Six sound one-box music systems

Tech expert Jonathan Margolis selects the all-in-one players to note

Streamline your music setup with a high-tech one-box stereo
Streamline your music setup with a high-tech one-box stereo | Image: Jonathan Frantini

iFi Aurora

Built from bamboo and aluminium, with an LED display reminiscent of an airliner flight deck, this is one of the most beautiful tech products I’ve seen. Its sublime looks have function too. Bamboo is light, exceptionally stiff and non-resonant, which means no trace of distracting vibrations and buzzes. The machine hosts eight speakers, including two massive bass radiators; plus a preamp with a Russian 6N3P valve to lend warmth to the sound. And the Aurora’s perky upwards tilt sends its gorgeous, spookily spatial sound towards the middle reaches of a room’s height, where it belongs. £1,399, ifi-audio.com 

iFi Aurora, £1,399
iFi Aurora, £1,399
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Ruark R5

In 2013 Ruark released the R7, which was basically a retro G-Plan-style sideboard housing a fantastic stereo – a hifi radiogram for the 21st century, and a metre long. The scaled-down R5 is 52cm long, but even with half the R7’s distance between speakers, it produces quite superb stereo. It streams services like the blessed Tidal and the sound is really glorious, from a powerful bass to the twinkliest of top notes. One of Ruark’s founders started out in cabinetmaking and it shows in the sleek design. £999, ruarkaudio.com

Ruark R5 in walnut, £999
Ruark R5 in walnut, £999
Como Audio Musica, £649
Como Audio Musica, £649

Como Audio Musica

Como Audio, the Boston company founded by Tom DeVesto after he sold Tivoli, added a retro, but cunningly targeted, feature to its Musica music player: a CD slot. “Everyone talks about streaming CD-quality music,” says DeVesto. “Well, one easy way to achieve CD quality is with CDs.” Como’s engineers have also added an ethernet connection, presets with direct access from the remote, aluminium knobs and integrated premium music streaming services. It delivers high-end stereo sound from a feature-packed machine that is handsome and practical enough to suit any room in the house; it can also be set up to work as a multiroom system with other Como products. Nothing not to love here. £649, comoaudio.co.uk

Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Gen

A 21cm cube with Naim’s statement “ship’s wheel” control knob on top, the Qb looks tiny but packs a big punch. With an array of speakers, including as big a downward-firing bass driver as possible, 300 watts of serious spatial sound and as many streaming options as you could want, the little Qb is pretty superb. As with any music player, I would keep things simple and just subscribe to Tidal for CD-plus quality streamed music direct from WiFi to the machine; then Bluetooth from your phone or tablet anything that’s not on Tidal. But, whatever your streaming bag, the Qb will comfortably accommodate. £749, naimaudio.com

Naim Mu-So Qb 2nd Gen, £749
Naim Mu-So Qb 2nd Gen, £749
Plus Audio The+Record Player, £1,135
Plus Audio The+Record Player, £1,135

Plus Audio The+Record Player

This, from the niche London-based radio maker Plus Audio, is a hefty but handsome self-contained stereo record player – like your old Dansette, just hundreds of times better – with the most brilliant speakers built in. Yes, it also does the streaming thing, but for me the appeal is that it’s a proper chuffing record player – no extra wires, no complications. It sounds fantastic – or “shockingly good” as one famous audiophile said when he heard it at the New York Audio Show. Our ears are just not used to such quality sound coming from harsh old recordings; the six amplifiers in The+Record Player provide a generous soundscape, even when playing mono records. £1,135, plusaudio.com 

Orbitsound Dock E30, £449
Orbitsound Dock E30, £449
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Orbitsound Dock E30

Apparently, Mark Knopfler takes this superb speaker on tour. I can see why. With the brilliant patented “Airsound” speaker system up its sleeve, the E30 produces not only great stereo, but stereo that sounds the same wherever in the room you are listening. It’s almost like one of those portraits whose eyes follow you around. Other great features: superb bass, which can be enhanced further with the optional S4 wireless sub; wireless charging for phones; a useful USB-C charging point on the fascia; and an old-fashioned but very handy slot on the top in which a phone, tablet screen or iPod can be stood upright and used as an operation panel. Very nice British tech from Shoreditch via Torquay. £449, orbitsound.com

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