November is over and what a month it was. Not only did we reveal the Product of the Year winners at the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2023 for each category, we also contended with the annual deals bonanza that is Black Friday.
As a final treat, before we go into full-on festive mode, we have one more present for you – our latest Pick of the Month column.
In it, we detail the top-performing products that earned a perfect five-star score after passing through our test rooms over the past month. And it’s been a particularly competitive 30 days with only five products impressing our team of reviewers to five-star success and guaranteeing an appearance in this column.
Without further delay, here are the What Hi-Fi? review team’s top picks for November 2023.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones
Bose is a big name in headphones, with its latest wireless sets constantly impressing us during testing. And this remained the case with the firm’s new QuietComfort Ultra Headphones over ears. Unveiled alongside the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds (also five stars) and the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar in September, the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are being pitched as a rival to the premium Apple AirPods Max and feature Bose’s own take on Spatial Audio.
And while our reviewers aren’t completely convinced about the perks of Spatial Audio for music in its current state, our testing showed the QuietComfort Ultra to be an excellent set of wireless over-ears. Active Noise Cancelling proved to be close to best in class and more than effective enough to drown out background office noise and the rumbling of trains on our testers’ morning and evening commute. This, plus their rich, full-bodied sound and punchy delivery, led our reviewers to conclude:
“Bose has brought its ‘A’ game with the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones – they’re expensive, but they also deliver sound quality and noise cancelling straight from the top drawer.”
Read our Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones review
Audiovector QR 7
The Audiovector QR 7 are the latest floorstanding speakers to pass through our test rooms, and while they may be a high-end option, they’re an excellent option for any music fan looking for thundering audio performance.
They feature a three-way design that combines an AMT (Air Motion Transformer) tweeter to a 15cm midrange and a pair of 20cm bass drivers, with a downward-firing port. These speakers are also designed to be relatively undemanding to drive and their easy-going nature means that during the testing period, our reviewers were able to partner them with a wide variety of amplifiers and sources.
Most of all, the performance is excellent, with the speakers delivering impressive scale and authority while proving surprisingly unfussy around matching. This led our experts to conclude:
“In our opinion, the Audiovector QR 7 represent a lot of ability for the money. They do all the things big speakers are expected to do but combine that with levels of finesse, resolution and insight that aren’t common.”
Read our Audiovector QR 7 review
iFi hip-dac 3
As the name would suggest, this is the third generation of iFi’s line of flask-shaped DACs and, based on our testing, a great purchase for any music fan.
The DAC has a new “Titanium Shadow” finish and reworked internal circuitry that aims to reduce signal distortion. Battery life has also been raised to 12 hours and a new PowerMatch button is added. The latter changes the internal amp’s gain for easier headphone matching.
But on to the more important question, how does it sound? Based on our testing, very impressive. During our review, we found the iFi hip-dac 3 constantly delivered a pleasingly smooth, well-balanced sound regardless of which headphones we paired it with. This led our reviewers to conclude:
“Smart, versatile and a pleasure to listen to, the third-gen iFi hip-dac 3 enhances your audio experience with a sonic profile that feels lively and energetic without ever becoming unrestrained or unwieldy. Like your favourite tipple, it really hits the spot.”
Read our iFi hip-dac 3 review
The Panasonic MZ1500B is the middle child in the Japanese tech giant’s current OLED line, sitting above the MZ980, but below the flagship MZ2000. This makes it a direct rival to the Sony A80L, which picked up the TV Product of the Year accolade at the 2023 What Hi-Fi? Awards mere weeks ago.
While we still recommend the A80L to most people, the MZ1500B is an incredibly accomplished set, that delivers the understated “as the director intended” picture we’ve come to expect from Panasonic. This, plus its intuitive software and good, but not great, inbuilt speaker system, make it a great option for any fan of Panasonic TVs and led our testers to conclude:
“The step-down OLED in the company’s 2023 lineup delivers the same authentic, understated picture quality Panasonic’s become famous for in recent years. During all our checks, colours and motion all hold a wonderful authenticity that makes for a wonderful viewing experience, especially if you want to experience movies as the director intended.”
Read our Panasonic MZ1500B review
The MZ2000 is the second Panasonic TV to earn a place in this month’s Pick of the Month. It’s the most expensive OLED in the company’s current line and a direct rival to the Sony A95L and LG G3. Key differences between it and the MZ1500 are its use of brightness-boosting Micro Lens Array (MLA) screen tech and a more powerful Technics-tuned internal speaker system.
As was the case with the MZ1500, though the MZ2000 impressed during testing it didn’t quite perform well enough to fully dethrone the Sony A95L as the top option for most people at its price. However, for cinephiles who value authenticity, it is a fantastic five-star option, which is why our testers concluded:
“Be in no doubt, though – this is a superb TV that delivers the authenticity for which Panasonic is renowned with an extra hit of bright impact, plus a weighty, solid sonic presentation.”
Read our Panasonic MZ2000 review
These are the best floorstanding speakers we’ve reviewed
Here are our picks of the best OLED TVs
Check out our picks of the best DACs