Some speakers are on shelves, others are pole-mounted or recessed into the ceiling, but the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A9, now in its fifth generation, is literally part of the furniture. Its exterior can be customized to match your setup, while its electronics form a solid bridge to your WiFi network. Yes, you can use it via Bluetooth if you really have to, but given the quality connectivity (branded ‘Mozart’ by Bang & Olufsen) it would be like banging chopsticks on a Bösendorfer grand piano. WiFi (or wired Ethernet if you prefer) gives you Airplay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, B&O’s proprietary software – and, if you’re lucky enough to have two A9s in one place, native stereo pairing.
Bang & Olufsen Beosound A9, £3,199
Anyone (like me) who breaks a sweat assembling disassembled furniture will appreciate the ease of assembly; You screw in the three legs while it’s still face-down in the box, and when you lift it by the handle, it naturally pivots to the standing position. Plug it in, spot it via the B&O app, and it’s already tonally scanning the room to identify frequency peaks and troughs and adjust its EQ accordingly.
The Beosound is literally part of the furniture
If you peek behind the removable (and machine-washable) cover, you can see what’s happening to the speakers, with a stereo pair set into the left and right edges of the convex disk, angled slightly apart. The rear houses an 8-inch woofer and another pair of full-range drivers, delivering exceptionally room-filling sound. You can adjust the balance of this sound via the app, but the initial sound sweep does an excellent job and doesn’t really need to be adjusted. The volume can of course be increased remotely, but also by swiping across the top of the disc. (It takes three swipes to reach maximum volume, eliminating the risk of accidentally disturbing neighbors.)
You can find all kinds of custom covers online. However, if you want to add a truly artistic touch to your A9, the collaboration with Ssense is a beautifully conceived combination of blasted aluminum and Danish Kvadrat wool. This is musique concrete. Bang & Olufsen Beosound A9, £3,199
Netgear Orbi 960 series, £1,699.99
Until relatively recently, deploying WiFi to every corner of your home—or even your apartment—was complicated by complicated network configurations and signal dropouts as you moved from room to room. The Orbi offers the ultimate mesh network for home and garden, covering up to 695 square meters for a maximum of 200 smart devices, which of course is plenty. In my own home, an Orbi router and its two satellites performed a task that would normally be handled by five relay units spread across the property, and they also introduced some nice features: app notifications when a new device joins the network, separately configurable guest WiFi and an integrated VPN for privacy-conscious users. Netgear Orbi 960 series, £1,699.99
keep it clean
DH Lifelabs Aaira + HEPA, £799.99
Air purifiers generally use HEPA filters, a fibrous mesh that captures any small particles that fly by. The Aaira combines one of these with a charcoal filter (to neutralize harmful odors) and a HOCI generator that turns a scoop of table salt dissolved in tap water into a weak acid (think lemon juice) which in turn fights a bunch of any that might still be present bacteria and viruses. This top-of-the-line model is about waist-high, but masters rooms up to 43 m² calmly. Because it’s WiFi-enabled, you can ask Alexa or Google Assistant to turn it on and off, while a dedicated app gives you control over timers, schedules, and more, wherever you are. DH Lifelabs Aaira + HEPA, £799.99
Read the room
Wired Smart Tado Thermostat V3+, from £179.99
Most central heating radiators have thermostatic valves but as a nation we often set these to ‘max’ leaving each room’s temperature to a single thermostat. Tado considers this a waste; The range includes this smart thermostat, as well as a boiler programmer and smart radiator valves, all of which connect to your network to control your heating by the hour and by the room. So a single radiator can request the boiler to request more heat when it detects the room is cold, but if it isn’t, it won’t be. With an optional subscription, the app keeps an eye on energy consumption and decarbonizing your own home is easily addictive. Wired Smart Tado Thermostat V3+, from £179.99
Ultimate Nuki Plus, £545
People are squeamish about smart locks on their property for one main reason. They worry that handing work to a smartphone will result in them being locked out when the batteries run out. The collaboration between Ultion and Nuki immediately allays such concerns by providing a manual override, allowing us to focus on the pluses: remote locking and unlocking, automatic unlocking on approach, electronic guest keys, and logging of comings and goings in the app. It can be retrofitted to pretty much any front door (the front appearance doesn’t change) and whenever I thought, “But wait, what about X?”, Ultion and Nuki had already thought of it. After all, they are security companies. Ultimate Nuki Plus, £545