The December/January 2020 issue of WiFi HiFi Magazine included our top 100 tech picks for 2019. And to devise this list, each member of the team submitted their favourite gear of the year. Here are John Thomson's top product picks of 2019.
Shure MV88+ Video Kit
I've used this kit and had the pleasure of sitting down for a podcast interview with someone who uses it as well. It's super-easy to use for someone just starting out in podcasting or vidcasting. The kit includes a portable microphone and accessory kit along with a Manfrotto PIXI tripod, phone clamp, and mount, along with iOS and USB-C cables; and has a headphone jack. Built on the success and classic design of the MV88 iOS Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone, it's good for content creators, field recordists, and even musicians looking to record immersive, high-quality audio. Use it for standalone audio capture, replacing the need to carry a portable audio recorder. MAP $329
Goldnote DS-10 D/A Converter
This clever DAC is a converter, UPnP and DLNA streamer, and headphone amp in one. It features DAC BurrBrown converters that allow for a connection to a TV or DVD player, or audio streaming via PC; and can convert files from USB flash memory and network connection. Use the Gold Note app to access every function of the device right from your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. Plus, it's compatible with pretty much every service out there for listening to tunes, including Roon, Tidal, Qobuz, Airplay, Spotify, Deezer, and V-Tuner, in DSD, PCM, and MQA formats. $4,000
NAD Electronics Masters Series M10 Streaming Amplifier
This BluOS-enabled high-performance streaming amplifier offers audiophile sound or can be combined with other players in a BluOS ecosystem of wirelessly networked music players throughout the home for a whole-home audio system. It offers Dirac Live Room Correction, has inputs for analog and digital audio sources, an HDMI Audio Return Channel, and is compatible with leading smart home systems from companies like Apple, Crestron, Control4, and Lutron. It supports MQA files, along with over 15 free and paid subscription services, as well as locally stored music libraries. Play music from the Internet, including Apple AirPlay 2, sync rooms or play different music in different rooms. Completely operable by Wi-Fi connection to the BluOS app, the M10 also has an elegant, high resolution TFT colour touch screen; or get hands-free control of music from any Amazon Alexa supported device or via Siri. An IR remote control is also included. MSRP $3,299
Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus True Wireless Earphones
The second generation version of these popular true wireless earphones offers a number of technical improvements, including an impressive 40-hour battery life (when using the charging case - that's three times the battery life of the first-gen ‘phones), Bluetooth 5.0, dual beamforming noise reduction mic arrays, and 10mm custom Beryllium drivers. Play music or make calls using either the left or right earphone independently if you so choose. Ambient Listening Mode provides situational awareness when desired, while Feedforward ANC reduces background noise. Available in tortoiseshell, steel blue, or white marble, and with five sizes of eartips and three sizes of patent-pending Fit Wings, they come with the equally beautiful charging case that's made from hand-polished stainless steel. Package it all up in your briefcase in the soft pouch. About $300
Bluesound Gen Node 2i Wireless Music Streamer
Technically introduced towards the end of 2018, this streamer can be added to any existing stereo system to add streaming capability through online streaming services, Internet radio, and your own digital music library stored on a computer, smartphone, or external drive. It has digital and analog input/output options, headphone stereo mini jack, and subwoofer RCA mono, and can be set up easily using the BluOS Controller app and controlled through the app as well as the new RC1 remote controller. It can also be connected to an Amazon Echo via the Alexa skill so you can use Alexa to control it by voice. It also works with AirPlay 2 for playing music or podcasts from wireless stereo components throughout the house, all in sync. Black or white, $649
This device isn't new, but its ability to accept debit chip and PIN purchases as well as credit is, and it's a huge boon for small businesses and sole proprietors selling goods from their homes, small storefronts, shows, events, and pop-up venues. To pay, customers tap the card to the device or insert a chip card into the side and enter their four-digit PIN. Merchants are charged 2.65% per major credit card transaction and $0.10 per Interac chip and PIN or tap payment and receive funds the next business day. It works with any debit or credit card transaction under $100 using tap and over $100 using chip and PIN. Square Reader for magstripe is included should you come across a customer who doesn't have a chip and PIN-enabled card. It works with Apple and Android devices via Bluetooth LE, and the free Square app. $59
Cube Audio Nenuphar Single Driver Loudspeaker
This sleek and sexy loudspeaker is based on Cube Audio F10 Neo drivers combined with a TQWT enclosure. Modern and elegant in design in a piano black or white finish, all drivers and loudspeakers from the company are handmade in Poland. Designed for rooms anywhere from 20 to 40 square meters in size, they can be a perfect match for a tube amp, and can be positioned in a room tilted forward or resting against a back wall, with about 5-10 degrees of toe-in. $18,900/pr.
Yamaha GT-5000 Turntable
This turntable, dubbed a "modern day classic," will bring you back to the golden age of hifi. It has a pure straight and short arm that provides transparency and openness in sound, says Yamaha, balanced signal path, and design that's reminiscent of the GT heritage. With a 5kg aluminum platter and customized belt-drive mechanism, it also comes with specially designed feet that are heavy-duty yet luxurious in their look and feel. Available in early 2020 in a sleek piano black finish that might remind you of a Yamaha grand piano, it will be the centrepiece of any room. US$8,000
Audiolab 6000N Play Network Audio Player
This beautifully designed network audio player adds wireless streaming to any high-quality audio system. It features DTS Play-Fi wireless audio, allowing you to stream from any source on your network, including smartphones, tablets, PCs and Macs, NAS drives, and music servers using the dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi. It also connects wirelessly with other Play-Fi-equipped devices for a synchronized multi-room set-up. Access tunes from all of the popular Internet music services and listen at up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution without transcoding or down-sampling. It has a high-quality DAC and six preset buttons for quick access to your favourite stations and playlists. Black or silver, $750
Triangle AI03 Wireless Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Speaker
This French company has created a gorgeous-sounding Bluetooth and Wi-Fi network player that comes wrapped in a cloth finish and colours that you'd expect to find in a beach house - pastel green and baby blue are my two favourites. It represents Euro design at its best! Being able to connect wirelessly via both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi makes it versatile; you can use the Triangle AIO application to connect up to 12 devices and play music throughout the home. It has optical, RCA 3.5mm, and USB A inputs on the back, and offers great-sounding audio through two 25mm silk dome tweeters and a pair of 10cm midwoofers. About $800
Devialet Phantom Reactor Portable Wireless Speaker
As the baby sister to the Phantom Gold, coming in at 25% of the original's size, this speaker still packs the same "bass-y" punch in its much smaller form factor. The Reactor is the first Devialet product to eliminate the need for a hub to pair multiple speakers. You can choose from the 600-watt, 95dB SPL 600 model for $1,450 in a black or white finish, or the 900 model that offers 900 watts and 98dB SPL for $1,850 in the same finish options. Both include Airplay, Bluetooth, and Spotify Connect, along with optical cable, analog, and UPnP.
Totem KIN Play, Play Mini Speakers
What started as a single pair of speakers with a matching sub called the KIN Mini has morphed into a full lifestyle brand with a KIN Amp along with active speakers and soundbars. The latest addition is the KIN Play Mini, a plug-and-play compact powered two-way bookshelf speaker that includes all the same features as its bigger sister, but in a more compact package. It's designed for use with source devices like computers, gaming consoles, smartphones, turntables, and other digital or analog audio components, and features analog and digital inputs, a built-in phono preamplifier, and 70-watt RMA per channel amplifier. It's a great new direction to add to the Totem legacy and introduce a younger audience to great sound. MSRP $850 (KIN Play Mini), satin black or white.
Samsung Serif 4K Smart TV
A beauty to behold, this display contains all of the processing power you would expect from a Samsung Smart TV with the added flair of great retro design. It's as close as you will get to a mid-century modern-influenced TV. Designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec in conjunction with Samsung, it boasts QLED technology and comes in a 55" size. A neat feature: just place an NFC-enabled Android-based smartphone up to the TV and you can instantly play music through it. It also includes Samsung's Ambient Mode that lets you turn a black screen into a work of art when you're not watching TV. US$2,000
PSB M4U TW1 True Wireless In-Ear Headphones
PSB has managed to offer its signature sound in a pair of true wireless in-ear headphones. They offer a terrific four-hour battery life and design that makes them perfect and securely fitting for long runs: the over-ear wing design and silicone ear tips guarantee a perfect, no slip fit. With advanced A2DP Bluetooth wireless technology, they have convenient touch and tap controls for music and managing calls; and will advise when you're paired or running low on battery via voice prompts. They're also IPX5 water-resistant so you can wear them in the rain or during intense and sweaty workouts. $199
Goal Zero YETI 1000 Portable Power Station
With 1,000 watts of power, this generator provides enough juice to run power tools, a fridge, and all your mobile devices without any fossil fuels burned and zero noise. It has a patent-pending 1,500-watt AC inverter, silent lithium battery, four USB ports, two AC outlets, and a 12V output. The display shows a runtime/recharge time estimator, battery level monitor, and output/input meter. Add a Goal Zero 100-watt solar panel to charge the generator, and you have power anywhere you need it. About $1,700.
Pioneer AVIC-W6400NEX In-Dash Navigation AV Receiver
This receiver has a 6.2" WVGA touchscreen display and Apple CarPlay, AppRadio Mode for Android and iPhones, Wi-Fi-certified Miracast compatibility for wireless mirroring, Siri voice control, and Sirius satellite radio access (with a subscription). I turned a 50-year-old vehicle into a state-of-the-art tech maven capable of hands-free calling and real time traffic navigation with this fabulous device. Getting to Woodstock could never be easier. $1,300