Editor's Choice Awards – Best Home AV 2018
Hit a home AV run with these choices
Welcome to our second annual Editor’s Choice awards.The Editor’s Choice Awards celebrate the best products of the year. They are the items we think stand head and shoulders above the rest. The criteria for being eligible are simple. It must be a product that has been reviewed by AVForums in the last 12 months and it must currently be available as part of the official product range from a manufacturer and not discontinued before the end of 2018.
This year we present the awards for TVs & Projectors, Home AV, Hi-Fi and Mobile. In this article, we select our favourite products of the year in Home AV:
Best Home Cinema Speakers Under £2,000 2018 – Q Acoustics 3050i Cinema Pack
The dispersion of the speakers could be a little wider, so some toe-in isn't a bad idea, but otherwise they're hard to fault at this price. The front floorstanders, and even the surrounds to a degree, are capable of a surprising amount of bass extension but the 3060S slimline subwoofer fills in the sub-sonics. It could be better in terms of getting down deep, but the combination of the 3050i and 3010i speakers means the entire system has a cohesive sense of bass. In fact they're ideal for movies, TV and music, making them our choice for the best home cinema speakers under £1,500.
Best Home Cinema Speakers Over £2,000 2018 – Bowers & Wilkins 700 S2 Series
This 5.1 system worked as a genuinely cohesive unit with the floorstanders, centre speaker, and standmounts delivering an effective tonal balance. The high frequencies were precise, the midrange well-defined, and the bass was ably assisted by the DB4S subwoofer. The 700 Series sounds best when partnered with amplification that has the power to really push them, delivering a taste of the performance found on the flagship 800 Series but at a relatively affordable price. In fact, you'll struggle to find a better all-round set of speakers, which is why they're our choice for the best home cinema speakers over £2,000.
Best Subwoofer Under £1,000 2018 – REL HT/1003
The HT/1003 will seamlessly integrate with your multichannel speakers, adding plenty of depth to the low frequency presence of the system. REL knows how to make a subwoofer, which explains how they have managed to get so much power out of something so small. However, the HT/1003 isn't just powerful, it is also controlled, fast and responsive, making it ideal for watching movies. If you're looking for a sub-sonic upgrade to your system, then this is the subwoofer for you. It's an affordable, compact and highly capable performer that will enhance any system or good quality soundbar that it's paired with. For that reason the REL HT/1003 is our choice for the best subwoofer under £1,000.
Best Subwoofer Over £1,000 2018 – SVS PC-4000
Perhaps more importantly it's also good, delivering deep, clear and distortion-free bass with a surprising degree of subtlety. As a result, it can handle both music and movies, with a responsive tightness that suits the former, and the ability to deliver bass impact when required by the latter. The PC-4000 is also a bit of a bargain when you consider its build quality, features and performance, making it hard to fault. There's no auto EQ feature, which means for an optimal setup you may need to do certain things manually, but the smartphone app is excellent and is sure to delight tweakers. Overall, the SVS PC-4000 is a well made and expertly engineered subwoofer, and our choice for the best subwoofer over £1,000.
Best Soundbar Under £1,000 2018 – Sonos Beam
The manufacturer has taken a sensibly agnostic approach to voice assistants, and the Beam is already integrated with Amazon Alexa and, thanks to AirPlay 2, Siri. Google Assistant will be added later in the year. The Sonos app is well-designed and easy to use, even though it hasn't been fully optimised for AV products. The Beam's overall performance is impressive, with great stereo imaging, clear dialogue, good localisation of effects and a nice musical quality. The only area where the soundbar reveals its limitations is in terms of its low-end performance, which understandably lacks bass. However, the Sonos Beam certainly makes for a great all-rounder and is our choice for the best soundbar under £1,000.
Best Soundbar Over £1,000 2018 – Samsung HW-N950
The use of identical drivers gives the system excellent tonal balance and the steering of effects is particularly effective, while the upward-firing drivers at the front and rear work extremely well, delivering a clear overhead presence. Whatever the content, the N950 will excel, but it really gets a chance to shine with Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. The attractive design, decent build quality and extensive features round off what is an impressive package. There are no other soundbars that offer this level of genuine immersion, and while it isn't cheap, you'd struggle to build a comparable separates system for less. As a result, the Samsung HW-N950 is our choice for the best soundbar over £1,000.
Best AV Amplifier 2018 – Denon AVC-X8500H
As a result, the X8500 sounds fantastic with both music and movies, but it's with immersive audio content that it really gets a chance to shine. Regardless of the particular speaker configuration you choose, this amplifier can handle the soundstage with remarkable assurance, effortlessly steering effects around the room. It also has sufficient power to deliver impact where necessary, whilst retaining a delicate touch when it comes to the more subtle aspects of the soundtrack. This remarkable amp not only takes multi-channel surround sound and immersive audio to a level previously only available on high-end AV processors, but it does so whilst also providing all the necessary amplification. For that reason the Denon AVC-X8500H is our choice for the best AV amplifier of the year.
Best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player 2018 – Panasonic DP-UB9000
The audio side of things is equally as impressive, with separate power supplies, studio grade DACs, and audiophile components. There are dedicated two-channel phono and balanced XLR analogue outputs, along with 7.1-channel analogue outputs. The UB9000 is fully certified by THX, has an excellent remote control, and boasts some very useful on-screen displays. It's also extremely quiet in operation, and the video and audio is superb over HDMI. Our only complaint is the lack of SACD and DVD-Audio playback, but aside from that, this is a worthy successor to the Oppo and our choice for the best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player of the year.
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