I would imagine the canon shots on Tchaikovsky’s 1812 might sound more like the banging of pots on a B&W Zepplin, or a pair of bookshelf speakers. Big music should be honored by full range gear.
Conversely, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, or Red Norvo sound right at home on small kit. If your musical choices lean towards ensembles, light classical, acoustic, and vocals, a compact stereo system might be just the ticket. Especially if you haven’t much room to contribute.
We could likely spend weeks covering the gamut of the small, so I’ll need to narrow the discussion by focusing more on the high-end as opposed to the Sonos, and single system devices.
The first place to start is facing the elephant in the room, the loudspeaker. There’s simply no way around the necessity of moving air if you want to have music. Sure there are ways we don’t have to pay any floor space penalty, like the invisible Aminas, or in-walls like the Invisas, but these are mid-fi compromises. If imaging and spatial cues are important to you, you’ll need to tolerate the physical intrusion of external boxes.
Let’s settle on the idea of donating some amount of floor space, as opposed to bookshelf speakers mounted on their namesake or a table. The reason we want our speaker boxes off shelves and away from physical objects is to minimize sonic damage. Speakers sound best when their envelope of sound is unimpeded. Place them away from as many obstacles as possible.
Wrap your heads around the idea of rescuing a small bit of floor space and tomorrow I’ll give you some ideas what to do with it.