There's a lot to be said for hi-fi separates – for one, they allow for more step-by-step upgrading – but the hi-fi system often gets one over on it where convenience and space efficiency goes (especially nowadays as the increasingly popular concept continues to evolve). If those two attributes are high on your priority list, a microsystem, just-add-speakers solution or an all-in-one stereo speaker system could be just what's needed to satisfy your music listening appetite.
Here we have five class-leading options for you, with Denon, KEF, Naim and Marantz all picking up Best Buys in the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2020 systems category for their very different, but equally satisfying, take on the music system.
Up first is the ever-reliable Denon D-M41DAB (above), a microsystem that pairs a very capable CD-playing, Bluetooth-streaming, DAB radio-featuring box with a talented set of (SC-M41) stereo speakers. A modest offering of not-so-modest success: the D-M41DAB and its ancestors have won more What Hi-Fi? Awards that we can count.
More serious – and wi-fi streaming-inclusive – propositions can be found in the Marantz PM7000N (below) and, to a greater extent, the Naim Uniti Atom. Both also repeat winners, they offer comprehensive network streaming platforms, AirPlay and Bluetooth and a whole host of connections – and, with sources and amplification built in, just require the addition of stereo speakers to sing.
The former complements its fruitful features with a big, spacious and insightful sound that you'd be hard-pushed to find better than from similarly priced separates, while the latter justifies its extra outlay with an even more entertaining and transparent performance and a thoroughly modern aesthetic.
The KEF LS50 Wireless II (pictured top) is the category's only first-time winner this year, arriving just weeks ago and proving worthy of a top accolade. The successors to the LS50 Wireless (a former Award winner), these do-it-all active stereo speakers are all you need to be the proud owner of a thrilling, all-inclusive and neatly compact system.
Everything's there – network streaming, Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, HDMI eARC, Roon support, you name it – and KEF's new Metamaterial Absorption Technology (which you can read all about in the review) help secure them an instantly likeable, punchy and clean sound.
The KEF LSX, meanwhile, flies the flag for the concept in a cheaper, more compact package, remaining the all-in-one system to beat for the money. You don't get the sonic maturity or quite the expanse of features as the LS50 Wireless II, but package neatness and both feature and performance value are still all there.
Only one Best Buy in each category can win a distinguished Product of the Year Award, which will be announced on Thursday 5th November – so which will it be? The dependable Denon, either of the sensational just-add-speaker solutions, or one of the two innovative KEFs? The wait to find out is very nearly over...