Top six best cheap mini hi-fi systems for 2020
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
Although it's relatively modest in terms of features, with no fancy extras such as internet connectivity, this mini hi-fi system has got it where it counts. It produces a pleasing and powerful room-filling sound, and is particularly easy to set up and use.
If you're looking for the perfect slimline mini hi-fi with the option of wall-mounting, this big-brand mini hi-fi could be the ideal mini hi-fi for you. It's packed with the latest features including multi-room support, and its sound impresses for such a thin design.
The sound of this all-in-one mini hi-fi with built-in speakers is remarkable considering the rock-bottom sub-£100 price. In fact it's so good it only narrowly misses getting a Best Buy. There's even Bluetooth support so you can stream audio from your smartphone through the mini hi-fi's speakers.
This is an incredibly powerful mini hi-fi, giving it a superbly high maximum volume and your music certainly won't lack energy. Sound quality is great with strong bass, and it's really easy to use too with its large remote control. There's even a USB socket so you can plug in devices such as a USB stick to play digital music and audio files.
Those looking for an extremely easy-to-use separate speaker mini hi-fi should look no further. This mini hi-fi is straightforward to set up, and the clear display and user-friendly control knobs make it a dream to use. Sound quality is good too from the powerful speakers - it's very impressive for the price.
This all-in-one model is an incredibly versatile mini hi-fi system, supporting Bluetooth, wi-fi and internet radio. You can play audio files from your home wi-fi network or a USB stick, and save presets of your favourite radio stations for easy access. The sound quality is reasonable, and its pleasing menus couldn't be much easier to use.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct at April 2019.
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.