Embarking on the topic, Rezence presents Bass Enthusiasts Rejoice: How to Enhance Bass in Your Headphones 2024: Expert Analysis
2022 has been a year of returning to “normal” for the most part. We’ve come a long way on the pandemic and supply chain problems that helped make â€˜22 a great year to escape into music and movies in home systems we enjoyed with family and friends. As the industry bounces back from previous year’s shortages, we reviewed some new innovations in products that may have otherwise been more evenly distributed over the last three years. Meanwhile in personal audio, headphones have smashed the wireless ceiling and seized a new category of high-end sound quality. Loudspeaker companies continued to push the boundaries of excellent performance per dollar ratio and receiver manufacturers have brought their A-game with innovative room correction systems and the latest in audio and video processing to ensure ALL of your UHD Video and Immersive Audio needs are satisfied.
To say we had a tough time deciding on this yearâ€™s Product of the Year Award winners is no exaggeration. We have lengthy Audioholics email threads that were so impassioned they may have set fire to some of our email apps. But we finally have the results, the official winners of Audioholics Products of the Year Awards 2022. The products chosen in this selection are based on long-term testing and/or formal reviews by our editorial staff.
2022 Audioholics POY Award Winners Youtube Discussion
Best AV Receiver
Anthem MRX-1140 | Review | Buy
The Anthem MRX-1140 is a 11CH AV receiver rated at 140wpc x 5 (Class AB) and 60wpc x 6 (Class D) with up to 15.2 channels of processing. It isn’t the most powerful AV receiver you can buy in it’s price class but we guarantee it’s among the easiest to set up and get great sound out of the box with the least amount of fuss or calibration expertise required. This is largely due to the excellent PC user interface and incredible ARC Genesis Room Correction system that has been refined over the years. The latest version of ARC Genesis does a stellar job at phase aligning your speakers with your subs to get a seamless blend that just works at making your system sound fully integrated with no holes in the bass between your main LCRs and sub(s). ARC Genesis is run remotely from a laptop or PC on the same network freeing you from the tether of a microphone cable attachment to the AVR like most of its competitors. This allows installers to calibrate the AVR even if it’s not in the same room as the display device or attached speaker system. The MRX-1140 has a squeaky clean preamp out section making it the ultimate AV processor should you decide to later level up power and repurposeÂ the internal Class AB amps to power your height channels or another zone of audio. Anthem ARC Genesis may not be as tweakable as DIRAC or Audyssey MultiEQ-X PC but in our experience, it consistently gives the best results with the least fuss. This is perfect for an enthusiast that wants great sound without worrying about doing independent set up analysis using REW measurement software. Because the MRX-1140 uses a mix of Class AB and Class D amps, this unit runs very cool when rack mounted and has performed flawlessly in our testing in the AH SmartHome powering our Klipsch/JL Audio 5.2.2 Master Bedroom System. Gamers rejoice as Anthem has recently upgraded their latest AVR and AV Processor platforms to 8K HDMI support.
AV Separates Recommendation: If you have your own external amplification already to power your system, consider the AVM70 15.2CH 8K AV Processor which shares a similar platform to the MRX1140 AV receiver but with a full compliment of balanced preamp outputs.
Anthem ARC Genesis Youtube Review discussion
Yamaha AVENTAGE RX-A6A | Review | Buy Now
The Yamaha RX-A6A has a face only a mother could love. Despite its ridiculously oversized volume control that screams “look at me” and it’s cheap plastic wrap (what were they thinking?); this AVR is a true beast tipping the scale at 41lbs. Its solid frame construction and large power supply makes it one of the most powerful AVR’s of 2022 rated at 150wpc x 9 with 11.2CH of processing prowess. The RX-A6A welcomes 4-ohm speakers as our bench testing and 2CH listening tests proved. The RX-A6A sounded more like our 2021 POY Award winning Denon A-110 Integrated amp and less like a typical Atmos AV receiver. We paired the RX-A6A with speakers in the AH SmartHome ranging from the venerable Paradigm Premier 800F to the Revel F-328Be and were delighted at just how meaty and powerful the amp section sounded. YPAO has been improved in the latest AVENTAGE AV line up but it’s still no match for Anthem ARC Genesis. However, IF you’re a tweaker, you’ll appreciate the 7-band PEQ function supported on every channel (including the dual independent subwoofer outputs). Yamaha includes MusicCAST which is a pretty awesome music management solution and we dig the Yamaha proprietary Surround-AI DSP processing for listening to Dolby Atmos movie program material. The RX-A6A also has a pair of balanced XLR analog inputs and 2CH pre outputs (rare for an AV receiver), though we doubt you will need to use the preouts for any but the most power demanding speakers. We challenge you to find a better built, powerhouse AV receiver at this price. Go ahead, we’ll wait for your comments on this.
Yamaha RX-A6A YouTube Review Discussion
Best Power Amplifier
NAD M23 | Review | Buy Now
It’s not often that we measure a product that is so low in noise and distortion that it forces us to improve our very own test rig to more accurately measure just how good it is. The NAD M23 is such a product and it’s a truly State of the Art (SOTA) design employing a Class D Purifi 1ET400A reference design to push the envelope of performance and efficiency. Weighing just a tad over 21lbs, this 200 wpc x 2 stereo amp can double down with halving load impedance and be bridged to get 1kwatt of power as a monoblock.Â
NAD doesn’t just shoehorn an OEM amp module into a fancy chassis, they manufacture their own version with a custom-designed input stage and high efficient regulated SMPS power supply. This is quite a lot of effort on
part to build a reference amplifier from the ground up and absolutely worthy of praise and admiration. The Purifi Eigentakt circuit shares with Bruno Putzeysâ€™
previous designs (UcD and Ncore) the use of full global feedback. This means
all of the loop gain is used for the entire circuit, including the output
filter. The end result is a high efficient load invariant amplifier that performs consistently excellent regardless of the loudspeaker load impedance it drives.
In our testing, we confirmed NAD
managed to get most of the ultra-low distortion performance out of the Purifi
amplifier module making it a truly SOTA design that has pushed the envelope of performance
and what we can expect from Class D amplification. NAD has proven to us that linear
amps are becoming a relic of the past and itâ€™s time to embrace the future of Class
D amplification that offers both superior efficiency and performance! In almost
every category of performance, the M23 produced some of the best measurements we’ve ever seen to date regardless of amplifier topology or price in Audioholics 23+ year history.
NAD M23 Stereo Amplifier YouTube Review
In our listening tests, we found the M23 presented a very neutral
tonality with extremely low noise floor that extracted all of the micro
details in high resolution recordings. The M23 felt right at home
driving our Perlisten St7
and Revel F328Be towers never losing composure. Home theater
enthusiasts rejoice as NAD also offers a 7CH version called the M28
which is rated at 200wpc x 7 for $5,499. If you’re looking to build the
highest performance two-channel or home theater system, these NAD
amplifiers will serve you well IF you’ve got the budget and IF you
choose a matching preamp/processor that is worthy of such a clean signal
path. The fit and finish on the M23 is top notch with a high pride of
ownership factor for any audiophile to proudly show off this engineering
Editorial Note: It was discovered that our preliminary review unit which failed under short-circuit testing was a result of a small production run of amp modules with insufficient trace thicknesses in the power stage. NAD has identified this issue to resolve on future production runs.
Best Tower Speakers
Polk Audio Reserve R700 | Review | Buy
Yes, we know that we reviewed the Polk Audio R700 in 2021, not 2022, but it was late in the year, and we had already handed out the Product-of-the-Year awards before we published that review, so we’ll make an exception. And it is an exceptional tower speaker! It became our new favorite for tower speakers in the $2k/pair price range thanks to its linearity, low-frequency extension, and build quality. There just isnâ€™t anything that it does wrong, and there are lots of pricier tower speakers that canâ€™t touch its sound quality or build quality. The R700s are very accurate on and off-axis, so the listening area gets good coverage with a high-fidelity sound. It is a tower speaker that can easily get by without a subwoofer thanks to its two beefy 8â€ bass drivers and Polkâ€™s new iteration of their Power Port technology. And its hefty 80lbs. weight comes from a robust enclosure that has extraordinary solidity for its price range. We have reviewed other more expensive tower speakers in 2022 that had higher audio performance and build quality (ie. Paradigm Founder 100F and Perlisten Rt7), but the R700 gets our Product-of-the-Year award for the sheer value it presents- how can Polk offer such a good speaker for such a low price?
Since Polk doesn’t have a dedicated 3-way center channel, we recommend their Legend L400 which is an incredible performer that will provide smooth consistent sound across a wide seating area thanks to it’s W(T/M)W vertical driver arrangement and it’s a very good sonic match to the R700s.
Polk Audio R700 YouTube Review Discussion
Heco Aurora 1000 | Review | Buy Now
MSRP: $1,600/pair ($1,188/pair sale price)
We have to give an honorable mention here to the HECO Aurora 1000 speakers as a very close runner-up. In fact, we had a lengthy debate among the Audioholics editorial staff about which should get the Product-of-the-Year award since the Aurora 1000s also have outstanding linearity as well as dynamic range and is less expensive than the R700s. In the end, we feel that the R700â€™s great build quality and deeper bass extension does make it worth the price difference, but that would be partially negated by those who are going to incorporate the speakers in systems that have subwoofers. Loudspeaker shoppers canâ€™t go wrong with either one, and they’re both tremendous values.
Heco Aurora 1000 Tower Speakers
Best Active Speakers
Sigberg Audio SBS.1 | Review |Â Buy Now
We didnâ€™t end up reviewing many bookshelf speakers in 2022, but even if we had, there is an overwhelming likelihood that the Sigberg Audio SBS.1 would have taken the Product-of-the-Year award for stand-mount speakers thanks to its innovative design and extraordinarily high fidelity. The SBS.1 is an active loudspeaker system with state-of-the-art components at every point in its design. It has a world-class amplifier with cutting-edge digital signal processing combined with high-end drivers that results in a small loudspeaker with a huge sound. It is not an inexpensive speaker, but buyers are getting their moneyâ€™s worth in this speaker that leverages new advances in technology that pushes the envelope in getting a serious hi-fi sound system without needing to set aside a lot of space for huge speakers and extensive equipment rack. The SBS.1 speakers do require a subwoofer, but the nice thing about that is that there is a lot more flexibility in where a subwoofer can be placed in-room as opposed to some large tower speakers. Sigberg Audio offers their 10D Subwoofer that does compliment the SBS.1 speakers nicely on account of its power-to-size ratio, but buyers who already have a good sub or two can save on the cost of a new subwoofer since the SBS.1s can be easily integrated into any good system. But the subs you choose better be good, because one of the extraordinary aspects of the SBS.1 is its shocking dynamic range for its size. These are modestly-sized bookshelf speakers that attempt to match the dynamics of full-size tower speakers, and, with the aid of a good sub (or preferably two), they can do just that.
Anyone looking for a big sound without a correspondingly big system has a terrific option with Sigberg Audioâ€™s SBS.1.
Â Sigberg Audio SBS.1 Youtube Review Discussion
Best Budget Subwoofer
RSL Speedwoofer 10S MKII | Review | Buy Now
MSRP: $449 (includes shipping)
The rising cost of living is seemingly pushing a really killer sound system out of reach for more people than ever before, but the good news is that RSL Speakers is fighting back that tide with its small but mighty Speedwoofer 10S MKII. The Speedwoofer 10S MKII is a beautifully balanced budget subwoofer that has no serious deficits for its price range. Itâ€™s a punchy sub that stays composed at high drive levels and can somehow reach well below 30Hz in spite of its modest size. It powers a muscular 10â€ woofer with a 400-watt amplifier in a ported enclosure with a unique tuning system. In our listening, we thought it sounded larger than anyone would have expected of a subwoofer of its size, and it rocked for both movies and music applications. The original Speedwoofer turned out to be a great sub when we reviewed it years ago, but the MKII improves upon it in every aspect without significantly raising the price. It is unusually well-built for its price range, and its enclosure is sturdy and inert. Users who want to avoid extraneous wire in their room can option a wireless adapter for a $50 surcharge, a very reasonably priced accessory considering that most wireless subwoofer adapters run north of $100. We would encourage anyone looking for a sub in its price range to give it a try since RSL offers a 30-day home trial period. It is a phenomenal value in its segment.
Â RSL Speedwoofer 10S MKII YouTube Review Discussion
Best High-End Subwoofer
Perlisten Audio R212s | Review | Buy Now
For those subwoofer shoppers who arenâ€™t as constrained by a tight budget, we spent time with a real treat this year in the Perlisten R212s. It is not a cheap sub, but what buyers get is a sub that has no shortcomings. The R212s is an ultra-linear subwoofer that pumps out tightly controlled soundwaves that are nearly a one-to-one match with the input signal. It adds or subtracts nothing. It can produce about as much dynamic range may be physically possible from its medium-sized cabinet. It uses a 1.3kW amplifier to power two extremely high-performance 12â€ drivers in a unique push-pull configuration with dramatically lowers harmonic distortion. Powerful digital signal processing monitors a multitude of parameters in real-time to ensure strictly accurate sound reproduction. It boasts what may be the most advanced feature-set of any sub with extensive controls that are granted to the user via a smartphone app or a top-mounted LCD touch-screen display. The enclosure itself is built like a boulder and feels like one too, although it looks gorgeous with a high-end gloss finish and a satin front baffle with perfectly rounded edges. In our listening, its combination of tactile feel along with a crisp transient response made for some very addictive listening sessions. Its $5k price tag puts it out of reach for a lot of folks, but those looking for an uncompromised sound system with the budget to afford it can have one of the most advanced subwoofers on Earth in the R212s.
Â Perlisten Audio R212s YouTube Review Discussion
Best Wireless ANC Headphones
Focal Bathys | Review | Buy
yearâ€™s most impressive headphones also happen to be wireless, this is
because 2022 will be remembered as year-one for the high-end luxury wireless headphone market. 2022 was the year that high-end manufacturers finally released products that incorporate new high-band Bluetooth codecs
in headphone designs worthy of their brands. And Focal went all-in with
Bathys. Bathys puts Focalâ€™s distinctive wearable style in a headphone
with sound quality that you can enjoy on your own terms, wired or
unwired. Theyâ€™re not exactly lightweight as far as wireless headphones
go at 350-grams (.77-lbs), nor can Bathys be worn discreetly. The
distinct Focal style integrated into Bathys is a stand-out anytime you
wear them outside.
This is Focalâ€™s first wireless headphone that
incorporates Active Noise Cancelling and its high-end driver that it
makes in France. Focal rebuilt its Al/Mg M-dome driver with formerless
voice coil for energy efficiency and lightness, and tuned it to make the
most of Qualcommâ€™s Bluetooth aptX Adaptive stream. Bathys brings
Focalâ€™s signature detail and punchy dynamic-range into the spacious
acoustic isolation of its noise cancelling technology. The result lets
you hear your source rather than the world outside the earcups, and it
does so without letting ANC narrow frequency range or soundstage. My
only criticism is that Iâ€™d have liked to hear Bathys in wireless-mode
without any ANC at all, but perhaps thatâ€™s a possibility in a future
firmware and app revision.
One point of interest that makes Bathys entirely unique is DAC Mode.
This setting lets you connect directly to a USB source, bypassing the
wireless codec altogether. Itâ€™s the most pure listening experience
possible with Bathys and it’s reminiscent of hearing Focalâ€™s Radiance
headphones using a Naim DAC/Amp.
Best Budget Wireless ANC Headphones
Monolith M1000ANC | Review | Buy
MSRP: $130 ($80 sale price)
actually feel bad for Monoprice (makers of Monolith, Monoprice’s
premium line) recommending its M1000ANC headphones, because at just $80
(on sale from $130) youâ€™re practically stealing them. The M1000ANC is an
over ear, noise cancelling wireless headphone with active noise
cancelling and Diracâ€™s Viruto DSP. Dirac provides 3D audio capability
that adapts to Dolby Atmos and Apple Spatial Audio while extending the
soundfield in any two-channel or mono source. The headphones are
constructed with a tough plastic shell with no-stick faux-leather
earpads that keeps them light on the head at only 263-grams (9.3-oz). In
true Monoprice design, M1000ANC are understated in flat-black and its
minimalist contours look clean and free of complex control buttons. The
only design flourish is a subdued Monoprice logo on each earcup that
adds just a hint of gloss. Unlike Bathys, M1000ANC will let you travel
incognito because they blend in anywhere.
Rather than control buttons, Monolith 1000ANC uses touch and gesture
controls on the outer shell of the right earcup. A finger-swipe here, a
tap there and you’ll quickly find basic music app controls simple and
intuitive. While touch controls aren’t my favorite method of control,
I’m happy to report that these work consistently. Just make sure your
fingertips are clean and dry.
The sound quality is stellar enough with Dirac disabled, I was
thoroughly impressed with how M1000ANC sounds through the Bluetooth V5
SBC pipe. Add Dirac to the mix and youâ€™ll eke out a little more
soundstage and imaging while buffing out the frequency range. The result
is like listening to headphones costing multiples of Monopriceâ€™s asking
price. The compact unassuming design hides a beast of a 40-mm driver
inside each earcup that can crash, bang and boom all the way down to
20-Hz, all with a serviceable but optional noise cancelling that blocks
up to 35-dB of ambient noise.
Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Rocksteady Stadium Subwoofer | Review | Buy
MSRP: $200 ($159 sale price)
Two years ago I reviewed a pair of Rocksteady Stadium (RSS) wireless speakers.
Iâ€™d heard some surprisingly good portable Bluetooth speakers before,
but these had a unique twist. The RSS system can create a Bluetooth
stereo network for an unlimited number of separate RSS speakers
connected to your device. It was an impressive first for me to hear two
relatively small 2.2-lbs battery-powered bookshelf speakers provide
midrange detail and a stereo soundstage. They became my go-to for music
or podcasts when away from my main sound system. The only
criticism I had owes to the small size of the speakers.
They just lacked the oomph in the low-end. Well, the Rocksteady Stadium
system has added a micro-sub designed to fill out the Rocksteady Stadium
bookshelf speakerâ€™s sound for a true 2.1 audio system you can take
Rocksteady Stadium Micro-Sub + Bookshelf
Itâ€™s the first portable, powered and wireless micro-sub weighing in at
only 5.5-lbs but somehow feels heavier than its appearance would
suggest. At only 8.6-inches wide, 6-inches high and only 4-inches deep,
its rectangular face is dominated by an oval driver backed up by a bass
drum. It has enough power to shake up a mid-sized room as it radiates
peak-bass inside about a 6-foot circle around the sub that can reach all the way down 30-Hz, although most of its power is limited to just around 100Hz. Like any sub, thereâ€™s a
lot to be gained from positioning. Placed near walls or corners and you
can augment the boom throughout the room for higher volumes. Or you can
leave it sitting wide-open for its tightest bass response. The independent volume control lets you set it up to only subtly
fill-in the low-end or crank it up to really bring the bass to the
fore. Because itâ€™s part of the RSS system, there’s no limit to the
number of speakers and subs you can add to create your own soundscapes
in any space. Their size and flexibility adds an element of fun to placement, listening and then repositioning to
optimize various acoustic qualities. A listening
session with the Rocksteady Stadium 2.1 system always surpasses
expectations from portable speakers. The sub and bookshelf speakers have
the same 16-hour battery life when fully charged, so you
can keep the music going.
Best Budget Soundbar
Roku Streambar Pro | Review | Buy Now
MSRP: $199 ($508 for entire 5.1 system)
What if I told you that for under $200 you could buy a sound bar with sound performance beyond its price point; a built-in 4K Roku streamer; expandable to a completely wireless, high octane 5.1 system; and sports high-tech features you only find in more expensive sound bars? Well, you can with the Roku Stream Bar Pro. Roku has, shall we say, â€œraised the barâ€ for performance and value with this package that wowed us (and other reviewers too).
At 32-inches wide the Roku Streambar Pro is a perfect fit for under TV or wall-mounted installations. Rokuâ€™s Streambar Pro will upgrade any TVâ€™s audio to a cinematic experience with powerful streaming options thanks to a built-in Roku 4K streamer for a compact, all-in-one solution.Â Perhaps best of all, the Streambar Pro is expandable to accommodate Rokuâ€™s Wireless subwoofer and up to two pairs of Rokuâ€™s wireless speakers for a full-on 5.1 wireless surround sound experience with zero latency. Howâ€™s that for being aesthetically friendly?
The Streambar Pro includes a voice-controlled remote, The Streambar is made for streaming with 802.11ac Wi-Fi for ultra-fast, stable connectivity. An HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 with ARC or Toslink optical digital input give you options to connect to modern or legacy TVs.Â Youâ€™ll find HDR10 and HLG HDR support though Dolby Vision, HDR 10+ and HDG+ arenâ€™t available. The Streambar Pro will upscale 720p content to 1080p and has full support for PCM and Dolby Audio.
Roku Streambar Pro Soundbar YouTube Review
Along with the power and feature set of the on-board 4K Roku streamer,
the Streambar Pro also supports Apple Airplay and Bluetooth, giving you
almost endless connectivity and streaming options. If youâ€™re in the
market for a high-value, high-octane, wireless sound bar and surround
sound solution, then Roku just might be the best thing to put under your
For most of us it’s been a better year than the last two, even if recovering from a global pandemic is a rather low bar. As you’ve seen in our picks, it’s been a great year for great sound and based on the current trajectory it’s only going to get better. The industry has brought us new AV systems that push the high-end to
new heights while technology found in budget systems are bringing
ever-increasing value. Some of this year’s leading-edge audio tech will become standard practice in coming years, allowing the industry to spread the joy of fine audio at ever-more affordable prices. We hope that combination creates growth in audio, even if that growth appears to us in unexpected new ways.
We hope you’ve had a great year and all of us at Audioholics wish you, your families and friends all the peace and joy befitting this holiday season. And may we all find peace in the coming 2023. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all us to all of you.
PS. Feel free to comment in the related forum thread IF you agree with our choices or wish to suggest alternatives in each category based on your experiences.
*For your convenience, we’ve included links to our affiliate partners such as Amazon and Audio Advice to buy some of these products. As an Amazon and Audio Advice associate, Audioholics.com benefits from qualifying purchases.