Let's make some simple considerations before starting. First of all, it is important to note that the number of different set-ups that can be used to build a Hi-Fi system is not infinite... but almost. The vast majority of systems, in any case, have a structure that includes a source, an amplifier and loudspeakers. These three columns can be segmented, however, using a DAC not integrated, for example, or by splitting the integrated amplifier into the pre + power amp pair. Another curious consideration that we can make in this regard is the following: a banal object that we always have with us and that is overwhelmingly part of our routine, such as the smartphone, contains within it the entire audio chain. Certainly with other performances, but our mobile phones contain speakers, DACs, amplifiers and everything else that is necessary for a sound to be emitted. But what are the separate components of a hi-fi system?
The source can correspond to several elements. It can be a turntable, a CD player a network player or a PC, in case you listen to liquid music. It is what emits the signal of the track we want to listen to. This is why the source will always be upstream of our Hi-Fi system, except for the mains conditioner, which is positioned between the source and the mains socket. A CD player reads data stored on Compact Discs. In addition to the physical CD formats such as CD-R and CD-RW, CD players can read the many logical CD formats (Audio CD, Video CD, etc.) depending on the software of the CD player itself or the computer that houses it. The sound of a CD is digital.
Theturntable is an electric sound reproduction device consisting of a rotating plate on which a vinyl record is placed, which is read by an arm equipped with a head and a needle, sliding on the grooves. It is also the evolution of the gramophone, invented in the second half of the 19th century by Emile Berliner. The sound of a vinyl is analogue. Let's move on to the latest frontier of audio sources: Personal Computers and network players. These devices read digital files, either saved locally or reproduced via streaming. Technically they are the most powerful solution, but they are less easy to configure than CD players or turntables.
The amplifier is, in no uncertain terms, of all the separate components in a Hi-Fi system, the beating heart of the audio chain. Partly because of its position, as it sits in the middle, between the source and the speakers. A bit because it is where information, whether from a CD player, turntable, network player or even television, is channelled, converted and finally transmitted to the speakers in the form of enhanced electrical impulses. We can divide amplifiers into two broad categories: valve amplifiers and transistors. The former are characterised by the fact that they were the only ones on the market until a few decades ago - today they are aimed at a niche -, as well as... valves.
Thanks to these, the input voltage increases and, according to many audiophiles, this means more musicality, more 'warmth'. The warmth, however, is not only figurative. Valve amplifiers are very hot and consume a lot of power, so much so that it takes several minutes for the tubes to reach the correct temperature. Last but not least, the average purchase price is much higher than a transistor amp.
This is not the case with transistor amplifiers. These tend to have a high current, not voltage, input. Transistor amplifiers make up the vast majority of those on the market today. Another subdivision we can make with regard to amplifiers is that they can be integrated or separate in the pre and power amp combination. In this case, it is the integrated ones that saturate the market. The purchase of an amplifier, however, should always go hand in hand with that of the loudspeakers, which we will discuss in the next paragraph.
But let's also say a few words about the classes of amplifiers. These have nothing to do with the classes we find when we talk about household appliances. Classes, when it comes to amplifiers, do not denote consumption or quality. Rather, they represent the inner workings, the structure of the amplifier; but it is quite possible that a class D amplifier sounds better than a class A one. Quality really depends on many factors.
How do you choose the right amplifier and acoustic speakers? One aspect to consider, but not calculable, is our taste. Nothing will sound better than what we like in terms of dynamics, projection and intensity in the high or low frequencies. But fortunately there are also more objective parameters that we can calculate to clear our minds. The output power of an amplifier should be equal or slightly higher than that of the two speakers combined. There are often indications to this effect in the instructions. In the case of loudspeakers that receive too little power, the sound performance will be below expectations; in the case of loudspeakers that receive too much power, the risk of ruining them will be concrete.
The loudspeaker is therefore the device that finally transforms the electrical signal coming from an audio amplifier into sound to get it to the listener. Although they can be subdivided into active (i.e. with an integrated amplifier) or passive loudspeakers, you are unlikely to find anything that really has anything to do with high fidelity in the first case. More interesting is the question between bookshelf and floorstanding speakers. Here it is the size of the room that is the discriminating factor. the listening environmentIf the size of the room, the importance of which we will never cease to stress, is small, it is better to opt for bookshelf speakers, supported by a good subwoofer.
We would like to underline once again how the set-up of a Hi-Fi system is absolutely changeable according to the context, the audiophile who listens to it, the economic availability, the use that one wants to make of it (musical or multimedia) and many other factors. Elsewhere We have had the opportunity to go into more detail on bi-wiring and bi-amping.
And what role do the cables play?
The separate components of a Hi-Fi system, if reduced to the essentials, are therefore: source, amplifier and loudspeakers. The higher the quality of the electronics, the more revealing they become, the more what unites them will count. Hi-fi cabling that matches the rest of the system, at certain levels, is no longer a negligible factor. Take a look at our catalogue and start honouring your passion, step by step.