Another year has come and (almost) gone, so it’s time for our annual tally of our favorite home entertainment gear, from Bluetooth speakers and headphones to smart TVs and TV antennas.
In this roundup, we’re ticking off our picks for the best home entertainment products that are available in 2022, so keep in mind that not every product on this list was introduced this year. We’re not going to avoid recommending a great product just because it hit the market earlier than January 1, 2022.
Presenting our picks:
Best smart TV: Samsung S95B TV
The Samsung S95B is a game-changer, featuring Samsung Display’s incredible QD-OLED panel that combines the inky black levels of OLED technology with the saturated and supremely accurate color made possible by quantum dots. With this model, Samsung has redefined the criteria for a top-shelf TV., This just might be the best 4K smart TV ever made.
Best soundbar: LG S95QR
If you’re looking for a soundbar capable of filling your living room with cinema-quality audio, look no further than the LG S95QR. Equipped with five–count ‘em, five–upfiring drivers, the 9.1.5-channel LG S95QR will pepper your listening area with height and surround effects, and it supports the immersive Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio formats. AI-powered room correction adjusts the audio according to your home theater’s acoustics, while Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast allow you to cast music to the soundbar via Wi-Fi. Two HDMI inputs let you connect video sources directly to the LG S95QR (4K video passthrough with Dolby Vision is supported), or you can use the HDMI-eARC interface to receive audio from your TV.
Best noise-cancelling over-ear headphone: Sony WH-1000XM5
Sony’s spectacular WH-1000XM5 headphone doesn’t merely sound good. These noise-cancelling cans positively sing, delivering intoxicating audio performance bolstered by dynamic but refined bass, best-in-class ANC, and support for Sony’s LDAC high-res Bluetooth codec. There’s a transparency mode for letting in ambient noise (just hover your hand over the right ear cup to turn it on), while a “speak to chat” feature pauses your tunes when the built-in microphones detect your voice. Intuitive gesture controls let you adjust the volume, skip tracks, and summon your phone’s voice assistant, among other functions. Finally, the WH-1000XM5 feels surprisingly light, with ear cups that fold flat and a hardtop case that makes the headset easy to store and carry for travel.
Best noise-cancelling in-ear headphone: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Bose pulled out all the stops with its QuietComfort Earbuds II, a breakthrough true wireless earbuds that take the cake when it comes to noise cancellation. Boasting a smaller, lighter design than the original QuietComfort Earbuds, the Earbuds II come with Bose’s CustomTune sound personalization tech that automatically customizes the audio and ANC for each of your ears. Music on the Earbuds II sounds so natural, well balanced, and detailed that you may feel the urge to rediscover your album collection. Even better, the CustomTune-aided noise cancellation works with surgical perfection, screening out ambient sounds without distorting your tunes.
Best Hi-Fi headphone: Focal Utopia (2022)
The Focal Utopia open-back headphone will expose new details in music you only thought you were intimately familiar with. The Utopia features a Beryllium driver. A headband and earpads wrapped in exquisitely soft leather, and lightweight yokes fabricated from recycled carbon fiber make this headphone incredibly comfortable for long listening sessions. And they come with both balanced and unbalanced cables to support high-end headphone amps. Expensive? Oh yeah. But as our record-producer reviewer concluded: “I’ve never heard anything outside of a recording or mastering studio that can reveal the details of a great recording like this headphone can.”
Best portable Bluetooth speaker: Tronsmart T7
The Tronsmart T7 looks good, sounds good, will stand up to a bath, and is affordable enough to deploy in stereo pairs. Its IPX7 rating means it can withstand a dunk in the pool for up to 30 minutes, and while it’s not rated for particulate matter incursion, we wouldn’t have any qualms about taking it to a beach party. It also has a fun to watch LED light ring encircling its volume control knob. Tronsmart might not be as familiar brand as some, but this speaker is a great value.
Best mid-priced Bluetooth speaker: JBL Charge 5
The JBL Charge 5 portable Bluetooth speaker can get incredibly loud for its size–and without distortion, to boot. It’s roughly 9-inch width and 2-pound weight make it easy to stuff in a backpack, and its IP67 weatherization rating mean it’s completely protected from particulate matter and that it can withstand being submerged in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. A 4-hour charge delivers 20 hours of play time, and there’s an onboard USB port that you can tap its battery to charge your mobile phone or portable digital audio player. The JBL Charge 5 sounds fantastic right out of the box, but picky users can fine-tune its audio performance using the three-band equalizer in JBL’s app. This is a great speaker for partying, indoors or out.
Edifier MP230 — Best tabletop Bluetooth speaker
Edifier’s MP230 only looks like it was made in 1965. Inside its retro, mid-century modern enclosure beats the heart of a contemporary Bluetooth speaker that delivers an excellent audio performance–and in stereo, no less! That’s genuine wood veneer over an MDF cabinet, harboring a Texas Instruments TAS5822M amplifier chipset and dual 48mm drivers with a frequency response of 70Hz-13kHz. And if you want to move the speaker from your bedside table to your deck for morning breakfast, you can unplug it and rely on its onboard 2600mAh battery for up to six hours of listening pleasure.
Most elegant wireless speaker: Sonus faber Omnia
Connect Sonus faber’s spectacular Omnia speaker to your Wi-Fi network and stream high-res music from the Apple Music, Qobuz or Tidal music-streaming services or from your own Roon server. This high-end speaker supports Spotify Connect and Bluetooth (with aptX HD compatibility), too, not to mention Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast. All of those connectivity options will make it easy for guests to stream their favorite playlists as well. What’s more, support for digital and analog wired sources mean you can connect your favorite turntable, CD-player, or virtually any other playback device. It’s even equipped with HDMI, if you want to use it as a very high-end soundbar. The Omnia’s beautiful design, high-quality wood finish, and impeccable build quality are a feast for the eyes, even when it’s not playing music.
Best mainstream turntable: Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT-RW
Vinyl has been enjoying such a resurgence that people bought more LPs than CDs in 2021. People love vinyl for countless reasons, but mostly for its warm sound. A high-quality turntable is key to having great listening experience with LPs, but we can’t all drop thousands of dollars on a high-end record player. Audio-Technica’s AT-LPW50BT-RW delivers a ton of value for the money with features like a thick MDF plinth, a die-cast aluminum platter, a carbon fiber tonearm, the company’s own AT-VM95E Dual Moving Magnet phono cartridge, and a built-in phono pre-amp. And for added convenience, it’s outfitted with a Bluetooth radio so you can stream your tunes to your favorite wireless speakers.
Most welcome addition to an ecosystem: Sonos Sub Mini
Sonos finally delivered a smaller and less-expensive subwoofer this year. The Sonos Sub Mini was worth the wait for folks with smaller home theaters or music-listening spaces, and it’s the perfect companion to a Sonos Beam or Sonos Ray soundbar. Pair it with one of those and a set of Sonos SL speakers as surrounds, and you’ll have a fabulous 5.1 surround-sound system that won’t break the bank. Once you’ve enjoyed the enhanced low end that only a great subwoofer can deliver, you’ll never want to listen to music or watch movies without one again.
Best indoor TV antenna: Winegard FlatWave Amped (model FL-5500A)
If you live near a city and you’re frustrated by the spotty reception afforded by your indoor antenna, you should trade up for this one. Designed by the antenna experts at Winegard, the FlatWave Amped antenna is lightweight, easy to install, sturdy, and–most importantly–an ace at picking up channels that its competitors can’t. The FlatWave managed to pull in more channels than our previous champ, and whatsmore, the channels it got came in at a higher signal level, meaning you’re less likely to experience picture breakup. The compact design of the FlatWave Amped takes up a minimum of space on your wall, while the built-in amplifier can be powered by the USB port on the back of your TV.
Best outdoor TV antenna: Antennas Direct DB8e
A large bow-tie antenna, the Antennas Direct DB8e is designed for home dwellers looking to pull in weak and/or distant stations. Essentially two Antennas Direct DB4 antennas mounted on a single boom, the easy-to-assemble DB8e gives you the flexibility to align its twin arrays in either the same or different directions; the former is best for teasing out signals from the weakest stations, while the latter helps for receiving signals from different directions. In our tests, the DB8e received more stations than its competition, and you could always improve its performance with a signal booster.
Wait! There’s more!
Stay tuned for our awards for the best cord-cutting products of the year and the best smart home products of the year, coming next week.