The What Hi-Fi? Awards 2020 winners have been announced, and with two all-new wireless headphones under £150 running off with the spoils, 2020 has certainly been a year of pushing the boundaries at the more affordable end of the wire-free audio market.
Of course, it's not all fresh drivers and brand-new, feature-packed products. There are a few models on the winners' list that fought off the competition to retain their titles in 2020, despite a slew of newer propositions. So what won what? Read on...
Whatever our thoughts on 'Earfun' as a brand name, there's no denying that the budget-friendly Earfun Air wireless in-ears surprised us – for battery life, feature set and, of course, sound.
Ingredients such as wearer detection, waterproofing, Qi wireless charging, Bluetooth 5.0 and a 35-hour battery were not long ago unseen in budget true wireless recipes, but this small Hong Kong audio outfit went and moved the goalposts. We simply had no choice but to award these highly likeable and comfortable in-ears an award for the best wireless earbuds under £75.
Since the Melomania 1s burst on to the burgeoning scene in summer 2019, Cambridge Audio's first shot at true wireless buds has blown away the competition at the level. As an inaugural pair of wireless in-ears, they simply shouldn't have performed as well as they did. They scooped a gong in 2019 and retain the title for 2020.
And so what if they don't really match their other-worldly, futuristic, flashy headphone contenders in the category for looks? Cambridge Audio’s focus has long been on sonic deliverance over appearance – and that's why they're here. For the second year running the Melomania 1s surpass the rest for sound per pound at the level.
When they launched in 2019, the Sony WF-1000XM3s set a new benchmark for true wireless earbuds, combining effective active noise-cancelling with a real sense of musicality. Although we originally tested them at £220, their price has since dropped below £200, and because they're emphatically unbeatable at that price, the WF-1000XM3s can now add 'successive What Hi-Fi? Award winners' to their CV.
Time waits for no tech, especially in the world of wireless earbuds. So the fact that the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 has run away with a What Hi-Fi? Award for the second year running is no mean feat either.
And while the asking price of the Sennheisers is over £200, there's actually not much in it. Considering there's no top-end in this premium category, the Sennheisers have done well indeed. This true wireless offering from Sennheiser is among the most refined-sounding we’ve tested, hands down.
The recent Y400 addition to AKG's Y-series caused quite a stir among the What Hi-Fi? team, and while positive words about these bijou on-ear headphones won’t come as a great surprise to those familiar with the line (and in particular the rather splendid 2018 Y500s), this pair ups the level yet again, with Bluetooth 5.0, a portable and classy build, an energetic sound and a wearer detection that's far more reliable than their elder siblings.
If you're looking for a set of wireless, closed-back on-ears around the £100 mark, these are currently unsurpassed.
In the premium wireless headphones sphere, Sony cleans up for 2020. If it's an over-ear wireless noise-cancelling design you seek, there is currently nothing better for just under £250 than the WH-100XM3s. If, however, you've got a stretchier budget, Sony alone can go one better. The Tokyo-based firm has bested its own Award-winning XM3 model with the newest WH-1000XM4s.
The XM4s deliver nothing short of a sonic masterclass. Sony has somehow managed to squeeze out even more performance from the WH-1000XM4, using the hugely talented XM3s as a basis.
Consult your bank account by all means, but know that whichever you plump for, you're getting a current, newly-crowned What Hi-Fi? Award-winner.
Which of this shining septet of Award-winning wireless headphones will gain our ultimate Product of the Year accolade? You'll have to wait until our virtual Awards ceremony on Thursday 5th November to get the scoop. You can grab your copy of our special 2020 Awards issue the following day, Friday 6th November, too.
See all the 111 What Hi-Fi? 2020 Awards winners