2019 Top Picks of the Year

Now that 2019 is done, it's time to take stock of the year by reviewing the list of products that received Sound & Vision Top Pick awards. It's also time to single out some trends.

A key trend is that OLED and LCD TVs have become available in substantially larger screen sizes—the 70-plus-inch category is where the action is at for set makers. Not surprisingly, high-end models in general are also getting less pricey. While at $3,800 our 2019 TV Top Pick of the Year at isn't any cheaper than last year's winner, it's notable that the list includes a full-featured $1,000 LCD Ultra HDTV with a full-array LED backlight. Projectors, too, are part of the downward pricing spiral, with good-quality 4K-capable models now selling for under $1,500, and great ones selling for under $3,000.

Another trend is that we're finally starting to see is HDMI 2.1 connections and related features provided on select TVs. This development makes them 8K future-proof and allows for improved gaming features such as variable refresh rates and low-latency, along with audio features like eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) for delivery of uncompressed soundtracks from smart TVs to audio systems over HDMI.

There was plenty to appreciate on the audio front in 2019. Affordable, full-featured A/V receivers with features like Dolby Atmos/DTS:X processing, IMAX Enhanced certification, and multiroom audio streaming are now commonplace. The stereo receiver, a popular item in the 1970s and 80s, has made a comeback, and there are now numerous stereo-only products that feature HDMI switching. Streaming continues to supplant music disc playback, with sophisticated preamp/processors, network player/preamplifiers, integrated amplifier/DACs, and wireless powered speakers able to directly stream music and act as a hub for a whole-house music system. Soundbars are suddenly becoming interesting, with Atmos-capable models that deliver substantial bass from a single box now available along with affordable 5.1.4 soundbar systems. The year 2019 will also go down in the books as the one where Qobuz hit U.S. shores to give Tidal high-res streaming competition, while Amazon got into the same game with its Amazon HD Music service.

What does 2020 hold? We expect to see even more TV excitement through the arrival of 8K sets that aren't astronomically priced, along with models sporting the first tuners capable of receiving ATSC 3.0 broadcasts. Hey, there may even be a new high-performance Ultra HD Blu-ray player to satisfy the existing legion of hardcore disc fans. (We know you're out there because you write us letters!)

While the list that follows represents Sound & Vision's Top Picks for 2019, it also includes products reviewed in our December 2019/January 2020 and February/March 2020 print issues (watch for these reviews in the coming weeks). Prices are subject to change from the MSRP listed when the review was originally printed, so check online to see the latest deals.—Al Griffin

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