The world of hi-fi can be an intimidating, confusing place for a beginner if you don’t know what you’re really looking for, or how to start your own set-up.
We talk a lot about a hi-fi set up, but what do we actually mean by that? Most hi-fi systems are, at their simplest, a few different pieces of kit that do specialist jobs to create amazing sound. The bare basics can be outlined into a source, an amplifier, and a pair of speakers. These are the things you’ll need to kick-start your own system.
The source – This is where your music comes from. It can be a CD player, a network streamer, a tuner, a TV, a games console, a computer… anything that feeds audio information into an amplifier. This brings us to the next component.
The amplifier – As you would imagine, this amplifies the information fed to it from the source. It toys with (or allows you to toy with) the bass, the treble, the EQ, the volume, until it sounds just right.
The speakers – The end of the circuit; where the sound comes out. For many, this is the starting point of building their system as it is the most visual component and comes with the most restrictions.
The general rule with hi-fi is that the more isolated the components, the better the sound. This is so that each piece can perform its specialist role at an optimum level. For example, imagine a hypothetical CD player with a built-in amplifier. A bare CD player has an input stage, a transport (the thing that spins the disc), a DAC (converts the digital information on a CD into sound), an output and a power supply. The CD spins and creates vibrations in order to produce sound. Those shaking movements can influence the amplifier sharing the box, creating mechanical and electrical noise in addition to your music rather than pure clean sound. Sharing a power supply with an all-in-one can affect your sound in a similar way; the supply has to power two components instead of one, which could create strain on your system. A separate power supply doesn’t have to work as hard to create sound! This is why we would generally recommend everyone to keep components separate.
An exception to this unwanted interfering noise with a two-in-one would be a network audio player, as it has no moving parts like a CD player. A source with no moving parts means less degradation of musical sound quality and not as much loss from a CD with a built-in amp. Of course, there are other exceptions that provide great sound from all-in-one’s, like Naim’s Uniti range, but the vast majority of the time, you would be better off separating your components.
Usually, at the end of a beginner’s guide, we would recommend entry-level, user-friendly basic products for people to try out. But in this case, every hi-fi set up is different. There is no one way to listen to your music, and for a lot of people, what sounds ‘good’ is completely subjective. We would ask you to let us know some requirements first, like the purpose of your system, what you want to get out of it, the size of your room, any existing equipment, past experience with hi-fi, preferred sound, most prominent genre of music… Set-ups are often tailor made and mismatched to suit your own needs, likes and dislikes. The only thing we recommend is that you let us help you out.
As always, if in doubt, feel free to get in touch with our team. Happy listening!