Until 2018, when SoundStage! Hi-Fi joined EISA, the letters of the organization’s acronym stood for European Imaging and Sound Association. That name had long reflected its members and their turfs: European print publications focused on hi-fi, home theater, car electronics, mobile devices, and photography. But since the mid-2010s EISA had been expanding to become a global entity that now embraced online as well as print publications. By September 2018, EISA’s membership included so many publications from outside Europe that the first word of the organization’s name no longer adequately described it. The acronym EISA remains unchanged, but it now stands for Expert Imaging and Sound Association.
Today, EISA comprises 61 publications from 29 countries, and representatives of all of those publications typically meet three times a year: at the EISA Global Press Convention, usually held in May in Antwerp, Belgium, where a select group of manufacturers showcase new products for EISA members; the Annual Awards Meeting, held each June in a different country, to finalize the selection process for EISA’s annual Best Products awards in its Expert Groups (categories) of Hi-Fi, Home Theatre Audio, Home Theatre Display & Video, In-Car Electronics, Mobile Devices, and Photography; and in September, at the Awards Gala Ceremony, in Berlin, Germany, where representatives of the winning manufacturers are presented with their awards (the winners having been announced the preceding August 15).
But this has not been a typical year. Before even the first of EISA’s three 2020 meetings could be held, responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by governments had prevented representatives from traveling to other countries. Still, there was no chance that the winners of EISA’s annual prizes would not be selected, or that those prizes would go unawarded. Member publications had already been receiving new products to consider for the 2020 awards, and they continued to receive products post-lockdown. And, realizing that the May, June, and even the September events would not take place, the EISA leadership set up ways for the 61 publications to communicate electronically, usually through large-scale Skype or Zoom conference calls.
The change from in-person to online communication turned out to be efficient and effective, and to signal new ways for EISA to work in coming years. It hasn’t always been easy to get members of every Expert Group to attend all three EISA meetings each year -- but almost everyone could participate in the conference calls, during which decisions were made quickly. The proof is in the results -- the awards for the Best Products of 2020-2021 went off without a hitch. Below you’ll find links to SoundStage! Hi-Fi’s announcements of the winners in the categories of Hi-Fi and Home Theatre Audio; other links direct you to EISA’s own announcements of the awards given in the other Expert Groups.
We congratulate everyone at the manufacturers of this year’s winning products, which we encourage our readers to investigate. Although many of these products have been reviewed on SoundStage! Hi-Fi or on one of our sister sites, remember that these awards represent a broad consensus of professional critical opinion that extends far beyond the SoundStage! Network’s online publications.
This strange year has challenged many of our assumptions about how we live and work and play. But 2020 has also proven that we can overcome difficult challenges by directly facing them and being willing to change -- and that those changes can often make things better.
EISA’s Best Products of 2020-2021 by Expert Group
. . . Doug Schneider