Sunday, October 24, 2021

Hall of Fame: The Best Tech Products of the 2020s

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This project from Beyond Hi-Fi was designed for an empty-nester couple that was downsizing to a condo. To ensure that the tech and the terrific waterfront view complemented one another, the integrator worked closely with the design and build team from the very beginning.

In 2016 What Hi-Fi? celebrated its 40th anniversary. To mark the occasion we picked our 40 most influential products from those four decades.

Beyond Hi-Fi says they kept an “emphasis on maximizing the view, while minimizing visible technology.”

We’ve been adding a new product to our Hall of Fame every year since as part of the annual What Hi-Fi? Awards. Here are our most recent choices from the 2020s…

And the WH-1000XM4 are the best example yet, continuing the company’s dominance of the category in fine style.

Sony has come to dominate our headphone category in recent years, perfecting not only the art of true wireless earbuds, most recently with the WF-1000XM4, but also the business of over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones.

Sony didn’t need to reimagine the design but with the XM4s it did manage to make them slightly lighter while increasing the size of the pads for a more comfortable fit.

Noise-cancelling technology and the ability to adjust the level of ambient sound were still on board, while there was also Sony’s LDAC tech for higher-quality wireless audio quality.

Sony moved from the DSEE HX to DSEE Extreme processor, promising better delivery of lower-quality files, while there was also support for 360 Reality Audio. Elsewhere the battery life was boosted and Sony promised an improvement to the noise-cancelling. Crucially, the overall sound quality continued to keep ahead of the pack. Despite an increasingly competitive market, the XM4 headphones continue to set the pace for timing, dynamics, punch and entertainment.

They’re simply the best sound-per-pound wireless noise-cancelling headphones we’ve had the pleasure of hearing. The XM4s become the third pair of headphones to make our Hall of Fame (following the Sennheiser HD600 from 1998 and the Bose QuietComfort 15, 2009) and are the perfect poster child for what has become one of the most popular product categories in the tech world.

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