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How to choose the best hi-fi system

Lynn Wright / 19 May 2016

The best hi-fi systems are easy to set up and use, and deliver great sound so listening to your music is a pleasure. We help you pick the best hi-fi system for you.

Hand twisting hi-fi control
Hi-fi systems offer excellent sound quality and will play music from a variety of sources

Hi-fi systems – also known as stereo systems – let you play your music through a set of speakers. They consist of three parts: an audio source such as CD player, turntable or radio; an amplifier that controls the volume; and speakers – usually two for stereo sound.

These components can be bought separately or as all-in-one solution. Hi-fi systems are compact systems that offer excellent sound quality in a neat, space-saving unit. Some come with built-in speakers, while others have separate speakers including a subwoofer to produce a more powerful sound.

For more on choosing the best micro hi-fi system, see our guide to Hi-fi system features explained.

Hi-fi system buyers’ guide

Price Hi-fi systems vary greatly in price from around £50 to more than £600. At the top end, you’ll find premium systems packed with features and delivering a great listening experience. But even if your budget is more modest, you’ll find several systems around £150-£200 capable of impressive sound quality.

All-in-one designs Most hi-fi systems are compact, all-in-one units that are ideal for a sitting room, kitchen or other home space. They typically include a CD player, a AM/FM and digital DAB radio, and sometimes an iPod dock. The built-in speakers vary in the strength of their output, typically ranging between 10 and 30 watts per channel. With no wires other than a power cable, they’re simple to use.

Separate speakers Some systems – often described as mini hi-fi systems – have separate, more powerful speakers (ranging 30 and 100 watts per channel) or come with a separate subwoofer to enhance bass reproduction. This means you can replace them if they get damaged or boost sound quality by upgrading them to a better pair, all without buying a whole new system.

What can I play on a hi-fi system?

A hi-fi system will play music from a variety of sources:

CDs Almost all micro hi-fi systems include a CD player that will play most CDs, including CD-R and CD-RW format.

Radio Expect to find an FM/AM tuner as standard and, on newer systems, a DAB radio tuner so that you can listen to digital radio broadcasts.

iPod/iPhone dock Many systems include an iPod/iPhone docking station so you can  play music from your iPod or iPhone through the stereo speakers, and charge it at the same time.

MP3 player and USB If your system has a USB port, you can connect your MP3 player to play music through the speakers. Alternatively, you can copy audio files from your computer onto a USB flash drive, plug it into your hi-fi system and play it direct from the drive.

Internet streaming Some premium hi-fi systems have built-in Wi-Fi that allows you to connect to the internet to listen to online radio stations and podcasts, and stream music from music services such as Spotify.

Ready to choose the perfect micro hi-fi system for you, read our guide to the Four best hi-fi systems.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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