Hi-fi systems have evolved to keep up with new audio technology and are able to connect to a variety of devices while still delivering rich, room-filling sound. Hi-fi systems often come with a list of options and confusing audio terminology, so knowing what features to look for will help you buy the best hi-fi system for you.
For more on choosing the best hi-fi system, see How to buy the best hi-fi system.
Best hi-fi system features to look for
Sound quality Measured in Watts RMS, generally the higher the Watt number, the louder and more powerful the audio. Look for models with between 10 to 20 Watts RMS per speaker.
Bluetooth Wireless connection that allows you to link and play music from your smartphone, tablet or other Bluetooth compatible device through your hi-fi.
CD, CD-R, CD-RW The ability to play music CDs. Some models can also play CD-R and CD-RWs, which are CDs you create using software such as Apple iTunes to burn MP3 files onto them, much like a CD version of a mixtape.
CD changer If you regularly flit between albums, a CD changer is a must. It allows you to load several CDs at once – as many as six in some hi-fi systems – and then change between CDs using the remote control.
USB A standard port for connecting USB devices such as hard drives, which can be filled with your audio files and played back via the hi-fi system. Useful for connecting up your digital music library.
AUX A type of catch-all connector that lets you plug in any device that has a headphone socket, such as smartphones, MP3 players and even laptops, so you can play sound through the micro hi-fi speakers.
Lightning connector Used for connecting modern Apple devices – iPhones, iPods and iPads – to a hi-fi system. Lightning connectors charge the connected device, as well as play music stored on it.
DAB, DAB+ Essential if you want to listen to digital radio, known as DAB. Provides an easy way to find radio stations without manually scanning the radio spectrum, and crystal clear reception. Allows station and song information to be shown on the hi-fi display.
Pause and record Allows you to record a radio show or station, or pause a radio station for later listening. Essential for catching up with your favourite radio programme.
Graphic equalizer Lets you adjust the tone of the audio to suit your listening preferences, or ensure you get the right audio for the setting used by the hi-fi system. Look for graphic equalizers that include pre-set audio modes, such as R&B, pop, classical or vocal so you can easily set it to match the type of music you’re listening to.
Digital formats Look for a hi-fi that can play a range of digital formats across CD, Bluetooth, USB and other connected digital devices. Format support should include MP3, AAC and WAV so you can play a range of digital audio formats.
Ready to choose the perfect hi-fi system for you, read our guide to the Four best hi-fi systems.