Best laptop hi-fi system for £2000

If you want a system that keeps things simple, you can’t get much simpler than this.

The Dynaudio Xeo 2 active speakers need only a source, so add a laptop filled with music - we’ve chosen a Macbook Air for its stability - and some good audio software (we like Pure Music) into the mix, and you’re all set.

Even getting the Xeo 2s up and running is easy – just plug each one in to a power source and they’re ready to go. The speakers work together wirelessly, so you don’t even need to run a cable between them – they're as flexible in terms of placement as any speakers out there.

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Compact and adjustable

This is helped further by their relatively compact size - they can fit almost anywhere you need them to.

The EQ settings on the master speaker allow you to choose whether they are placed in a neutral, wall or corner environment. That said, even on the 'wall' setting we’d still recommend giving these speakers at least 10cm clearance from a rear wall for a workable audio balance.

Whether you want to listen to your music hard-wired, via the system’s 3.5mm input (there are also RCA and optical inputs for adding a TV or other hi-fi component) or fancy the wireless convenience of Bluetooth, the Xeo 2 system can support it. And, unlike a lot of kit, you won’t have to compromise on sound when you cut the cables.

Of course, for any hi-res tracks you’re going to need a hard connection, but for CD-quality audio or streaming services the Xeo 2’s wireless performance enjoys a clarity and sophistication we don't usually expect over Bluetooth.

For a start, it offers a lot of the scale and authority of its wired character, with a weighty low end that’s not scared to put some wallop behind a chunky bassline.

It’s well-handled, though, and is never overpowering. There's enough rhythmic know-how on display to keep composed during faster-paced tracks and integrate with the Xeo 2’s expressive midrange and articulate treble.

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Active ingredients

One of numerous inherent advantage of active speakers is their engineers can ensure the various internal elements work together in harmony as a complete system. And so it is here.

In fact, there’s a level of transparency available in the Xeo 2s you’ll be hard-pressed to find from a similarly priced system of hi-fi separates. That’s not a boast a set-up like this can make very often.

Switch it up to a wired connection to play some high-resolution files, and these benefits become even more apparent.

Of course, with iTunes not supporting high-resolution music, FLAC or DSD files, it’s worth investing in a piece of companion software that can. JRiver Media Center is a good PC alternative for the Pure Music we're using.

Pure Music layers itself seamlessly over iTunes so you can carry on using Apple’s software as you would usually, but with the ability to load hi-res files into your library and play them natively.

It sounds better than iTunes too, both by dodging any iTunes sound-processing and by caching audio into RAM before playback to reduce jitter.

Ultimately, music sounds more fluid, solid and cohesive - and that's before you consider the greater fidelity of higher-resolution tracks.

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The space/timing continuum

There’s more space to the sound when using a wired connection too, and timing is tighter still. Best of all, all the above applies no matter what your musical tastes.

Flexibility and convenience might not be words usually associated with excellent sound quality, but the Xeo 2s break the hi-fi mould.

Versatile, easy to house and offering a performance more-than worthy of their asking price, the Dynaudio Xeo 2s are the perfect just-add-source system.

MORE: Watch our Dynaudio Xeo 2 video review