Stream if you want to go louder

2005 review Hi-Fi The story It’s been a tough year for old-school, two-channel hi-fi, but the arrival of MP3 systems has launched an entirely new cat

2005 review Hi-Fi

The story It’s been a tough year for old-school, two-channel hi-fi, but the arrival of MP3 systems has launched an entirely new category that we Stuffers like to refer to as ‘new-fi’. At the beginning of the year, Yamaha’s high-end MusicCast system was already streaming audio around the house, but for a decidedly high-end £2000. Today, the Philips WACS700 system offers similar functionality at the bargain price of £500.

The highs Hi-tech hi-fi comes in myriad forms: Denon’s Smartlife system features an iPod socket, Teac’s CR-H255 opts for a USB port, Philips WACS700 has hard drive, Wi-Fi and flatpanel NXT speakers. Even our favourite old-school microsystem, the Denond D-M35, is now equipped with a DAB tuner.  

The lows iPods are brilliant for music on the move, but are we sacrificing audio quality in our rush to embrace MP3 at home? There are some great digital audio products out there, but there are also plenty of weedy iPod speakers masquerading as hi-fi. Be warned.

Hi-fi product of the year Kudos to the Clearaudio Emotion, a £720 turntable made from blue acrylic, but our hi-fi product of the year has to be… you’ve guessed it, the Philips WACS700. It’s the easiest wireless audio kit we’ve ever had the pleasure to set up, and while the sound quality is no replacement for decent separates, it the perfect soundsystem for the kitchen, the bedroom, the study, the bathroom… ah, we love multi-room hi-fi.

Tomorrow: Smartphones & palmtops

Previous 2005 reviews:

MP3 takes over

The best digicams of 2005

MP4 video players

Home cinema