Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/12/15/xmas_gift_guide_hifi_and_av_equipment/

2011's Best... Hi-Fi and AV Kit

Sonic boon

By Steve May

Posted in Hardware, 15th December 2011 12:00 GMT

Xmas Gift Guide With hi-fi and home cinema now two sides of the same coin, it’s inevitable that these 2011's Best... heroes come in every shape and size. But while price points and technologies differ, all can be considered solid gold entertainers.

So if you’re looking for the UK’s best value Blu-ray player, the highest-performing dock, or simply the finest home cinema receiver you can buy, groove on down...

Samsung HT-D6750W

RH Numbers

Build around a highly competent 3D Blu-ray receiver, this home cinema in a box is a brilliant buy for system addicts. With media playback from USB and networks, plus Smart TV connectivity through integrated Wi-Fi, it’s not short on functionality.

It ships with a forest of tall-boy speakers and some nifty sonic processing to send extraneous sonic detail out as front height information from a swivelling driver atop the main stereo pair. Samsung calls this a seven-channel system as a result. It’s not, but let’s not split hairs.

While the sub-woofer does a spirited job of reaching down the bass register, and the wireless - dual-band 2.4/5GHz - rears reduce cable clutter, the real star of this particular show is the brand’s Super Tweeter, which gives the system a crisp articulation that belies its convenience calling card.

Samsung HT-D6750W

Reg Rating 80%
Price £800
More info Samsung

Philips Fidelio DS9010

RH Numbers

Philips effectively bustled B&W’s Zeppelin Air out of the limelight with this superb-sounding iPod dock sound system. Featuring the brand’s "SoundCurve" design, a quality aluminium chassis and cloth covered drivers, it’s a step above the dock rank and file.

Despite its small size, stereo imaging is pronounced and mid-bass smooth, thanks to some highly effective ring-radiator tweeters and ported bass driver. While this particular Fidelio lacks support for Apple's AirPlay - for that, you’ll need to seek out the DS8800W - it does sport a nifty proximity sensor which illuminates the system’s icons when you reach out to touch. We’re easily pleased.

Philips Fidelio DS9010

Reg Rating 80%
Price £399
More info Philips

Pioneer SC-LX85 THX Ultra 2 Plus

RH Numbers

Without question, the best-equipped home cinema receiver of the year, Pioneer’s 9.2-channel SC-LX85 is a awe-inspiring combination of audiophile Air Studios tuning and leading edge AV tech. In addition to its huge power reserves and a dynamic audio performance, this glossy behemoth features AirPlay, Bluetooth Air Jamming, 3D compatibility, internet radio and a high-spec audio media streaming engine with onscreen album art display.

More traditional cineastes will appreciate the THX Ultra 2 Plus certification and reliable MCACC auto-calibration system. A separate Wi-Fi adaptor is bundled in the box. The new age of the streaming theatre begins here!

Pioneer SC-LX85 THX Ultra 2 Plus

Reg Rating 90%
Price £2000
More info Pioneer

Sony BDP-S580

RH Numbers

There are plenty of cracking ‘universal’ Blu-ray players available, typically priced around £600, but the Sony BDP-S850 is a budget-priced thorn in the side of all of them. Changing hands for £180 or less, it makes spending more seem irresponsibly extravagant.

This ultra-slim 3D model has got it all: stunning HD picture quality, plus compatibility with Super Audio CD to keep audiophiles on side. Perhaps even more compelling for the rest of us, this deck not only boasts Sony’s best USB media playback implementation to date - including, for the first time, MKVs - but taps into the brand’s online entertainment portal, which features a deluge of IPTV content.

Sony BDP-S580 3D Blu-ray player

Reg Rating 90%
Price £179
More info Sony

Marantz NR1602

RH Numbers

Aimed squarely at the AV receiver mass market, Marantz’s NR1602 offers a refreshing twist on traditional AVR design. Out goes the bodybuilder aesthetics and full-bore amplification of yore and in comes slimline elegance and network sophistication.

The NR106 streams music better than any comparable AVR. With broad file support and onscreen album art it’s the perfect partner for a networked music server. But it also sounds unfeasibly fine with multi-channel audio from Blu-ray. Apple AirPlay and internet radio are added gravy. 
 While this 7.1 design is not a volume monster, it still has enough welly to rock the average living room. Other brands shout louder but that doesn’t make them sound better.

Marantz NR1602 AV receiver

Reg Rating 90%
Price £529
More info Marantz