of What Hi-Fi? – since then, he's written for titles such as GQ, Metro, The Guardian and Stuff, among many others.