Ah, the simplicity of a good system: minimal boxes, minimal cables and minimal real estate. Whether you're looking for a just-add-speakers streaming or fruitfully featured turntable solution, a modest (yet ever reliable) microsystem, or a multi-room speaker set-up, you'll want something that's as convenient as it is high-performing.
Well, hunt no harder, for we've found (and granted 2019 What Hi-Fi? Awards to) seven systems that strike that balance perfectly, from as little as £225 to ten times that...
All for one and one for all
First up is the Denon D-M41DAB, which wins our 'best microsystem' award for the third year running. If you're after an affordable all-in-one solution with a CD player and Bluetooth, it's nigh on impossible to go wrong here.
Those with higher budget and streaming ambitions should look to the KEF LSX, a pair of active (i.e amplified) stereo speakers with network streaming built in. With "class-leading insight" and "extensive connectivity", these are essentially scaled-down versions of the LS50 Wireless system that sat in this enviable place last year. Plonk them on stands or a bookshelf and you've got a world of streaming at your fingertips (via your smartphone, natch).
Prepared to have a box of tricks you must add a pair of speakers to? The first of three just-add-speaker systems we can heartily recommend is purely for vinyl lovers. The Pro-Ject Juke Box E turntable marries record spinning with amplification and a Bluetooth receiver to an inspiring success that hasn't been surpassed in the last twelve months.
Thinking more of a hi-fi box that opens the floodgates to a world of music streaming? The Marantz PM7000N belies its traditional looks with a 21st-century feature list that spans network streaming smarts, multi-room and both analogue and digital connectivity. As we concluded in our five-star review, it's "a practical, well furnished just-add-speakers streaming system that impresses with its entertaining performance". A more sophisticated and higher-performing option is the twice-the-price Naim Uniti Atom, which is a repeat winner that looks as good as it sounds.
While many streamers and streaming systems are based on platforms that allow you to pair platform-sharing devices together, the crux of a multi-room system remains true to its origin: in the likes of wireless speakers from Sonos and rivals such as Audio Pro. Oh look, we've given it away. In the multi-room category, both brands and their great-value ecosystems are Award winners for yet another year in their respective 'premium' and 'budget' price breaks, combining vast streaming features with class-leading performance and neat designs.
Each brand has a 50 per cent chance of winning the esteemed multi-room system Product of the Year award at What Hi-Fi?'s annual ceremony, which takes place on Tuesday 5th November. One of the five hi-fi system winners – the one we think represents absolute best value – will also take home the golden gong.