Top six best cheap mini hi-fi systems for 2021
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.
Pricing and recommendations correct as of January 2021.
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.
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.