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Testing Ground

The Best Audio Products of 2020

By Alban Amouroux |

Here's a look back at the best products to make the most of your high quality Qobuz Subscription. Each of the major categories of audio equipment is represented by a benchmark model, i.e. a product that has brought us as much pleasure when listening as when using it. Many other products were just as worthy of selection, but there are always choices to be made! The following is our selection, which will guide you through the best products of the year!

Audiolab

Audiolab had gone a bit unnoticed in recent years. It is back in the limelight with products whose sleek, slim design perpetuate the spirit of the brand. The 6000N Play is a streamer offering the essentials. The network connection allowing access to dematerialised music passes via the DTS Play-Fi protocol in which Qobuz's Hi-Res playback is integrated.

Audiolab 6000N Play
Price : 499 €


This streamer has an excellent ability to dive into details without obscuring anything. This allows it to reproduce an ultra wide and airy sound stage. The result is a truly enjoyable listening experience whatever the musical style. The Audiolab 6000N Play is a high-fidelity device designed to complement an existing system by connecting it to a DAC or integrated amplifier.

Auralic

If there's one manufacturer that gets everyone to agree on digital audio, it's Auralic. This American brand offers a range of products that never disappoints. The technological choices and their implementation are mastered for a total respect of musical sources. The Altair G1 is both a DAC and a streamer for use with a multitude of digital sources.

Auralic Altair G1 DAC/streamer
Price : 2399 €



It is the most financially accessible appliance in the Auralic range. However, we are already at a high level with a seldom-heard sense of presence. The sound scene explodes in three dimensions to make the speakers disappear completely. Without artifice, the respect for timbre is unquestionable. The Altair G1 can even be used as a pre-amplifier connected to a power pack to jump straight into the music.

Primare

Primare has extensively connected its latest product lines. The Scandinavian manufacturer gives you a wide range of choice for the digital audio player: stand-alone streamer, CD player, preamplifier or integrated amplifier. The i15 Prisma is an integrated 2x60 Watt unit in a compact format with a flawlessly finished aluminium chassis.

Primare i15 Prisma amplifier/streamer
Price : 1850 €


This integrated amplifier is a real powerhouse. The advertised power output seems to be greatly underestimated, as the i15 Primare has no problem handling speakers that require a lot of power. The whole thing is musical, with a powerful foundation in the low frequencies. With the streamer built into the amp, all you have to do is add speakers.

Denon

Home cinema amplifiers are packed with features. Of course, they handle everything from HDMI video connections to multi-channel sound processing. They also have advanced networked audio playback capabilities. The Denon AVC-X4700H is a mid-range device with AirPlay 2 protocol and Roon Tested certification, two ways to bring the benefits of Qobuz to the Denon AVC-X4700H.

Denon AVC-X4700H integrated home cinema/streamer
Price : 1499 €


Home cinema devices have evolved and the X4700H has nothing to be ashamed of when compared to HiFi stereo amplifiers. This Denon has a wide sound stage with plenty of height to bring the vocal dialogue to the forefront of the sound. It has a comfortable seat at the lower end of the spectrum for stereo listening without a subwoofer. Its pre-outputs allow it to be upgraded by adding a more powerful external amplifier block if required.

Naim

Naim took advantage of the know-how of the Focal team belonging to the same group to improve the speakers of its Mu-so Qb wireless loudspeaker. It retains its original cubic format and its stereo operation while taking up a small amount of space. The simple and efficient Naim mobile application includes Qobuz and enables all connected Naim devices to be controlled.

Wireless speaker Naim Mu-so Qb 2
Price : 899 €


As well as being very stylish, with the choice of colourful fabric covers, the Mu-so Qb 2 is one of the best compact wireless speakers available. It's balanced,it doesn't emphasize any register. The timbres are beautifully reproduced. What's more, despite its size it works excellently in larger rooms too.

Apple

Apple is still on the sidelines in the audio world. The AirPod in-ear headphones have just been joined by a circum-auricular headset. As for the speakers, the classic HomePod has recently been completed by its Mini version offered at a very affordable price. The HomePod Mini is an intelligent loudspeaker with the Siri personal voice assistant.

HomePod Mini
Price : 99 €


In the field of very small, intelligent, connected speakers, sound quality is not the number one criterion. However, the HomePod Mini is very handy for simply sounding out every room in the house without breaking the bank, here with a pleasant 360° diffusion. Thanks to the AirPlay 2 protocol, it is Roon compatible and can therefore easily work in multi-room with Qobuz!

Bang Olufsen

The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage sound bar is this year's pleasant surprise. This type of audio device is mainly oriented towards the playback of Dolby and DTS soundtracks. The sound reproduction follows an orientation that is not always compatible with music listening. With the Stage, B&O has created a dual-function bar that is suitable for both film and music.

B&O Stage sound bar
Price : 1500 €


This sound bar masters low frequencies, which allows it to do without a subwoofer. Fixed to the wall, the positioning we recommend, it replaces a pair of small bookshelf speakers. The signature sound is warm by default but the numerous settings in the app allow you to easily adapt the sound to your tastes. This bar is the best HiFi and home cinema compromise we know of.

Bowers Wilkins

As if Bowers & Wilkins' excellent 700 range wasn't enough on its own, a Signature version of the 702 columns and 705 bookcases has been added. They feature lacquered datuk veneer and new sorted components. For a few days, we were able to enjoy the 705s and their famous decoupled tweeter, whose technology comes from the top of the range 800 series.

B&W 705 Signature Bookshelf Speakers
Price : 3000 € (for the pair)


These speakers are as beautiful as they sound. Space-saving but requiring sufficient clearance from the rear walls, the 705 Signature produce a realistic sound stage with all the elements being well spaced apart. The high register is one of the other assets of these speakers, which are extremely precise without being aggressive. The 705 Signature will need to be carefully combined with similarly high-quality electronics.

Focal

The Stellia is Focal's top-of-the-range closed-cup circum-aural headset. Financially, it is not accessible to everyone, unfortunately. The finish is exemplary with a mix of metal and leather in brown and havana tones. The Stellia comes with its own carrying case and asymmetrical and symmetrical cords. Comfortable, it naturally insulates against outside noise.

Focal Stellia closed-back headphones
Price : 3000 €


The Focal Stellia is a real experience. The sound stage is not as wide as with open headphones. However, the aeration between the instruments is just as good. You close your eyes and feel as if you are by the musician’s sides, thanks to the micro-information of the recording location. Without being overwhelming or invasive, the bass is solid and natural. If you get the opportunity to listen to them, you will discover the best in the field of headphones.