Outgrown your wireless speaker? Here are the 3 affordable music systems I recommend to friends

Pro-Ject Colourful Audio System in yellow
(Image credit: Future)

While bankers get asked for financial advice, landscapers for ‘mates rates’ gardening jobs, and event organisers for access to Taylor Swift tickets, hi-fi reviewers are typically asked for music system recommendations (alongside, of course, “Do you really just watch movies and listen to music all day?” and “Can you get me an Apple discount?”). Well, I am anyway.

I’m finding that my friends, now typically in their mid-30s to early 40s, are increasingly asking for buying advice for a ‘proper’ (by which I mean stereo speaker-fronted) audio system, as opposed to asking which headphones to get, whereas until now those sorts of requests have come to me predominantly from What Hi-Fi? readers and my mum’s friends. In all likelihood, that’s because they realise they’ve outgrown their wireless speaker, or are – like many, young and old – becoming interested in playing and collecting vinyl. They’ve reached the age of buying houses (and so having more space) and generally having more disposable income.

In the past year or so, three friends have asked for music system recommendations, so I thought I’d share my responses in case they appeal to others who do not know a tech journalist who supposedly just watches movies and listens to music all day and hands out Apple discounts.

But if they don’t suit your requirements or budget here, try our system recommendations at the bottom of our How to build the perfect hi-fi system article.

1. Two-box streaming triumph – £899 / $1000 / AU$1695

Green pair of KEF LSX II LT in front of vinyl records

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The system:
KEF LSX II LT – £899 / $1000 / AU$1695

Yep, that’s it. One product, two boxes – a right speaker and a left speaker (packed with amplifiers and streaming components). That’s all you need here to enjoy access to streaming services, internet radio, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast. Think of the LSX II LT like a wireless speaker (a Sonos Five or Naim Mu-so, say) but with the superiority of delivering true stereo sound. Prefer CD to streaming? Check out the trusty Denon D-M41DAB microsystem instead.

You can hook up your phone or TV via its USB-C and HDMI inputs, though note that there isn’t a phono stage for simply connecting a (phono stage-less) turntable. I’ve lived with the very similar non-LT version flanking my telly and can personally confirm that they sound lovely and are simple and intuitive to use.

All told, this isn’t far off the minimum you can spend on an entry-level stereo system, whether you opt for this kind of integrated speaker system or put together a system of separates. Speaking of which…

2. Traditional turntable (or streamer) system – £998 / $1743 / AU$2017

Rega Planar 1 in front of a glass window

(Image credit: Rega)

The system:
Rega Planar 1 turntable – £300 / $595 / AU$649 (or WiiM Pro Plus streamer – £219 / $219 / AU$329)
Marantz PM6007 amplifier – £449 / $699 / AU$880
Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 speakers – £249 / $449 / AU$488

Firstly, if you’re in the States reading this, the price of these components are weighted a little unevenly, so check out the Pro-Ject Primary E turntable ($299) and/or Elac Debut B5.2 speakers ($200) to bring the system cost down if you need to.

If you live anywhere and would benefit from Bluetooth connectivity, you could swap the Rega turntable for the inferior-sounding but Bluetooth-enabled Sony PS-LX310BT, or alternatively connect a budget Bluetooth receiver like the iFi Zen Blue to the amplifier.

Otherwise, this Marantz, Wharfedale and Rega (and/or WiiM if you want streaming instead or as well) combo is about as good as it gets at this price. You’re getting a great-sounding, easy-to-set-up, good old-fashioned hi-fi system here that, whether you like it or not, looks pretty traditional too. Just be aware that you also need to purchase a pair of speaker cables to connect the amplifier to the speakers (interconnect cables from the source and amplifier are provided in the WiiM and Rega boxes), and find a solid place for the speakers – ideally on speaker stands.

3. Turntable and streaming active speakers – £2274 / $2925 / AU$4129

KEF LS50 Wireless II in white finish on wooden rack

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The system:
Rega Planar 1 Plus turntable – £385 / $725 / AU$849
KEF LS50 Wireless II streaming speakers – £1899 / $2200 / AU$3280

Here you have three ‘boxes’ – a pair of stereo speakers with built-in amplification and a streaming chip, plus a turntable with an integrated phono stage. This is all you need to spin vinyl and stream from streaming services (the necessary cable connecting the turntable to the speakers comes in the Rega box).

You can read our in-house expert's five-star reviews of both products for all the details about their feature set and performance, but essentially you’re getting a compact and great-sounding system that allows for vinyl playback and access to services such as Spotify and Tidal, plus AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast and Bluetooth functionality.

If you have a little bit more cash to splash and don’t mind adding an extra (small) box to the proceedings, go for the Rega Planar 2 (or better – and pricier – still, Project Debut Pro) turntable and a Rega Fono Mini A2D Mk2 phono stage for a combined cost of £609 / $970 / AU$1249, plus the KEF speakers.


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10+ years in the hi-fi industry, she has reviewed all manner of audio gear, from budget amplifiers to high-end speakers, and particularly specialises in headphones and head-fi devices. In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.