TOP 40 PROD­UCTS

Here’s our pick, from 1976 to 2016, of the kit that went be­yond good to acheive land­mark great­ness. This is hi-fi’s roy­alty – in full at­tire

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - 40 Years -

1976 LINN LP12

The Linn LP12 is ar­guably the most pop­u­lar high-end turntable of all time, in the UK at least. In­tro­duced in 1972, it went on to dom­i­nate the pre­mium turntable mar­ket for decades after­wards. Linn made a range of compatible arms and car­tridges too, so up­grad­ing was easy.

The deck was su­perbly en­gi­neered but the com­pany has never stopped de­vel­op­ing it. Just about ev­ery as­pect of the de­sign from the sus­pen­sion to the power sup­ply has been re­vised over the years, lead­ing to a string of in­cre­men­tal per­for­mance gains.

Early LP12S had a rounded, rich bal­ance that was still lively enough to en­ter­tain. Later ver­sions moved to­wards neu­tral­ity, en­joy­ing greater pre­ci­sion and in­sight as a re­sult.

1976 TECH­NICS SL1200

Though we’ve never con­sid­ered the SL1200, or any of its vari­ants, class-lead­ers when it comes to sound qual­ity, that doesn’t mean we don’t ad­mire them. Ev­ery version we’ve tested was well-built, solid and beau­ti­fully en­gi­neered – one of the main rea­sons they were so suc­cess­ful with DJS across the globe. They’re easy to use too, with plenty of flex­i­bil­ity when it comes to positioning and car­tridge-match­ing.

We love these decks be­cause they’re tough and fuss-free. With a bit of effort, they’re upgrad­able too, but they sound good enough as stan­dard to be en­joy­able. Flaw­less? Def­i­nitely not, but that doesn’t stop the SL1200 in any of its forms from be­ing con­sid­ered a true clas­sic.

1978 ACOUS­TIC RE­SEARCH AR18

Back in the 1970s, Acous­tic Re­search was one of the big­gest hi-fi brands around. It made a mas­sive im­pact with its orig­i­nal turntable, but these rather or­di­nary-look­ing stand­moun­ters are what we re­mem­ber the most. Even then, they were ba­sic – a two-way, sealed-box de­sign us­ing a 20cm pa­per cone mid/bass and a rather un­re­fined 32mm tweeter.

Yet Acous­tic Re­search took this recipe and turned out one of the finest bud­get speak­ers in his­tory. The AR18S sounded en­ter­tain­ing, but most of all they were fun. Sure, the tre­ble could have been sweeter and their trans­parency barely lived up to the word, but play some mu­sic through them and all was for­given.

1978 NAD 3020

The NAD brand is based on the foun­da­tions laid by the 3020 am­pli­fier. To date, noth­ing else the brand has done has made the im­pact of this slightly flimsy bud­get box. Even back then, a power out­put of around 20W per chan­nel wasn’t par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive, but in use this in­te­grated amp could drive speak­ers bet­ter than just about any ri­val.

Its smooth, full-bod­ied bal­ance worked bril­liantly with the less-than re­fined bud­get kit of the day, de­liv­er­ing the sound with un­mis­tak­able grace. Cur­rent am­pli­fiers may be ahead on trans­parency and build qual­ity, but find one of these in work­ing or­der and it would still be a joy to lis­ten to.

1978 REGA PLA­NAR 3

We doubt there has ever been a more dom­i­nant turntable than Rega’s Pla­nar 3. Ever since its introduction in 1978, it has been the go-to mid­dle-mar­ket record player, and lit­tle has changed in the sub­se­quent years. In fact, the var­i­ous it­er­a­tions of this deck have won our sub-thou­sand pound turntable award so many times, we’ve lost count. So what’s the Pla­nar 3’s se­cret? It’s a sim­ple, well-made de­sign based on sen­si­ble engi­neer­ing prin­ci­ples.

Sure, the com­pany has re­fined just about ev­ery com­po­nent over time, most no­tably the introduction of the then rev­o­lu­tion­ary RB300 arm in 1983.

But in essence the Pla­nar 3 still re­mains to­day what it has al­ways been: a sim­ple-to-use, fuss-free per­former that makes our vinyl col­lec­tion sound great.

“The var­i­ous it­er­a­tions of this deck have won so many Awards, we’ve lost count” Rega Pla­nar 3

1979 SONY WALK­MAN

At first the idea of a portable cas­sette player with light­weight head­phones seemed a lit­tle niche. Would peo­ple want to lis­ten to mu­sic on the move? The an­swer to that ques­tion seems ob­vi­ous to­day, but back then there were doubts.

As it hap­pened, the Walk­man was a king-size hit for Sony. There were plenty of mod­els rang­ing from bud­get right through to the pre­mium-priced WM-D6C, some­thing bet­ter known as the Walk­man Pro­fes­sional. This unit sounded good enough to ri­val some of the best do­mes­tic cas­sette decks around but could still just about fit into your pocket. The death of cas­sette led to Sony us­ing the Walk­man name on other portable prod­ucts, but none made quite the same im­pact as these tape ma­chines.

1979 A&R CAM­BRIDGE A60

If NAD was the king of the bud­get amps, then the A60 is what you bought when you wanted to up­grade. The A60 was the first prod­uct from A&R Cam­bridge (which later mor­phed into Arcam) and what a mon­ster hit it was. Look past the unas­sum­ing ap­pear­ance and you’ll find a prod­uct that com­bined sen­si­ble fea­tures, solid build and class-lead­ing sound qual­ity.

The A60 was a re­fined per­former, which sounded good with a wide range of part­ner­ing kit. This wooden-cased unit was as en­gag­ing as they came with a won­der­ful com­bi­na­tion of fi­nesse, rhyth­mic tal­ent and dy­namic sub­tlety in its ar­moury.

1981 DUAL CS505

The likes of Pro-ject may dom­i­nate the bud­get turntable mar­ket to­day, but in the 1980s it was Dual with the CS505. It was a so­phis­ti­cated deck with a proper sus­pended sub-chas­sis, while later ver­sions had smart wooden plinths.

This tidy, well-bal­anced per­former de­liv­ered sat­is­fy­ing re­sults with­out putting too much of a strain on the en­try-level kit it was usu­ally part­nered with. Oddly enough, that’s what made it so good in a bud­get con­text.

“Look past the unas­sum­ing ap­pear­ance and you’ll find a prod­uct with sen­si­ble fea­tures, solid build and class-lead­ing sound qual­ity” A&R Cam­bridge A60

1982 WHARFEDALE DI­A­MOND 1

Back in 1982, no one would have be­lieved the Wharfedale Di­a­mond would dom­i­nate the bud­get-speaker mar­ket for gen­er­a­tions to come. Stand­ing just 24cm high, the orig­i­nals were tiny, but de­liv­ered a huge amount of bass and had a rolled-off, smooth tonal bal­ance. The Di­a­monds were much cheaper than their com­pe­ti­tion too, cost­ing £65 while the rest hov­ered closer to £100.

Sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tions saw im­proved tweet­ers and bet­ter fin­ishes, and the cur­rent Di­a­mond 220s are ar­guably the best Di­a­monds ever. Yet, for that touch of magic that’s rare in hi-fi, it’s the orig­i­nals we han­ker af­ter.

1983 AU­DI­O­LAB 8000A

This is the prod­uct that started it all for Au­di­o­lab. It ar­rived out of nowhere, knocked the A&R Cam­bridge A60 off its perch and set the stan­dard for midrange am­pli­fiers for years to come. For the time, it was su­perbly made, mak­ing most ri­vals look like they’d been knocked up in a shed. The 8000A was also well equipped, hav­ing tone con­trols, a head­phone out­put and a de­cent phono stage. It had plenty of grunt too, and could drive most price­com­pat­i­ble speak­ers with ease.

The 8000A didn’t have it all its own way though. Its sound qual­ity split opin­ion at the time. There was no deny­ing the amp’s widerang­ing dy­nam­ics, in­sight and tonal even­ness, but some com­men­ta­tors wanted greater rhyth­mic sub­tlety. Back in the ’80s, this was a fit-and-forget am­pli­fier – an easy rec­om­men­da­tion that pleased most of the peo­ple most of the time.

“No one would have be­lieved the Di­a­mond would dom­i­nate for gen­er­a­tions” Wharfedale Di­a­mond 1 “For the time, it was su­perbly made, mak­ing most ri­vals look like they’d been knocked up in a shed” Au­di­o­lab 8000A

“When it came to in­sight and un­cov­er­ing the finest of de­tails, it could ri­val most amps cost­ing twice as much” Mis­sion Cyrus One

1982 MICHELL GYRODEC

The Gyrodec is as much a piece of engi­neer­ing art as it is a turntable. Still avail­able to­day, this player has hardly changed in ap­pear­ance since it first ap­peared. It hasn’t needed to, be­cause Michell got the engi­neer­ing spot-on right from the start. This is a beau­ti­fully made deck built to the kind of stan­dard that rou­tinely em­bar­rassed ri­vals at dou­ble the money.

If you like Mec­cano you’ll love putting this deck to­gether – it ar­rives in bits. But the clear in­struc­tions and Michell’s log­i­cal ap­proach to the de­sign mean it’s a breeze to construct. Once up and run­ning it sounds de­tailed, ex­pres­sive and grace­ful. Oth­ers may pri­ori­tise rhythm or dy­namic con­trast, but, even to­day, the Gyrodec re­mains what it has al­ways been: a fab­u­lous buy.

1984 MIS­SION CYRUS ONE

Cyrus started off as the elec­tron­ics arm of speaker specialist Mis­sion. The Cyrus One and the more pow­er­ful Two were the com­pany’s first prod­ucts. Early mod­els had a plas­tic case to eliminate the dis­tor­tion e„ffects of eddy cur­rents; later ver­sions switched to a cast metal case that was as­ton­ish­ingly so­phis­ti­cated for a bud­get amp.

This was a purist in­te­grated am­pli­fier, de­signed with max­i­mum res­o­lu­tion as a pri­or­ity. Pro­vided you were in ba­sic sym­pa­thy with its lean, light­weight pre­sen­ta­tion – power out­put was only 25W per chan­nel – this am­pli­fier stunned with its agility and dy­namic ex­pres­sion. When it came to in­sight and un­cov­er­ing the finest of de­tails, it could ri­val most am­pli­fiers cost­ing twice as much.

1984 NAIM 32 PREAMPLIFIER/SNAPS/250 POWER AM­PLI­FIER

This is a clas­sic Naim high-end com­bi­na­tion, and it formed the heart of thou­sands of high-end hi-fi sys­tems in the 1980s. It came in three bits: the 32 preamp – a flex­i­ble purist de­sign – cou­pled to a ded­i­cated power sup­ply and the now-leg­endary 250 stereo power amp. To­gether, this trio could de­liver drama and del­i­cacy in im­pres­sive por­tions.

By cur­rent stan­dards the sound could have been more trans­par­ent and open, but at the time lit­tle could match this com­bi­na­tion’s dy­namic punch, pow­ers of or­gan­i­sa­tion and stu­pen­dous rhyth­mic drive. Back then, Naim had a close re­la­tion­ship with Linn, so this amp was usu­ally found part­nered with the LP12 turntable used as the source.

1985 DENON DRM-44HX

Wel­come to the only cas­sette deck on our list. It cost around £350 and packed in just about ev­ery piece of cas­sette tech you can think of bar auto-re­verse. All the Dol­bys are here, from noise re­duc­tion sys­tems B and C through to HX Pro, that added an ex­tra dose of open­ness and de­tail. As one of Denon’s pre­mium prod­ucts, it fea­tured a tuning sys­tem that op­ti­mised the per­for­mance with the tape be­ing used. The 44HX had lots of de­tail, good speed sta­bil­ity and strong dy­nam­ics.

1988 ACOUS­TIC EN­ERGY AE1

The orig­i­nal AE1S sent shock­waves through the pre­mium speaker mar­ket in the mid-1980s. They were small stand­moun­ters, barely larger than a shoe­box, but de­liv­ered stag­ger­ing lev­els of de­tail, dy­nam­ics and vol­ume. They were ex­ot­i­cally en­gi­neered, with an all-metal drive unit and a cab­i­net lined with plas­ter to re­duce in­ter­nal stand­ing waves and im­prove damp­ing.

These speak­ers were de­mand­ing of sys­tem and sup­ports, and shone only with high-qual­ity, mus­cu­lar am­pli­fiers. Get a pair sing­ing though, and they will im­press even to­day.

“At the time lit­tle could match this combo’s dy­namic punch, pow­ers of or­gan­i­sa­tion and stu­pen­dous rhyth­mic drive” Naim 32 preamp/snaps/250 power amp

“This unas­sum­ing Denon is ar­guably the most im­por­tant tuner in What Hi-fi?’s his­tory” Denon TU-260L “The am­pli­fier’s im­pact sent the com­pe­ti­tion back to the draw­ing board, forc­ing whole­sale changes” Pi­o­neer A400

1990 DENON TU-260L

This unas­sum­ing Denon is ar­guably the most im­por­tant tuner in What Hi-fi?’s his­tory. The MKI ran from 1990-98, and the MKII to 2006. That’s an im­pres­sively long life, and in its own way this FM/AM tuner was quite some prod­uct.

For the £100 it cost, we couldn’t find an alternative we pre­ferred. The 260L was built well, sim­ply laid out and easy to use. Once you got a de­cent sig­nal it de­liv­ered a well-bal­anced sound that worked su­perbly across talk ra­dio and mu­sic sta­tions. There was plenty of de­tail and it was well or­gan­ised, and wrapped up in an easy-go­ing bal­ance. Don’t let the Denon’s low-key ap­pear­ance fool you: this is as much a clas­sic as any other prod­uct here.

1990 PI­O­NEER A400

The ar­rival of Pi­o­neer’s A400 in the early ’90s was a seis­mic event in the bud­get am­pli­fier mar­ket. This ex­tra­or­di­nary box had a com­bi­na­tion of de­tail, agility and dy­nam­ics few ri­vals could get close to, all wrapped in a slickly built pack­age.

The am­pli­fier’s im­pact sent the com­pe­ti­tion back to the draw­ing board, forc­ing whole­sale changes in the bud­get mar­ket. Ev­ery­one from Arcam and Cyrus through to Denon had to re­vamp their prod­ucts to com­pete, but even then they strug­gled. So did Pi­o­neer when the time came to re­place the A400, be­cause sub­se­quent mod­els never quite cap­tured the magic of the orig­i­nal.

We heard sys­tems in which the Pi­o­neer was flanked by high-end sources and speak­ers yet still came up smelling of roses – there aren’t many bud­get prod­ucts with that kind of ca­pa­bil­ity. The only down­side was a slightly thin, ex­citable qual­ity that needed a bit of care­ful sys­tem-match­ing to al­low the amp to shine. Get that bal­ance right and the A400 re­warded like few oth­ers.

“The 753s’ crisp and for­ward-look­ing de­sign and sub­tle de­tails made most ri­vals look old-fash­ioned” Mis­sion 753 “The bal­ance strayed to the rich side of neu­tral but still packed plenty in the way of ex­cite­ment and drive” Marantz CD63 KI

1993 MIS­SION 753

How many drive units can you get in a sin­gle box? In the case of Mis­sion’s 753s, as many as pos­si­ble. When they were in­tro­duced back in the mid-’90s, these slim tow­ers reignited the mar­ket for sub-thou­sand-pound floor­standers.

While the sound qual­ity had much to do with their dom­i­na­tion – we talked of strong dy­nam­ics, quick re­sponses and loads of de­tail – other as­pects of the de­sign made these speak­ers stand out. At the time Mis­sion was a mas­ter at turn­ing out stylish speak­ers that looked hi-tech. The 753s en­cap­su­lated a crisp and for­ward-look­ing de­sign with sub­tle de­tails that made most of the com­pe­ti­tion look old-fash­ioned.

Per­haps even more im­por­tantly, the Mis­sions looked great in a do­mes­tic en­vi­ron­ment, which meant they were wel­come in houses where more tra­di­tional al­ter­na­tives wouldn’t be al­lowed past the front gate. There’s a les­son in there that some sec­tions of the in­dus­try still need to learn.

1995 MARANTZ CD63 KI SIG­NA­TURE

Marantz is no stranger to pro­duc­ing top-class CD play­ers, par­tic­u­larly at the more af­ford­able end of the mar­ket. But, even in the light of the qual­ity ma­chines the com­pany pro­duces to­day, the CD63 KI Sig­na­ture has to go down as its crown­ing achieve­ment.

Based on the CD63, this prod­uct fea­tured a host of im­prove­ments in­clud­ing upgraded cir­cuit com­po­nents and im­proved con­struc­tion, which to­gether lifted its per­for­mance dra­mat­i­cally. There were few play­ers, even at dou­ble the money, which could out­per­form this unas­sum­ing ma­chine.

Sonic gains in­cluded im­proved de­tail, more ex­pres­sive dy­nam­ics and a chunky gain in re­fine­ment. The bal­ance strayed to the rich and smooth side of neu­tral but still packed plenty in the way of ex­cite­ment and drive to con­vince. The KI in the name stands for Ken Ishi­wata, Marantz’s Brand Am­bas­sador, who de­vel­oped the player to match his own taste.

1998 DENON DM3 MI­CRO

Denon has dom­i­nated the mi­cro-sys­tem mar­ket for al­most two decades, thanks to the foun­da­tions laid by the DM3. The com­pany has built gen­er­a­tions of prod­ucts based on its glo­ri­ously con­ve­nient half-width cas­ing. CD re­play and a ra­dio have al­ways been part of the equa­tion, with later gen­er­a­tions able to ac­cept a dig­i­tal feed from ex­ter­nal sources. This orig­i­nal version came with op­tional speak­ers, which worked su­perbly with the main unit.

The DM3 didn’t be­come a le­gend by hav­ing a strong fea­tures list though. There’s no short­age of ri­vals that do at least as well. No, the Denon’s ad­van­tage was its su­perb sound. Sure, a col­lec­tion of qual­ity bud­get sep­a­rates (from the same era) would out­per­form it in all sonic ar­eas, but they’d in­evitably cost far more. What the DM3 did – and its de­scen­dants still do – was to de­liver an en­gag­ing and en­ter­tain­ing per­for­mance be­yond that of­fered by the com­pe­ti­tion. That it did so in such an af­ford­able, well built and easy-to-use pack­age just seals its rep­u­ta­tion.

1998 SENNHEISER HD600

There were pre­mium head­phones be­fore the HD600 and there have been many af­ter it, but there’s some­thing about this late ’90s de­sign that still strikes a chord. They had a won­der­fully for­giv­ing, smooth bal­ance, yet de­liv­ered plenty of at­tack and drive when re­quired. De­tail lev­els were high, but de­spite all the anal­y­sis it was oh so easy to sit back and get lost in the mu­sic. Move away from the sound and the HD600S con­tin­ued to im­press. They were well built, and de­signed with long-term use in mind. An ex­am­ple? The ca­bles were de­tach­able, which meant you could easily re­place them if one got dam­aged with­out hav­ing to pay for re­pairs or buy a new pair of head­phones. These Sennheis­ers were com­fort­able too, be­ing light and care­fully shaped. Sub­se­quent mod­els made gains in trans­parency and over­all per­for­mance, but even to­day the orig­i­nal HD600S still stand out as some­thing spe­cial.

“What the DM3 did – and its de­scen­dants still do – was to de­liver an en­gag­ing and en­ter­tain­ing per­for­mance be­yond that of­fered by the com­pe­ti­tion” Denon DM3 Mi­cro

1999 ARCAM ALPHA 7SE

For much of the ’90s, Arcam dom­i­nated the af­ford­able CD player mar­ket with a se­ries of ma­chines that de­liv­ered a com­bi­na­tion of great sound qual­ity and su­perb build.

Ar­riv­ing at the tail end of the decade, the 7SE was prob­a­bly the brand’s crown­ing achieve­ment. This £350 player steam­rollered price ri­vals and set a stiff task for those that re­tailed for twice as much. The sonic pre­sen­ta­tion was au­thor­i­ta­tive and re­fined, but

1999 PRO-JECT DE­BUT

Since its in­cep­tion in 1990, Pro-ject has been one of the au­then­tic heroes of the en­try-level turntable and a true en­abler of the cur­rent and on-go­ing vinyl re­vival. De­sign­ing its prod­ucts in Aus­tria, man­u­fac­tur­ing them in Slo­vakia and the Czech Repub­lic, it’s a Cen­tral Euro­pean suc­cess story – and the De­but (which was, an­noy­ingly, not its first prod­uct) is per­haps the most suc­cess­ful of the lot. packed a good dose of dy­nam­ics. The 7SE un­cov­ered an im­pres­sive amount of de­tail and or­gan­ised it well too, de­liv­er­ing a won­der­fully en­ter­tain­ing sound.

While that plas­tic front panel wouldn’t pass muster to­day, this player was solidly made and clev­erly con­structed. It was easily upgrad­able, but most own­ers were more than happy with the stan­dard player. At the price noth­ing came close.

Fol­low­ing Pro-ject’s avowed ethos of de­liv­er­ing ‘sim­ple-to-use, main­te­nance-free and re­li­able’ prod­ucts that ‘per­form be­yond all ex­pec­ta­tions nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with their price’, the De­but was cork­ing value for money and a de­served hit. Al­most 20 years of im­prove­ments and up­grades has led to the De­but Car­bon and its vari­ants, but it’s with 1999’s De­but that Pro-ject first made its mark.

2000 KEF KHT2005

No one doubted the ex­cit­ing au­dio po­ten­tial of sur­round-sound, but the idea of be­ing hemmed in by six burly speak­ers in or­der to prop­erly en­joy a film was a dif­fi­cult sell. It took KEF to utilise its long-ac­knowl­edged tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise and hith­erto-undis­cov­ered mas­tery of in­te­rior de­sign to of­fer the best com­pro­mise: the KHT2005 5.1 speaker pack­age, or ‘Eggs’ as they were im­me­di­ately dubbed.

Thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of thrilling, high-im­pact per­for­mance and an aes­thetic that ac­tu­ally added to your decor choices rather than de­tracted from them, the KHT2005 was an in­stant and en­dur­ing hit.

Other man­u­fac­tur­ers at­tempted to em­u­late KEF’S win­ning for­mula of great sound, high-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als and beau­ti­ful fin­ish, but none suc­ceeded. The KHT2005 was a clas­sic from the off, and ev­ery sub­se­quent version has only added to the orig­i­nal’s rep­u­ta­tion.

2001 SKY+

The introduction of Sky+ in mid-2001 ush­ered in an era when we stopped be­ing slaves to tele­vi­sion sched­ules and in­stead started to dic­tate our own terms for how we watched TV.

At its launch, the Sky+ per­sonal video ser­vice boasted a 40GB hard drive (for record­ing, paus­ing and rewind­ing live TV), twin tuners (for do­ing that while watch­ing an­other chan­nel) and a seven-day Elec­tronic Pro­gramme Guide that was out­stand­ing for the time.

A more or less con­stant regime of up­grades, in­clud­ing more mem­ory (the set-top box’s hard drive has since grown to 2TB) and new fea­tures such as re­mote record­ing via mo­bile phone, which ar­rived in 2006, has kept Sky+ ahead of the game.

Sky+ es­tab­lished a tem­plate that com­peti­tors have had no choice but to try to em­u­late.

2002 SONOS

It doesn’t al­ways pay to be the orig­i­na­tor of new tech­nol­ogy – some­times you do the leg work and oth­ers swoop in when it’s es­tab­lished – but the re­wards are there for those who truly in­no­vate. That’s what Sonos did in 2002 when it launched its first wire­less multi-room range. Thanks to the sim­plic­ity of con­struct­ing a sys­tem, the un­shake­able sta­bil­ity of the Sonos­net lo­cal net­work, and dis­creet, stylish looks, all that was re­quired was de­cent sound qual­ity – and Sonos de­liv­ered this in fine style.

The Cal­i­for­nia com­pany’s in­ten­tion to con­cen­trate on max­imis­ing the po­ten­tial of mu­sic-stream­ing ser­vices rather than on lo­cally stored dig­i­tal col­lec­tions hasn’t hin­dered its progress – ‘Sonos’ is on the way to be­com­ing a brand­nomer like Hoover or, in­deed, Tan­noy.

2004 BOW­ERS & WILKINS PV-1

There are any num­ber of sound engi­neer­ing the­o­ries and prin­ci­ples which dic­tate the way B&W’S ‘pres­sure ves­sel’ (for this is noth­ing so pro­saic as a ‘sub­woofer’) looks – but don’t try and kid us B&W wasn’t thor­oughly turned on by its ap­pear­ance.

A de­sign clas­sic in a field dom­i­nated by prod­ucts so vis­ually te­dious that even their own man­u­fac­tur­ers would en­cour­age con­sumers to hide them out of sight, the PV-1 re­de­fined the sec­tor. It dug deep, hit hard and fast, and dom­i­nated the What Hi-fi? Awards for years on end.

So com­pletely did it boss the cat­e­gory that we even­tu­ally did away with the sub­woofer Award al­to­gether.

“The PV-1 is a de­sign clas­sic in a field of prod­ucts so vis­ually te­dious that their man­u­fac­tur­ers en­cour­age you to hide them away” Bow­ers & Wilkins PV-1 “Sky+ ush­ered in an era when we stopped be­ing slaves to TV sched­ules” Sky+

Yamaha was so far ahead of the curve with its YSP-1, there wasn’t yet a word to de­scribe the prod­uct. We reviewed the YSP-1 in the April 2005 is­sue of the mag­a­zine, giv­ing this ‘Home Cinema Sys­tem’ four stars. But it’s thanks to Yamaha that we now know it as a sound­bar.

These days, of course, a sound­bar is mostly used for aug­ment­ing the flimsy sound served up by many wafer-thin tele­vi­sions, but back in 2005 Yamaha was de­ter­mined to de­liver ac­tual sur­round-sound from the YSP-1.

Thanks to no fewer than 42 tiny drive units and some fiercely com­pli­cated dig­i­tal pro­cess­ing, it did just that – pro­vided your room was of a sym­pa­thetic shape. Al­though sound­bars have moved on in the decade since, with hind­sight, the YSP-1 is as thor­ough and far-sighted a so­lu­tion to a home en­ter­tain­ment prob­lem as we’ve ever seen.

“Yamaha was so far ahead of the curve with its YSP-1, there wasn’t yet a word to de­scribe the prod­uct” Yamaha YSP-1

“Find one of these now, and it’ll still be a joy to lis­ten to” NAD 3020

Oc­to­ber 1976: we started as we meant to go on, with solid ver­dicts and full list­ings

Jan­uary 1984: In the month that Jacko’s hair caught fire we were more in­ter­ested in Judie Tzuke’s

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