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MULTIMEDIA

Top 10 Hi-Fi & Music Streaming - Jan 2013

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Price: From $810

Verdict: Infinite music in every room without the need for custom installers? Sign us up now

Ratings: 5/5

Sonos multiroom system

Who needs to drill holes and re-plaster walls to get a multi-room music system at home? Not you. With Sonos, creating a simple two-zone system is an idiot proof doddle: the cheapest way would be to combine two of the new Play:3 units with the Sonos Bridge router. Want to go more high end? Hook up a ZP90 ZonePlayer to your existing hi-fi and router, add speakers to the amplified ZP120 in another room, and enjoy. Upgrade with more ZonePlayers like the Play:5 and control it all with the free iOS or Android apps.

The new Sonos Labs platform is in beta and gives users access to even more streaming services.

Denon D-M38DAB

Price: $520

Ratings: 5/5

Denon D-M38DAB

Our favourite micro system packs a CD player, DAB+ radio and 2x30W of amplification into its aluminium shell. A USB port allows direct playback of digital music and iThing integration, audio quality is excellent, and it’s US$120 cheaper without the speakers.

JBL OnBeat Xtreme

Price: $565

Ratings: 5/5

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.

Geneva Model M

Price: $860

Ratings: 5/5

Geneva Model M

Geneva Model M

There’s a new dock on the block for ¡Audiophiles: the Model M pumps out a serious sound of the kind you’d expect from a separates system. With only a dock, FM radio and 3.5mm input onboard it’s hardly feature-laden, but then that’s not really the point here.

B&W Zeppelin Air

Price: $600

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, and then adds AirPlay streaming as a bonus trick. Audio quality isn't quite so hot if you go wireless, but it's still better than almost anything else out there.

Philips Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800W

Price: $1,000

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.

B&W Zeppelin Mini

Price: $460

Ratings: 5/5

B&W Zeppelin Mini

It might not look anything like a Zeppelin, but this beautifully built dock does the family name proud, producing a balanced, composed sound with bags of detail. The pebble­ shaped remote is nice, and it'll play music from your computer via USB, too.

Beats by Dr. Dre Beatbox

Price: $490

Ratings: 4/5

Beats by Dr. Dre Beatbox

Different people want different things from an iPod dock. Some want a delicately balanced soundstage that can recreate harp string plucs. Others want volume and bass that can smash down walls and replicate a club sound. Guess which the Beatbox does?

Logitech S715i

Price: $160

Ratings: 4/5

Logitech S715i

A small, lightweight dock that does everything you’d want a small, lightweight dock to do, and does it well. As well as putting out a punchy, dynamic sound it comes with its own carry case, stand and remote and will last for 8hrs. A good, solid bet for the price.

LG ND8520

Price: $410

Ratings: 4/5

LG ND8520

This box of sound packs wireless AirPlay tech, an iPhone/iPad dock up top and the ability to fill a room with 80W of dynamic sound. Don't worry about the silly numbers only name or the garish design, because it sounds pretty sweet to us.

Instant expert

Can one new product shake up an entire Top 10? I can if it's the Phone E. Unless you've been living under a rock, on Mars, with no Wi-Fi, you'll know that Apple's latest blower has a new ‘Lightning' connector in place of the the old 30-pin effort which means it won't fit into a few of the docks o.. this list. Instead you'll need to connect it via one of two adaptors $30 for the stubby one; $45 for the cable version. Why so much? The adaptors have a tiny DAC inside them to convert the iPhone's newly digital only signal to a dock friendly analogue one. Even then, Apple admits the adaptors won't work with all existing accessories. Plus, they'll ruin the sleek lines of your Zeppelin Mini. The solution? Methinks it's time to embrace Bluetooth or AirPlay options...

What to look for

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.

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.

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.

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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