Last month, I had the chance to get my hands dirty with the superb Sound engineer one box music system. As a music system aimed at fans of quality audio, it breaks with the traditional convention of stereo speakers by placing a set of speakers and everything you need from a music streaming system from high quality in one cabinet.
It got me thinking about alternative built-in music systems shaking up hi-fi conventions – modern audio solutions that focus as much on home style as they do on sound quality. With that in mind, I set out to select the best setups I’ve heard that balance sound and style.
Below are the results of this effort. Each targets a different budget and price point needs, but they have in common that they deliver a great experience when listening to music and look great to fit right into a stylish home.
Ready to find a music system that won’t ruin your decor? Read on to find out which of the 5 best music systems for style is right for your home.
What are the best music systems for the style?
Single box systems
1. Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin
The eye-catching design of the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin makes it look like it’s been around forever. It started out as an iPod docking station (remember those), but evolved into a powerful wireless speaker system. It may seem obvious to some, but the Zeppelin is so named because of its oval shape reminiscent of the floating airships that graced the skies of the world for about 10 years from the late 1920s to the 1930s.
This latest version of the Zeppelin was introduced in 2021 and is the third iteration. It has built-in Alexa voice assistant, and like the other single-box music systems listed below, the Zeppelin is a wireless, multi-room speaker system that supports high-res music streaming via Wi-Fi. Fi. The Zeppelin can be associated with Bowers & Wilkins Training Series (opens in a new tab) as part of a full multi-room setup, and also features Bluetooth connectivity with aptX HD codec support.
The underside of the main body of the music system can be illuminated to achieve a halo effect on the metal base. Inside, tweeters are placed at each of the pointed ends of the main body to help give the best impression of stereo separation. Further inboard there are two mid-range speakers paired with a single center bass speaker which provides bass for both channels.
As you’d expect from a specialist audio company with over 50 years of experience building world-class loudspeakers, the Zeppelin’s sound does not disappoint. Music comes to life with a familiar vigor characteristic of the brand’s speaker designs and a level of commitment to bringing your tunes to life, whatever your musical tastes.
2. Naim Mu-so 2
Naim Audio is a British audio company synonymous with the high-end market. Although best known for its Classic hi-fi series components, which have just received an update to mark the company’s 50th anniversary announced last month CES 2023, the Naim Mu-so 2 is a beautiful entry-level integrated speaker and music system designed to be one of the main elements of a wireless multi-room music setup in the home. The burnished black finished unit features a removable speaker grille that can be swapped out for other color options (available at an additional cost) to match your home decor.
We didn’t cover the Naim Mu-so in Tom’s Guide, but I managed to spend a lot of time listening to the beautiful redesigned 2nd Gen Mu-so 2 when it launched in 2019. The updated model improves power output and bass performance. This thing makes noise! As with the audio references associated with the company’s even higher-end hi-fi components, the Mu-so 2 one-boxer still sounds fully authentic with nuanced vocals, and can rock when called upon to do so.
Mu-so’s control app is constantly updated and exceptionally smooth to use. There’s an HDMI ARC port so it can act as a stereo soundbar, and placement is also made easier with settings that adjust the output to compensate for the limitations of nearby walls, which can over-boost low frequencies or free space.
3. Sound engineer
I’ve seen plenty of speakers and music systems walk through my front door over the years, but undoubtedly the most striking to grace my home lately is the Sonus faber Omnia with its tactile surface and its illuminated touch controls. Like the Mu-so 2 (above), this is an all-in-one wireless speaker system, and it first caught my attention when it launched in February 2022.
As you can imagine, her beauty is more than superficial. Although it looks nothing like a conventional music system, it has everything the modern music listener could want built into its super stylish. Physical connectivity options run over HDMI ARC, analog RCA, while wireless extends to Bluetooth with aptX HD support, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect. It’s Roon-ready if you subscribe to the integration platform that brings all your digital music libraries and playlists together in one place, and you can even hook up a hi-fi turntable like one of the recommendations from our best record players purchase guide. The only connection options missing are optical and USB digital ports, but this is highly unlikely to be a deal breaker for most users.
Omnia’s greatest strength is in the music. Sonus faber’s hi-fi heritage means this single-box music system has all the audio credentials of its speaker designs. I’m a fan of the company’s small Lumina I bookshelf speakers, and the Omnia seems to have a similar warm sound and ability to show off high-res music streams from Tidal Connect.
Instruments have their own space in the soundstage, and bass levels are strong enough to carry tracks with hi-fi levels of beat and rhythm. It’s also quite loud, filling my average-sized living room with enough volume for me to appreciate the full breadth of my music.
Active stereo system
4. KEF LS50 Wireless II
Although a more traditional looking stereo speaker system, the KEF LS50 Wireless II has a thoroughly desirable aesthetic as well as great sound. Again, we haven’t reviewed this active speaker system in Tom’s Guide, but I’ve had plenty of experience with it at home in partnership with the Correspondent KC62 (opens in a new tab) compact submarine priced around $1,499.
Essentially a fully integrated music streaming system, the KEF can also do TV sound through an HDMI port with ARC on the back of a speaker, making it a convenient alternative to a soundbar where speakers can be placed on either side of a screen. You can control TV sound using the device’s remote control, the KEF Connect app or the supplied remote control.
The KEF’s room-filling capabilities belie the dimensions of compact stereo speakers, and the soundstage from its Uni-Q speakers is nothing short of spectacular. It achieves an almost tactile 3D image of a movie or music soundstage, and a strong sense of depth that extends beyond the speakers and into the room. The outlay may be high, but this KEF music system offers some of the best stereo sound I’ve heard, and the performance with the associated subwoofer in place is truly second to none.
5. Devialet Mania
French high-end audio specialist Devialet is unquestionably known for its Ghost (opens in a new tab) speakers, whom I had the good fortune to have encountered several times in a previous role as an audio editor. But it’s the company’s latest introduction with the Mania miniature that’s most significant as a modern music system right now.
THE Devialet Mania is a battery-powered system aimed at fans of quality audio with deep pockets. For its small size, it uses considerable audio know-how to achieve spacious stereo sound in all directions via a ball-shaped cabinet.
The Mania exudes an air of sophistication that makes you feel like you want to take good care of it. Wireless connectivity works with Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect are on board. Amazon Alexa is integrated and the configuration is done via a dedicated Devialet application. Battery life is estimated at 10 hours.
My practice listening session was too brief, although it made a considerable impression on me. Placed on a coffee table in front of me, the stereo effect of the Mania was subtle, but present all the same. It created a sphere of sound around the orb that projected sound waves outward, and the sound it produced was several times larger than the compact speaker placed in front of me.
Percussive sounds from a piece of music chosen by Devialet to show off the stereo prowess of the small speaker evoked a sonic aura around the speaker which was very effective with elements bouncing around like table tennis balls falling on the floor. It’s not quite on the scale of stereo sound that I would expect from dedicated hi-fi speaker arrangements with speakers placed several meters apart to recreate the soundstage with musicians playing in a space directly in front of you, but it’s impressive all the same. Ultimately, the Devialet Mania is the sleekest and most remarkably cute portable speaker I’ve seen.