Here comes the sun, and I say, it's all right. So, now that we've provided the earworm to your day, consider this: since leaving our homes and breathing the outside air deeply can only be done in moderation right now, music is the light we must turn to. All of this means now is the perfect time to consider a few budget-friendly upgrades to your current listening gear.
The April issue of What Hi-Fi? – on sale on newsstands today – features seven of the best stereo speaker solutions you can buy for £1000, a three-strong smart speaker group test between Amazon, Apple and Google, plus a bumper round-up of seven top premium in-ear true wireless headphones.
And that's not all. We also feature five of the best new products that launched this month in our Insider regular, the skinny on a set of Stax headphones that could hardly be described as shy and retiring in our Temptations slot, reviews of seven huge hitters in our extensive First Tests section, plus the 25 best albums of the 1990s to give your system – and possibly, your entire household – a good workout.
Let the record show, the speaker has spoken
What if you have precisely £1k to spend on a new set of stereo loudspeakers – and ideally, you want them to be floorstanders? Remarkably, that's no problem.
You see, one of the joys of hi-fi is the rapid pace of change. Only half a year ago, we rounded up our top speakers at £1000-£2000, but now, we've dipped to the £1000 mark, where you'll find respected names such as Bowers & Wilkins, Monitor Audio, Wharfedale, KEF and Fyne Audio in the list. So, which model is best for you?
That's why you need to read our in-depth, seven-strong, three floorstander and four standmounter speaker special (try saying that three times in a row). We’ve gone the extra mile and done the tough comparisons, so when you find the ideal candidates, you can go ahead and make them the speakers of your house.
There are always answers – we just have to be smart
There was a time when all your speaker had to do was offer quality audio as part of your hi-fi system. Now, certain speakers will speak back when spoken to – or when you happen to be talking to a friend named Alex – dim your lights or turn off your heating.
Regardless of whether you want to control your TV, lights, music and thermostat with your voice, there's nothing quite like barking a request at your virtual assistant and awaiting a quick and reliable response, or receiving traffic guidance before you leave home.
That's why we've corralled three of the smart game's biggest names, within three of its smallest products. Apple's HomePod Mini will posit Siri at your beck and call, while Amazon's popular Echo Dot (4th Gen) puts Alexa centre stage. But what if you own neither an iPhone nor an Amazon Fire HD tablet? Might a Google Assistant speaker be a better bet? We'll soon see, because the Google Nest Audio is here too.
You heard it here first
We give you the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to new hi-fi and audio-visual products, and almost as soon as they hit the shelves. Our First Tests section is where you'll find detailed, independent reviews of noteworthy kit entering the hi-fi or home cinema sector.
This month, you get no fewer than seven of these star-rated reports, including the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 (the British firm's first all-in-one streaming speaker system), Sony's newest Xperia smartphone, JBL's HDI 5.1 speaker package, the latest OLED TV offerings from both Philips and Panasonic, Astell & Kern's Kann Alpha portable music player and iFi's entry-level (but hugely surprising) Zen Phono.
The darling buds of May (or April)
This seven-strong round-up will prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that the new crop of buds for 2021 are blooming beautiful. Gone are the days when the most you could expect from a set of wireless in-ears was a Bluetooth connection.
Now, you get app support, wireless charging, EQ customisation, noise-cancelling, on-device capacitive touch controls and even spatial audio support, all at around the £200 mark.
Apple, Bose, Sennheiser, Grado, Sony, Technics and Jabra are our contenders, for quick and easy stats comparisons such as battery life, features, comfort and sound quality. In a vast sea of wireless headphones, these premium offerings really are the best in class at what they do.
A (virtual) 90s crate rummage
Open up this spread, place it on a coffee table, kitchen counter, or anywhere it'll catch the eyes of your nearest and dearest, and let the debate rage! Did we leave out any dead certs? Did we include a few turkeys? Obviously we think not, but that's the joy of music appreciation – it's all a matter of personal taste.
When it came to cutting our shortlist down, albums of the 1990s presented our most difficult challenge to date. But the What Hi-Fi? team rallied and here they are, along with our reasons why you should give each of them a whirl on your system. Enjoy.
Tempted? We don't blame you...
This month, our Temptations section features the Stax SR-L700 Mk2/SRM-700T electrostatic headphones and energiser – a set-up that costs just over £4000. We know, but that's why it's called the Temptations section.
Stax launched the world's first electrostatic headphones back in 1960, laying the groundwork for a glittering and decorated reputation. So, what did we think of the open-backed design and rectangular, retro earcups? It's all in the mag.
Also in this section, we go 12 rounds with Copland's CSA 100 integrated amplifier. While this small Danish company has rarely grabbed the limelight during its 40-year history, the CSA 100 – offering a wide range of connectivity, plus a phono stage – deserves to be heard. In fact, it could be all the amplifier most music fans will need.
On top of all this, you'll also get our guide to the five best new shows to watch on Netflix, our Insider feature on the trials and tribulations of integrating a streamer into a home system, and don’t forget our extensive and regularly-updated guide to the best home entertainment your money can buy, our Buyer's Guide.
So, no matter how good the offer, don't click 'buy now' unless you've consulted What Hi-Fi?'s extensive back catalogue of reviews, buying guides and deals pages. Remember, we're here for you!