It's not surprising that we read down the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winners in the stereo amplifier category and feel a strong sense of déjà vu; it is almost a mirror image of the list we celebrated this time last year.
We say 'almost' as the Rega io no longer wears the latest Best Buy crown, having become too aligned with the better-equipped Marantz PM6007 in terms of price. While both amplifiers remain excellent performers and sensible buys for anyone looking for their first integrated stereo amplifier, the Marantz edges ahead as our number one budget pick as the better all-rounder.
The rest of the stereo amplifier category for 2022 is as British as the Wimbledon queue on a drizzly day. If you can afford to go up a bit in price and your system warrants such spending, you'd do well to settle on one of Cambridge Audio's mid-range amplifiers – the CXA61 or CXA81, specifically. Both claim their fourth What Hi-Fi? Award on the trot in their respective price brackets for their winning combination of performance and features, with the bigger sibling being the more powerful (80 watts vs 60), higher performing and toting XLR connectivity and a superior DAC chip.
More serious systems and budgets could do far, far worse than the Naim Nait XS 3, the 'Best stereo amplifier £1500-£3000' and another repeat winner over the past few years. Remaining the amp to beat, the most musical and transparent at this level, the Nait XS 3 is the fit-and-forget type that will slot into a wide range of systems and do exactly what you want it to do.
Rega may have lost out at the budget end of the Best Buy category this year, but it stands absolutely firm at the premium end with its Aethos, which has gone unbeaten for yet another year. For purists and those who are after maximum performance for this kind of money, this all-analogue Rega is as good as they come.
So, despite the arrival of notable five-star newcomers in the Rega Elicit Mk5 and Rotel Michi X3 in the past 12 months, it is indeed familiar faces that deservedly reappear for 2022's haul.
Satisfying the odds, it was a Cambridge Audio winner – the CXA81 – that took home the stereo amp Product of the Year in 2021, as it did the two years prior as well. Can it make a rare quadruple feat, or do we think another on this list is more worthy in today's market? You've only a few weeks before you find out. All 26 What Hi-Fi? Product of the Year gongs (plus a handful of extra special awards) will be announced on Wednesday 9th November at the official ceremony.
See all 109 What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winners
Rega and Pro-Ject are the big turntable winners in the 2022 What Hi-Fi? Awards
See the long list of the best stereo amplifiers
Even well regarded brands like Exposure and countless speaker manufacturers don’t even bother.
Many of the awards have had the same winners for the last two or three years which is utter nonsense, based on how much new gear has been reviewed elsewhere.
WHF needs to significantly up their game.