Hi-Fi World's Annual Award Issue
Welcome to our annual Awards issue where we select the best products of 2021 – those we all feel are special. Many are affordable, some esoteric with a price tag to match, making for an interesting mixture from across the price spectrum.
With vinyl sales still rising, no surprise there are two affordable products in this category – the beautifully finished Teac TN-5BB turntable and Pro-Ject Phono Box RS2 phono stage. A link between them is that both cater for balanced cartridge connection through XLR cables, in order to eliminate hum and some forms of noise, improving sound quality. Teac's turntable was a delight to use and sounded good too. Pro-Ject's phono stage was superb all-round, with excellent facilities and balanced connection for MM as well as MC cartridges.
JBL's big floorstanding HDI-3600 price might not be large but its bass certainly was. Few loudspeakers go so low and sound so good doing it, impressing us all. Less obvious in stature but impressively concise and accurate was KEF's LS50 Meta. This finely honed bookshelf design was pure class.
Amplifiers over the year of 2021 were more ambitious. Smooth yet powerful and with a slick digital section based on a top AKM digital convertor chip, Creek's Voyage i20 impressed us greatly – an obvious winner. Audio Research conjured up their huge and extraordinary Reference 80S power amplifier to easily win our nomination of top valve amplifier of 2021, but there was another valve amplifier that was attention grabbing, Icon Audio's unusual HP 205D for headphones, based on one of the earliest triode valves ever, the Western Electric 205D from the 1920s.
With a premium ES9038Pro DAC in their ST60 network player, Arcam delivered a unit that did it all, even giving top results from CD if connected to a transport. An easy recommendation as a talented multi-role player.
The year of 2021 brought some great products, to look at and listen to. I hope you enjoy reading about them in this great Awards issue.