In May 2018, SoundStage! Hi-Fi joined the European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA). Editors from five European photography magazines had formed EISA in the 1980s to get together to select and recognize the best camera of the year. Over the years, the organization has evolved to include audio equipment, which is where SoundStage! Hi-Fi fits in. All the publications that originally belonged to EISA were based in Europe, but in September 2018, the name was changed to Expert Imaging and Sound Association, keeping the acronym everyone had come to know but reflecting that EISA had grown into a global entity. Today, the EISA organization is made up of 60 websites and print publications spanning 29 countries.
But what hasn’t changed since SoundStage! Hi-Fi first joined EISA is the organization’s division into six subgroups: Hi-Fi, Home Theatre Audio, Home Theatre Display & Video, In-Car Electronics, Mobile Devices, and Photography. It’s this diversity that allows EISA to annually recognize dozens of consumer-electronics products spanning these different market segments. And it can do so with authority because each member publication belongs to just one subgroup, and therefore can only be involved in nominating and voting for products within that group. Furthermore, to nominate and vote for a product, the publication must have reviewed it, although the publication of that review can happen before or after August 15—the date when EISA’s Best Products of the year are announced. Naturally, SoundStage! Hi-Fi belongs to the Hi-Fi subgroup.
In a typical year for EISA—2020 and 2021 haven’t been typical years, obviously—members from the publications would gather three times. First would be at the annual Global Press Convention, which was usually held in May in Antwerp, Belgium. There’d be an annual meeting of the members, followed by up to four days of manufacturers’ demonstrations of products that they hoped would be up for award consideration. In June, there would be another meeting, somewhere else in Europe, where the members would determine the award winners to be announced on August 15. Finally, everyone would meet again in September, in Berlin, Germany, for the Awards Gala Ceremony, where company representatives would also attend to receive the trophies for winning products.
Because of COVID-19, none of those get-togethers happened in 2020, nor could they in 2021—even the Berlin awards show was canceled months ago. Instead, for 2020 and 2021, all the meetings, as well as the manufacturers’ product presentations, were conducted via Zoom—and, surprisingly, the system was very effective. Not only could members meet more often over Zoom than in person, the manufacturers’ presentations, as well as the product nominations and subsequent voting, seemed to run more smoothly and efficiently with these online conference calls. What’s more, the award winners since 2020 are as strong as in previous years. As a result, the EISA organization is pretty sure than even when in-person gatherings can happen again, some of the pandemic-mandated procedures that EISA adopted will stay in place.
So here’s to another successful year for EISA—even with COVID-19 lockdowns around the world—and here’s to recognizing the 2021–2022 award winners. Let’s hope that next year, EISA members and company reps can at least meet in Berlin in September so the organization can present the trophies to the people behind the products directly. But until that can happen, please enjoy browsing through the winners in each subgroup via the links below. You’ll also find links for winners dating back to 2018 on our menus. (Please note that Hi-Fi and Home Theatre Audio links will take you to pages on this site, while the others will transfer you to the main EISA website.)
EISA’s Best Products of 2021–2022
. . . Doug Schneider