2023 Top Picks of the Year

Looking back at Sound & Vision’s 2023 Top Pick selections, what becomes clear is it was a great year for speakers. Whether passive or active, bookshelf or tower, we saw and heard high-performance designs that deliver the goods both sonically and aesthetically — as exemplified by the KEF LS60 which is far more than just a wireless speaker system: it points to a bright future for wireless active speaker systems. It was also a great year for subwoofers, with Klipsch stepping up to the plate and delivering a home run with its revamped Reference Premier subwoofer line.

On the video side, the Samsung S90C ups the maximum screen size of quantum-dot OLED to 77 inches and offers a true reference viewing experience in a sleek and stylish package. Need an even bigger screen? The TCL QM8 is available in sizes up to 98 inches and is a tremendous performer for the money; we tested the 85-inch version that costs less than a 77-inch OLED.

From the sophistication of the latest OLED TVs to the refined acoustics of modern speakers, Sound & Vision’s Top Picks for 2023 track the AV industry’s evolution. The choices also make an effort to balance cost with quality. With a lot of today’s gear, audio-visual technology excellence has become accessible to a broader audience. From the captivating clarity of cutting-edge OLED displays to the symphonic brilliance of state-of-the-art audio systems, these selections are more than just devices — they are gateways to immersive realms of entertainment.


4K OLED TV

Samsung 77” QN77S90C Quantum-Dot OLED 4K TV
If you seek a TV that represents the state-of-the-art for image reproduction in a consumer display, the S90C is a quantum-dot (QD) OLED that delivers. This is an OLED that truly stands up even to bright daylight thanks to its high brightness. Add to that high contrast bolstered by the perfect blacks that are an OLED trademark and a color intensity that escapes most other TVs. And the TV is available in a 77-inch screen size that lets you appreciate the incredible detail it is capable of rendering.

This Samsung is a dream TV regardless of what you are into. If sports are what you love, it’ll handle motion with great clarity and it’ll shine bright on a Sunday at 1 p.m. The TV screen also has a coating that is very effective at suppressing reflections. But it’s when you turn off the lights, that the true superpowers of this TV are unleashed.

It’s well known that a combination of contrast, color, and resolution is what it takes to make video imagery realistic and almost three-dimensional. The S90C pulls this trick off to perfection, and when you play video games the 3D quality is particularly pronounced; it even offers a 144-Hz peak refresh rate. With movies, viewers experience reference-quality playback that honors the director’s intent.

The 77-inch S90C runs on Tizen 7.0, Samsung’s proprietary operating system for smart TVs, and is notable for its attractive, slim, and minimalist design. It has a removable stand and supports wall mounting with a 400 x 300 mm VESA interface. However, the stand doesn’t allow for height adjustment, swivel, or tilt.

The TV rests on a pedestal, not feet, so it will fit on a narrow stand. Wall mounted, it is nearly bezel-free and basically all screen. Though sound is limited by physics and the small size of the built-in speakers, the TV supports Dolby Atmos and is equipped with various audio enhancing features, including Object Tracking Sound Lite and Q-Symphony 2.0. If you add a Samsung Q Symphony-equipped soundbar, it works in unison with the TV’s sound system to deliver a high-fidelity immersive sound experience.

About the only catch with the S90C is the cost relative to some 85-inch TVs. You can indeed buy an even bigger TV for less, one that performs at a very high level. But if the ultimate in cinematic picture quality is top priority, this QD-OLED has what it takes to blow you away at an approachable price. $2,700 ($2,500 when reviewed), samsung.com

Read the review here.


4K QLED TV

TCL 85” 85QM8 Mini-LED QLED 4K TV
The TCL 85QM8 makes a big impression in the large-screen TV market with its impressive 85-inch display, offering a compelling alternative to traditional home theater projectors. At a price point that’s unexpectedly affordable, especially with online discounts, this TV brings the big-screen experience into the living room without breaking the bank. The allure of such a large display is undeniable.

One of the 85QM8’s most notable features is its mini-LED backlighting, enhanced with quantum dots. The full-array local dimming, with its large number of zones, offers rich, deep blacks that rival those of more expensive TVs. And the set’s compatibility with various HDR formats, including HDR10 and Dolby Vision, further bolsters its visual performance, making it a versatile choice for different types of media.

For gamers, the TCL 85QM8 is a dream, offering a full suite of game-enhancing features like VRR, ALLM, and a high refresh rate.

The design and placement of buttons on the remote can be a bit challenging, and navigating the Google TV platform may take some getting used to, but these are minor issues, easily overshadowed by the TV’s overall quality and features. The set’s calibration options are comprehensive, and particularly beneficial for SDR content, allowing viewers to fine-tune the picture to their liking.

While the TCL 85QM8’s built-in audio won’t rival a dedicated surround-sound system, it provides a satisfactory listening experience for everyday use, and an extensive range of audio controls allows for customization, albeit with a bit of menu navigation.

TCL’s 85-inch 85QM8 is a remarkable offering in the premium TV market. The combination of a massive screen, excellent picture quality, and a host of features — all at an attractive price point — make it a top choice for those looking to elevate their home theater experience. Its few ergonomic and interface shortcomings are minor compared to the immersive viewing experience it delivers. MSRP is technically $2,799.99, but the street price was $1,800 when the review was written. (Best Buy is selling the QM8 for $2,000 as of this writing.) $2,800, tcl.com

Read the review here.


Home Theater Projector

Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K Laser Projector
Here we have a repeat Top Pick of the Year winner. Why? Because nothing better has come along at its price and capability. As noted in our 2022 Top Pick of the Year write-up, this is the projector that brings native 4K laser projection down to a reasonable price. Indeed, the one difference this year is the Sony is now selling for $5,000 instead of $6,000. It remains the most affordable home theater projector to offer native 4K resolution and a laser light source, and there’s nothing else quite like it. With 2000 ANSI lumens and high color accuracy, it’ll light up a large screen quite nicely.

Of course, to keep the cost of the XW5000ES down, Sony had to make some compromises. The lens is manual and is not as highly resolving as the lenses found on the step-up XW6000ES and XW7000ES models. But Sony employs the same X1 Ultimate for Projector processor in the XW5000ES and the same 0.61-inch 3-chip LCoS imagers. Its pricier siblings do offer higher performance, but it is merely incremental.

Sony provides an excellent full-size remote with direct access to many useful functions. The projector is near silent and easy to install, thanks to its relatively small size and light weight. For picky videophiles with dedicated home theater spaces, the Sony XW5000ES is an excellent value proposition, delivering the truly cinematic-quality image quality theater enthusiasts demand. The quality of the image it puts on screen simply cannot be matched for the money. $5,000, sony.com

Read the review here.


Gaming Monitor

Samsung 49” Odyssey OLED G95SC Curved-Screen Monitor
A true cutting-edge piece of technology, the Samsung OLED G95SC is an ultra-wide monitor that is a gamer’s dream but also an effective productivity tool. Although costly, with its 240-Hz quantum-dot OLED screen that’s as wide as two regular monitors side-by-side, it is a truly state-of-the-art way to experience flight and driving simulators.

Dual QHD resolution (5120 x 1440 pixels) and a 240-Hz refresh rate are what make it a gamer’s dream. When paired with a top-tier PC, the fluidity and clarity of motion it reproduces connect you with the game or simulator seamlessly. You feel connected to your actions because of the instant feedback. Moreover, the monitor comes factory-calibrated for accuracy so if you switch to video editing, you can trust the colors it shows.

The G95SC offers a hassle-free setup process, with options to connect to a Windows PC, Mac, or phone using Samsung DeX. It’s ideal for creative professionals, providing ample space for applications and supporting a seamless desktop experience. The monitor can also function as a “regular” 16:9 240 Hz monitor (with side letterbox), thus making it compatible with various gaming consoles and PCs.

The Samsung OLED G95SC is a luxury gaming monitor that blends high performance with a stunning design. It’s particularly suited for hardcore gamers and creative professionals who value an ultra-wide perspective and high frame rates. It puts you right inside the game or simulation for a complete sense of immersion. $1,800 (selling for $1,300 as of this writing), samsung.com

Read the review here.


A/V Receiver

Denon AVR-X3800H
The Denon AVR-X3800H, priced at $1,699, presents a compelling blend of features and performance that hits the sweet spot for many home theater enthusiasts. As the most affordable model in Denon’s range capable of supporting a full Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3D layout with its nine powered channels, the AVR-X3800H is a standout choice for those seeking top-tier audio quality without an extravagant price tag. This receiver demonstrates how modern design can deliver increasing levels of audio/video sophistication at stable price points, embodying the advancement of home theater technology over the past two decades.

This AV receiver doesn’t just excel in audio performance; it’s also packed with cutting-edge technology. It features HDMI 2.1 on all inputs and outputs, supporting 8K video capabilities and 4K upscaling. Its multi-subwoofer integration and room-correction features, powered by the top-level Audyssey processing (and the optional Dirac Live add-on), ensure a finely tuned audio experience tailored to the specifics of any room. The physical setup of the AVR-X3800H is straightforward, requiring minimal effort beyond the standard connections. Once set up, the Audyssey XT32 calibration routine fine-tunes the system, enhancing bass definition and midrange clarity, although users should be mindful of potentially exaggerated subwoofer levels.

From supporting various object-based surround modes and HDR formats to integrating seamlessly into the HEOS multi-room streaming ecosystem, it’s a receiver designed for the modern, connected home. Its combination of powerful audio capabilities, advanced technology, and a user-friendly design, all at a reasonable price, make the Denon AVR-X3800H a true top choice for anyone looking to upgrade their home theater experience. $1,699, denon.com

Read the review here.


Integrated Amplifier (2-Channel)

NAD C 3050 LE
The NAD C 3050 LE integrated amplifier stands out with its unique blend of vintage aesthetics and modern technology, offering a nod to the nostalgia of classic hi-fi. Its retro design, characterized by softly yellow-lit VU meters and gold-on-black graphics, pays homage to NAD’s origins. However, beneath this vintage facade lies cutting-edge technology, including high-quality D/A conversion and the integration of NAD’s BluOS wireless streaming platform.

With Class D power and Dirac Live room correction (full-bandwidth available as a paid upgrade), the C 3050 LE is more than just a visual throwback. Once set up, the amplifier delivers an exceptional audio experience. Its bass is robust, never strained and the overall sound is warm and dynamic. This highly competent, transparent integrated is ideal for a wide range of musical genres. The incorporation of the BluOS app enhances the user experience by allowing adjustments like the crossover point for seamless integration with a subwoofer, further refining the sound quality.

While the C 3050 LE excels in many areas, like any gear it does have its limitations. The amplifier only offers one analog line input, which may be restrictive for users with multiple analog sources. Additionally, there’s no pass-through for multichannel, slightly limiting its versatility in certain setups. However, the inclusion of various digital inputs, including eARC HDMI and Ethernet, along with a moving-magnet phono input, provides ample connectivity for most modern audio systems.

NAD’s C 3050 LE strikes an appealing balance between style and substance. It is an attractive choice for both audiophiles and those who appreciate the aesthetic of classic hi-fi. It is a fitting tribute to NAD’s original designs, offering a delightful mix of the past and present in audio technology. $1,800 nadelectronics.com

Read the review here.


Power Amplifier

OSD Nero XA7180 7-Channel Amp
The OSD Nero XA7180 stands out as a highly efficient and affordable solution for powering a seven-channel surround-sound AV or home theater system. Priced at just $850, it offers an impressive cost-to-performance ratio, delivering audiophile-quality sound at approximately one dollar per watt. This amplifier is designed to handle the demanding task of amplification with transparency, adding no coloration to the audio it processes.

The XA7180’s build quality is robust, featuring a solid construction that surpasses even some flagship AV receivers. Its toroidal power supply contributes to the weight but offers consistent performance. The amplifier is equipped with both RCA and balanced XLR inputs and features individual status LEDs for each channel, adding to its professional appeal. Designed for shelf placement, it also sports an attractive front panel with brushed aluminum, fitting seamlessly into any audio setup.

The amp’s ability to deliver clean, transparent, and powerful sound across seven channels makes it a versatile and valuable addition to any multichannel audio system. While it requires 6 inches of clearance when rack-mounted due to its passive ventilation system, this is a small compromise for the overall performance you get in return. The amplifier’s ability to deliver more power to all channels simultaneously than typical AV receivers is a significant advantage, providing increased headroom and distributing heat generation more effectively. $850, osdaudio.com

Read the review here.


Source Component

Apple TV 4K 3rd Generation
The Apple TV 4K 3rd Generation player continues to lead its category. It offers a significant upgrade over its predecessors, combining enhanced performance with a more affordable price tag. Priced at $129 for the 64 GB version and $149 for the 128 GB model, it remains the player to beat in the 4K streaming device market. The latest model, which came out in 2022, is particularly appealing to those already invested in the Apple ecosystem, as it seamlessly integrates with other Apple devices, providing a cohesive and user-friendly experience.

The device features the A15 Bionic chip, with a passive thermal design, eliminating the need for a fan and resulting in a smaller and quieter unit. This upgrade leads to a 50 percent faster CPU and a 30 percent increase in GPU performance, offering a smoother and more responsive user experience. Additionally, it supports a range of high dynamic range (HDR) formats, including the newly added HDR10+, enhancing the visual quality of content.

Apple TV 4K excels in its integration with other Apple products, particularly the iPhone. The setup process is streamlined, allowing users to quickly transfer settings, apps, and preferences from an older Apple TV mode. This feature is not only convenient but also time efficient. The device also offers audio and video calibration through the iPhone, ensuring optimal sound and picture quality. Purchases and add-ons can be authenticated via Face ID or Touch ID on the iPhone, adding an extra layer of security and convenience. $129 (64 GB) or $149 (128 GB), apple.com

Read the review here.


Soundbar System

Sonos Arc Soundbar with Era 300 Speakers and Sonos Sub
The Sonos Arc 7.1.4 Atmos system, which Sonos calls the “Ultimate Immersive Set with Arc,” is a formidable offering in the high-end segment of the home theater soundbar market. While the price may be steep for some, the system justifies its cost with outstanding audio performance, particularly in delivering a full-dome Atmos movie experience and superb spatial audio for music. And its ability to play loud without distortion is a testament to the company's focus on good sound.

The integration of the Sonos Arc soundbar with a pair of Era 300 speakers provides a complete Dolby Atmos experience, previously unattainable in the Sonos lineup. The Arc soundbar, known for its excellent audiophile-quality sonics and compatibility with Sonos’s wireless sub and rear surround speaker options, is complemented by the Era 300’s ability to deliver bass down to about 40 Hz and produce substantial power. This combination results in an immersive soundfield, achieving the coveted front-to-back Atmos dome with a widened overall soundstage and height effects.

The addition of the Era 300 speakers as rear surrounds significantly enhances the audio experience, filling in the gaps of the Atmos height bubble and broadening the soundstage. Adding a Sonos Sub (Gen 3) to the setup brings deeper, tighter, and more defined bass, adding extra impact to the overall experience.

The Sonos Arc 7.1.4 Atmos system is an investment in home audio, offering a level of sound quality and immersion that is hard to match for the price. $2,471, sonos.com

Read the review here.


Loudspeakers

Bowers & Wilkins 703 S3 Tower Speaker
These speakers excel in delivering a holographic soundstage and imaging, combined with tight and articulate bass, making them a prime choice for audiophiles and serious music lovers. Their elegant design and easy assembly add to the allure, making them as much a statement piece as a high-fidelity audio device.

The 703 S3’s distinctive three-way, four-driver design includes a 1-inch decoupled carbon-dome tweeter, isolated in its own compartment — the “Tweeter-on-Top” as Bowers & Wilkins calls it. The build quality of the 703 S3 is luxurious, with a visually appealing design that would enhance any room’s aesthetics. The mocha wood grain finish looks great and the overall presentation of the drivers is both functional and stylish.

In a 5.1 surround-sound system, the 703 S3 towers shine as front-channel speakers, providing an expansive and precise soundstage. Their ability to reproduce complex music and film soundtracks with clarity and detail is remarkable. The speakers maintain the scale of the soundstage with precision, faithfully reflecting the original mix and audio mastering. In a two-channel music setup, the 703 S3’s stand on their own, delivering a refined performance with fidelity across music genres and films that highlights their versatility while delivering a listening experience that is both engrossing and emotionally resonant.

B&W’s 703 S3 speakers offer a level of performance and luxury that few other speakers can match. They stand as a testament to Bowers & Wilkins’ excellence in audio engineering and design, making them a highly recommendable choice. $5,999/pair, bowerswilkins.com

Read the review here.


Wireless Speaker

Klipsch The Nines Powered Speaker System
The Nines speaker system embodies a blend of heritage design and modern technology, delivering excellent treble clarity and warm, rich bass. Part of the Heritage Inspired Speaker line, these speakers are a testament to Klipsch’s commitment to maintaining its historical sound signature, characterized by detailed highs and a warm tonal balance. The high-excursion 8-inch woofer and 1-inch titanium tweeter, along with the Klipsch-exclusive Tractrix horn, contribute to the speaker’s impressive performance.

Here the horn serves more as a waveguide than as a means to make the tweeter more efficient, although it really does both. The result is more control over the highs.

The Nines feature a luxurious-looking MDF cabinet with a real-wood veneer, available in either black or walnut finishes. The build quality is robust, with attention to detail evident in every aspect, from the removable color-coordinated speaker grilles to the cork pads on the bottom. The top of the active speaker is adorned with an elegant aluminum panel, enhancing its aesthetic appeal. The speakers’ classic design ensures they are not just great sounding but also visually pleasing.

Flexibility in placement is one of The Nines’ strong suits, offering interchangeability between left and right channels and a number of input options. The speakers come with a 13-foot-long proprietary cable that connects the active speaker to its passive counterpart as well as HDMI and USB cables, providing ample connectivity options for different setups. The system features streaming via Bluetooth 5.0 with support for aptX, aptX HD, and AAC. However, it does not have built-in Wi-Fi, nor does it support AirPlay or Chromecast. The system comes with a small, easy-to-use remote with basic controls and expanded control options, including a custom EQ, are available through the Klipsch Connect app.

The Nines stand as a high-quality investment for those seeking a blend of vintage aesthetics and modern sound technology. Their price is justified by their performance, build quality, and flexibility. These speakers bring the classic Klipsch sound signature into a contemporary setting, making them a valuable addition to any home audio setup. $1,499 (powered two-speaker system), klipsch.com

Read the review here.


Portable Speaker

Sonos Move 2 Wireless Speaker
The Sonos Move 2 is a significant upgrade from its predecessor, offering a blend of enhanced features and superior sound quality. The speaker maintains the familiar aesthetics of the original Sonos Move, with the addition of a new olive shade to the existing black and white options. Its capacitive touch controls, compatibility with voice assistants like Sonos Voice Control and Amazon Alexa, and privacy control feature (which disengages the microphone) add to its thoughtful, user-friendly design.

One of the notable improvements in the Move 2 is its extended battery life, promising up to 24 hours of playback. This, along with the upgraded Wireless Charging Base and an IP56 rating for dust and water resistance, makes the Move 2 suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. The speaker offers versatile connectivity options with support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 wireless capability in addition to a new USB-C input. However, it lacks the ability to pair with a Sonos subwoofer and doesn’t include a proprietary USB-C Line-In Adapter in the box, which may limit some usage scenarios.

The Move 2 impresses with its powerful bass and overall sound quality and adapts well to different environments, thanks to the automatic room tuning feature Sonos calls Trueplay. Sound remains consistent whether the speaker is placed indoors or outdoors, making it a versatile choice for different listening scenarios. The Move 2’s soundstage, while limited in its stereo effect, still manages to provide a satisfactory listening experience for a portable speaker. Its robust build, long battery life, and superior connectivity options make the Move 2 a compelling choice for those seeking a high-quality portable speaker. $449, sonos.com

Read the review here.


Ported Subwoofer

Klipsch RP-1600SW Subwoofer
With a 16-inch driver and a slotted front port, the Klipsch RP-1600SW is designed to minimize port noise while delivering powerful bass. The subwoofer’s appearance is deceiving; despite its large driver, it maintains a compact, muscular form, though it weighs a substantial 111 pounds, indicating its solid build quality. The scratch-resistant ebony vinyl veneer and rounded corners complemented by the iconic gold Cerametallic driver, a Klipsch hallmark give it an elegant look.

The RP-1600SW is equipped with a Class D amplifier rated at 800 watts RMS and 1,600 watts peak, delivering an incredible amount of clean output and excellent dynamics. The subwoofer features RCA inputs but lacks XLR inputs and app control, focusing instead on delivering powerful performance through physical adjustments. Controls include dials for adjusting gain and setting a low-pass crossover point plus toggles for phase and power, allowing for basic yet effective customization. Despite its high power, the subwoofer remains efficient and does not generate excessive heat.

Klipsch’s RP-1600SW is a mighty subwoofer that lives up to the brand’s reputation for quality audio products. It comes with a full five-year warranty. $1,799 (selling for $1,399 as of this writing), klipsch.com

Read the review here.


Sealed Subwoofer

SVS 3000 In-Wall Subwoofer
The SVS 3000 takes a leap into the architectural subwoofer segment, presenting a solution that combines powerful bass with the invisibility of an in-wall design. The subwoofer features dual 9-inch drivers in a compact enclosure that fits between standard wall studs. Its design emphasizes acoustic inertness, even at extreme levels, achieved through solid-aluminum front and rear baffles and internal bracing. The external Sledge STA-800D2C amplifier is robust, delivering 800 watts RMS and 2,500 watts peak power. It includes various connectivity options and supports the SVS Subwoofer Control Smartphone App for advanced control features.

The app allows users to tailor the subwoofer’s performance with a three-band parametric EQ, offering detailed adjustments for optimal audio quality. Once installed, setting up the subwoofer involves connecting it to an AVR and fine-tuning its output using calibration tools like Audyssey. Installation of the SVS 3000 In-Wall Subwoofer is a commitment requiring a permanent location and cutting an opening in the wall.

Performance in music playback is notable, delivering quick, clean, and precise bass that complements different genres. With movie soundtracks, impactful bass adds to the immersion of scenes. While the subwoofer doesn’t reach the ultra-low frequencies of larger freestanding subwoofers, its performance from 20 Hz upwards conveys the intensity of action-packed scenes.

The in-wall design frees up floor space while delivering impactful bass, making it an attractive option for homeowners looking to enhance their audio setup without compromising room aesthetics. The price reflects the subwoofer’s quality and the advantages it offers, making it a worthwhile investment for those prioritizing both performance and interior design. $2,000, svsound.com

Read the review here.


Full-Size Headphones

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Noise-Canceling Wireless Headphones
The No. 5909 headphones represent Mark Levinson’s foray into the market for high-end Bluetooth headphones with active noise cancellation (ANC). In keeping with the brand’s reputation for producing exceptional audio systems, the headphones are tuned precisely to the Harman Curve and sport Hi-Res Audio certification. The 1.6-inch (40 mm) beryllium-coated drivers deliver full-range sound, with a rated frequency response of 20 Hz-20 kHz in active mode and 10 Hz-40 kHz in passive mode.

While the headphones excel in sound and build quality, there are a couple minor ergonomic downsides. The voice confirmation for adjustments can be distracting, and the On-Head detection interval is on the sort side, meaning the user may have to resume playback manually. However, these are small issues when overall performance and quality are considered. The headphones come with a hard-shell carrying case as well as various cables and adapters, reflecting their overall quality and attention to detail.

The Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones stand out as top-tier noise-canceling headphones. Their reference-quality sound, exceptional ANC properties, and luxurious build make them a worthwhile investment for audiophiles seeking premium wireless headphones and a listening experience that aligns with Mark Levinson’s reputation for high-fidelity audio excellence. $999, marklevinson.com

Read the review here.


True Wireless Headphones

Sony WF-1000XM5 Noise-Canceling Wireless Earbuds
The Sony WF-1000XM5 are a refined successor to the highly acclaimed WF-1000XM4 True Wireless active noise-canceling earbuds. They stand out for their smaller, lighter design, which significantly enhances comfort. Sony’s focus on improving performance while reducing size has resulted in earbuds that provide twice the processing power of their predecessors and feature head tracking. They are perfect for Android users, offering a premium alternative to Apple’s AirPods Pro.

Emphasizing comfort, Sony designed the WF-1000XM5 earbuds to be as light and unobtrusive as possible. The result is a fit that is both secure and non-fatiguing, outperforming other earbuds that tend to fall out too easily. These earbuds are an ideal choice for active outdoor activities or busy urban environments.

The WF-1000XM5 delivers “premium Sony sound” with ample bass and a balanced audio profile characterized by a detailed midrange and silky-smooth highs. The earbuds feature Sony’s AI noise-reduction technology and a bone conduction sensor, ensuring clear voice isolation during calls. And Sony’s advanced noise-canceling capabilities rival those of the AirPods Pro, offering comprehensive acoustic isolation that covers a wide frequency range. The accompanying Sony Headphones app provides customizable settings, including the innovative “Find Your Equalizer” feature for personalized sound profiles. $250, sony.com

Read the review here.


Top Value

Monoprice Monolith MTM-100 2.1 Speaker System
The Monolith MTM-100 powered desktop speaker system delivers exceptional value and customizable sound at a combined price of $850, $500 for the speaker and $350 for the subwoofer. Despite lacking HDMI ARC for wired TV connections and having large cabinets that may be overwhelming for small desks, this speaker and subwoofer combo from Monoprice’s Monolith series delivers impressive performance.

Each speaker houses a 1.25-inch silk-dome tweeter, two 4-inch paper-cone drivers, and dual 5.25-inch passive radiators on the sides. The primary speaker has all essential controls and connectivity options, including USB Type-C, optical, and RCA inputs, a subwoofer output, and Bluetooth support. The secondary speaker is more minimalistic, featuring only binding posts for connection to the main speaker.

The MTM-100 system delivers rich, full sound with deep, tuneful bass and excellent midrange clarity. Its ability to resolve fine details and deliver a convincing sound stage is notable, making it suitable for both music and movie soundtracks. The system’s EQ controls allow for tailoring the sound to personal preferences or room acoustics, and the subwoofer’s THX certification ensures high-quality bass performance. The addition of the subwoofer elevates the overall audio experience with improved low-end extension and reduced distortion.

The MTM-100 speakers support aptX HD Bluetooth, allowing for a range of wireless connectivity options, including laptops, tablets, phones, and compatible gaming consoles. The primary speaker’s multifunction knob and LED indicators provide intuitive control over the system, and the remote control offers the added convenience of a smart memory tone wheel for adjusting bass and treble. If good sound is a priority, this system is a solid investment in desktop audio. $850 (speakers and subwoofer), monoprice.com

Read the review here.


Overall Top Pick of the Year

KEF LS60 Wireless Powered Speaker System
The KEF LS60 wireless speaker system represents a paradigm shift in the realm of high-fidelity audio. An acoustic revolution, delivering reference-grade sound quality and virtually full-range extension. Though the speakers lack certain features like multichannel integration, a music-data display, and a phono input, the LS60 stands out as the ultimate standalone streaming system for the modern audiophile.

The LS60’s design is a masterpiece of modern engineering, combining aesthetics with state-of-the-art technology. Its slim tower silhouette is adorned with a two-way concentric driver and a quartet of dual-opposed woofers, presenting a visually striking and innovative design. While it lacks a grille, which might be a concern for some, its overall appearance is nothing short of spectacular.

At its core, the LS60 is a culmination of KEF’s best technologies — its signature Uni-Q driver array enhanced by a metamaterial back-chamber for cleaner sound output and overlapping voice coils in the woofers for efficiency and reduced distortion. This speaker system is powered by three amplifiers per speaker, blending Class D and AB amplification for balanced and powerful audio performance.

The LS60 offers a comprehensive range of inputs including coax, optical, HDMI/eARC, and analog, alongside Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Roon Ready streaming functionality. The absence of physical controls is compensated for by the intuitive KEF Connect app, essential for setup and adjustment, delivering a seamless user experience.

The speakers’ ability to fill the room with a stable and accurate soundstage, while maintaining clarity and detail at high volumes, is remarkable. The LS60’s bass performance is particularly noteworthy, capable of producing subterranean frequencies that challenge even larger, dedicated subwoofers.

The KEF LS60 wireless powered speaker system is a testament to the evolution of high-fidelity sound. It embodies the perfect blend of aesthetic elegance, technological innovation, and unparalleled sound quality. While the system may not include every imaginable feature, its performance and simplicity makes it a top choice for anyone seeking a premium, all-in-one audio solution. The LS60 not only meets but exceeds the expectations of what a modern high-end audio system can be, making them Sound & Vision’s Top Pick of the Year for audiophiles and music enthusiasts alike. $7,000 (powered two-speaker system), us.kef.com.

Read the review here.

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