Best All-in-One Systems of 2014

All the features and none of the fuss

by Steve Withers Dec 24, 2014 at 7:25 AM

  • So you want to add surround or streaming capabilities to your front room but don’t fancy buying multiple devices.
    Well fear not because there are a number of all-in-one systems that will provide everything you need in one handy package. Whether your looking for a Blu-ray player, network or streaming device, amplifier or speakers, the systems in this list offer some or all of them all. Most are all in one audio-video packages but one is even a high-end music streaming device. So here are the best all-in-one systems that we have reviewed this year.

    Samsung HT-H5500 - £239 - Recommended

    The Samsung HT-H5500 is a classic 5.1 all-in-one system, that offers a decent set of features and excellent audio and video performance at a very attractive price. Despite this, the build quality is reasonable and the design is contemporary, although the gloss black finish can attract dust and fingerprints. The menu system is well designed and intuitive to navigate, whilst the provided remote control is comfortable to hold and easy to use. The big disappointment with the H5500 is that it has no HDMI inputs and whilst the HDMI output supports ARC, it's very limited in terms of connecting other devices. However, on the plus side, it does include built-in WiFi, Bluetooth and an FM tuner. There is also an NFC tag for fast connection to supporting devices and an excellent smart platform, along with great media support.

    Setting the H5500 up couldn't be easier thanks to clearly marked speakers and cables and the same is true for WiFi and Bluetooth, making the system ideal for someone taking their first steps into the world of surround sound. The built-in Blu-ray is pleasingly quiet in operation and delivered a flawless performance with 3D and 2D Blu-rays, as well as any DVDs that you may still watch. When it came to the audio side of things, the H5500 was capable of an enjoyable and nicely immersive surround experience, as long as you didn't drive it too hard. The bass was well integrated but lacked impact on occasion and the system was definitely better suited to smaller rooms but, in fairness, that's exactly what it's aimed at. Ultimately the Samsung HT-H5500 is a solid performer that offers great value and as such it deserves to be on your budget short list.
    Whether it's 5.1 or 9.1, these systems can provide everything you need in one simple package.

    LG BH9540 - £699 - Highly Recommended

    If you're looking for an all-in-one system that offers everything, then the LG BH9540TW might be just the ticket. It certainly offers great value, especially when you consider you're getting a 9.1-channel system with a built-in 3D Blu-ray player. The good news is that LG have managed to hit this price point without compromising on the build quality, the main unit is solid and well made, whilst the 'tall boy' speakers are also nicely constructed and stable. The centre speaker and subwoofer aren't quite as well engineered but they certainly get the job done. The BH9540 includes a wireless receiver with built-in amplification for the rear speakers and if that wasn't enough you also get a remote control, an FM tuner, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. In fact there's very little this package doesn't include, with two HDMI inputs and one output, a decent set of smart features and a remote app for iOS or Android.

    Thanks to some clever design and colour coded cables, setup is very straightforward, although there is a fair bit of construction before you start deciding where to put your speakers. LG include test tones and levels to help you once you have decided and the use of identical speakers means the resulting sound field is nicely cohesive. The front soundstage is open and suitably room filling, whilst dialogue remains clear and centred on the screen. There's a lively and detailed sound, with plenty of presence at the rear and a reasonably well integrated subwoofer. The bass response is probably the BH9540's weak spot and at times could be a little unruly but the added height presence provided by the upward firing drivers certainly helps to create a more immersive surround experience. Overall the LG BH9540 is fantastic all-round package that delivers in all the key areas - with looks, features and performance.
    If you want to stream music but don't want to create your own system, the Naim Mu-so might be the answer.

    Naim Mu-so - £899 - Highly Recommended

    The previous two systems on this list are aimed squarely at the audio/video market with the emphasis on surround sound but what if you're more interested streaming music? Once again there are solutions that involve various devices and once again you could create your own system with a PC or streamer, amplifier and speakers. However these days lifestyle audio products are all the rage and the Naim Mu-so pitches into a market where the Hi-Fi credentials of the brand that makes the product matter less than the design, interface and ergonomics. So whilst a potential customer might not care about Naim's lauded history, they will care that the system they are buying provides a simple solution to their needs. In this case the Mu-so provides a one-stop shop for anyone looking to add high resolution streaming in an all-in-one system.

    Anyone who does decide to go for the Mu-so certainly won't be disappointed because it is a seriously capable product that delivers on industrial design, features and sound. You can have no interest in the Naim brand whatsoever and still appreciate that this is a clever and extremely effective piece of equipment. The Mu-so combines everything you need, is easy to setup and use; with a useful remote app available for both iOS and Android. The Mu-so audio performance is very impressive thanks to its 32-bit DSP and the &5W of amplification manages to sound bigger than the dimensions would have you believe. The Mu-so is highly effective with all file types, including FLAC 24-bit/192kHz high-res audio and there's also Internet Radio, AirPlay, Bluetooth and Spotify Connect. So if you're looking for high resolution streaming in an attractive single package, you should check out the Naim Mu-so.

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