Best Home AV Products 2019 - Editor's Choice Awards

Every one's a winner!

Welcome to our third 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 2019.

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 £1,000 2019 – Monitor Audio Monitor

Perennial winner Q Acoustics took last year’s award, but it was Monitor Audio's Monitor line-up that won the plaudits in 2019. This superb range of budget speakers delivers that ideal combination of performance and value. A few corners have been cut to get the price down, but the build quality remains solid. However, the design is somewhat pedestrian and the garish orange driver and trim is an acquired taste. That being said, there's nothing pedestrian about the performance. Monitor Audio has trickled down innovations developed for its excellent Bronze range, and the result is a speaker that lives up its name, with a neutral and transparent performance that’s free of discolouration.

As a 5.1-channel system, these speakers also integrate well, creating a cohesive soundstage. The Monitor 200 floorstanders deliver a solid front soundstage, the Monitor C150 centre speaker renders dialogue with skill, the Monitor 50 is more than capable of handling the surround duties, and the Monitor MRW-10 subwoofer produces some tight bass. The resulting system has great tonal balance, excellent detail retrieval and some lovely clarity. The sub is the only real weak link, struggling to reach the depths of some better models (see below for some suggestions). However, that minor point aside, the Monitor Audio Monitor 5.1 speaker package is a highly entertaining system that delivers real bang for your buck.

Best Home Cinema Speakers £1,000-2,000 2019 – Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series

Bowers & Wilkins is no stranger to awards, in fact, the 700 Series was one of the Editor’s Choices last year. The 600 Series is technically the budget range in the B&W line-up, but you’ll find that hard to believe given its excellent build quality and superb performance. The minimalist design is simple but eye-catching, with an elegant silver trim around the tweeters and drivers that matches the silver Continuum weave used in the bass/midrange drivers. The chances are most people won't mourn the loss of the rather garish yellow Kevlar drivers the company has used for decades, but the addition of the new material isn't merely cosmetic.

The composition of Continuum may be a closely guarded secret but it really works, resulting in a precise, transparent and hugely entertaining performance that still retains B&W's signature sound. The 606 standmount speakers provide a solid front soundstage, and sound much bigger than they look. They also integrate well with the HTM6 centre speaker and 607 surround speakers, to create a balanced and tonally cohesive system. The ASW610 provides a solid bass foundation, and the resulting system is capable of delivering a dynamic but equally refined level of audio quality. The 600 Series also wins yet another award for Bowers & Wilkins.

Best Home Cinema Speakers Over £2,000 2019 – Definitive Technology BP9000 Series

If you like a big immersive audio system that combines clever design with an uncompromising performance, then the Definitive Technology BP9000 Series is for you. This awesome system is based around two BP9040 and two BP9020 floorstanding speakers. They have built-in subs but still manage to blend into a room thanks to an elegant design and minimal footprint. These speakers look classy and sound even better, thanks to those integrated subs and a bipolar driver array. There's a wonderful sense of openness and realism to them, but they also allow you to build a system with subs in every corner of the room without taking up additional space. The result is superbly balanced bass that has impact but never overpowers the rest of the system.

Once you add the CS9040 centre speaker and four upward-firing A90 modules you have a tonally matched system that can move sounds seamlessly from one speaker to the next. What impresses about this system isn't just the looks and performance, but also the thought that has gone into every aspect of the system's design. The way the A90s slot into the top of the floorstanders, while the speaker cable is connected at the bottom is genius. The same goes for the integrated subs, which you can either run as part of the speaker or completely separately. The system isn't cheap but, when you consider all you’re getting, it’s actually surprisingly good value. Definitive Technology is a brand worth investigating and the BP9000 is this year’s Editor’s Choice for high-end speakers.

Best Subwoofer Under £500 2019 – BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR

This year’s winner probably won’t come as a surprise, but calling the BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR a budget subwoofer is doing it a disservice. It delivers such an outstanding level of performance that this sub would be impressive if it cost twice as much. The fact it's able to deliver bass this controlled, responsive and deep for just £450 is nothing short of amazing. The direct sale model undoubtedly helps in terms of the pricing, but there's more to it than that.

BK applies a straightforward ethos to designing and building its subwoofers: using a well-engineered cabinet, solid construction, and high quality components. The manufacturer also avoids unnecessary frivolities, taking a no-nonsense approach that concentrates on sound quality. The P12-300SB-PR delivers excellent low frequency extension and a surprising amount of speed. This year, we tested a number of subs in this price range, but the BK is in a class of its own.

Best Subwoofer £500-1,000 2019 – REL HT/1205

Home cinema enthusiasts looking for an excellent mid-range subwoofer need look no further than the REL HT/1205. The company has wisely chosen to keep things simple, with a basic but good-looking design that will remain discreet at the front of your room. The connections, controls, and features are all fairly basic, but there's everything you need, which makes set up easy. The high-pass connections have been dropped, but they’re unnecessary for multi-channel setup.

The low-end delivery is superb, thanks to a fast and responsive performance created by the sealed cabinet. The 12-inch driver and 500W of Class D amplification go deep, but there's still plenty of control. As a result, the bass remains tight rather than boomy, allowing this sub to create a big and bold performance that has both power and agility. The HT/1205 can occasionally lose a bit of subtlety as it mines the depths, but overall this is another impressive sub from REL.

Best Subwoofer Over £1,000 2019 – SVS SB-3000

If you have a decent budget for a new subwoofer, the SVS SB-3000 is definitely worth considering. For a start, it was conceived to deliver a massive amount of bass from a relatively small footprint. It also integrates innovations first introduced in the 16-Ultra range but does so without sounding like a lightweight version of the SB-4000. In fact, there’s nothing about this sub to suggest you’re taking a step down from the range above, and it delivers a muscular but controlled performance that is just as exciting.

Whether you are watching TV or movies, playing games or listening to music, the SB-3000 has you covered with the kind of bass extension that is both controlled and precise. It retains a refinement and musicality that is genuinely excellent but still delivers seismic levels of low frequency energy. The fact it can do so at a relatively affordable price is even more impressive. So, if you like deep bass combined with agility and an accurate sonic signature, the SVS SB-3000 is the one for you and our Editor’s Choice for the high-end sub of 2019.

Best Soundbar Under £500 2019 – Polk Command Bar

There have been some excellent soundbars released in this price bracket during 2019, but none offered the combination of performance, features and price as the Polk Command Bar. In fact, you have to wonder how Polk has managed to pack so much in at this price. It uses a two-channel main unit that's low enough not to block your screen but is still able to deliver a wide front soundstage. The subwoofer has some depth and integrates nicely with the soundbar, and the overall performance is excellent with TV shows, movies and music.

There's no immersive audio support, but the Command Bar includes other features rarely seen at this price point. You get an HDMI input and output, a full size remote control, Polk's Voice Adjust feature, four different sound modes, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. However, the headline feature is the inclusion of Amazon Alexa, which turns this soundbar into a fully-featured smart speaker with voice control. The Polk Command Bar was an easy winner of a Best Buy badge when we reviewed it and is our Editor’s Choice for the best soundbar under £500.

Best Soundbar £500-2,000 2019 – Samsung HW-Q90R

There are a lot of soundbars in this price bracket, but too often they have something missing. Not so with the Samsung HW-Q90R – this soundbar has the lot. In fact, it’s the only model to offer a genuine 7.1.4-channel system with a wireless subwoofer and wireless rear speakers combined with four overhead channels. The difference in performance compared to any other Dolby Atmos/DTS:X soundbar is quite profound because, without the addition of the surrounds and rear height channels, all the immersive audio effects are focussed at the front of the room. With the HW-Q90R, Atmos or DTS:X soundtracks are delivered with a sound field that envelops you, placing you within a 360 degree hemisphere of sound.

The HW-Q90R is also surprisingly musical, with clear dialogue and a sub that produces deep, well-integrated bass. It isn't cheap, but to get an immersive audio system approaching this level of performance would require buying a minimum nine-channel AV receiver and a 5.1.4 speaker package. The chances are that such a system would cost considerably more, and it wouldn't be as easy or unobtrusive to install. This soundbar not only passes HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, but also includes handy additional features like SmartThings, Amazon voice control, and Adaptive sound. The system itself looks nice and is very well made, with only the only disappointment being the number of HDMI inputs. However, in all other respects, this is an impressive package that deserves its Editor’s Choice award.

Best Soundbar Over £2,000 2019 – Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar

You don’t get many soundbars at this price, so the Sennheiser Ambeo had better be something special. Thankfully it is, and this exceptional single-box solution delivers a big, bold, and detailed immersive audio experience, despite the absence of actual rear speakers. It doesn’t have a separate subwoofer (although you can add one) but is capable of amazingly deep bass. The steering of effects and sense of envelopment are also remarkable, and it can decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. In addition, the high-quality drivers ensure that everything from music to TV to movies all sound superb, while dialogue is delivered with crystal clarity.

Sennheiser hasn't just built a soundbar that sounds incredible, it's also made sure the Ambeo is future-proof. There's an HDMI 2.1 output that supports eARC, along with three more HDMI inputs that can pass Dolby Vision and HDR10+. There's a calibration mic and sophisticated room EQ software, not to mention effective sound processing headlined by Sennheiser's own Ambeo mode. You can also connect to the soundbar using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Chromecast, with only AirPlay missing. Aside from being incredibly big, the Ambeo’s main drawback is its price. There’s no denying it’s very expensive, but if you want a single-box soundbar you won't find better.

Best AV Amplifier Under £1,000 2019 – Denon AVR-X3600H

It’s a clean sweep in the AV amplifier/receiver categories this year, with Denon picking up both the budget and high-end awards. The new AVR-X3600H is an absolute bargain, offering nine channels of built-in amplification and 11.2-channels of processing. If that wasn’t enough, there’s support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, as well as Atmos height virtualisation and DTS Virtual:X. There's also Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room calibration, along with eARC, AirPlay2, and Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant voice control, along with Denon’s HEOS multiroom system.

What really impresses is the sound quality and performance on offer at such a reasonable price point. There is enough power on tap to create large and expansive sound stages with superb dynamics and transients, as long as you are sensible with the volume. Once you really start to push towards true reference levels, the headroom isn’t there but we don’t know many enthusiasts who would be pushing it that hard all the time. And of course, you have 11.2 pre-outs to add more amplification if required. The 11.2 processing is incredibly good, with excellent effects placement and steering. It really is an astonishingly good performer for the price tag.

Best AV Amplifier Over £1,000 2019 – Denon AVC-X6500H

Denon’s superb X8500 won this award last year, but for those with a smaller budget, the AVC-X6500H delivers many of the same benefits. It looks attractive, is well-made, and has an intuitive user interface. The feature-set is comprehensive, with an extensive selection of inputs, and yet it remains easy to set up. The Audyssey MultEQ XT32 works very well, and the sound quality with multichannel audio is impressive thanks to 11 channels of built-in amplification and 11.2ch processing – not to mention Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D right out of the box.

Overall, it’s an impressive performer with support for eARC, HEOS, AirPlay2, IMAX Enhanced, and Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant voice control, along with an upgrade to the internal components. In fact, there’s very little to complain about, aside from the remote lacking a backlight and the absence of an AM/FM tuner (which technically makes this an amplifier rather than receiver). So if you're looking for a new 11-channel AV amplifier, the Denon AVC-X6500H is just the ticket, with this win makings it two years in a row for Denon in the Editor’s Choice high-end AVR category.

Best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player 2019 – Panasonic DP-UB820

Panasonic is another company winning back-to-back awards. Last year the flagship DP-UB9000 won, but this year it’s the DP-UB820. This player is an absolute bargain, and while it might not have the superior build quality and analogue connections of the UB9000, it has almost everything else. There's still a good selection of connections at the rear, including twin HDMI outputs and 7.1-channel analogue outputs. The remote lacks a backlight but is reasonably well designed, with all the buttons you need. The setup is straightforward and the menu system is fairly intuitive, although the smart platform is very dated.

You do at least get apps for Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube, along with 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos where appropriate. The overall performance is very impressive, and the playback is fast, responsive, and reasonably quiet, while the images and sound quality are largely flawless. There's a host of useful features, designed to enhance your viewing experience – especially where HDR is concerned. In most respects you’d struggle to tell the difference between the UB9000 and the UB820 but, when you consider the latter is nearly a third of the price, the choice becomes an easy one. This player is an absolute bargain and clear winner of the 2019 Editor’s Choice award for best 4K Blu-ray player.

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