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Music has never been more diverse or more accessible, and that extends to the way we listen to music too. Massive home audio systems have been replaced by sleek, streamlined sets that combine analog and digital listening with the latest streaming technology. Snag one of these as the centerpiece of your living room or office, or combine it with other speakers to create an immersive multi-room setup.
BEST IN CLASS: Andover Model-One Record Player
Andover’s Model-One combines a classic turntable with an audio system that packs a surprisingly wide soundstage for its size. Starting with a custom deck based on the iconic Pro-Ject Debut Carbon series, the Model-One adds Bluetooth capabilities for easy pairing with your device. Get seamless switching between streaming and vinyl, with sound that is big and bright.
BEST DESIGN: Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation
Few things will steal focus at your next party like this sleek, sports car of a sound system from Naim. The Mu-so 2nd Generation packs 450 watts of sparkling sound inside a slick aluminum casing with interchangeable grills. It’s all powered by Naim’s multi-core Digital Signal Processor (DSP) that picks up more details and expression from your music. Sound is rich and reliable and fills the room with ease.
The tactile sound system features easy pairing to your devices and a ton of adjustable settings. The intuitive control panel lights up as your hand approaches it.
The sports car analogy isn’t just marketing speak either: Mu-so’s parent company, Naim Audio, is known as the classic British audio brand that makes the in-car sound systems for Bentley.
BEST FOR AUDIOPHILES: McIntosh RS200
Designed for digital and legacy audio sources, McIntosh’s Wireless Loudspeaker Speaker drops a whopping 650 watts of power channeled through eight dynamically-tuned drivers. What you get: fat, rich, audiophile-approved sound. The system is configured for hi-res playback with ultra-smooth low latency transmission. Music is warm, vibrant and enveloping no matter where you are in the room.
BUDGET PICK: Tivoli Music System Home
This bookshelf set from Tivoli Audio merges HiFi streaming capabilities with smart home conveniences. Ask Alexa to connect to a playlist, or listen to your favorite album through the built-in CD player. The system delivers clear, well-balanced sound and a surprisingly full range of dynamics in a mid-century modern unit that wouldn’t look out of place in a Palm Springs guesthouse.
How to Listen to HiFi Music
If you want to listen to an album the way the artist intended for it to be heard, you’ll want to upgrade to a streaming service that can actually capture the nuances of a track. Most streamers are only optimized for standard def listening using compressed formats like an MP3. But both Deezer and TIDAL offer HiFi subscriptions that elevate songs to pristine lossless CD quality, letting you hear every beat and brushstroke of the original recording.
TIDAL’s HiFi plan gets you access to millions of studio-quality masters, all authenticated by the artists themselves, while Deezer is the first streaming service to incorporate Sony’s 360 Reality Audio, a spatial sound technology that floats music around you for a concert-like soundstage.
This spring, music fans can also tap into IRIS, a new audio technology that claims to stimulate your brain for a more engaged listening experience. The London-based startup says IRIS works by re-synthesizing components of a track that are often lost during the digitization process. As you listen to a song, your brain actively works to pick out all the unexpected details that suddenly fill the speakers. IRIS works with most third-party applications, letting you integrate your existing playlists with the software. Among the technology’s early supporters: Queen drummer, Roger Taylor.