With the nights drawing in (plus the looming threat of a second national lockdown), it’s inevitable that we will be spending more time at home over the next few months. But let’s look at the positives, there’s no better time to brighten up those dark evenings than with a shiny new home cinema set-up.
As we reach the December issue of What Hi-Fi? – on sale on newsstands today – a strange year is drawing to a close. But there’s no need to feel down about the dark nights, they are the perfect excuse to stick on some of your favourite movies.
In the latest issue, we have a Group Test of mid-range soundbars and three superb home cinema systems plus plenty of ideas on how to upgrade your equipment. And, if you’re stuck for something to watch, we’ve even thrown in a few recommendations of what to watch on the best video-streaming services.
So, you have treated yourself to a new flatscreen TV, and while the picture quality may be superb, its built-in speakers will probably range from somewhere between ‘awful’ and ‘passable’. If you’re serious about home cinema, that simply won't do.
Take back control of the situation by adding a soundbar – this is one sonic upgrade that needn’t set you back a fortune, as you’ll discover with our Group Test in the December issue of What Hi-Fi?. Here, we test four soundbars from Harman Kardon, LG, Sonos and Sony, at the mid-range sweet spot of price and quality.
With these upgrades costing between £350 and £450, there’s no reason why great films with superb sound to match shouldn’t be achievable this winter.
All systems are go
Whether you’re thinking of buying a soundbar to accompany your flatscreen TV, or going the whole hog with a projector and AV amp and speaker package, we have three great home cinema system options for you to consider.
First, there’s a wonderful projector system that will bring you the biggest picture in stunning quality, along with hugely impressive surround sound. Then, we have a large-screen TV with a more affordable surround package; and finally, we offer a simple set-up in the form of a television and a soundbar.
So embrace those long nights with some top-notch audio-visual equipment that can conjure up proper movie magic.
First out of the blocks
Our First Tests section is all about reviews of the latest products, and this month we feature eight of the best new launches from the audio and home cinema markets.
Kicking the section off, we have KEF’s LS50 Wireless II all-in-one system, followed by a superb Samsung 8K TV and Sony’s latest Walkman, the NW-A55L. Denon’s AVR-X2700H and B&W’s 606 S2 Anniversary Edition speakers also feature in First Tests, as does a budget Toshiba TV and Elipson’s spherical wireless speaker, the W35.
So, how many of these products get a coveted five-star review – and which don't we rate highly? You'll have to read the December issue of What Hi-Fi? to find out.
Stream a little stream...
With catalogues expanding and new services appearing, this is boom time for video-streaming services. The established players, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, continue to rule the roost, but with Apple and Disney also in the fray, subscribers have never had it so good.
The fight for your subscription has ushered in a new age of terrific content, but the big question, of course, is which service – or services – should you sign up for? To help you decide, we put the big four under the microscope, assessing their content, quality, device support and user experience so you can make an informed choice.
Once you've chosen, turn to the back page to find our recommendations for some of the best film scenes to test your brand-spanking-new home cinema system out.
The new normal?
This month, our Insider feature focuses on our visit to Europe’s biggest tech show. But like most things this year, IFA 2020 was far from normal – the first global hi-fi industry gathering since the Coronavirus outbreak was, to use the buzzword of the year, unprecedented.
It might have been held on familiar territory in Berlin, but conducting a global hi-fi show split across actual and virtual attendees made for a strange affair. This IFA ‘special edition’ was uniquely formatted – and something we hope won’t need to be repeated in the future.
So read how we got on at IFA 2020 – is this the new normal for hi-fi industry events?
This month, our Temptations section features reviews of the Vertere DG-1 Dynamic Groove turntable (£2850) and the Spendor Classic 1/2 standmount speakers (£5600). Yes, they are pricey, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting them.
On top of all this, don’t forget our definitive guide to the best home entertainment your money can buy, our regularly updated Buyer's Guide. If you take one thing away from the December issue, let it be this: don't click 'buy' on a hi-fi or home cinema product unless you've read about it in What Hi-Fi? first.