What to consider before buying a hi-fi
What features do you need in a hi-fi?
So, do you need a CD player? Will internet radio be OK, or do you want DAB/FM? Is hi-res streaming (Wi-Fi) important to you, or will Bluetooth be acceptable? Will you be connecting to a TV (optical or HDMI) and will you be plugging anything like a turntable in? The good news is, you’ll almost certainly find a system that ticks every box.
What about speakers?
You may have these already, or be looking to buy – either way, it’s important to check the impedance levels (ohms) of the amplifier and speakers. Most popular systems are happy driving an 8-ohm ‘load’. If you’re looking to drive a low-impedance speaker (2-4 ohms), check with the retailer first.
How much will a good hi-fi system cost?
This month’s recommendations are all quite premium – and you do get what you pay for – but if you have a more limited budget, check out the impressive Denon DM-41 at £399 (denon.co.uk).
Best hi-fi systems
Best hi-fi for simplicity
Mission LX Connect
Mission’s first all-in-one features a pair of 60W active wireless speakers and a control hub engineered by Audiolab featuring high class DAC, preamp, headphone amp and a host of connections including USB, Bluetooth, AUX-IN (connect CD player or turntable), S/PDIF, HDMI Arc. Hi-res recordings have wonderful depth and punch to them via USB (32-bit/384kHz hi-res), but the more convenient Bluetooth connection still entertains. It’s just a shame that, at this price, there’s no wi-fi connectivity.
Find out more at mission.co.uk
Best hifi for all formats
Elipson Music Centre Connect HD
Finding a CD player, DAB and, yes, even an FM tuner isn’t easy these days, so I’ve been gleefully revisiting my stacks of BBC Music Magazine cover CDs with the help of the twin 120W class-D amplifiers and a trusty pair of Q Acoustics 3030i speakers. But don’t think of this as old fashioned, as it also has USB, RCA, Optical input, Bluetooth aptX HD and Wi-Fi, which can play 24-bit hi-res, while the app lets you utilise all major streaming services.
Buy from elipson.com
Best all-round hifi
Cambridge Audio Evo 150
I feel for today’s audio engineers. They’re expected to cram an ever-increasing list of hi-tech features into ever-shrinking boxes, while also ensuring that the box looks beautiful and sounds fantastic. No doubt encouraged by the success of the phenomenally good Naim Uniti Atom, Cambridge audio has nailed the brief, with the most accomplished just-add-speakers system.
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For starters, it’s absolutely gorgeous, with a large colour display, beautifully knurled control knob and interchangeable walnut or black textured side panels. Traditionalists, however, might enjoy the rear view even more, as it boasts RCA, USB, coaxial, 2x optical and HDMI ARC, phono, USB and balanced XLR inputs, plus two sets of speaker terminals. There’s also a terrific DAC, phono stage for turntable and 150W-per-channel power. Oh, and naturally it has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth aptX HD and Chromecast, and can stream from virtually anywhere in any format.
Thankfully, having filled this beautiful box with must-have features, Cambridge Audio’s tireless engineers didn’t neglect the performance, and it is wonderfully articulate and enthralling.
Buy from cambridgeaudio.com
Chris Haslam is a freelance consumer technology journalist, specialising in tech, audio, lifestyle, health and interiors. He is the monthly audio columnist for BBC Music Magazine, rounding up the best audio equipment on the market for classical music lovers. He is also a contributing editor for Wired UK.