All-in-one or individual components?

Jam-packed hi-fi racks are history! Instead, there is a trend towards ultra-compact all-in-one devices. After all it is a rather pleasant thought to combine the many different stages of an old-school hi-fi chain in just one unit while enjoying identical features with a fraction of the necessary space.

However, this solution also has its disadvantages. In the event of a failure, often the entire device has to be replaced or repaired, while in a chain of components each one can be replaced individually.

We have asked the subscribers of our bi-weekly STEREO Magazine Newsletter to tell us what they prefer: all-in-one or individual components. Here, we have published the results as well as a selection of comments.

  • Never can be better than old analog audio
  • Upgrading is easier.
  • They are not actually mutually exclusive. Most people keep some old stuff and can bring it back into use if the newer components need to go off for repair.
  • Since I like the concept of All-in-one, there's a risk that the unit may be outdated in a few years, specially in the digital and streaming technology area. A good integrated amp with an external DAC/Streaming unit might be the solution for now. We'll see.
  • Individual components all the time. Analogue amplifiers have a long life. Progress in DAC performance is fast and units date comparatively quickly
  • Active speakers
  • Quality first.
  • HP NAS to Oppo UDP to Parasound P7 pre-amp to 6 channels of Bel Canto power amps/Monitor Audio subwoofers and speakers (6.2 surround system).
    My continuous upgrade approach as budget allows would not work with an All-in-one system.
  • The all in one system has it's place but not -- in my opinion -- in a main stereo set up.
  • I’m using a device which includes:
    DAC (3 different options)
    CDs storage
    Able to play from external hard drive
    CD player
    Satisfied with the setup!!
  • Individual components enable selecting the best product or manufacturer for the job. Individual components also enable one to upgrade based on new products becoming available, financial ability, changes in tastes or interests, etc. Choosing individual components means fewer compromises overall in the total system selection and build.


  • Separates are obviously best
  • If music is mostly streamed, there should be just one component for all types of stream.
  • Individual components are better built and engineered. They sound much better.
  • all in one quality not up to individual component quality in higher end systems over $25k
  • individual components let us combine the best of different brands and make individual upgrades from the diferent components
  • I believe individual components give better value as you have the ability to upgrade each component as new technology develops
  • I am an old-school audiophile... 😊 Thanks for an excellent magazine BR
  • For the most dedicated listening rooms I'd prefer separate components. For living room, bedroom etc a good one box solution is great
  • I use : AVR + Home Theater System (5.2), Media Streamer. I know that this is not the happier solution, years ago I used a plain stereo system with amplifier, tape recorder (reel-to-reel) turntable and vinyls. For a while I used a cassette recorder. Since the use of the tape recorders went down, together with the production of the vinyls, the quality of the sound dramatically decreased. The same goes for the quality of the music and its genre.
  • For whatever reason (I have my own theory) all-in-one units have a more closed in, processed sound lacking air and space and musicality.
  • An all-in-one system can probably integrated easier in the minimalistic modern interiors. But also a more flexible system with individual components, with a nice looking tube-amp for example can find it's place in many interiors.
    Nobody knows what the evolution of electronic circuitry in the near future brings. With an all-in-one system an upgrade of one particular (hardware) part is not possible.
    Even new techniques may cause certain parts being useless.
    High-end all-in-one?
  • This affords greater flexibility and allows users to prioritize sources and functionality based on individual preferences and financial resources.

A huge thank you to everyone who left an answer and/or comment! If you also want to participate in upcoming surveys, simply subscribe to our STEREO Magazine newsletter and never miss out on the latest reviews and news from the beautiful world of hi-fi.


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