- HiFi Buyers' Guide
HiFi Buyers' Guide
While MP3 players have transformed the way many of us listen to music, most people still want a hi-fi to listen to music on other formats, such as CD or even tapes and records. And now, it’s easy to connect your MP3 player to your hi-fi too.
Mini, micro, midi or separates?
Real hi-fi enthusiasts will always prefer a separates system where you choose the speakers, amp, CD player, tuner and any other components individually, often from different manufacturers. This is generally the best way to get top sound quality. However, separates are bulky and don’t look neat. Often, each component comes with its own remote too. Midi systems offer many of the benefits of a separates system but in a more neat compact form, all from one manufacturer and with one remote. But for those who aren’t quite so obsessed with the very best sound, mini and micro systems offer neat systems which take up less space with reasonably good sound quality. Micro models are more widely available than the slightly larger mini systems these days, reflecting the consumer trend for ever smaller electronic products. However, they also tend to have less power output and fewer features. This guide focuses on systems rather than separates.
What combination of components do I need?
The most common components of a system are an amp, tuner and a CD player. You can also find systems with cassette decks, mini-disc and, with midi systems, you can get turntables. Which you choose will depend on what format your music is on.
Is it worth getting a DAB tuner?
If you want to listen to the radio on your hi-fi, it’s worth getting a system with a DAB (digital audio broadcasting) tuner as these give you access to more channels. You can save your favourite digital stations onto pre-set buttons making them easy to find. With some DAB tuners, you can even pause programmes and play them again or record them onto a memory card.
How do I know whether a system has decent sound quality?
The best way is to listen to some of your favourite music on the system before you buy it. Unfortunately, large chain retailers don’t always have listening rooms so you will just have to get a quick blast from the system on the shelf. However, most independent retailers do allow you to try out systems in perfect listening conditions. However, if you are buying online, which you probably are as you are reading this, recommendations made by people who have bought the systems, such as those on Reevoo.com, can be invaluable in helping you to decide on a system.
What can I do if I am unhappy with the sound quality?
You can improve sound quality by upgrading the speakers that the system comes with. But check this is possible first as not all can. Avoid systems with built-in speakers as you won’t be able to upgrade them if they don’t produce good sound quality. However, sometimes just upgrading the speaker cable can improve the sound quality.
How can I play MP3 files through my hi-fi?
There are several ways to do this. Some hi-fi systems come with a USB slot, like that found on a computer. These allow you to play MP3 or WMA files from a separate MP3 player or memory stick or you can connect your hi-fi straight to a computer and play your files that way. If your hi-fi has an auxillary input, you can connect it straight to your MP3 player. If your CD player has MP3 playback, you can save MP3 files onto a CD and listen to them through your hi-fi.
Auxiliary inputs: sockets that allow you to connect other things to your hi-fi, such as your TV or MP3 player.
Bass Boost: This allows you to emphasise the bass on music.
CD changer: allows you to play multiple CDs. Those with random play will pick tracks in a random order.
CD-R facility: This allows you to record onto a CD.
DAB tuner: Digital Audio Broadcasting Tuners give you access to a wide range of digital channels. You can save your favourite stations onto pre-set buttons making them easy to find. With some DAB tuners, you can even pause programmes and play them again or record them onto a memory card.
Graphic equaliser: A system that adjusts the sound balance to enhance the most important frequencies of a particular music style, such as jazz or rock.
MP3 playback: allows you to play CDs with MP3 files recorded onto them.
RDS tuner: RDS (Radio Data System) tuners allow you to save your favourite radio stations to preset buttons.
Power Output: The level of power of a hi-fi system, is measured in watts RMS. Systems with a higher power output can play music at high volume with less distortion.
Sleep timer: this allows you to use your hi-fi as a radio alarm clock.
Subwoofer: This is a speaker unit designed to enhance low frequency sounds which gives more emphasis to bass.
Tweeter: A speaker designed to produce high frequencies.