Thus far, 2020 has been an unusual year to say the least, but if you're anything like us you'll have drawn comfort from your sound system and music collection these past six months.
The November issue of What Hi-Fi? – on newsstands today – is devoted to keeping you listening and, as ever, in the best possible quality. Regardless of how physically distanced we're supposed to be and the uncertain economic times, music is something you can rely on and we're here to help you upgrade in style, or at least aspire to doing so.
But before we even get to the meat of the November issue main course, there's a detailed starter of advice on how to best position your speakers, plus the top 1980s albums to test those drivers (once expertly situated).
Speakers to spoil someone (or yourself)
Hurrah! Saddle up for a glorious, seven-page romp through some of our favourite speakers: standmounters that'll set you back over a grand but not quite two, aka the sweet-spot of hi-fi.
We've selected offerings from KEF, Neat, Revel, Wharfedale, ATC, Bowers & Wilkins and JBL. All seven of these hi-fi stereo speakers will sound splendid – within the right system. That means you've still got a bit of work to do before deciding which should be at the top of your wishlist, but it's just another reason why you need the new issue of What Hi-Fi?.
Sweet streams are made of this
To go along with the speakers in our new issue, we also have six all-in-one systems, for a true 21st Century hi-fi. And hi-fi it most certainly is, make no mistake.
These systems from Sonos, Arcam, NAD, Naim, Marantz and Bluesound boast prices ranging from £600 to £2250, and they emphatically prove it.
Newness hath an evanescent beauty
Our First Tests section is all about newness, and this month we're bringing you not one, not two, but seven star-rated reviews of brand new products bursting out into the audio sector.
There's an affordable Marantz CD player (an update to the 2019 Award-winning CD 6006 UK Edition) and a price-compatible amplifier to go with it. We also review Sony's new WH-1000XM4 wireless over-ear headphones, the Astell & Kern A&futura SE200 portable music player, the Harman Kardon Citation MultiBean 700 soundbar, Denon's latest 6000-series home cinema receiver, and a highly-unusual soundbar from Sharp.
So, how many of these products get a coveted five-star review? It's all in the mag.
Form an orderly Q
Q Acoustics' entry-level 3000i series remains at the core of its exceptional line-up. The firm is one of our go-to brands for affordable speakers, which is why we've answered the difficult question, 'which is better?' – the newest 3030i (£329), the 3020i (£199) or the 3010i (£160) Q Acoustics speakers?
Given that there's so much shared tech between the three siblings (not to mention three five-star reviews) pitting them against each other in a head-to-head is no easy task.
Affordable? Tick. Awardable? Indeed...
For a small but blessed contingent of people in this world, money is no object; they can simply own the best in everything. For most of us though, the price matters – we have to do the necessary research in order to get our money's worth. Here, we present some products that we think outdo themselves as far as bang for your buck goes. Each will set you back less than a ton (£100), some even less than that.
Whether you're considering a new pair of wireless headphones, a turntable cartridge, a DAC or a Bluetooth speaker, there should be something in these 12 budget-friendly pages to satisfy your sonic desires. And with three What Hi-Fi? 2019 Award-winners in this list, you're guaranteed a bargain.
An Iris investigation – and we're not talking eye colours
Our regular Insider Top Five feature comprises a quintet of the newest and best pieces of hi-fi kit we've clocked on the circuit – but of course, you'll have to read the mag to know what we circled in red for you. (Okay, there's a new Pro-Ject turntable in the mix, but that's all you're getting).
This month, our Insider feature proper involved donning face masks, darting on to the relatively-quiet London Underground and learning all about Iris. This new tech actually unpacks the phase information sent to the brain in a recording, essentially removing the so-called "parlour tricks" used in the modern recording process, and allowing listeners to focus on specific instruments within each track.
The results are remarkable and predictably divisive. You'll have to read the piece to find out why.
Wouldn't it have been wonderful to hear the late, great David Bowie sing "T-t-t-tempting" just once? That's how we'd describe our Temptations section anyway, if we could only sing like Aladdin Sane.
This month, we're reviewing the dCS Bartók, a very expensive music-streaming DAC from a small, high-end digital specialist that simply refuses to cut corners when it comes to engineering and build. Yes, it's pricey. Yes, we still want it.
Also in our Temptations section this month, we test the Chord TToby. It's bijou, it's got a modest 50W-per channel power output and a cutesy name. It may get overlooked by some in favour of something bigger or a more 'serious' bit of kit. That would be a mistake though.
On top of all this, let's not 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 this item, 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.