What Hi-Fi? January 2019

What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home cinema products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the best equipment for your cash, with the magazine's advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies.

United Kingdom
Future Publishing Ltd
13 Issues

in this issue

1 min
sweet streams are made of this…

The compact disc is still very much with us, with sales remaining solid, while in decline. And vinyl, of course, is still happily riding the wave of its resurgence. But this year, for the first time, streaming and digital downloads overtook physical media in terms of sales value. And the gap between them is, inevitably, only going to increase in time. Which is why, in this issue of What Hi-Fi?, we take a look at our favourite music (p36) and video (p49) streamers. Now you can make the correct choice, whatever your budget, should you decide to upgrade – or add streaming to your hi-fi for the first time. We also have a Group Test of home cinema speaker packages (p56). And it has reminded me that, while soundbars are great, you…

7 min
mini-me twins are a chip off a really fine block

FOR Class-leading insight; bass; rhythmically expressive; design AGAINST Some app snags Scaling something down proportionally to create a smaller replica may work for model villages and food recipes, but in speaker design the rules aren’t quite as simple. Nevertheless, KEF has gone for it and shrunk its multi-Award-winning LS50 Wireless streaming system (£2000) down to make a miniature, half-price version, the KEF LSX. The LSX shares its successful sibling’s blueprint as an all-in-one hi-fi system: a network streamer, Bluetooth receiver and amplification within a pair of compact stereo speakers. But creating the LSX isn’t just a case of simply miniaturising everything in the LS50 Wireless’ anatomy and cutting the price in half. In addition to the smaller cabinets, smaller Uni-Q driver arrays and smaller, 200W amplification, some changes have been made to cater for the…

3 min
great sound quality – it’s as easy as akg

FOR Detailed and refined sound; excellent build AGAINST Some may want a little more excitement When we reviewed the AKG Y50BTs back in 2015, we were just as impressed by the superb wireless on-ears as by their wired Y50 counterparts. “What you have here is a rare example of headphones that are equally excellent across audio performance, features, design and build quality,” we said. Three years on and the Y50BT’s successor, the AKG Y500 Wireless, ups the game once more, thanks to a smarter design and a hugely listenable sound. The new Y500s remain on-ear designs, with a cushioned, adjustable headphone band and memory-foam ear cups. Gone is the large-lettered branding on the brightly coloured earcups; instead, the new Y500s come in shimmery metallic finishes – the blue finish seen here, but also in…

6 min
this tv doesn’t quite match sony’s ambition

FOR Realistic images; decent upscaling; good range of apps AGAINST Lacks black depth of the best; uneven backlighting The Master Series represents the new pinnacle of Sony’s TV line-up. Designed to produce a picture closer to the director’s intention than any commercially available television has done before, the models in the series are the AF9 OLED, which we gave a five-star review, and the ZF9, here in the form of the Sony KD-75ZF9. The key difference is that the ZF9 is an LCD model with a direct LED backlight – it is essentially the successor to the ZD9. That might make the ZF9 sound like the poor relation, but, as Samsung has recently shown with its Q9FN, traditional backlit TVs are capable of mixing with even the best OLEDs. The ZF9 is more…

3 min
“a modern, fuss-free, surround-sound solution”

FOR Impressive soundfield; effective Atmos delivery AGAINST Lacks dynamic punch; size won’t suit all Dolby Atmos soundbars might have joined fidget spinners, unicorn frappuccinos and affordable 4K projectors as 2017 phenomena, but so far most of them haven’t proved particularly convincing in delivering an object-based surround-sound experience. Though not perfect, this Samsung HW-N950 with its array of speakers, is one of the best adverts for them yet. There are 18 drive units in total across the multi-box package, comprising a soundbar (with six drivers and three tweeters along the front, a side-firing speaker at each end, and two upfiring speakers); a wireless subwoofer (20cm bass unit); and two rear wireless modules (each with an upward-firing and front-facing speaker). More a system than a soundbar, it’s still less of a space commitment than a speaker…

6 min
powerful performance from a mammoth amp

FOR Powerful scale of sound; exhaustive features; solid build AGAINST Presentation could be more rhythmically precise Denon’s flagship AVC-X8500H is a mammoth AV amplifier. Weighing 23kg, with a large-scale, powerful sound and 13 discrete power amp channels, the £3499 AVC-X8500H is sure to impress anyone hoping to go big on home cinema. Denon claims this is the first fully 13.2 channel amplifier on the market – one that allows you to set up a 7.2.6 or 9.2.4 Dolby Atmos system without needing a second power amplifier for the extra channels. That alone might tempt hardcore AV fans looking to kit out the ultimate home cinema room, but the Denon’s expansive, muscular scale of sound is another draw. Solid as a rock The AVC-X8500H looks like every other black, rectangular AV receiver, but the build quality…