Best Gear of Late 2023/Early 2024

Updated 2/2/24

In the waning weeks of 2023, our last few Top Picks included small and large sets of speakers from two well-known but very different brands and two superb TVs — a quantum-dot OLED and a mini-LED Google TV, both reasonably priced. As we kicked off the New Year, the hits kept coming with an audiophile-caliber streaming amp combo, a state-of-the-art AV preamp/processor that leaves little to the imagination, and a high-performing yet affordable streaming amp. Keep in mind that retail pricing for TVs and other AV products can be fluid, especially around holidays and big events like the Super Bowl, so be sure to check websites for the latest prices. Let’s take a closer look...

Samsung S90C 77" 4K Quantum Dot OLED TV: $2,500


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Despite stiff competition from today’s impressive crop of mini-LED-backlit LCD TVs, OLED remains one of the top display technologies — one made even better when it’s paired with color-enhancing quantum-dots. Samsung’s 77-inch S90C QD-OLED TV easily made the cut for delivering exceptional 4K picture quality — especially with movies and games — at an exceptional price for QD-OLED tech. (In what is likely pre-Super Bowl pricing, the TV is being offered for $1,800 on samsung.com as of this writing.) The S90C is loaded with all the goodies you need for a great viewing experience, including Samsung’s Smart Hub, which puts a wealth of content at your disposal, a purist Filmmaker mode, and a Game mode with a high refresh rate of 144 Hz and an impressively low input lag of less than 5 milliseconds. The screen even has an anti-reflective coating that keeps distracting reflections at bay during daytime viewing.

In our tests, the S90C excelled in every setting — from watching football during the day to watching basketball at night and streaming shows in 4K or watching movies on 4K Blu-ray. “It consistently nailed the colors, it consistently nailed the motion rendition, and it always delivered whatever amount of detail it could get out of the source material,” is how reviewer Mark Henninger described the experience. And gaming was uber realistic, owning to the set’s ability to properly convey high dynamic range content. Brightness was impressive, too, exceeding 1,000 nits peak, though not as bright as a mini-LED LCD TV, which could be an issue for viewing in super-bright rooms. Even so, the Samsung S90C is a cutting-edge OLED TV that is sure to satisfy all but the pickiest of viewers.

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High value for price
Superior picture quality
Works in bright settings
Low lag and high refresh rate
Minus
Potential for image retention/burn-in
Lacks support for Dolby Vision
77-inch is largest QD-OLED screen size

Full Review Here (posted 12/27/23)


Bowers & Wilkins 703 S3 Speaker: $6,000/pair


Performance
Build Quality
Value
When your flagship speaker becomes a fixture at one of the world’s most famous recording studios, you know you have something special. Such is the case with Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond speakers and London’s Abbey Road Studios, best known as the recording home of The Beatles. The 703 S3 hails from the 700 Series that sits just below the 800 Diamonds. It’s the smaller of two 700 Series towers and, though not as refined as its pricier 800 Series siblings, a magnificent three-way design nonetheless, featuring two 6.5-inch woofers, a 6-inch midrange driver, and B&W’s famous “tweeter on top” — in this case a 1-inch carbon-dome driver. Everything is housed in a rear-ported cabinet 45 inches tall and finished with a luxurious Mocha woodgrain.

The speakers easily lived up to the Bowers & Wilkins legacy, delivering an exceptionally refined soundstage with goosebump-inducing imaging and detail and tight, articulate bass down to around 30 Hz. In a word, they sound fantastic. Of course, the 703 S3 speakers are not perfect — you need a powerful amplifier to get the most out to them and the freestanding tweeters preclude the use of Atmos height modules — but they are guaranteed to captivate you, which is why they come highly recommended.

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Holographic soundstage and imaging
Tight and articulate bass
Aesthetically pleasing
Easy to assemble
Minus
Somewhat low sensitivity
Can't put Atmos module on top of speaker

Full Review Here (posted 12/20/23)


Teac UD-701n Network Player & AP-701B Power Amplifier: $4,300 (UD-701N), $3,800 (AP-701B)


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Teac, the Japanese brand that was known in the 1960s and ‘70s for its affordable open-reel and cassette-based tape recorders, ultimately morphed into the high-end, audiophile brand we know today. High-resolution streaming is one of its specialties, exemplified here by what we might call the dynamic duo pairing of its UD-701N network player and AP-701B stereo power amplifier, each of which features top-performing hardware componentry and impeccable build quality with excellent fit and finish.

The 701B brings together everything you want in an amplifier, including balanced and unbalanced inputs and one of the world’s best examples of Class D power — the famous nCore power modules from Hypex of the Netherlands (in this case rated to deliver 2 x 125 watts into 8 ohms). The 701N continues the balanced theme and brings analog and digital (optical, coaxial, and USB) inputs into the mix along with a dedicated (and quite excellent sounding) headphone section featuring two jacks. And then there’s Teac’s super-refined digital-to-analog conversion system, touted for its ability to, among other things, decode DSD files. The player is Roon Ready and facilitates streaming though the Teac HR Streamer app, which also supports the convenience of streaming via aptX Bluetooth.

Put these two components together and you have a streaming combo that is hard to beat. Streaming in high resolution over Qobuz and Tidal, reviewer Dan Kumin listened to a variety of music, stopping to marvel at the “hypnotic immediacy” and subtle nuances of Barbra Streisand voice on Live at the Bon Soir, traits he attributed to the Teac duo’s ability to resolve an amazing level of fine detail. Now that’s resolution.

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Faultless sound quality
Superb headphone amp
Outstanding build, finish quality
Minus
Less-than elegant app, interface
Expensive

Full Review Here (posted 1/17/24) Sony Bravia X93L Mini-LED 4K Google TV: $1,800


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Sony has a decades-long long history of delivering TV that excel in picture quality. The Bravia X93L holds up that reputation and further elevates the already stellar standing of today’s mini-LED-backlit LCD TVs. In a word, picture quality is superb and can be had at the surprisingly low (for Sony) price of $1,600 as of this writing (down from $2,000). The advent of mini-LED backlighting controlled by sophisticated microprocessing has led to incredible leaps in performance, even challenging the pristine blacks that have long been the province of OLED TVs. Add to that considerably better-than-average sound — something Sony TVs have been long known for — and you have quite a package.

The TV is based on the Google TV smart platform, which offers an abundance of streaming options and provides all the necessary connections, including four HDMI inputs (two of which are HDMI 2.1) in addition to supporting 120 Hz at 4K for gaming along with other game-specific features. It also supports Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) and provides Netflix Calibrated, IMAX Enhanced, and other viewing modes. For daytime viewing, the screen has an anti-reflection coating that works reasonably well and the TV uses Sony’s X-Wide Angle technology to improve off-axis viewing (a traditional bugaboo of LCD TVs).

Veteran TV reviewer Tom Norton was mightily impressed with the overall picture quality of the Sony Bravia X93L — especially its brilliant color and OLED-like blacks — and even calibrated the set to bring out its best. The battle scenes in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, in particular, elicited high praise: “With all the fires churning (the bright fires and explosions here jump out and grab you), not to mention the vividly bright ships of the Sovereigns...It's a light show of epic proportions and the Sony ate it all up.”

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive black levels
Superb color
Affordable
Minus
Menu ergonomics lacking
Remote isn’t backlit and has small buttons

Full Review Here (posted 11/8/23)


Marantz AV 10 15.4-Channel AV Preamp/Processor: $7,000


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
If you’re paying seven grand for an AV preamp/processor you expect an engineering marvel and that’s exactly what you get with the AV 10, the flagship model in Marantz’s AV separates lineup. Add the 16-channel Amp 10 (or another high-caliber home theater power amp) and a suite of reference-level speakers and get ready to enter a world of immersion so real you’ll forget you’re at home. The AV 10 leaves little to the imagination, ready to process up to 15.4 channels in any surround-sound format you could want and make sure everything looks and sounds just right with the help of Dolby Vision and HDR10+ high dynamic range processing and Audyssey’s proven MultiEQ XT32 room-calibration system (Dirac Live is also available as a paid option). High-resolution multiroom streaming is expertly handled by the versatile and robust HEOS platform and Roon compatibility, and there are enough digital and analog inputs to handle whatever you need to connect, including a turntable. You’ll even find unexpected perks like Roon Directional Bass for a more engaging experience.

Reviewer Mark Henninger gave the AV 10 a serious workout in extended listening sessions that paired it with Marantz’s Amp 10 and three sets of speakers in succession. What he experienced led him to dub the AV 10 a “dream machine,” versatile enough to tame three completely different speaker systems. “This ability to sort through the issues and deliver the best each system has to offer is a sign of a great processor.” If the ultimate is what you seek, you can most certainly spend even more of your hard-earned dollars. But do you need to?

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Balanced outputs for all channels
Supports four subwoofers
Audyssey MultEQ XT32 with Directional Bass
Dirac Live Bass Control
Easy on-screen setup
Minus
Antiquated front panel interface
Remote not backlit and hard to read
Dirac Live costs extra

Full Review Here (posted 1/31/24) Klipsch The Nines Powered Speaker: $1,449/pair


Performance
Build Quality
Value
Klipsch is often associated with big speakers, perhaps owing to the iconic Klipschhorn and other massive horn-loaded designs from its early days. But the company makes plenty of compact speakers, including The Nines, one of several powered speaker systems in its Heritage Inspired line. The beauty of this system is just that — it’s a stereo system with onboard power and a preamp that facilitates the convenience of Bluetooth streaming while providing a way to connect other sources via analog RCA/phono and 3.5mm minijack (AUX) inputs and hi-rez-capable HDMI (ARC), USB, and optical digital connections on the main speaker, which also houses the formidable 240-watt amp section that drives both speakers. There’s also a subwoofer output if you want more bass.

A basic remote is provided but the Klipsch Connect app provides more controls, including a bass/mid/treble equalizer with five presets, a Dynamic Bass setting that keeps bass consistent regardless of the overall volume setting, and a Speaker Location setting that cuts (Wall) or boosts (Corner) bass to compensate for speaker placement; there’s also an Other setting for when the speakers are not near hard surfaces room keeps the bass at 0.

If you think mating an 8-inch woofer with a horn-loaded 1-inch titanium tweeter can produce big, powerful sound, you’d be right. Sound engineer-turned-reviewer Leslie Shapiro praised the system for delivering clean, nuanced sound with warm, powerful bass and clear treble that never turns harsh with music and complex film scores like the one Hans Zimmer created for Dune. If you’re looking for a simple “stereo” system that is flexible and doesn’t take up a ton space, The Nines are well worth a look and listen.

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent treble clarity
Warm, rich bass
Flexible placement
Powerful amplifier
Minus
No tone controls on remote (only in Klipsch Connect app)
Dialogue clarity lacking

Full Review Here (posted 11/28/23)


SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase Streaming Amplifier: $700


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Whether you’re a casual listener or a die-hard aficionado, there’s no shortage of hardware to facilitate your streaming desires. SVS’s compact Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase stands out, putting a variety of high-quality listening options at your fingers tips and delivering enough clean power to make the music really sing. You can listen over a single pair of speakers or use the DTS Play-Fi app 2 or Apple’s AirPlay 2 to spread music around the house. The streamer supports streaming via aptX-enabled Bluetooth and is equipped with analog and digital inputs, including optical and eARC-enabled HDMI.

As a bonus, a Wi-Fi Critical Listening mode optimized for high-resolution streaming is available through the DTS Play-Fi app. And to help you get to your favorite music sources fast, there are six preset buttons just below the OLED display — a window that makes it easy to see what’s playing. With the SoundBase, streaming becomes a serious pursuit at a price that is quite reasonable. Its high-quality amplifier, which puts out 2 x 150 watts RMS into 4 ohms, gives music a level of clarity and presence with textured and nuanced bass you simply don’t get with many streaming amps. If you’re ready to elevate your streaming experience without breaking the bank, the SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase deserves consideration.

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Robust power amplifier
Supports hi-rez audio up to 192 kHz/24 bits
Handles a wide variety of music sources
Clean design with easy-to-read front display
Minus
DTS Play-Fi app is clunky
No tone controls or equalizer

Full Review Here (posted 1/24/24)

To browse all Sound & Vision-recommended AV gear, broken out by category, visit our Top Picks page.

Also see 2023 Top Picks of the Year.

COMMENTS
nesterokokokok's picture

Unlike some other platforms, https://getmp3.one eliminates the need to install cumbersome software. The entire process of converting YouTube content to mp3 format takes place on the site, which saves space on my device and eliminates the need to deal with complicated software interfaces. This is hassle-free music conversion at its best.

bleddecantere's picture

With a soundstage that is remarkably polished, imaging and detail that will make you goosebumps cluster rush, and bass that is tight and articulate down to about 30 Hz, the speakers more than lived up to the reputation of Bowers & Wilkins.

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