Product Of The Year Awards 2021: Best Powered & Active Speakers, Best Speakers

As the year wraps up, this is the time when we look back at the best stuff we’ve come across in 2021, awarding them based on several criteria, including value for money, design/build, innovation, and of course superior sound quality!

In this post, we present our 2021 Product Of The Year Award winners for Best Powered/Active Speakers and Best Speakers.

Our winners include a slick pair of wireless floorstanding speakers from DALI which provide all the excitement and verve you expect from them and a smooth-sounding pair of 3-Way bookshelf speakers from Wharfedale that look damn good as well. Check out our winners below!

Best Powered/Active Speakers-Dali Oberon 7C ($1249)

Look Ma! No Wires! Last year, we did a two-part review (see it here and here) of DALI’s OBERON 7 C active floorstanding speaker system ($1249 each), a wireless version of DALI’s sensational OBERON passive speakers. We loved the passive versions when we did that review, so we were pretty excited to hear what their wireless counterparts could do.

After extensive listening, we ended up loving the OBERON 7C system just as much as we loved their passive brethren. Once again the sound was big and immersive, and clicked with any genre we threw at it.

In order to get things going, all you have to do is pick a wireless hub ($899 Dali Sound Hub or $499 Sound Hub Compact) to stream your sources (aptX BT, Wi-Fi Streaming, Digital, Analog), plug both the hub and each tower into the wall, then press the “Link” button on each unit.

From there you are ready to take advantage of the 7C’s 100 watts of Class D power per speaker, with 50 watts going to each 1″ dome tweeter, and each dual pair of 7″ wood-fiber cone woofers.

If you’re wondering about the signal quality, DALI’s proprietary 30-bit protocol transfers an uncompressed Hi-Res digital audio signal to the speakers (up to 24-bit/96 kHz resolution).

On the whole, DALI OBERON 7C is an excellent example of what a good active speaker system has to offer. It’s effortless to set up, has a big and refined sound with an out-of-this-world soundstage. It’s also pretty flexible, especially when you have the Sound Hub equipped with the optional BluOS module. For those who want a no-muss, no-fuss hi-fi system that can do it all, you need to hear the DALI OBERON 7C system!

Best Speakers-Wharfedale EVO4.2 Bookshelf Speakers ($1199)

For listeners who value sharp imaging and immersive depth, you probably can’t do better than the $1200 Wharfedale EVO4.2 Bookshelf Speaker. This large-format 3-way bookshelf speaker with its precise separation and excellent tonal balance provides astounding realism for the price, making it an amazing value.

That said it’s worth mentioning that despite its size, this is not a party speaker. You won’t get a subwoofer-type rumble, but instead, a tasteful thump to punctuate the rhythm. Since the bass is so tight and well-controlled, it may be a little too polite for some, but then they would be missing out on a bonified audiophile experience at a very affordable price.

At the end of the day, the EVO4.2 is a very well-rounded bookshelf speaker that performs well beyond what you would expect for the price point. We’ve compared them with speakers that cost double what these costs and they blew them out of the water. We can’t stress enough that the separation, depth, and Tonal Balance are off the charts!

The $1199/pr Wharfedale EVO4.2 (available at Amazon and Crutchfield) is our favorite speaker for around $1k, and we wholeheartedly recommend it, especially for those with especially revealing gear! (read the full review here)

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