Wallpaper* wants... avant-garde audio systems that sound as good as they look

At the high-end of the market, the ultimate audio systems are something to look at, not just to listen to

Elipson W35+ Speaker and Stand
Elipson W35+ speaker and stand
(Image credit: press)

There are two schools of thought when it comes to audio systems. The very early adopters of the streaming generation got used to an out of sight, out of mind model, with embedded speakers, and seamless multi-room systems, all operated from a smartphone or dedicated remote. But given that we’ve almost all banished physical media from our lives, dematerialising music still further doesn’t sit well with everyone. At the high-end of the market, makers have never lost sight of the fact that the ultimate in audio quality is something to look at, not just to listen to. Here are five desirable ways of giving life to your music. 

Five avant-garde audio systems

1. Devialet Dione Soundbar

Devialet Dione Soundbar, one of Wallpaper’s five best audio systems

(Image credit: Devialet)

Devialet’s (opens in new tab) first foray into soundbars gave the French company a conundrum to solve. With the brand best known for its extravagantly shaped all-in-one speaker systems, the soundbar’s form factor isn’t exactly up for discussion. Nevertheless, Devialet’s designers have gone above and beyond, subverting and warping the plank-like form of the soundbar with the addition of a central circular speaker. The inclusion of Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 creates the sensation of three-dimensional cinematic sound, thanks to 17 separate speakers, with separate music and voice modes to tone down the spatialisation.

Devialet Dione, £1,990, devialet.com (opens in new tab)

2. Elipson W35+ Speaker

Elipson W35+ Speaker

(Image credit: Elipson)

French manufacturer Elipson introduces the W35+, a spherical streaming stereo speaker that can either sit on a sideboard or come mounted on the optional silver oak or walnut stand. The full suite of streaming services are supported over Wi-Fi, with a straightforward interface located on the top of the circular speaker, while additional features can be accessed through the Elipson app. With 350W of power, the W35+ is a standalone audio solution that can also be suspended from the ceiling.

Elipson W35+, £899, stand £149, elipson.com (opens in new tab)

3. HiFi Rose RA180

HiFi Rose RA180 audio system

(Image credit: HiFi ROSE)

Separate components are still a mainstay of the audiophile’s bespoke approach to building a system, a world where individual quality and distinction matters, not universal harmony of form. If you want the most outré amplifier, then look no further than the RA180 from HiFi Rose, a Korean company that is going all out on the high-end components and extravagant design to court the perfectionists. The 800W amp can power two sets of speakers, with an aluminium fascia that evokes the golden era of 1970s hi-fi design, complete with toggle switches, VU meters and an exposed volume dial mechanism.

HiFi Rose RA180, £5,499.00, hifirose.com (opens in new tab)

4. dCS Vivaldi One APEX

dCS Vivaldi One APEX

(Image credit: dCS)

An upgraded version of dCS’s celebrated Vivaldi One, the APEX version will be limited to just 50 units. The unit is an all-in-one CD player, amplifier and network music player, housed in an aerospace-grade aluminium case. The front panel is the ultimate in minimal expressionism, featuring twin curved creases that evoke the swage line in a sports car, or even a Lucio Fontana canvas. A simple screen, a tray for loading CDs – remember those? – and minimal buttons are bolstered by a fully featured remote control. Round the back it’s all a bit more serious, with heavy-duty connectors – both analogue and digital – to get the perfectly decoded and processed sounds out into the ether.

dCS Vivaldi One APEX, £76,500, absolutesounds.com

5. KEF LS60 by Michael Young

KEF LS60 speaker by Michael Young

(Image credit: KEF)

KEF’s 60th anniversary celebrations continue with the new LS60 tower speakers, the Kent company’s first foray into freestanding wireless devices. KEF’s team worked alongside the Hong Kong-based British industrial designer Michael Young and his studio to shape these elegant monoliths. The choice of three finishes – Titanium Grey, Mineral White and Royal Blue – should match up with whatever interior scheme you have to hand, while the KEF Connect app makes for easy pairing with every conceivable source, from phones to games consoles.

KEF LS60 by Michael Young, £6,000 a set, kef.com (opens in new tab), michael-young.com (opens in new tab)

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.