Top 10 Hi-Fi & Music Streaming – Q1 2013

3/24/2013 9:06:56 AM

1.    Denon RCD-M38

Price: $585


Ratings: 5/5

Denon RCD-M38

Denon RCD-M38

Denon proved one-box micro systems could sound good, and with the RCD-M38 it's ramming the tiny-minus-compromise message home. Building on the success of the RCD-M37 and stealing that system's understated good looks - it packs a CD player and 2x30W of superior amplification into its aluminum shell. A USB port allows direct playback of digital music and iProduct integration, and the sound is as grown-up and composed as any small hi-fi we've heard.

Killer feature

Digital hook-up makes your iThing's tunes sound much better


Impressive sound from a small system, proving that micro doesn't have to mean compromise

2.    Naim UnitiQute

Price: $3,455

Ratings: 5/5

Naim UnitiQute

Naim UnitiQute

Not since Prince's heyday has such sweet music emerged from such a tiny thing. The UnitiQute produces audiophile sound from streamed files, all controlled by an iOS app. The SuperUniti is better still, while the flagship NDS is out soon.

3.    JBL OnBeat Xtreme

Price: $460

Ratings: 5/5

JBL OnBeat Xtreme

JBL OnBeat Xtreme

If you want to have your cake and eat the whole thing as well, look no further than the OnBeat Xtreme. It's packed with features - Bluetooth streaming, iThing dock, USB, built-in mic, video output and more - but it's also loud, fun and great sounding. Tasty,

4.    Marantz M-CR603

Price: $865

Ratings: 5/5

Marantz M-CR603

Marantz M-CR603

Marantz's brilliant new micro hi-fi will play CDs, FM and internet radio or stream from Bluetooth or DLNA-equipped gear, but it's the ability to stream music from devices with Apple's AirPlay tech that sets it apart. A shame it lacks Wi-Fi, though.

5.    Geneva Model M

Price: $1,110

Ratings: 5/5

Geneva Model M

An Audiophile's dream, the Model M pumps out serious sound of the kind you'd expect from a separates system. Want to go wireless? The dinky, portable Model XS ($275) streams via Bluetooth and does a great job given its size.

6.    B&W Zeppelin Air

Price: $825

Ratings: 5/5

B&W Zeppelin Air

The Air brings the weighty sound and design smarts we've come to expect from the Zeppelin family, then adds AirPlay streaming as a bonus trick. The new Zeppelin Air app is a further plus, giving your dock neat new social tricks.

7.    Focal XS Book

Price: $845

Ratings: 5/5

Focal XS Book

Can a computer ever be a proper hi-fi substitute? It can if kitted out with these premium desktop speakers. In fact, this 40W active system serves up such an uncompromising sound it's equally at home when plugged into your MP3 player.

8.    Logitech Mini Boombox

Price: $130

Ratings: 5/5

Logitech Mini Boombox

Logitech Mini Boombox

Travelling light? The Mini Boombox is so small it'll fit in your pocket, but still pumps out a superb sound for the price, whether your tunes are streamed over Bluetooth or played via its 3.5mm line-in. The perfect accessory for all your summer picnics.

9.    Arcam rCube

Price: $780

Ratings: 5/5

Arcam rCube

The audiophile's iPod dock of choice is now available in pristine white as well as sleek black. Either will deliver a roomful of clean, refined sound from a 90W amp. It will stream from an iThing or computer via a Kleer dongle, and if you get two, multi-room fun awaits.

10.  Philips Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800W

Price: $1,215

Ratings: 5/5

Philips Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800W

In a world awash with AirPlay-equipped docks, the new SoundSpheres create a niche for themselves by offering proper two-channel stereo output. Idiosyncratic looks ensure they'll stand out even further from the crowd, and they sound great too.

Instant expert

Living life in stereo

How do you improve on perfection? Denon's D-M38DAB micro hi-fi has sat near the top of this Top 10 for nearly two years, with its blend of great sound, excellent features and bargain price proving hard to top. Now a replacement is on the way, the D-M39DAB ($TBA,, and the best is about to get better. For starters, it now has digital inputs for iOS devices and TVs, and can charge your iThings even when in standby mode. Then there's the complete reworking of its innards, with an enhanced power supply, speaker optimizer and a new CD mechanism promising to further improve sound. It’s still great value, and as with the last model you can pick it up without speakers for much less.

Denon's new micro system is out to improve upon perfection

What to look for

1.    Spread 'em

As proven by the Naim, left, mini doesn't have to mean manky. Spreading the speakers out will help sound quality and adding a subwoofer can be a good move.

2.    Boxes of tricks

Look for as many features as you can get for your money: demand DAB, decent build quality and aux-in sockets for your PMP, plus HDMI if you want TV connectivity, and DLNA, AirPlay or UPnP music streaming tech.

3.    Ugly duckling?

No matter how well-specced a mini system is, it still needs to fit with the decor of the room it's going in. There are plenty of lookers out there, so don't settle for a Minger.

4.    Stream team

Most Hi-Fi systems are network-ready these days, but to take advantage of their streaming skills you'll need a server whether PC or NAS drive and a good Wi-Fi set-up. Going wired can be a better bet in houses with thick walls.

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