Just before the annual IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, the European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) Awards, featuring more than 20 audio categories have been announced. Winners for 2015-2016 include Hi-Fi, mobile, home-theater and in-car products.
EISA stands for the European Imaging and Sound Association, a unique association of nearly 50 special interest magazines in Hi-Fi, Home Theatre Display & Video, Photography, In-Car Electronics, Home Theatre Audio and Mobile Devices, from 22 European countries.
The European EISA Awards are chosen annually by Expert Groups representing nearly 50 prominent Photography, Hi-Fi, Home Theatre Audio, Home Theatre Display & Video, In-Car Electronics and Mobile Devices magazines from up to 20 European countries. All Expert Groups work separately, but are under contract to the European Imaging & Sound Association.
Every year, each member magazine nominates an initial short-list of products to be considered at the Expert Group’s Awards voting sessions, held during EISA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). Prior to submission, every magazine’s short-list is approved by each title’s Editor-in-Chief. The short-list reflects each magazine’s findings during tests, as well as day to day use, and is based upon the results of each magazine’s standard test procedures.
The annual EISA Awards applaud the new products that combine the most advanced technology, the most desirable features, the ultimate expression of design, the most satisfying ergonomics and, of course, the greatest value for money. In short, EISA recognizes the features most likely to be appreciated by an enthusiast public seeking high quality and creative facilities.
Here is a selection of the EISA Awards 2015-2016 winners in the audio categories.
European Loudspeaker 2015-2016
Bowers & Wilkins CM6 S2
The latest addition to the British brand’s five-strong CM series, the CM6 S2 is the only stand-mount in the line-up to feature ‘Tweeter on Top’ technology, which sees the 25mm tweeter mounted within a decoupled pod atop the main cabinet. The cabinet itself houses a 165mm woven Kevlar bass/midrange driver and is designed to be used with dedicated bolt-on FS-CM2 stands – though self-adhesive rubber feet are provided for those who wish to shelf-mount the speakers. Meanwhile, a rear port with optional foam bung allows for some fine-tuning of the bass. For those with smaller listening rooms who prize a sweet treble, this refined and insightful loudspeaker delivers a sound whose impressive scope and scale belies its diminutive proportions.
European Multiroom System 2015-2016
HEOS by Denon provides all the components needed to piece together a versatile home sound system. Loudspeakers come in a variety of models – the HEOS 1, 3, 5 and 7 – while partnering separates extend to the impressively versatile HEOS Amp and HEOS Link preamp. The HEOS HomeCinema is for placing under your screen as a soundbar, while the HEOS Extend is an ideal way to increase the Wi-Fi reach. The entire system is configured and driven by the HEOS app (iOS and Android), while Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and TuneIn radio are just some of the integrated music services on offer.
European High-End Loudspeaker 2015-2016
Focal Sopra Nº2
Part of a new series of loudspeakers that sits between the company’s Electra and range-topping Utopia models, the Sopra Nº2 uses a 3-way design with Focal’s ‘W-coned’ drivers combining a pair of 18cm woofers, a 16.5cm midrange and one of the company’s tried-and-tested beryllium inverted-dome tweeters. The Sopra Nº2 is the fruit of Focal’s continuing work on magnet and driver suspension design, all aimed at reducing distortion. And that work has paid off: the Sopra Nº2 enchants with a sound that’s by turns spacious and explicit, powerful yet unforced, setting new standards in its category.
European Amplifier 2015-2016
The very model of a modern integrated amplifier, Hegel’s H160 offers a substantial 150W output from an innovative and flexible design that offers both analogue and digital inputs. These include coaxial and optical alongside USB and network connections, the latter supporting both DLNA and Apple’s AirPlay. The H160 is also equipped with a separate line amp, and 6.35mm socket, designed to cope with the most esoteric of headphones.
European Network Media Player 2015-2016
This upmarket digital music player is compatible with numerous sources thanks to its range of conventional coaxial and optical inputs, asynchronous USB and network streaming of files up to 192kHz LPCM and DSD128. The player also supports Apple AirPlay, Spotify Connect and Internet radio. A fascia-mounted USB socket connects to smartphones, tablets and music storage devices to further broaden its appeal. This player is the perfect antidote to low bitrate audio streams and AAC or MP3 rips in any networked hi-fi system.
European High-End Amplifier 2015-2016
Mark Levinson Nº585
From Harman’s premium Mark Levinson brand comes a fully balanced Class A/B integrated amplifier that also packs a 32‐bit LPCM and DSD‐capable USB DAC. Rated at a conservative 200W per channel with stability into 2 ohms for excellent loudspeaker control, its four analogue and six digital inputs will accommodate a wide variety of sources. Powerful‐sounding with a superb dynamic range and smooth, grain‐free treble, it has the ability to create a wide and stable soundstage.
European Compact Hi-Fi System 2015-2016
Naim has pulled no punches with its first entry into the wireless all-in-one system market. Inside the MDF casework with its sleek aluminium sleeving can be found no fewer than six custom-made drive units: two tweeters, twin midband drivers and two elliptical bass units, each driven by a custom 75W Class D amplifier. The Mu-so is governed via a touch-sensitive rotary control, covering volume, input selection and music playback, while a dedicated app extends control to multiple Mu-so systems throughout the home. Under the bonnet powerful onboard DSP runs Naim’s own code to facilitate AirPlay, aptX Bluetooth and UPnP capability.
European USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier 2015-2016
With a compact alloy case clad in high quality leather, this portable DAC/headphone amp is clearly aimed at the style conscious. Yet it’s certainly no slouch when it comes to sound. Inside its slimline case, an ESS Sabre DAC supports hi-res audio playback up to 384kHz LPCM and DSD256. The HA-2 sports two USB inputs (Type A and micro B) on the bottom and two 3.5mm sockets on the top. One of these is a headphone output, able to drive a wide choice of cans, the other socket doubling as an analogue input or a line output, enabling users to hook the device into a traditional hi-fi system.
European Turntable 2015-2016
Pro-Ject RPM3 Carbon
Benefitting from trickle-down technology developed for its costlier RPM-series turntables, this new deck features a host of engineering innovations to boost its sound. The V-shaped chassis and dynamically-balanced platter are both fashioned from MDF, the latter with a mat made from recycled LP vinyl, while the outboard 15V AC motor is driven by a compact synthesised power supply. The new 10in S-shaped tonearm is a key feature, comprising a damped alloy tube surrounded by a resin and carbon-fibre mix. This, in turn, carries a custom silver-wired version of Ortofon’s classic 2M moving-magnet cartridge.
European Headphones 2015-2016
Sennheiser MOMENTUM 2
Sennheiser’s MOMENTUM 2 over-ear headphone builds on the success of its original MOMENTUM model. This new version offers larger cups and a foldable headband to make things easier for those using the MOMENTUM on the move. Other niceties include a higher quality in-line microphone along with detachable cords, while the luxurious fine leather and brushed stainless steel of the original have been retained. Easy to drive and with an impressive bass, the MOMENTUM 2 manages the trick of sounding pleasingly rich yet also highly detailed when the music demands.
European Blu-Ray Player 2015-2016
Blessed with gorgeous styling and a heavyweight, reassuring construction, Pioneer’s BDP-LX88 looks every inch the premium disc player – and its performance and feature set only add to its appeal. A truly universal design, the BDP-LX88 can spin CD, DVD, Blu-ray, DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD and backs up this multi-functionality with hi-res audio support including FLAC, ALAC and DSD, via a network or from USB. Movie playback benefits from pristine detail delivery courtesy of Pioneer’s Precise Pixel Driver processing and a wealth of powerful user adjustments. Music performance, meanwhile, is audiophile-grade, either from the player’s analogue outputs (including stereo XLR) or over HDMI.
European Soundbar 2015-2016
Canton DM 90.3
In the increasingly diverse soundbar market, Canton’s DM 90.3 stands out due to its premium 2.1-channel performance – this is a benchmark product in its class. A pair of 110mm coaxial drivers offer a smooth midrange and detailed high-frequency delivery, while four 110mm woofers enable a powerful, precise and dynamic low-end, with 300W total power. The well-made, rigid enclosure sports an uncluttered design and will provide a suitable match to large screen TVs. Furthermore, the DM 90.3 has all the features to act as a home entertainment hub. Its trio of HDMI inputs can handle 3D and 4K video sources, while other analogue and digital connections, plus aptX Bluetooth provide additional flexibility.
European Home Theatre Subwoofer 2015-2016
ELAC SUB 2070
ELAC combines a stylish high-gloss finish, robust construction and state-of-the-art technology within its SUB 2070. Using back-to-back 10in drivers arranged in a push/push configuration to remove unwanted resonances, plus a 600W amplifier, the SUB 2070 is able to power large rooms with effortless dynamics and precision, hitting frequencies down to 20Hz. To help get the best performance possible in any theatre, the subwoofer is fully adjustable via a free app, which includes parametric EQ and automatic acoustic calibration. Hitting the Auto EQ button and, by placing a smartphone or tablet close to the woofer and again at the listening position, the SUB 2070 fine-tunes its performance for your environment. Genius!
European Best Value Home Theatre Speaker System 2015-2016
JBL Arena Cinema 5.1
High-quality multichannel systems normally demand plenty of space – and serious money. Yet the JBL Arena line of affordable loudspeakers allows owners of mid-priced AV receivers to build an impressive 5.1 system within a reasonable budget. The Arena 180 floor standing model is of a size easy to place in any room, and its well-balanced sound (delivered by waveguided tweeters and 7in mid/bass drivers) is joined by the Arena’s active SUB100 subwoofer to extend low-frequency impact. A dedicated centre speaker and wall-mountable surrounds complete the series, available in white or black vinyl veneer finishes.
European Home Theatre Speaker System 2015-2016
Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-280 Home Theatre System
When it comes to exciting home theatre sound, film fans strive for dynamics and thrilling surround effects – attributes offered by the Klipsch Reference Premiere system. Give this 5.1 speaker set a movie soundtrack and the eye-catching Hybrid Tractrix Horn drivers capture every detail, underpinned by punchy, well-integrated bass from the brand’s rear-ported Cerametallic woofers. Cinematic immersion is granted by the use of dedicated dipole speakers for the surround channels, and the remarkable 15in woofer delivers effortless power at extremely low frequencies, as well as optional wireless hook-up. Excellent build quality and an imposing industrial design, Klipsch’s flagship multichannel system makes a style statement, too.
European Home Theatre Solution 2015-2016
Philips Fidelio B5
Philips’ Fidelio B5 wireless surround sound system is a nifty update of its HTL9100 predecessor, with detachable, self-powered side speakers than can easily switch the sound experience from stereo to multichannel when desired. Now revamped to work as portable Bluetooth models for music streaming flexibility, each side speaker has an internal battery lasting up to 10 hours, charged when connected to the main unit. The Fidelio B5 performs admirably in all modes, with the driver array and wireless subwoofer adding depth and clarity to music, TV and movie mixes. And the curved, ‘airfoil’ design and wide range of connections make it easy to integrate Philips’ innovative speaker system into any living room setup.
European Home Theatre Receiver 2015-2016
The Pioneer VSX-930 builds upon decades of surround sound expertise, offering precise sonics due to accurate auto-calibration through Pioneer’s MCACC Pro with Full Band Phase Control, and an amazing 7.2 and Dolby Atmos experience. It also excels at streaming media, with support offered for Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and hi-res audio including DSD. The excellent iControlAV5 app allows for intuitive control, making the numerous functions of this home theatre receiver accessible to everyone. The seven-input, twin-output HDMI connectivity, meanwhile, offers HDCP 2.2 and 4K support, ideal for use with an Ultra HD display. This is a feature-packed unit at a very attractive price.
European Soundbase 2015-2016
Sony’s HT-XT3 soundbase offers stunning audio quality, extensive network features and a slim, stylish cabinet that can accommodate screens up to 65in and 50kg. High-quality performance is provided by coaxial speakers that incorporate fibreglass reinforced cones and a centred dome tweeter, while powerful bass is delivered by two down-firing woofers. Connectivity is superb, including HDMI, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, USB, Bluetooth, NFC and compatibility with Google Cast. Hi-Res audio formats, such as Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, FLAC, WAV and DSD are supported, and thanks to its networking talents the HT-XT3 can be part of a wider multiroom audio system, controlled by Sony’s SongPal app. This is a great-sounding, well-equipped soundbase speaker at an enticing price.
European In-Car Subwoofer 2015-2016
Focal Performance Expert P 25 F
The French audio specialist takes aim at discerning music lovers with this innovative 10-inch subwoofer, which utilizes a unique combination of fibreglass and flax fibres to give the composite membrane extreme rigidity while keeping it free of unwanted resonances. This combination of classic, well-proven solutions and innovative elements has resulted in a particularly high-spec subwoofer that delivers low distortion, good sensitivity and power handling, plus a compact box size. However, while it boasts all of the features to expect from a high-end subwoofer, Focal’s engineers have utilized the latest design methods to make the critical parts of the Performance Expert P 25 F more affordable to produce – the result being a very high-class subwoofer at a surprisingly modest price.
European In-Car High-End Component 2015-2016
Ground Zero GZPW Reference 250
Science and art combine to impressive effect in Ground Zero’s GZPW Reference 250 subwoofer. Avoiding flashy design tricks and exotic features, this 10-inch sub completes the brand’s line of uncompromising high-end automotive components. An extremely well thought-out combination of carefully designed and meticulously handcrafted parts, the GZPW Reference 250 marries the best available materials with superb build quality. With its extremely low level of distortion, the GZPW Reference 250’s clean and powerful bass provides the perfect compliment to any high-end front speaker system.
European Mobile Headphones 2015-2016
The newest addition to AKG’s Flight headphones range combine superior sound quality and best-in-class active noise cancelling. Long gone are the days of external sounds leaking in and spoiling musical enjoyment, with the N60NC providing up to 30 hours of battery life in active mode (the headphones can still be used in a passive mode). As well as offering an unparalleled listening experience, the AKG’s elegantly-crafted N60NC headphones use of aluminum, memory foam and leather accents add a further touch of class to these extremely desirable lightweight headphones.
European Mobile Speaker 2015-2016
This edgy looking splashproof speaker built for extreme conditions such as beaches or parties actually offers powerful high-quality audio anywhere. The 10,000 mAh battery supports up to 12 hours of playtime and dual USB charge. When connected to a smartphone the JBL Xtreme can also be used as a speakerphone with noise and echo cancelling techniques, making the conversation dramatically more clear. The device effortlessly delivers JBL Signature Sound at staggering volumes by incorporating four active transducers supported by two JBL Bass Radiators that make the sound visible. Finally, the device also features JBL Connect that can wirelessly link multiple compatible speakers together to amplify the listening experience.
The EISA Awards are presented during an official Awards Ceremony at the starting day of the IFA show in Berlin, where official representatives of every winning company receive the corresponding Award trophy.