Vinyl Turntable Listening System

All separate components of a Hi-Fi system

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

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.

vinyl with orange, blue and white centre

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

hi-end standards differences

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.

Acoustic speakers

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.

loudspeakers speakers best hi-fi system

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.

We use digital to make the analog world better

What is the DAC and how does it work?

What is a DAC? We may not realise it, but every day we use a digital-to-analogue converter, more or less consciously. A DAC (the acronym stands for " Digital (to) Analog Converter") receives signals in computer language of "0" and "1" and makes them compatible with a system, with a PC, with a smartphone in order to be perceivable by the human ear. This is thanks to the appropriate cables, which in most cases are coaxial and INTERCONNECT.

It can be integrated, portable or measure more than 40 cm in width, it has a considerable number of digital inputs and from one to several analogue line outputs and it is made up of two parts, both of which must be of good quality for the final result to be good. Usually in cheaper DACs the digital part is of very good quality because the costs are low, while the analogue part, which requires economic effort, is poor. It is in the latter that the main differences between a low end DAC and a high end one lie.

This does not affect vinyl or tape lovers, who are natively analogue. The commercial explosion of the DAC coincided with the spread of liquid music. The arrival of the CD player in the eighties did not convince audiophiles because of the poor DACs in these early models, which were unable to produce a sound that matched that of vinyl. Early players suffered from jitter (which we could define as a time lag between the transmitted and received signal). This is when manufacturers and buyers started to give special importance to this instrument, which became more and more important in its autonomous and non-integrated form and, with the passing of the years, also more affordable. Ultimately, to answer the initial question "What is a DAC?", we could answer as follows: the DAC replaces the source to decode the digital audio signal, performing this operation in an optimal way.

marantz dac what is it

What to know when buying a DAC

The DAC is not only important, but fundamental, if you want to get maximum performance from your system. Its two main characteristics are signal-to-noise ratio and THD(Total Harmonic Distortion).

The signal-to-noise ratio is often abbreviated to SNR(Signal to Noise Ratio). It is a numerical quantity that relates the power of the useful signal to the power of the noise in any information acquisition, processing or transmission system. In the field of Hi-Fi, the signal-to-noise ratio is one of the fundamental parameters, even if not the only one, for the evaluation of the performance of a system as far as the cleanliness of the sound is concerned.

There is also the SINAD, conceptually very similar to the SNR, which along with the noise also includes the distortion generated by the circuit; it gives a more precise evaluation of the degradation assumed by a signal due to the non-idealities of the equipment it passes through. It is no coincidence that a battery-powered DAC has been found to work much better than one powered by a power supply.

Harmonic distortion and sampling in the DAC

A measure of the harmonic distortion present in a signal is the ratio of the sum of the powers of all harmonic components to the power of the fundamental frequency. Distortion factor, a closely related term, is sometimes used as a synonym. In audio systems, lower distortion means that the components of a loudspeaker, amplifier, microphone or other device produce a more accurate reproduction of an audio recording.

When it comes to digital, you also have to be careful about sampling. Sampling is, to use a metaphor, taking a recording and taking many 'photos' of it at regular time intervals. These photos are taken on multiple levels; the more levels we have, the less time there is between photos, so the less quality is lost. The number of bits in a DAC is really an index of how many levels I have; the sampling frequency is an index of how fast the photos are taken (the minimum is 24 bits at 192 kHz). Beware, though: there is no incontrovertible technical data to define which device is better. They all suffer or enjoy the effects of non-measurable factors, which can be, for example, good design or poor component layout.

The Ricable cables for your DAC: coaxial and INTERCONNECT. USB coming soon

Thereare many ways to connect the DAC to the source or amplifier. Here are the ones used in most situations. In the first case there are digital coaxial cablesThese carry the digital audio signal before it is converted to analogue and then amplified. Although they have the same connectors as the INTERCONNECT RCA cables, they have an entirely different function.

invictus coaxial

The most common usage scenarios are the connection between a digital source such as a CD player or PC (with the aid of an interface) and a DAC. The series are the canonical ones Ricableseries: starting from the entry level Primusand then Magnus e Dedalus, and concluding with Invictus. Rather similar are the optical cables, but these are less musical and more suited to other areas of use. The last type of cable is the USB cable, especially when connecting a DAC to a PC. Ricable is working hard on an optimal solution for this and, after the research and development period, will bring a product to the market that will guarantee its customers a connection with all the credentials.

TheDAC and amplifier are connected by the Primus cables. cables INTERCONNECTwhich are used whenever an analogue signal, in Stereo mode and with an RCA connection, is passed from one device to another. Once again, the Ricable offering is differentiated into the series Primus, Magnus, Dedalus e Invictus.