It's awards season again, at least here at HomeTheaterReview.com. We have polled our editorial staff and picked the very best from an already elite list of 100-ish specially AV products we've reviewed this year. These awards are reserved for the tippy top of AV offerings in terms of overall performance and overall value, as well as other factors like unique design, cutting edge technology, and ergonomics.
With no further ado, here are our picks, starting with the most affordable and working up to the upper echelon.
• Schiit Jotunheim Multibit DAC ($549) (Read our review)
No audiophile company has a better sense of humor about the hobby than Mike Moffat and Jason Stoddard's Schiit Audio. You could also argue their really well thought-out two-channel products represent some of the best value in the entire industry today, none more so than their Schiit Audio Jotenheim Multibit DAC for $549. Resident HD streaming (and high end vintage guitar expert) Matthew Partrick took a close look at this physically diminutive DAC and said, "The Jotunheim is a fantastic option for those looking for high-quality desktop sound ... In addition, its excellent linear power supply and support for balanced XLR output make for a special headphone experience."
• Hisense 68H8F 65-inch Ultra HD Smart TV ($599) (Read our review)
Could you ever have imagined a day when a high-performance, 65-inch 4K Ultra HD television set would cost $599? That day is today, and no the TV isn't from Vizio. Hisense is one of the newest players (along with companies like TCL) to come to market with feature-laden sets that can compete with the bigger brands for a sum of money that nearly anybody can afford.
Andrew Robinson, who has reviewed the best TVs in the market today, from Samsung's QLEDs to Sony's Master Series to LG's top-of-the-line OLED sets, said, "given enough time it would appear that even those of us on a budget can and will be able to enjoy how the other half lives. The Hisense H8 Series is proof of this, and if nothing else, it proves that it's a great time to be a 4K enthusiast on a budget" about the Hisense. Then he bought the review sample because it was too good to go back to the factory.
• Neeo Remote for Control4 ($500) (Read our review)
It's true that you need a Control4 entertainment and automation system to make this new version of Neeo work, but if you're already a Control4 homeowner or thinking about being one, and if AV control and smart home operation are equally important to you, this is the clicker you want, for sure.
Its combination of luxury materials (machined aluminum), design (a unique thin profile barely more than a third of an inch thick), and a super responsive touchscreen display (291 ppi backlit LED with Gorilla glass) contribute to a remote quite unlike anything you've ever held. In his review, Dennis calls Neeo "the sleekest, sexiest, most intuitive control solutions I've ever put my front paws around. And also one of the best-built, by a country mile.
• Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge + Bass ($899 each) (Reviewed here and here)
There are a lot of small wireless speakers on the market today, and most of them quite frankly suck. Bowers & Wilkins Formation products do not suck, and that's true whether you're talking about the Wedge speaker spotlit here, the Bar (soundbar), the Duo (audiophile wireless bookshelves), or whatever you chose to pair with the $899 Formation Bass subwoofer.
This insanely easy-to-install system has a modern industrial design (with some mid-century overtones) in a small form factor that doesn't sound small at all. In fact, this pairing sounds like B&W speakers, complete with excellent imaging and controlled bass that any modern audiophile could love.
• SVS Prime Pinnacle Speakers ($799 to $899/pair) (Read our review)
We were in love with SVS's $2,000-per-pair floorstanding speakers in past years, because of course we were, but these new SVS Prime Pinnacle speakers, starting at $799 per pair, have us even more jazzed for SVS on the loudspeaker front. Equally at ease with music as well as movie soundtracks, the SVS Prime Pinnacles are winning over fans and fast, and that includes Greg Handy, who said in this review: "If you are in the market for a new pair of speakers, and you simply do not have the placement flexibility required to get the most out of so many other speakers, I highly suggest taking SVS up on their 45-day, risk-free audition offer. Be warned, however, that I suspect 99 percent of you who do so won't be sending them back."
• SVS SB-3000 Subwoofer ($1,000) (Read our review)
For those looking for a right-priced yet highly powerful sealed box subwoofer, the SVS SB-3000 is a perfect choice for so many music and home theater enthusiasts. Yes, if you want that "britches leg flapping in the wind" effect, you might look for the SB-3000's ported brother, but if you seek to strike a balance between the power of a meaningful SVS sub and the control of a sealed box, this might just be the sub for you. Greg Handy wrote: "If you're looking for state-of-the-art, high performing subwoofer, with small proportions and the qualities of a sealed enclosure, the SVS SB-3000 is worth every penny and more in my opinion."
• Polk Legend Series L100 Bookshelf Speakers ($1,199/pair) (Read our review)
Another 2019 HomeTheaterReview.com award winner that gets retro-style points is the Polk Legend L-100. A lot of design went into these small bookshelf speakers, from the Polk Pinnacle Tweeter to the Turbine Cone mid/bass driver, but the thing that really makes them tick is their Enhanced Power Port, which gives you rear-ported performance without rear-ported placement issues. These little suckers kick some serious butt, yet are still very easy to set up.
Dennis Burger said in his review, "Whether you're employing them alone as part of a stereo or 2.1 system, or perhaps as surrounds for a full Polk Legend Series surround sound setup, there's just no denying that this is one incredibly detailed, textural, and holographic speaker."
• Denon AVR-X4500H AV Receiver ($1,599) (Read our review)
Talk about the Goldilocks zone for AVRs! This Denon seems to have exactly the right amount of features and power for a very fair price. We know because, by a long margin, we see more and more HomeTheaterReview.com readers buying exactly this model via our Amazon.com affiliate links.
In fact, Dennis Burger made it the centerpiece of his AV Receiver Buyer's Guide, as it just seems to hit all of the right buttons in terms of what our readers are looking for. In his detailed standalone review, Dennis said of the AVR-X4500H: "It features plenty of HDMI ins, plenty enough speaker outputs for a full-fledged Atmos/DTS:X system without dipping into channel-overload territory, its HEOS multiroom and streaming audio platform is rock solid in my experience, and its support for advanced control systems is pretty freaking fantastic."
• Technics SU-G700 Stereo Integrated Amplifier ($2,499) (Read our review)
Perhaps no specialty audio/video endeavor in recent history has captured the retro-design feel of the past while so elegantly embracing technology from the future as has the recently relaunched Technics. This integrated amp, if paired with, say JBL's re-engineered and retro-tastic L100 Classic speakers (with orange egg crate grill cloth, of course), would make for one hell of a visual statement. It doesn't sound exactly like electronics from the 1970s - in fact, not at all. It simple evokes the look and feel, while taking advantage of decades of technological innovation since.
In his review, Andrew says, "it's been a long time since I've been this excited by an amplifier. But the SU-G700 doesn't excite me by what it brings to light in a large, bombastic fashion. No, the SU-G700 excites by how confidently it goes about doing its job without needing to shout about it. It's beautifully Zen, and I love it."
• Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar ($2,495) (Read our review)
We know what you are thinking and we were thinking it too: how can a company known for headphones be any good at making a soundbar? It turns out, if that company is Sennheiser, they can be very good at it. This pricey soundbar was the darling of a fast-fading CES Show in early 2019 (fading at least for specialty AV, not driverless cars and Internet-of-things hair brushes or ping pong playing robots), and when we got our hands on the Ambeo it very much lived up to its hype. Bob Barrett opined, "No other soundbar that I've auditioned can deliver even close to the same low bass extension of the Sennheiser without adding a separate sub. And no other current soundbar reproduces Dolby Atmos soundtracks with the natural immersive quality or the same level of accuracy."
• Aperion Novus Speakers ($2,995 for a 5.0.2 system) (Read our review)
A good value always catches our attention, and Aperion Audio is a well-established leader in online speakers that don't simply rock, but do so at a very, very fair price. Their new Novus 5.0.2 speaker system is designed for the performance enthusiast who wants a great object-based surround sound setup that is commensurate with what today's mid-range and full-featured AV receivers cost.
Dylan Seeger concluded, "Every Novus speaker is well built, looks great, and offers excellent sound quality, all of which makes them easy to recommend before you even consider the value proposition the height speakers add."
• Marantz SR8012 AV Receiver ($2,999) (Read our review)
Many around here, including the boss, think Marantz makes some of the best sounding, best designed, most feature-laden AV receivers on the market, and the Marantz SR 8012 is pretty much the best example of that concept. The question isn't what this receiver has in terms of features, it's what features doesn't it have, which is impressive given that it's pushing two years on the market at this point.
The Marantz SR8012 even does a few things that its AV preamp brother, the Marantz AV8805, can't do, and that is pretty impressive for an AV receiver - even a relatively expensive one like this. Resident AV receiver guru Dennis Burger had this to say about the Marantz SR 8012: "the SR8012 is a step up from what most of you are buying these days, and its price reflects that. But we don't live in a one-size-fits-all world, and some of you simply need more in terms of power or channels. What's reassuring is that Marantz is able to deliver that without compromising in terms of fidelity, especially for those of you who do a lot of two-channel listening via your surround sound rigs."
Click over to Page Two to see the rest of this year's top picks...