As 2022 draws to a close its time to look back and reflect on what has been another very uncertain year for the whole world but I am happy that the HiFi industry is still thriving and there has been one overriding theme for me this year and that is change. The year started with me totally changing my listening room as an example and I also got into vinyl playback for the first time ever which is huge me, but more importantly my HiFi mindset has changed because of the products that I have reviewed. I have looked at some very stand out components and its time to name and praise them and of course crown one of them as my Best HiFi product of 2022
A quick explanation, for me to include a product in this best of 2022 round up I either need to have reviewed it or spent a considerable period of time with it in my system and it needed to be available to buy brand new in 2022. I reviewed 21 different products this year but there are a number of products that I have been spending time with but didn’t get the time to finish their reviews and its one of these products that I am naming my best of 2022 because it is the epitome of change. Its a very clever product that’s moving things forward and I just really like them.
Best HiFi Product 2022
My best HiFi product of 2022 are the Dynaudio Focus 50 streaming active wireless speakers, which means nearly all of the HiFi gear sat in my listening room can go away and all I would need is the Focus 50 for listening to streamed music in very high quality. For me to name this type of HiFi product as my best of 2022 is a real change because I love having a complex HiFi system where I can obsess over each element of it, but the Focus 50 have shown me that it would be possible to have life convenience without compromising sound quality.
The Focus 50 are packed with many good things such as high quality Dynaudio in house made drivers, high quality studio grade amplification with the technical benefits of being active speakers with huge amounts of attentions to detail going into their design and therefore their performance. That’s before you even think about them being wireless because when you listen to them you never once think about them being wireless but that obviously adds another level of convenience still. I like the Dynaudio app, its simple and easy to use and I like the small touches such as there being a slider and buttons to adjust the speakers volume and also a standby button that’s easy to access to turn the Focus 50 on and off.
I also really like the Focus 50’s form factor mix of a modern with traditional. Their finish quality is excellent, they are heavy enough to feel well built but not so heavy that you cant move them around. Yes they are quite imposingly tall, which has the advantage of more space for more drivers in an array but their overall footprint is not very large so that makes them easier to fit into smaller spaces and likely easier to get permission to buy them in the first place.
Their sound quality is very impressive because as I mentioned you don’t think about them being wireless and they do a lot of important high end HiFi performance things right such as create a three dimensional soundstage, music has good tonal qualities and there is excellent timing with clarity. They deliver a very tight bass, that has a nice bouncy character that I really enjoy and maybe the bass is on the slightly play it too safe for me personally but there are ways you can adjust this such as in the app selecting brighter or darker sound profiles to suit.
The most cool feature of the Focus 50 without a doubt is the fact the new Dynaudio Focus range are the worlds first speakers to feature Dirac Live room correction, the benefits are huge. It allows the Focus 50 to work in any room, room size becomes a non issue so you can buy the larger speaker without worrying. It also means if your hear them somewhere else and like them you can much better guarantee you will get the same sound quality in your room, the fear of them not sounding as good in your room goes away. Dirac Live also allows the user to fine tune the Focus 50’s sound in their room to be more how they want it and it can also help achieve more of the Focus 50’s potential in less than ideal room acoustics and with less than ideal speaker placement, this is such a huge factor that should not be overlooked for its importance.
The Dynaudio Focus 50 are not cheap at £8699 but remember that price is for a whole high performance music streaming HiFi system including speakers, amplifiers DAC’s, streamer, the worlds best room correction and more so when you break it down to the individual parts I think the Focus 50 are exceptionally good value too.
Its for all of these reasons combined that the Dynaudio Focus 50 are deserved winners of my best HiFi product of 2022
A Mission Love affair
One pair of passive speakers made such a mark on me this year that I bought the review pair, the New Mission 770 I just love them because every time I listen to them I want to listen to more and more music. I enjoy their music delivery in all areas, they deliver excellent vocals, very good sound stage, a nice smooth and refined treble with very good bass for output and extension and for being tight. They are transparent enough for you to really hear the character of the HiFi systems sound so its possible for each individual to achieve their own tailored great results with the Mission 770 for a very reasonable price in my eyes of £3499 including nice stands. I think they look great and I love the fact they are all hand made here in the UK. Its very easy for me to award the Mission 770 with a Pursuit Perfect System Stand Out product award for 2022 and these were very close for me as being my product of the year.
To drive speakers
Several amplifiers stood out to me this year, firstly was the exceptional Audiozen Embrace hybrid integrated amplifier which is very clever because its designed like a mini tube preamplifier and almost separated solid state power amplifier. Its build quality its undoubtedly very quirky but for sound quality I thought it sounded outstanding for having real immediacy, energy and life to its music delivery sitting right on the edge of this type of presentation with a very wide open sound and punchy bass. With careful selection of your source and setup it’s a very addictive sounding amplifier and easily a stand out product in 2022.
The next two stand out products are from NAD. The M23 stereo power amplifier stood out to me for its excellent sound quality for its RRP of £3399 , I have affectionately nick named it the “expensive amplifier nemesis” because it has immense control over the speakers, a really full and punchy bass that I cant help but really like. It also delivers vocals, treble and sound stage with real quality. It’s a powerful amplifier that looks nice and runs stone cold even when you drive it hard. When you combine it with the NAD M10 V2 its a stand out pairing that you wouldn’t naturally think to put together, but the M23 takes what the M10 does further in terms of dynamics and scale at louder listening volumes.
NAD have definitely nailed it with the M10 V2, its design, the fit and finish and the features are all excellent. BlueOS is an excellent app to manage your music listening, definitely one of my favourites and I think the price of £2399 means the M10 is more expensive than a lot of its peers but its offering a lot for it with one feature I really like being its analogue outputs for using it as just a streamer, DAC and preamplifier. Feeding the signal into the M23 then powering the Mission 770 together creates a very high performance, very easy to listen to with, super user friendly system with Dirac Live to make the most of the system in the room; it’s a killer system I have spent many hours enjoying.
2022 I will always remember as being the year I had the opportunity to get into vinyl playback and I have only taken been baby steps so far but I have to give kudos to the first turntable I have had the pleasure to live. It’s been, in the main a great starting point to my vinyl journey. The AVID HiFi Ingenium plug and play is just a starter record player setup really, but priced at £1500 expectations are rightly high. The Ingenium is a very well built, all UK built turntable that I think looks great and has been a pleasure to live and interact with. Its also given me a glimpse and some tasters into what really good vinyl playback can offer and that is exciting, The AVID Ingenium is the only turntable I have lived with so it wins this awards by default, but its such a key moment in my audiophile life it has to receive a stand out product award for 2022.
The Sonus faber Omnia really impressed me with its sound quality, the bass it produces is insane from its relatively small form factor. It produced a genuinely room filling amount of good quality bass but more impressive is the stereo sound stage the OMNIA can create. Audiophiles can sit and critically listen to music delivered from it because music has nice rich vocals, a precisely positioned large sound stage all super impressive from a sound bar designed type of product. Its also a very nice looking speaker system with some extra touches of quality. For a more lifestyle orientated type of user or where there is a specific situation where someone doesn’t want stereo HiFi speakers, they prefer the sound bar form factor but they still want a quality music listening experience the Sonus faber Omnia is ideal. I do think the price of the Omnia £1599 is inevitably going to be above what some will be willing to pay for this type of speaker system but there definitely will be some that will happily pay the premium for what it offers. The OMNIA far exceeded my expectations for its sound quality and its very worthy of a stand out product award in 2022.
2022 is the year wireless headphones have finally become exciting for audiophiles, they are now starting to get exceptionally good, easily competing with their wired brethren and this is despite the current technical limitations of Bluetooth data transfer rates. Better is there are a number of very good options to choose from and I have several here presently and I will be doing some comparison reviews early in 2023. For me in 2022 one set of headphones really stood out for a number of reasons and that is the Mark Levinson no.5909. They offer comfort and quality of build with a refinement in audio quality that we haven’t really seen before with wireless headphones. The Apple Airpods Max are great for being stylish and extremely versatile but they don’t get close to the audio quality refinement of the 5909. The Levinson are also very capable headphones when you drive them from alternative amplification in a typical wired passive fashion as this totally disables the built in electronics. I have been using them as reference headphones to master the sound of my videos and they have been exceptionally good for this. The 5909 are very versatile headphones in their own way and they have done more than enough to be worthy of a stand out product award for 2022
One of a kind
JCAT released the worlds first fully linear ATX computer power supply purposely designed for music servers and yes its huge and expensive but its one of a kind. The Optimo S ATX is taking the all important music server power supply to a whole new level of not only performance but importance too. For me its a power supply that combines the benefits of linear technology but sounds quiet like the main benefit of a battery power supply. Its really something to hold in your hands and will become essential to many computer audiophiles.
Must not forget home theatre
Every product I have reviewed in 2022 has been for HiFi but I have spent a considerable time calibrating home theatre systems and felt it was important to honour quality and excellence here too. Arcam and their AVR30/31 when calibrated with Dirac Live and setup extremely well can deliver a refined home theatre sound quality that is extraordinary. This is coupled with an excellent stereo and multi channel stereo performance for music that is detailed, expressive and engaging. I am more than happy to award Arcam with a stand out product award in 2022 as time after time I am nothing but impressed by them
A great year for audio
So there we have it, those were the products that stood out to me in 2022 but its important to remember just because they are stand out doesn’t make them perfect or perfect for everyone so if you upgrading your system in 2023 don’t buy based on hype alone, do your research and if you can get to a dealer and demo several options to make sure you get the best product for you.