What a year! Global pandemics and national lockdowns have meant that life changed for all of us during 2020, in what has been an unusual 12 months.
Thankfully, the world of AV continued through all the disruption, with a stream of new products, from turntables to televisions, soundbars to smartphones and portable music players to projectors, all reaching the market.
So, once again this year, our review team (often working from the confines of their own homes), tested, reviewed and rated a multitude of new products – many of which we deemed worthy of a What Hi-Fi? Award.
After several weeks of discussion and debate, we named our 111 Best Buys – each product a winner in its own particular price category – but saved the best until last. In our special Awards 2020 issue of What Hi-Fi? magazine, we reveal which 26 products have been crowned Product of the Year – our pick of the very best hi-fi kit of 2020.
With recommendations for all product categories and at all price levels, there’s something here for you, whatever your budget.
Over the past few months, our review team has been hard at work drawing up a list of Awards winners in each category – the result of these efforts was our list of 111 Best Buys, released at the start of October.
The 26 Products of the Year remained a well-kept secret until they were announced on whathifi.com yesterday. The What Hi-Fi? Awards 2020, in association with Sevenoaks Sound and Vision was, inevitably, a low-key affair compared with our usual annual central London event, which was postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic this year.
But don't worry, you can now read all about our selections in the Awards 2020 issue of What Hi-Fi? magazine. From amazing amplifiers to terrific televisions, all the very best kit of the year is listed, rated and reviewed in this 156-page special issue.
Awards 2020: Stereo speakers
With the range and variety of stereo speakers available, and the number of different price points, stereo speakers is always one of the most hotly-contested Awards categories.
This year, we had so many great standmounters to choose from, with the Dali Spektor 2, Elac Debut B5.2, Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Edition and ProAc Response D2R all picking up Best Buy Awards. But the overall winner of the Product of the Year went to the KEF LS50 Meta standmounters.
In the floorstander category, the Fyne Audio F302, Dali Oberon 5, Spendor A7, ProAc Response DT8 and Wharfedale Evo 4.4 were all winners of Best Buy Awards, while the Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2 won the best desktop speaker category, again.
Awards 2020: Televisions
Though disappointing in many ways, 2020 was a great year for televisions. As competition between the big manufacturers intensifies, the technology gets even more advanced, even at the budget end of the market.
And, an increase in the amount of 4K content (though not 8K yet) means there are more reasons than ever to invest in a top-end TV.
The competitive nature of this category means that it's the only one where all the Award-winners were released during the past 12 months – not one single product won an Award last year.
Samsung took away four Best Buy Awards, winning in the Best 40-43in, Best 48-50in TV under £1000 and Best 55-58in TV under £1000 categories. Samsung's QE75Q950TS model also won the Best 8K TV category.
Other winners included Philips, which won in the Best 55-58in TV over £1000 and Best 65in TV over £2000 categories and Sony, with a win in the Best 65in TV under £2000
Sony also took the overall prize, with the Sony KD-48A9 OLED scooping the Product of the Year Award in the Best 48-50in TV over £1000 category.
Awards 2020: Headphones
Whether for a spot of private listening at home or when you're out and about, a good pair of headphones is an essential piece of hi-fi kit. Thankfully, we had plenty of great models to choose from again this year.
With three separate headphone categories (wireless, in-ears and on-ears) there were several winners, including the Sony WH-1000XM4, which took the wireless headphones Product of the Year Award in the over £250 category.
Other highly recommended wireless headphones included the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 and Sony WF-1000XM3, plus three new entries in the AKG Y400, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 and Earfun Air.
In the in-ears category, the winners were the Klipsch T5M Wired, which took the Product of the Year Award again. Other Best Buy winners included the SoundMagic E11C (Under £50 category) and the Shure Aonic 3 (Over £100).
As for on-ears, Grado's SR325e won the Product of the Year Award, as the Best on-ear headphones (£150-£400), beating off competition from Grado’s SR80e (Best on-ear headphones under £150) and the Beyerdynamic Amiron (Best on-ear headphones over £400).
First for reviews
The 2020 Awards issue is an excuse to celebrate the best hi-fi kit of the year, but that doesn't stop the new products coming thick and fast. In our First Tests section, we also bring you the full review of one of our Award-winning products, the Sony KD-48A9 4K OLED television. We said, "this is, without doubt, the best sub-55in TV you can buy – and possibly the best ever made" – find out why in the latest issue.
There is also a review of another TV, the Samsung UE43TU7100. This budget 43in 4K HDR set comes with all the top-end features, yet costs less than £400. So, is it worth its reasonable price tag?
Also reviewed in the Awards issue is another 2020 Award-winner, the KEF LS50 Meta speakers. These superb standmounters are a new version of our old favourites, the LS50, but with innovative new Metamaterial tech to reduce unwanted vibrations. Does it work? You'll have to read the latest issue to find out.
There are reviews of the Audiolab 6000A Play streaming system, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo turntable, JVC DLA-N5 projector and the Google Nest Audio wireless speaker, which we describe as “well-made, easy to operate and plays music – for some, that will be every box ticked”. To find out whether it ticks your boxes, pick up the latest special Awards issue of What Hi-Fi?.
And there's more...
We end on a sad note, with the news that Andy Clough, brand director of What Hi-Fi? has passed away, aged 58, after a year-long battle with cancer. We pay tribute to a well-loved and highly-respected colleague, the man known as 'Mr What Hi-Fi'.
Don’t miss our special offer – a free STM Tree Charger (worth £70) – when you subscribe to What Hi-Fi?
With so many prizes handed out to such great hi-fi kit, the Awards 2020 issue is not to be missed. So grab a copy of What Hi-Fi? from your newsagents today. Or simply download it onto your tablet or smartphone. Enjoy!