Mini hi-fi system reviews

These combination MP3 and legacy music players pack greater punch and more features than speaker docks.
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mini hi-fi lead

Test results for 10 mini hi-fi systems, priced from $99 to $499

Despite the rapid growth of the speaker dock market in the past couple of years, stereos have not shuffled off quietly to the discontinued graveyard. And these stereos are feature-rich compared with speaker docks, some of which are still limited in their functionality. All mini hi-fis on test also have a single CD player, and two play DVDs, with attachments at the rear for a video display, allowing you to use the stereo’s speakers.

Various special effects, which feature in all these stereos, allow you to simulate different listening situations. All are all versatile enough to play various MP3 player brands via USB or auxiliary inputs and, except the Philips, all can play various CD formats and MP3 files, allowing you to burn songs to a CD.

Our listening panel scored these mini hi-fis better than the latest speaker docks. However, despite their advantages, they also fall down in some areas. They all have separate speakers that join to the centre unit with a wire, meaning they're not very portable. They are also heavier than most speaker docks and none comes with battery backup, so they can’t be moved too far away from a mains power source.

Please note: this information was current as of August 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.

How we tested

  • Our expert panellists scored score each model for bass, mid-tone and treble response, ease of listening and clarity.
  • They also scored each system’s instruction manual, ease of setting up, remote control, on-board controls and display.
  • Standby energy consumption was also measured.

Models tested

  • DGTEC DG-KW1005IR (A)
  • Grundig DMS601/SAA (A) 
  • JVC CA-UXGP5 (A)
  • LG FB163
  • Panasonic SA-PM38 (A)
  • Philips DC146/79
  • Sharp XL-DK227NH (A)
  • Sharp XL-DK257NH (A)
  • Sony HCD-BX20i (A)
  • Thomson AF3iP

We included the LG MCD23 in our test, but not in the table as it does not have a dock but can play a portable media player through a USB port or line in socket.

(A) Discontinued, but may still be available in some stores.



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