Welcome to our latest annual Editor's Choice Awards for the best Home AV products.
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 2021.
It's been an a difficult year for everyone, with supply issues and limited availability of samples. However, we've still managed to review plenty of quality TVs, Projectors, Home AV, and Hi-Fi products. In this article, we select our favourite Home AV products of the year:
Best Value Soundbar - Hisense HS214
Hisense might not be the first name that springs to mind when looking for a soundbar, but the company’s initial foray into the market is an impressive effort. The Hisense HS214 includes everything you need to instantly upgrade your TV's sound quality, while the general lack of complexity ensures that set-up is simple, with everything you need in the box, including an effective remote control.
The compact cabinet includes two forward-firing speakers that create a decent front soundstage, while the built-in woofer adds some solid bass underneath. Dialogue remains clear, despite the lack of a dedicated centre speaker, and stereo separation is fairly good as well. There are also some handy sound modes, and even a virtual surround enhancement.
This first soundbar from Hisense is an impressive effort, delivering a solid single-unit performance, easy set-up and great price
The Hisense can’t support DTS, lacks Wi-Fi, and doesn't use a separate subwoofer, but you can't expect everything for under £100. Ultimately, this is an affordable and easy to install sonic upgrade that will almost certainly sound better than the speakers built into your TV. The Hisense HS214 is a simple solution that sounds good and won’t break the bank, making it our choice for the best affordable soundbar of 2021.
Best All-Round Soundbar - Samsung HW-Q800A
The Samsung HW-Q800A is a soundbar and wireless subwoofer combination that delivers an accomplished performance with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio. The system creates a wide and powerful wall of sound at the front of the room, with good stereo separation, clear dialogue, distinct overhead channels, and a solid foundation of bass.
The soundstage is obviously front-heavy due to the lack of surround envelopment, but Samsung offers optional wireless speakers with upward-firing drivers for rear overhead channels to create a 5.1.4-channel system. There's also support for eARC, built-in Alexa, Adaptive Voice Amplifier, SpaceFit Sound, Q Symphony, and the handy SmartThings app.
This excellent soundbar makes it easy to add immersive audio thanks to a big front soundstage, while also offering an upgrade path
The system also manages to sound excellent with non-immersive content, so whether you're catching up on your favourite TV show, listening to music, or indulging in a marathon gaming session, you're sure to be pleased. As a result, the Samsung HW-Q800A is a cracking all-rounder that provides everything you want from a modern soundbar, making it an obvious award winner for 2021.
Best Multi-Room Soundbar - Denon Home 550
The Denon Home 550 is a capable two-channel soundbar that also forms part of the company’s HEOS multi-room system. It delivers a detailed performance with excellent midrange, well-defined highlights, and some nicely integrated bass. Dialogue remains clear and focused, despite the lack of a centre speaker, so whether it's for TV, movies, games or music the 550 is a great all-rounder.
The build quality is excellent, there's a good set of connections, and a small remote, plus the HEOS app. This makes set-up easy, providing access to music streaming apps, local files, and HEOS devices, plus you can use additional Home speakers to create a wireless 4.1-channel system. There's even Amazon Alexa to turn the 550 into a smart assistant with voice control.
This single-unit soundbar delivers Atmos and DTS:X, includes Denon's HEOS multi-room system, and offers a wireless upgrade path
The Denon decodes Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and as a result object-based mixes feel more spacious, even if there’s little in the way of overhead effects due to the lack of upward-firing speakers. However, if you want a speaker that sounds good with music, offers greater immersion with movies, and provides multi-room functionality, the Home 550 is our choice for 2021.
Best Second Room Soundbar - Yamaha SR-C20A
The Yamaha SR-C20A has been designed specifically to improve the sonic performance of your TV without taking up too much space. To achieve this, the company has avoided unnecessary features, and instead concentrated on sound quality. The result is a compact and capable soundbar that perfectly fulfils its intended purpose.
Whether it's a small living space, a bedroom or a study, the SR-C20A creates a soundstage that's bigger than its diminutive proportions suggest. There's some width to the front delivery, ensuring music sounds good, while dialogue is clear and focused. There's also a surprising amount of bass, but obviously you need to manage your expectations.
This compact single-unit soundbar is well-made, sounds great, and makes the ideal choice for smaller or second rooms
The lack of Wi-Fi is a shame, but otherwise the SR-C20A is hard to fault and it certainly delivers an excellent performance for this price point, making it a competitive little soundbar. So, if you have a smaller screen size, limited space, or are simply looking for a soundbar to use in another room, this powerful little Yamaha is our 2021 choice of the best soundbar for a second room.
Best Lifestyle Soundbar - Samsung HW-S60A
The Samsung HW-S60A sports an attractive and well-made cabinet, simple set-up thanks to the SmartThings app, and a choice of control options that includes built-in Alexa. There are limited connections and, like last year’s model, there’s still no support for immersive audio, but the newly added centre speaker ensures clear dialogue.
The inclusion of the company's Acoustic Beam technology and some powerful amplification allows the S60A to not only sound great but also produce an expansive and room-filling presence. The delivery is clean and detailed, while the side-firing speakers allow the S60A to sound bigger than it actually is.
This attractively designed and well-made all-in-one soundbar sounds great, and will seamlessly blend with modern living spaces
The bass response is also fairly good, but this all-in-one unit struggles to go deep - although you have the option to add a subwoofer and rear speakers. Ultimately, the HW-S60A is our choice for the best lifestyle soundbar of 2021, and is an ideal choice for anyone looking to boost the audio quality of their TV, while simultaneously blending in with the carefully chosen decor of their living room.
Best Soundbar Solution - Roku Streambar
The Roku Streambar is designed to offer a specific soundbar solution - it is intended to beef up the audio on an older TV, while simultaneously adding a comprehensive smart platform. It can also plug any streaming app holes in your TV’s current operating system, as well as boost its sonic performance.
In this regard, it’s an undeniable success, with a surprisingly big sound considering its diminutive dimensions, and a highly effective streaming media player. It’s well-made, discreet, incredibly easy to set-up, and has a comprehensive selection of apps on offer.
This compact single-unit soundbar is the ideal solution for anyone who wants to boost the audio quality of their TV, while adding a smart system
The Roku’s compact dimensions make it ideal for smaller screen sizes, and this all-in-one media player and soundbar can be picked up for around a hundred quid! So if your ageing TV needs a sonic boost and a new smart platform, the Streambar is the soundbar solution of 2021.
Best Gaming Soundbar - Creative SXFI Carrier
The Creative SXFI Carrier is an impressive soundbar that creates immersive Dolby Atmos using a 5.1.2-channel speaker configuration. The soundstage is inevitably front-heavy, with no surround presence, but the delivery is big and the well-integrated bass from the 10-inch subwoofer ensures a decent low-end extension.
Its diminutive size makes it ideal for smaller rooms and TV screens, but it has sufficient power not to disgrace itself in larger rooms as well. The Carrier is easy to set-up, especially when using the excellent mobile app, and there’s also an excellent remote control. The HDMI 2.1 connections ensure the Carrier is future-proofed, making it ideal for next-gen gamers.
This compact 'bar and sub combo sounds much bigger than it looks, supports Atmos, and has HDMI 2.1, making it ideal for gaming
This soundbar certainly isn't cheap, but it’s well made and you get some fun features such as support for Creative's Super X-Fi holographic headphone technology. So if you're tight on space or are just looking for a great-sounding system to accompany a gaming TV, then the Creative Carrier SXFI is our 2021 choice for best gaming soundbar.
Best Immersive Audio Soundbar - Samsung HW-Q950A
The Samsung HW-Q950A ranks as the most immersive soundbar released to date, with an incredible 11.1.4-channel system that allows it to take full advantage of object-based audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The result is an impressive performance that completely surrounds you in a three dimensional sonic sphere of sound.
The wireless surround speakers now include rear side channels, which integrate with the front side channels to ensure smooth steering of effects around the room. The front soundstage is wide and expansive, the upward-firing drivers create plenty of overhead effects at the front and rear, and the subwoofer generates a solid foundation of bass.
The result is an immersive, balanced and tonally cohesive sound field, with precise placement of effects. The wireless connection is robust, and set-up is relatively straight forward. The inclusion of an auto EQ feature is a welcome addition, and connection is easy with HDMI, eARC, Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and Bluetooth, along with built-in Amazon Alexa for smart features.
This staggeringly immersive soundbar delivers Atmos and DTS:X using an 11.1.4-channel system, and is a serious alternative to an AVR
The HW-Q950A boasts a host of useful features that includes Samsung's proprietary Q Symphony and Tap Sound technologies, and support for Hi-Res Audio. It also passes both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ correctly. It’s not cheap, but it's the only soundbar that is a serious alternative to a proper AVR and speaker system, thus making it our choice for the best immersive audio soundbar of 2021.
Best Value Home Cinema Speakers - Bowers & Wilkins 600 S2
The Bowers & Wilkins 600 S2 Series speakers have been upgraded but remain an impressive entry-level option, delivering a precise, transparent and hugely entertaining performance. They retain the same minimalist styling and excellent level of build quality, with an elegant and logo-inscribed silver trim around the tweeters, the silver Continuum weave on the bass/midrange drivers, and the addition of an oak finish to join the existing black and white options.
As a system, the 603 S2 floorstanders provide a solid front soundstage, and integrate well with the HTM6 S2 centre speaker, while the 607 S2 standmounts do a great job as surrounds. This produces a balanced and tonally cohesive system, with a solid bass foundation thanks to the ASW610 subwoofer. As a result, this speaker package is capable of delivering a dynamic and engaging sonic performance, making them our choice for the 2021 best value home cinema speakers.
Best Mid-Range Home Cinema Speakers - Focal Chora
The Focal Chora range of speakers may sit towards the lower end of the French manufacturer's line-up, but the build quality is excellent, and the finishes on the 826-D and CC800 speakers are immaculate. The technology inside is filtered down from the higher-end Kanta range, resulting in a genuinely impressive performance.
The floorstanding 826-D delivers a powerful presence, with a clear mid-range, some light and airy higher frequencies, and plenty of solid bass extension. The built-in Dolby Atmos speakers create excellent overhead effects without the need to attach any other units, while the CC800 centre speaker and SR700 surrounds are equally as impressive.
The speakers combine together to produce an outstanding 5.1.2-channel system that blends the overhead effects with a cohesive, balanced and enveloping soundstage. All the speakers are detailed and precise in their delivery, while the SUB 1000F subwoofer plays its part too, adding a deep foundation of low-end heft that gives movies greater impact.
This 5.1.2 system blends the overhead effects with a cohesive, balanced and enveloping soundstage, and also adds some Gallic flair
To get the best out of the Chora system you really need to drive it at higher volumes, but this elegant and accomplished speaker system will effortlessly add Gallic flair, object-based immersion and a barnstorming performance to any aspiring home cinema. As a result, the Focal Chora is our choice for the best mid-range home cinema speakers of 2021.
Best High-End Home Cinema Speakers - Paradigm Founder
The Paradigm Founder Series speakers celebrate the return of the company’s founder in style, producing an impressive performance that creates a solid foundation that’s both powerful and refined. The overall soundstage has scale, but never at the expense of fine detail. The tonal cohesion is excellent, but you’ll need to add a sub to enhance the bass (perhaps the Paradigm Defiance V12).
If you have the budget, a system composed of 70LCRs would be ideal and, if possible, position the centre speaker vertically to match the front left and right channels. If not, horizontal orientation makes for an equally capable and compact centre speaker. If you don't have the funds or space for the 70LCRs, the 40Bs are also excellent and make great stereo speakers as well.
These superb speakers use cutting-edge tech to produce precision, control, and superior dynamics in a neutral and balanced system
There's no denying the Paradigm Founder 70LCR and 40B models are expensive, but those with the necessary budget will be rewarded by a set of home cinema speakers that combine fantastic build quality and cutting-edge technology to produce precision, control, and superior dynamics in a system that's neutral, balanced and tonally cohesive. As a result, the Paradigm Founder Series is our choice for the best high-end home cinema speakers of 2021.
Best Value Subwoofer - SVS SB-1000 Pro
The SVS SB-1000 Pro is a cracking entry-level subwoofer that not only delivers an impressive performance, and affordable pricing, but also sports features usually only found on more expensive mid-range models. The sub itself is simply designed and solidly built, with a redesigned 12-inch driver and upgraded amplification. The result is a precise and controlled performance, combined with a surprising amount of depth considering its diminutive dimensions.
The SB-1000 Pro's smaller footprint makes it easier to install, and it's relatively flexible in terms of positioning. The big selling point is the inclusion of a Bluetooth remote app, which allows you to set-up, adjust and optimise the sub without ever leaving the sofa. The size and cheaper black ash finish allows for discreet placement, but if you fancy a gloss finish there's a choice of black or white. Overall, the SB-1000 Pro is easily the best value subwoofer we have seen this year.
Best Subwoofer Solution - Paradigm Defiance V12
The Paradigm Defiance V12 is a genuinely excellent and competitively priced subwoofer that produces bass with depth and composure. It manages to retain the speed and control of a sealed unit, while also benefiting from the extension of a ported design. The result is bass that enjoys a nuanced and articulate delivery, while also creating some nice low-end impact.
What makes the V12 an interesting subwoofer is the inclusion of a remote app and ARC room correction, features you won’t find on competing subwoofers with more power and deeper frequency response. The design is simple, the build quality is excellent and the overall package is impressive. As a result, the Defiance V12 is the best subwoofer solution of the 2021.
Best Home Cinema Subwoofer - SVS PB-2000 Pro
The SVS PB-2000 Pro is a mid-range subwoofer that supports the company’s remote app, and uses a newly-designed 12-inch high-excursion woofer with 550W of Sledge digital amplification. This ported subwoofer sports an elegantly simple design and solid build quality. Set-up is easy thanks to the remote app, and the PB-2000 Pro is flexible, making it ideal for most rooms.
It also delivers plenty of low-end slam, ensuring anyone who enjoys deep bass won't be disappointed. There's serious depth here, and with a frequency response that goes below 20Hz, the LFE in movie soundtracks often hits like a sledgehammer (pun intended). This ported beast isn't as fleet of foot as the sealed SB-2000 Pro, but it extends lower and is no slouch.
This subwoofer isn't exactly discreet, but it delivers impressive bass extension, ensuring movie soundtracks hit like a sledgehammer
It’s not small or discreet, but if you've got the space and the budget this ported subwoofer won't disappoint. Those who favour music might prefer the more responsive sealed version, while the cylindrical PC-2000 Pro will appeal to anyone looking for deep bass from a smaller footprint, but any self-respecting home cinema fan will love the PB-2000 Pro, making it our favourite of 2021.
Best High-End Subwoofer - REL T/9x
The REL T/9x is a fantastic subwoofer designed to deliver as much as possible from the higher-end Serie S to those on a lower budget. Not that the T/9x is necessarily cheap, and there are certainly more affordable alternatives, but, at least when you get it out of the box, the superior build quality, attractive design and gorgeous finish provides an immediate feeling of luxury.
It's not all looks either, and this discreetly-compact subwoofer does an awful lot with its 10-inch driver, 10-inch passive radiator and 300W of Class A/B power. While the quoted specs may seem conservative, in reality the T/9x delivers a fast and transparent performance that's combined with surprisingly high output levels and greater low-end impact.
This elegant subwoofer looks gorgeous and is extremely well made, plus it retains REL's trademark intimacy, clarity and speed
The T/9x is an impressive achievement when it comes redesigning an existing product, and delivers plenty of output and dynamics, while retraining REL's trademark intimacy, clarity and speed. It's not perfect - the connections and controls are limited, and the lack of a remote app disappoints at this price - but it’s our choice for the best high-end subwoofer of the 2021.
Best AV Processor - Arcam AV40
The Arcam AV40 is a high-end AV processor that decodes up to 16-channels of immersive audio, and can decode Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, IMAX Enhanced and Auro-3D. However, it’s not only a capable multi-channel processor, but also a talented two-channel performer for music fans. The 7 HDMI inputs and 3 outputs are limited to HDMI 2.0, but an HDMI 2.1 update is in the works.
The user interface is intuitive to use, and set-up is relatively easy thanks to a web-based interface. The processor suffered from a number of bugs when first launched but most have now been addressed. The processor has been redesigned, is extremely well made, and now has a full-colour display for things like album art. The AV40 supports Hi-Res audio, and is Roon Ready.
As a two-channel and multichannel performer, the Arcam AV40 is a stunning processor, offering up a superb performance with movies and music. The Dirac Live room correction ensures a cohesive system that’s faultless, with stunning dynamics and enveloping surround soundscape. The tonal balance is excellent, with effects seamlessly steered from one speaker to another.
This exceptional AV processor decodes Atmos, DTS:X, Aura-3D, and IMAX Enhanced with a staggeringly immersive 9.2.6-channel delivery
There is superb separation and detail retrieval, even when faced with complex soundtracks, picking out separate objects or sounds within a scene with precision. Partner this processor with amplification that has plenty of headroom, and the result is an enjoyably dynamic system. As a result, the Arcam AV40 is our choice for the best AV processor of 2021.
Best Value AV Receiver - Denon AVC-X4700H
The Denon AVC-X4700H is an amazing AV receiver that includes everything you could possibly want at a very affordable price. It's attractive and well-made, and has a comprehensive set of connections, including an HDMI 2.1 input, along with support for eARC, and every format imaginable. So, no matter what you connect the X4700, it has you covered.
The installation is easy, and the set-up incredibly flexible, and while Audyssey isn't as sophisticated as some of the competition, it's still very effective. There's Denon's HEOS multi-room system, AirPlay 2, and the ability to work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The receiver is Roon Tested, and there's support for Hi-Res audio and music streaming services.
There are nine channels built-in, and these deliver sufficient power to drive the kind of systems this amplifier is aimed at, even with all nine driven simultaneously. The X4700 can process up to 11.2 channels, and it supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro-3D and IMAX Enhanced. The overall performance is excellent, with clean and clear delivery, and precise steering of effects.
This AV receiver is amazing value, with a full set of features, every audio format, nine channels built-in and an impressive performance
Most will be happy running a 9.2-channel system, but if you want 11.2 you won't be disappointed. The Denon excels with multi-channel and immersive audio, but is equally capable with two-channel music. The result of all this is an AV receiver that hits the sweet spot for anyone looking for an affordable AV receiver, and as such the Denon AVC-X4700H is our choice for 2021.
Best Mid-Range AV Receiver - Anthem MRX 740
The Anthem MRX 740 is the latest mid-range AV receiver from the Canadian manufacturer, sporting an updated design, and a new web-based user interface. There’s an extensive set of features, and although this AVR isn’t much different from the previous generation in terms of set-up, menus and connections, it retains all the strengths that make Anthem products great.
The MRX 740 has seven built-in channels that use a combination of Class A/B and Class B, plus processing for an 11.1-channel system. There's support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced, and while there's no Auro-3D that's hardly a great loss. There're plenty of connections, along with the ability to reassign channels, and even an HDMI 2.1 upgrade in the works.
This competitively-priced and well-specified AV receiver looks great, sounds excellent and delivers superb value for money
The MRX740 uses ARC Genesis room correction, delivering a superb sonic performance, with a tight and immersive soundstage that's sure to please fans of object-based audio. The result is a competitively-priced and well-specified AV receiver that sounds excellent and delivers superb value for money, making it our best mid-range AV receiver of 2021.
Best High-End AV Receiver - JBL Synthesis SDR-35
The JBL Synthesis SDR-35 is an impressive high-end AV receiver that delivers superb immersive audio thanks to excellent onboard decoding and powerful Class G amplification. To get the most out of this very capable receiver you'll need to add extra channels of amplification, but that's relatively easy and worth the investment if you want a fantastically cinematic sonic experience.
The support for immersive audio codecs is comprehensive, with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, IMAX Enhanced and Auro-3D all included. The performance with a full 9.1.6-channel system is incredible, delivering object-based audio that’s wonderfully tight and immersive. JBL even includes Harman's Logic16, resulting in a choice of four different upmixers!
The Dirac Live room correction is highly effective at eliminating the more egregious aspects of the acoustic space your system resides in, and the inclusion of Bass Control is great news for anyone running multiple subs. Other features include an upgraded high-quality DAC, support for Dante lossless audio over IP, and plenty of features designed for custom installers.
This high-end AVR has a full house of audio formats, seven channels of Class G amplification, and incredibly immersive 9.2.6-channel processing
The SDR-35 isn’t just an awesome performer, but also a classy-looking piece of kit. Home cinema fans should be delighted that JBL Synthesis is expanding its presence in the consumer market, and thanks to its design, build quality, features, and performance, the SDR-35 is our choice for the best high-end AV receiver of 2021.
Best AV Power Amplifier - Storm Audio PA16 MK2
The Storm Audio PA16 MK2 is a fantastic Class D power amplifier that impressively achieves what it sets out to do - drive all the channels in an immersive audio system with precision, efficiency, transparency and plenty of grunt. It also keeps things simple, with a business-like approach to its design and solid build quality.
This well-engineered multi-channel power amp has 16 balanced XLR inputs at the rear, and is capable of driving a 9.1.6-channel system without breaking a sweat, even during the most dynamic and frenetic of movie soundtracks. Class D might not be for everyone - audiophiles may find the sound too clinical and lacking warmth - but it's ideal for an immersive audio system.
This accomplished Class D power amplifier keeps the design simple, but delivers 16 channels of power without breaking a sweat
This amp is incredibly responsive, with superb dynamic range and all the power you'll need from a tidy single-box solution. It's certainly not cheap, but when you consider the number of channels and the overall performance, the Storm Audio PA16 MK2 is the perfect answer to today’s immersive audio problem, and our choice as the best AV power amplifier of 2021.
Best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player - Reavon UBR-X100
The Reavon UBR-X100 is a very capable high-end 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player that looks the part, with an attractive and solid chassis that’s pleasingly quiet in operation. The tray mechanism and disc playback are suitably smooth, and it's fairly responsive. The display is large and informative, and the equally big remote control is intuitively laid-out, easy to use and has a backlight.
The home page is simple, the menus sensibly arranged, and there's informative onscreen feedback. There are dual HDMI outputs, coaxial and optical outputs, an Ethernet port, and two USB ports but no analogue outputs. The X100 can handle most disc types, such as 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, 2D and 3D Blu-ray, DVD, CD, and DVD-Audio (subject to a firmware update).
This attractive and solid player sports a good remote, informative display, extensive disc play back, and excellent file support
Playback is flawless, and 4K discs are delivered without any unnecessary processing, while lower resolution content is expertly upscaled to ensure the optimal image. The player delivers HDR10 and Dolby Vision without any issues, and file support is fairly extensive. New disc players are a rarity these days, so we’re happy to award the Reavon UBR-X100 best 4K Blu-ray player of 2021.
Best PVR - Humax Aura
The Humax Aura is an excellent Freeview Play PVR that delivers everything you could want from such a device. You have three Freeview HD tuners, a 1TB or 2TB hard drive, an effective EPG, a well-designed remote, a slick interface, and the ability to flawlessly schedule, record and play back programmes.
Thanks to Freeview Play and built-in Wi-Fi, you can also access a host of on-demand content, including all the UK catchup services, which are seamlessly integrated into the TV guide. You also get a full Android TV media streamer with more apps including Amazon Prime and Disney+, along with support for 4K HDR, Google Play Store, Chromecast, and Google Assistant.
This impressive Freeview Play PVR has three tuners, 1TB or 2TB hard drives, and an Android TV smart system for streaming apps
You can also stream from connected USB devices or your home network, and Humax offers the Aura remote app for control from your smart device. There's even a Kids' Zone, specially created for the younger members of the family. The Aura is a slick, smart and very flexible operator that offers an extensive package of features, and is our choice for the best PVR of 2021.