Top Three best cheap mini hi-fi systems for 2019
By Oliver Trebilcock
Mini hi-fi systems can be expensive, but you can still find a good-value model that offers fantastic sound quality at a budget-friendly price.
If you want an audio system to play music from a range of sources, there’s nothing better than a decent mini hi-fi. Whether you want to listen to the radio, play a CD or stream music and podcasts, most modern micro and mini hi-fi systems do it all. But they come at a price, and some mini hi-fi systems can cost well over £600.
But that doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot to get a brilliant sound system that sounds great. Every manufacturer offers a wide range of price options, so you don't necessarily have to pay top whack to get a good model, even if you have your heart set on a particular brand. Our in-depth testing has found affordable mini hi-fis for less than £200 that are as good, or even better-sounding, than a top-ticket hi-fi with all the bells and whistles.
Bear in mind, however, that the less you pay, the more the quality of what you'll get for your money can vary. Our tough lab tests will help you to make an informed decision, and below we reveal which great-value mini hi-fi systems to go for, and underneath that the low-cost ones to avoid.
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Best cheap mini hi-fi systems
This mini hi-fi has a CD player, DAB radio, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. In terms of sound, this Best Buy outdoes most of the more expensive models. It's also a fairly easy system to use, and you should be up and running within a few minutes of getting it out of the box.
This simple-to-set-up mini hi-fi system has all the standard features you’d expect from a mini hi-fi, including a CD player and DAB/FM radio, and via USB you can connect to your iPhone or MP3 player to play back tracks stored on these devices. It doesn’t have more modern features such as wi-fi or Bluetooth though, or support for streaming services such as Spotify. Nevertheless, for those that won’t use these features, it excels. Its volume can be turned up impressively loud without distortion, and the sound quality is strong across all genres, and particularly good at classical music. It is simple to set up too. It only just misses out on Best Buy status, mainly due to speech sounding a little unnatural to very discerning ears.
It's not a Best Buy, but this mini hi-fi is very reasonably priced and it sounds great, no matter what you play on it. It has all the basic features you'd expect from a micro hi-fi, plus the added bonus of a built-in CD/DVD player, so you can hook it up to your TV and use the micro hi-fi's speakers for your TV's audio, too.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct at June 2017.
Not found the product for you? Browse all of our mini hi-fi system reviews.
And here are three cheap mini hi-fi systems to avoid
Life would be a whole lot simpler if brands were consistent, but that’s simply not the case. In fact, almost every mini hi-fi manufacturer has a high-scoring, great-sounding product and a low-scoring poor performer. It’s difficult to know how good a mini hi-fi is until you try it out and give it a listen, but our tests take the guesswork out of the equation. Be sure to steer clear of the three poor-scoring mini hi-fis we’ve highlighted below.
Worst cheap mini hi-fi systems
Although this mini hi-fi has two powerful built-in speakers, the sound quality is very disappointing. Speech is particularly nasal and it has an uncomfortably loud and overpowering bass. The buttons on the unit are very small, and the remote isn’t very easy to use.
This compact mini hi-fi is perfect if space is at a premium, but not if you’re after high-quality audio. It’s the lowest-scoring mini hi-fi we’ve ever tested, not only because it sounds terrible, but because it’s limited in terms of features and it’s needlessly tricky to set up and use.
What to consider before buying a mini hi-fi
Which mini or micro hi-fi system you buy will depend very much on what you want to play, where you want to listen to it and how often you'll be using it. Here are six key things to think about before you start searching for your perfect sound system:
1. Your music collection - If you will primarily be playing CDs, it’s worth looking at multi-disc systems as well as those that can hold a single disc. Some mini hi-fis can also record CDs and store them as digital music files, such as MP3, on their internal memory. These songs can be accessed at the touch of a button and even made into new mix CDs using CDs with rewriting capabilities (otherwise known as CD-R/RW). Conversely, if the vast majority of your music is digital, you’re most likely to want a mini hi-fi with Bluetooth compatibility for streaming from other devices, and if you want to access internet radio or online streaming services such as Spotify, you’ll need a wi-fi-enabled mini hi-fi.
2. Where you want to listen – Think about the dimensions of the room it’s going in and the space available. Some mini hi-fi systems are multi-room compatible, which means you can play music in several rooms at one time, and a few will even allow you to play different music in various rooms at the same time. Separate speakers will give you more flexibility in terms of placement, but all-in-ones are generally more compact and ideal for small spaces.
3. How much you have to spend – Start looking with a definite budget in mind. Buying an all-in-one mini hi-fi is often much more straightforward than getting a single unit and two bookshelf speakers, and it’s also usually cheaper. But some retailers will offer package deals on mini hi-fi separates, which can bring the price down. It’s also worth noting that, in our testing, units with bookshelf speakers often sound better than mini hi-fis that have built-in speakers.
4. What are your priorities – Think carefully about what you need and what you’ll use. Sound quality is the most important thing; don’t get drawn into buying a mini hi-fi just because it has fancy flashing lights or a nifty new feature that you might not necessarily use that often.
5. Think about the future – Figure out where it will go in your home and realistically how long you want to use it for. Will you want to expand the mini hi-fi into a multi-room system or will you want to integrate it with your TV setup? It's also worth bearing in mind that if you opt for bookshelf speakers, they should ideally be mounted on stands to absorb vibrations.
6. Try before you buy – Richer Sounds and John Lewis will let you listen to audio products before you part with your cash, so you don’t have to buy ‘blind’. Even if you’d rather buy online, try to give a few mini hi-fis a try in store so you can see what differences there are in sound quality and ease of use.