Best Hi-Fi Systems Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?’s round-up of the best hi-fi systems you can buy in 2021.
Whether it’s a true all-in-one micro system complete with speakers, a single box of electronics to which speakers must be added or a pair of speakers housing everything you need, a good all-in-one hi-fi system can save you money and space. And the best can deliver superb sound quality.
We’ve rounded up a selection of options, at different price points, each with its own unique appeal. We have CD systems, wireless Bluetooth systems, and premium hi-fi systems, each compatible with an increasingly wide range of music streaming options from AirPlay to Bluetooth, Spotify to Tidal. Needless to say, all the systems we list here sound pretty special too.
How we choose our best systems
Here at What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year, from TVs to speakers, headphones to hi-fi systems. So how do we come to our review verdicts? And why can you trust them? Allow us to explain.
The What Hi-Fi? team has more than 100 years experience of reviewing, testing and writing about consumer electronics. We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London and Bath, where our team of expert reviewers do all our in-house testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring consistency. We always ensure we spend plenty of time with the speakers, trying them with different electronics, in different positions and with different music.
All products are tested in comparison with rival products in the same category, and all review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than a single reviewer, helping to ensure consistency and avoid individual subjectivity. That’s why our reviews are trusted by retailers and manufacturers as well as consumers.
From all of our reviews, we choose the top products to feature in our Best Buys, such as this one. That’s why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended below, or on any other Best Buy page, you can rest assured you’re getting a What Hi-Fi?-approved product.
The default all-in-one system choice under £250 for years, this Denon multi-award-winner is still at the top of its game.
You can buy it with or without Denon’s own speakers. Without, the system is called RCD-M41DAB and can be found online for under £250 / $350 / AU$500. The speakers are dubbed SC-M41, and they’re £100 a pair. Put the two together and you have the D-M41DAB – we’d happily recommend Denon’s speakers if you don’t have your own already.
The inclusion of Bluetooth (which can be turned on or off to avoid affecting the D-M41DAB’s overall performance) is cause for celebration, as is the superb sound quality. In terms of performance, this system could hold its own against groups of separates at greater cost. The drop in sound quality from CD to Spotify stream has no effect on the D-M41DAB’s sonic mastery – it remains graceful, insightful and expressive. A truly remarkable system for the money.
Read the full review: Denon D-M41DAB
The follow-up to the outstanding KEF LS50 Wireless speakers improve on greatness – no easy feat, even for a audio brand as sure-footed as KEF.
Like their illustrious predecessors, the LS50 Wireless IIs serve as a superb all-in-one system by dint of their advanced connectivity. Improvements including upgraded components and a new KEF Connect app where you can access the likes of Tidal, Qobuz, Amazon Music and Deezer.
Not that you’ll need to reach for any of the aforementioned apps; these speakers are capable of streaming via AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast and Bluetooth, and are also Roon Ready.
KEF’s striking design is matched by stunning sonics, enhanced by refreshed Uni-Q drivers and KEF’s all-new MAT absorption technology. Presentation is spacious and the addition of the new MAT technology can be heard in the refined treble and clean mids.
Quite simply, if you’re in the market for a high-fidelity all-in-one system packed with streaming smarts, this sophisticated sequel should be top of your list.
Read the full review: KEF LS50 Wireless II
Here’s a record player – based on Pro-Ject’s well-regarded Primary turntable – that’s also tricked out with an Ortofon OM 5E cartridge, amplification and Bluetooth receiver in one handy package. All you have to do is add speakers.
And when you do, you’ll be rewarded with a sound that’s always enjoyable to listen to, whatever your musical preferences. Sound is spacious and easy-going, with plenty of top-end shine and mid-range detail.
Around the back of the deck, you’ll find the usual connections including stereo RCA outputs. There are also left/right speaker outputs and an aerial socket for the Bluetooth receiver. The supplied remote handset isn’t the best, but does the trick.
For the money, this all-in-one vinyl system sounds great and offers a level of functionality that would cost much, much more to replicate with individual components. Impressive.
Read the full review: Pro-Ject Juke Box E
KEF has shrunk its multi-Award-winning LS50 Wireless streaming system (featured further down this list) down to make a miniature, half-price version, the KEF LSX. The LSX shares its successful sibling’s blueprint as an all-in-one hi-fi system: a network streamer, Bluetooth receiver and amplification within a pair of compact stereo speakers.
And KEF has managed to squeeze much of its innovative system’s performance and feature set into a more modest stature, offering the convenience and versatility of the tried-and-tested package at a much more accessible price that is relatively budget for an all-in hi-fi system.
You get KEF’s distinct-looking Uni-Q driver array, a classy woven fabric finish (in a choice of stylish colours) and the KEF Stream app. Spotify Connect, aptX Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay 2 are also part of this package. The LSX might be a cheaper, scaled-down take on the LS50 Wireless IIs (above), but they’re hugely impressive for the money.
Read the full review: KEF LSX
Marantz’s PM7000N may look like one of the company’s stand-alone integrated amplifiers but it’s packed with streaming features to make it an ideal just-add-speakers system. Inside the traditional-looking case lies 60W per channel of amplification, a DAC, network module, Bluetooth, HEOS multi-room support and AirPlay 2 for one-touch streaming from Apple devices. It’s also capable of streaming hi-res 24bit/192kHz audio. Quite the box of tricks.
Once up and running it delivers a spacious and insightful sound that keeps us listening well into the evening. Powerful, expansive and weighty, the PM7000N is a has the quality and dynamic ability to ensure that every note – at both ends of the spectrum – shines.
Teaming old-school amplification with a digital streaming experience might not be ground-breaking anymore, but Marantz has done it better than most. Easy to use, great to listen to – a sure winner in its class.
Read the full review: Marantz PM7000N
The Mu-so 2 combines amplifier, streamer and speakers in one stylish, sophisticated package. AirPlay 2, Chromecast and Bluetooth allow you to treat the Naim as a wireless speaker, while built-in services like Tidal and Spotify and support for high-res audio formats give it a serious arsenal of streaming skills. But it’s not all about streaming – the presence of an HDMI ARC input allows you to wire up a TV and boost its sound at the same time.
Don’t be put off by the price tag, though – this is a sensational system. It looks like a premium wireless speaker and it performs like one too with a confident, solid sound. Bass is generous and of a high quality. The sound is packed full of detail and delivered with immense rhythmic drive. If you want a do-it-all premium solution with an equal dose of convenience and quality, the Mu-so 2 could be the solution.
Read the full review: Naim Mu-so 2
As a mini-system, the Melody X is a good option for those who already have a pair of speakers they’re attached to – or are desperate to invest in. It’s a serious wi-fi streamer with built-in amps and a CD player. There’s AirPlay 2, Bluetooth and hi-res audio support, plus HEOS multi-room support for connecting to other products from Denon and Marantz.
Streaming-wise, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer and Amazon Prime Music are all on the table – and you can use Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant virtual assistants to control the system through their respective apps. Sound is fairly detailed and the mi-range performance is clear and open.
In the box, you get a decent remote that’s easy to use. Build doesn’t feel rock solid (the unit is largely made of high-gloss plastic), but that’s perfectly acceptable at this price. If you’re after an affordable, feature-packed mini system that delivers refined sound, Melody X should be on your shortlist.
Read the full review: Marantz Melody X
This talented hi-fi system will fill your room with sound, and now that it can be had for less than the £550 / $600 / AU$1400 we originally tested it at, it’s good value too.
A retro-styled walnut exterior belies the exhaustive list of modern features packed within. The list includes Bluetooth support, wi-fi, internet radio and Spotify Connect. The Revo’s sonic performance doesn’t disappoint either. The 15cm bass driver provides tight low-end that makes for a pleasingly-warm presentation.
There’s a long list of connections, including a 3.5mm output, optical in, ethernet and USB, which can be used for both charging devices and playing music stored on memory sticks. If that’s not enough, DLNA certification means you can play music from networked storage devices. There’s no official control app, Revo uses the free Undok app to great effect.
If you have the space and are after a one-box system to do it all, this will do nicely. Super by name, super by nature.
Read the full review: Revo SuperSystem
If the Award-winning Naim Uniti Atom (mentioned below) is out of reach, Bluesound has come to the rescue with another one-box product that refuses to compromise in any single area. In fact, recent improvements have made this one of the finest just-add-speakers hi-fi systems for less than a grand.
The innocent-looking black box is teeming with features including Apple AirPlay 2, Alexa voice control support and two-way aptX HD Bluetooth for higher-quality streaming, both to speakers and headphones. There’s also support for high-res audio up to 24-bit/192kHz and plenty of decent connections. The usual speaker/subwoofer outs are joined by two Toslink 3.5mm optical/analogue inputs and USB.
Performance is bold, insightful and shot through with plenty of warmth. You’d need a four-figure budget for a streamer and amp combination before it could come close to bettering the sonics of the Powernode 2i. A superb all-rounder for those on a reasonable budget.
Read the full review: Bluesound Powernode 2i
These 2018-launched KEF wireless speakers are way more than just active versions of the Award-winning LS50s. They’re a complete system wrapped in a neat and brilliant package. They’re not cheap but you get a lot for your money, including a getting a dedicated streamer, a Bluetooth module, 24-bit/192kHz DAC, preamp and four power amplifiers with a total of 460W of output.
As you’d expect, they’re beautifully built and blessed with KEF’s Uni-Q drivers. Set them up and sound is tonally even and refined enough to make the most of standard-quality streams. Bass is earth-shaking for speakers that are 30cm tall.
There’s lots of connections, including ethernet for hardwiring to your network, and the KEF app is very good. It controls the streaming (DLNA as well as Tidal) functionality and give you scope to fine-tune the speaker’s performance to suit your surroundings.
KEF has since topped this model with the LS50 Wireless II speakers (near the top of this list) but while these miss out on a few bells and whistles, they’re available at a reduced price and fantastic value for money.
Read the full review: KEF LS50 Wireless
To describe the Uniti Atom as a streamer would be akin to describing Wagyu beef as sustenance. From the coffee-coaster volume dial on the roof – the pleasure of spinning it is almost enough in itself to justify buying this system – to its full-colour LCD front panel display exhibiting album art as it plays, Naim has nailed a gorgeous aesthetic.
All you need do is add a pair of suitable speakers (Naim promises 40W per channel at 8 ohms, so a pair of sub-£1000 standmounters would be ideal). Once you’ve soaked up the delicious design cues, you’ll be wowed by the Atom’s performance – levels of clarity and insight and truly exceptional – and connectivity. Google Chromecast, Tidal, Spotify Connect and Internet radio are built in, with further wireless connection available via AirPlay and Bluetooth aptX HD. You can also play music stored on a USB stick.
All in all, the talented Uniti Atom is everything we’ve come to expect from Naim. A superb blend of lifestyle product and premium hi-fi.
Read the full review: Naim Uniti Atom
We think Arcam has missed a trick with the SA30. The company refers to this as an amplifier but with a built-in streaming module it is in fact a ‘just-add-speakers’ streaming system, and a direct rival for Naim’s terrific Uniti Atom (above).
Both are talented products and similarly well-featured, though we can’t figure out why Arcam didn’t include Bluetooth. That apart, the SA30’s connectivity is good –
Chromecast, AirPlay and UPnP streaming are all integrated – and there’s even Dirac room equalisation to optimise the sound.
It all works well with the SA30 delivering a refined and spacious sound that delivers plenty in the way of insight and scale. At a rated 120 watts per channel it is more than capable of powering suitable speakers to high levels.
If you can do without Bluetooth and a fancy display, the S30 is a fine example of how well music streaming can be discretely implemented into traditional hi-fi.
Read the full review: Arcam SA30
The Naim Uniti Star is a cutting-edge streaming system – all you need to do is to add speakers. It differs from its pure streaming siblings in having a CD drive built-in. This makes it ideal for anyone who still has a CD collection but also wants the ability to stream music in any manner they choose.
Naim’s engineers have taken care to ensure the level of dynamic subtlety, resolution and musical drive remains consistent whichever source you use. Connectivity is outstanding. Highlights include aptX HD Bluetooth, AirPlay (with AirPlay 2 coming soon) and UPnP network streaming, plus support for Spotify, Tidal and Chromecast. It’s also Roon-ready, and capable of working as part of a Naim multi-room set-up. There’s a generous spread of physical connections too, including HDMI ARC to make connecting the Star to your TV easy.
The Star is a great addition to Naim’s superb Uniti range, and if you need CD replay is the obvious choice.
Read the full review: Naim Uniti Star
£4200 is a lot of money to pay for a system. Of course, the Uniti Nova looks good, is built to last and is lavishly specified. But by the time you’ve auditioned and purchased appropriate speakers you’re looking, realistically, at a total price of anything between £6k and £9k. That’s nobody’s idea of a frivolous purchase.
But if you have the money and inclination, and want a product of overarching convenience that doesn’t compromise on performance in the slightest, you owe it to yourself to hear the Uniti Nova. It combines no-compromise performance with lots of connectivity, including wi-fi, AirPlay, USB and HDMI ARC. Bluetooth is of the AptX HD variety, which is a good as Bluetooth gets.
Build quality would put many a bank vault to shame, while a 5in LCD that wakes when you approach is just one of a number of luxurious touches. Sound is dynamic, natural and confident – it barely breaks a sweat, even at high volume.
If your budget stretches, the lavishly-specced Nova won’t disappoint.
Read the full review: Naim Uniti Nova
NAD has embraced digital music more than almost any other traditional hi-fi brand we can think of, and this just-add-speakers streaming system is merely the latest in a series of BluOS products with multi-room baked in.
The first thing to note is the large, splashy touchscreen display that occupies most of the front panel – it does a fantastic job of displaying album art and is visible from way across the room. Beneath the sleek aluminium casing is NAD’s HybridDigital amplification, which is designed to deliver more accurate, distortion-free audio. It seems to work, as sound is pristine, tonally balanced, clear, clean, weighty and smooth, while bass is lusciously deep and dramatic.
An abundance of connectivity is another big plus. You get integrated AirPlay 2, direct access to music streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal, support for Roon and 32-bit hi-res files, as well as an HDMI socket with eARC.
In short, the Masters M10 doubles up nicely to perform the role of both hi-fi and TV sound system. But while there’s a lot to like about the NAD, the truly exceptional Naim Uniti Atom (above) is a more engaging listen.
Read the full review: NAD Masters M10
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