We enjoy reviewing iPhone docks and headphones just fine, but what really gets our blood pumping is home theater and home audio gear. This year saw some major improvements in LED TVs and some new audio components which completely obliterated preconceived notions about price versus performance. Putting together this best-of 2011 list of A/V gear was a piece of cake because each component, in its own way, stood way out front of the competition as the best of the best. Using this list as a guide, an absolutely first-rate home theater with top-notch music performance, can be assembled for under $10,000.
Make sure to check the rest of our Best of 2011 Awards to see all of this year’s winners.
Sony XBR HX929 Series, $2,500 to $5,400
Best LED TV
Sony’s top-of-the-line XBR LED TVs may have lofty prices, but the XBR’s performance is absolutely first rate. The XBR’s full array of locally dimmed LED backlighting provides tremendous brightness and contrast with black levels that venture well into plasma TV territory. Available in 46-, 54.6- and 64.5-inch models. Be sure to check out our review of this outstanding Sony XBR HX929 LED TV series.
Samsung D8000 Series, $1,700 to $3,000
Best Plasma TV
Samsung’s D8000 Plasmas put out an image so film-like, you may never go to a commercial movie theater again. This TV series also puts out some of the best 3D images we’ve seen, and comes with two free pairs of 3D glasses — a big bonus for 3D fans. Our Samsung D8000 review covers all of the remaining reasons this TV series was a shoe-in for our best-of 2011 list.
Oppo BDP-95, $1,000
Best Blu-ray disc player
Oppo has made quite a name for itself in the past few years, and it’s no wonder with products like the BDP-95. Oppo’s flagship Blu-ray player handles just about everything. Its Blu-ray playback is nearly flawless, and its DVD upconversion is second to none. What really gets us excited over this player, though, is its audiophile features such as balanced XLR outputs, separate DACs for two-channel and 7.1 output, SACD playback and streaming FLAC and WAV support. It’s even got an eSATA port! Our review of the BDP-95 is forthcoming but, as you can likely gather, we’re rather smitten with this player.
Anthem AV MRX 700, $2,000
Best A/V Receiver
The Anthem MRX 700 earned its spot on our best-of 2011 list based almost entirely on its sound quality. While other manufacturers are cramming every feature they can into a single box, Anthem sticks to the simple art of making a great-sounding piece of equipment, leaving the Internet streaming tricks for a component better suited to the task (i.e. Oppo’s BDP-95). While the MRX 700 faces pretty stiff competition from A/V receivers like Pioneer Elite’s SC-57 receiver, it holds its position due to its warm, powerful and revealing sound quality. Check out more in our Anthem AV MRX 700 review.
Aperion Audio Verus Grand Tower XD, $4,000 to $4,600
Best Home Theater Speakers
Aperion Audio’s Verus Grand speakers are the Internet-direct speaker company’s flagship offering, and they truly sound the part. Blessed with a premium, furniture-grade finish, quality components and borne of experienced engineers, the Verus Grand are musically faithful and tremendously life-like. Aperion’s risk-free policy on shipping is also hard to beat: Shipping to your home is included with the purchase price and, if the speakers don’t work out for any reason, Aperion picks up the return shipping tab, too. Keep an eye out for our upcoming Verus Grand tower speaker review.