Hi-Fi
September 21, 2014

The Basics of System Building

Article by Venoth Nair

 

In the previous feature, we looked at the knowledge that you need to equip yourself with when diving head first into the world of Hi-Fi. In this article we are going to look at the next step to building your very own piece of Hi-Fi heaven which is component selection and system matching.

 

It is very easy to just go out and buy the first piece of equipment that catches your attention but it is certainly rewarding to spend a little time and effort comparing and contrasting various components. This is because no two components are made alike. They may be built to perform the same function, but the approach and technique used to deliver this may be very different. These differences have their own merits depending on the listener and how it is applied.

 

Let’s begin with a look at the first part of the system, the source component. When choosing a source component, it would make sense to select a device which plays the type of media which you already own or desire to own. Aside from that it is pertinent to think about other little details or features that could be useful depending on your needs. Take a CD player as an example. Most entry level CD players will happily play the bulk of formats that could be put on a disc, but these days you could also get players which allow smart phone connectivity allowing audio to be streamed off your handheld device or directly off the internet. Handy, if you desire multiple sources from a single component.

Marantz CD6005 is a well specified cd player

 
Most current CD players additionally allow users to employ its internal DAC to decode other source materials which can be fed in via additional digital inputs found on the unit. Features like these are great, as you are now given a tool which can access not just your CD library, but also your digital one from various sources. This type of flexibility and features can also be found on network audio players. Vintage source components like turntables, tuners and tape decks however lack this versatility which is a limiting factor and must be taken into consideration when deciding on your preferred source equipment.

 

The next component in the setup will be the amplifier. Hi-Fi amplifiers do not come with all the bells and whistles of an AV receiver. This is because in Hi-Fi, an amplifier only has to take the sound delivered by the source and send it to the speakers while maintaining absolute signal purity. It’s important to keep a few criteria in mind when selecting an amp. These would be the power of course, the number of inputs available, a phono stage (should you wish to go down the vinyl route) and finally an upgrade path by virtue of pre outs. Some newer amplifiers do offer additional features like digital inputs and built in DAC but these are optional, only to be considered if there is a need for it.


 
Rega Brio-R Integrated Amp, a good though slightly expensive start

 
The final component in the Hi-Fi setup will be the speakers and these are pretty straight forward. When buying speakers you could study the performance specifications of the speakers like its power handling, frequency response and its sensitivity. These parameters govern the speaker’s performance and also determine how they partner with the amplifier. When it comes to speaker selection, the bulletproof method is to just sit down and listen to it play some of your favourite tunes. The speakers’ varying abilities at conveying a message has a different effect on each listener and I believe, the bigger the smile on your face, the more suited that particular speaker is for you. Also bear in mind the design of the speaker as some designs are less critical of placement while others require accurate placement and space to really show their mettle.


 
The Dali Zensor 1 – a great budget option

 

Finally, always remember when pairing components that each has its strengths, and though it may seem like a smart thing to do, pairing components together with equipment possessing similar strengths doesn’t automatically mean that it will shine together. In fact it could actually lead to the total opposite in the final result. It’s always good to try and pair components with different strengths together to somewhat balance out the sound, making it more neutral and well rounded. The best bet would be to identify individual components that work for you and then try partnering them together to hear if they work together or totally fail as a team. The moment the partnered components sing to you and a deep sensation of satisfaction is felt, then it’s safe to say that you have successfully compiled your first system.

 

Article by Venoth Nair