With the growth in streaming services, simple speakers that can easily connect to a computer, smartphone or tablet via cable or Bluetooth are good enough for most people who just want to play some music, while audiophiles are still happy to spend thousands of dollars on top-notch hi-fi systems. But the mini hi-fi system is still a solution for those who want reasonable sound quality and a broad range of listening options (including CD and streaming), without breaking the bank.
If home hi-fi makes your head spin, check out our mini systems buying guide which includes a basic introduction to digital audio and sound quality. You can also dig into our methodology by checking out how we test these products.
Our panel of experts have reviewed five systems from four major brands – Cambridge, Denon, Pioneer and Yamaha.
This review will help you find the system that:
Our interactive comparison tool helps you see which systems can connect to the internet, local networks, Bluetooth and similar listening options including Wi-Fi, AirPlay and DLNA. We also determine which models are the easiest to set up, connect to the internet and connect/sync to audio playback devices. Our Recommended list will help you see quickly which models come out on top.
List of brands we tested in this review.
This is the manufacturer's recommended retail price at the time of purchase.
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CHOICE recommends hi-fi mini systems with an overall score and sound quality score of 70% and above. You may also want to consider models with a sound quality score above 70%, if you're comfortable with a lower ease of use rating.
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A panel of experts listens to musical passages across various genres, including classical, rock and pop, in addition to a movie scene. The experts assess the overall quality of the system’s performance, sitting approximately two metres away.
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Our ease of use testing determines how easy/difficult it is to set up and take advantage of the features included in the mini hi-fi system. Our testers assess the set-up process which includes connecting speakers, connecting to the internet and syncing devices via Bluetooth. They also assess the usability of inbuilt controls, the remote control (if available), and the input accessibility (e.g. front-facing USB and auxiliary inputs increase the ease of use score). Button size, spacing and readability are important factors.
Streaming connectivity for Apple devices. AirPlay uses your Wi-Fi network and lossless compression, so it can theoretically stream higher quality audio, across longer distances (basically as far as the Wi-Fi network will go).
Inbuilt Spotify connectivity lets you stream directly to the mini hi-fi system, so you don't need to attach an additional streaming device via Bluetooth or Aux-in, such as a smartphone or laptop. This is much more convenient and can improve sound quality, as your mini hi-fi is directly communicating with the Spotify servers. You will need to install Spotify on a smartphone, tablet or computer then connect to the same network that your mini hi-fi is on, to select songs, albums, artist, playlists etc. The hi-fi hub has little to no Spotify controls depending on the model, but most will display track information on the front-facing screen.
System can directly connect to Pandora for music streaming.
Can play the same audio across multiple devices from the same manufacturer, across a home network. Pioneer X-HM76D - Multiroom playback not available at time of writing. Coming in future update. Denon CEOL N9 - requires AirPlay
Digital Living Network Alliance protocol, which lets you stream and control media from networked devices such as a computer or network attached storage (NAS) drive, to your mini hi-fi system across your home network.
Can the system play FLAC lossless audio files?
5GHz dual-band. Faster, and useful in a busy home with many Wi-Fi-hungry devices, as fewer simultaneously attached devices reduces the load on the signal.
Convenient option for temporarily connecting music playback devices such as an iPod, smartphone, tablet or computer.