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Portable Sound

Sonos Roam Portable Wireless Speaker ($179)
Everybody needs a battery-powered portable speaker they can tote around and if they don’t know they need one, bring them up to speed with this super cool holiday gift from Sonos, the company that invented the wireless multiroom speaker a decade-and-a-half ago. Roam is a smaller, lower-priced follow-up to 2019’s excellent Move and it has a lot going for it. For starters, it’s ultra-compact and carries an IP67 rating, meaning it’s immune to dust and water — you can submerge it in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes without consequence. On top of that, it boasts up to 10 hours of playtime with a fully charged battery, supports Bluetooth streaming, connects with other Sonos speakers in and around your home, and is equipped with the highly effective Trueplay auto-calibration system that adjusts EQ on the fly to ensure you get the best possible sound in any environment.

But wait, there’s more: Roam doubles as a smart device that supports Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa voice platform when operating over Wi-Fi and is controlled through the Sonos app, which provides access to Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Apple Music, and dozens of other streaming services. Best of all, the speaker sounds amazing for its size and can be linked to a second Roam for a true stereo experience. Reviewer/recording engineer Leslie Shapiro called it one of the best sounding portables she’s ever heard. The Sonos Roam is an outstanding choice for any music lover on your list who enjoys the great outdoors and values great sound quality. Click here for our full review.

Modular Hi-Fi

Andover Audio Spin System ($1,146) The beauty of Andover’s Spin System is that it’s a modular, mix-and-match affair built around the company’s ingenious turntable speaker. A perfect gift for vinyl aficionados, the space-saving setup we tested mates the SpinBase all-in-one stereo speaker ($299) with a SpinDeck turntable ($349), and SpinSub powered subwoofer ($299) in a SpinStand audio rack ($199) featuring a spare shelf and room for several dozen records. There’s even a hanger for your headphones.

The system is super easy to set up and use. The turntable has a built-in phono preamp and comes fitted with an excellent Ortofon cartridge so you (or the giftee) won’t have to worry about doing any fine tweaking. All you have to do is assemble the rack, run a couple cables, and set the subwoofer’s level and crossover point (assuming the system includes the optional sub). The turntable sits on top of the SpinBase speaker, which doubles as a vibration-resistant platform. We know it sounds crazy, but it works thanks to a remarkable technology called IsoGroove Feedback Elimination. Andover also puts the technology to work in the SpinSub to prevent the transfer of bass energy into the stand.

Unlike an old-school hi-fi rig with a stereo receiver at its core, all you have to do to get the party started here is drop a record on the platter, cue it up, and adjust the big volume knob on the SpinBase speaker. There is no remote control — the RCA inputs are always on, waiting for your next musical excursion — and the system supports Bluetooth streaming. Reviewer and vinyl guru Michael Trei gave the Spin System a four-star rating for performance and praised it for its open, natural sound and rich bass. For those who prefer a fully automatic turntable, Andover now offers the SpinDeck MAX, which at $599 is $250 more than the manually operated SpinDeck. Click here for our full review.


TVs may not be go-to items on most holiday shopping lists — the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) says adults in the U.S. plan to spend around $500 on tech gifts this season — but they remain popular as “gifts for the whole family” in the lead-up to Christmas. Of course, TVs also fall into the perennial “I’m going to treat myself because I can” category, especially now that Americans are spending more time at home. Here are a few affordable options.

TCL 65R635 4K Ultra HD HDTV ($1,000)
If it’s time for a new family TV but you’re on a tight budget, it’s hard to beat the value TCL offers in this 65-inch LCD TV. The 65R635 embraces the popular Roku streaming platform while demonstrating the benefits of using Mini-LEDs to deliver more uniform backlighting at an appealing price — hence, our well-deserved Top Value designation. The 65R635 boasts an impressive 160 zones of local dimming, which translates into a highly satisfying viewing experience whether you’re watching in 4K or plain-old high-definition. The set also brings quantum-dot technology into the fold for expanded color performance, supports three flavors of high dynamic range (HDR) — Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG — and offers a low-lag THX Certified Game Mode to meet the challenges of fast-paced gaming.

Putting the 65R635 to the test with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 and other challenging material on 4K Blu-ray, the video perfectionist in Tom Norton described what he saw as “eye-catching” with the ability to convey subtle detail and rich, though not overdone, color. He was also impressed with how cleanly the TV handled “wickedly challenging” demo segments on the Spears & Munsil UHD HDR Benchmark test disc and praised the set for its ability to produce impressive looking Dolby Vision HDR images. Click here for our full review. Though the 65R635’s suggested retail price has crept up $300 since we posted the review in February, the TCL 65R635 is currently selling for its original retail price of $1,000 on bestbuy.com.

Samsung QN65QN90A Ultra HDTV ($1,700)
Can you say fire sale? In recent weeks, Samsung has knocked $900 off the flagship “Neo QLED” QN90A TV we reviewed in September. One of the best performing LCD TVs you can buy today, this 65-incher elevates the category to new heights, delivering a marked improvement in one of LCD’s longstanding bugaboos — off-center viewing — and employing a full-array local dimming backlight that uses Mini-LEDs to expand the number of dimming zones to almost 800. To boost picture quality even more, the QN90A’s central processor uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyze images frame-by-frame in all picture modes, except for the purist Filmmaker Mode. And while the QN90A doesn’t decode Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) content, it supports HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG and applies a dynamic tone mapping algorithm to HDR10’s static metadata to elevate performance above straight-up HDR10 processing.

All these upgrades translate into a picture Tom Norton called “impressive” at its worst and “spectacular” at its best — one defined by exquisite detail, brilliant colors, and natural skin tones. While absolute blacks aren’t as quite as deep as what you’d see on a topnotch OLED set, Norton hailed HDR punch and contrast as “unequalled in my experience” and consistent across a number of Ultra HD discs, including the torture test otherwise known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Click here for our full review and here to jump to bestbuy.com.

Sony XR-65A80J OLED Ultra HDTV ($2,200)
Sony, a long-time innovator in TV technology, continues to expand its presence in OLED with a full-featured model built to deliver top-shelf video performance at a price most of us can afford. The XR-65A80J supports Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR), Google and Amazon voice control, and is equipped with HDMI 2.1 inputs and a built-in sound system that outperforms the sound of most TVs in this price class. But what’s most intriguing is Sony’s new Cognitive Processor XR, which analyzes hundreds of thousands of picture elements in real time and makes tweaks to improve image quality. The goal is to get as close as possible to what you would see on a professional video monitor. To accomplish this, the processor detects the most important focal points in each frame and enhances them in a way that complements how our brains work. Hyperbole aside, it actually seems to work.

As veteran reviewer Tom Norton put it, “I can't say exactly how much Sony's Cognitive Processor XR adds to the A80J's stunning image quality, but I'd wager that its contribution is significant. Watching the documentary Samsara, the scenes in Versailles and the making of a mandala in a Hindu monastery looked even more strikingly vivid than usual. “Costume dramas profited as well, with Victoria & Abdul offering a rich tapestry of Victorian decor, particularly in the banquet hall scene with its brilliant red highlights. Though black-level performance wasn’t the best we’ve seen, Norton characterized shadow detail as “superb” and described picture quality during bright scenes as “dazzling.” Click here for our full review. As of this writing, the A80J is selling for $2,200 on sony.com and bestbuy.com, $100 off its list price.

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