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  • Your first hi-fi system - what you need to know
  • 12 series15 series2 channelampamplifiercd playercomponentcomponentsdacdigital analogue converterhi-fihi-fi systemhifihifi systemhigh fidelity
Your first hi-fi system - what you need to know

Getting into hi-fi can seem like a daunting endeavour if you're a first timer, but it's always rewarding to take the first step. Whether you're a music buff or someone who just likes to relax and listen, having a proper hi-fi system takes music to a whole new level.

What do I need?

There are three primary components in any hi-fi system:

  • A music source
  • Amplification
  • Speakers 

Sources

Your source component is where the audio signal originates. This could be a CD player, turntable or radio tuner. These days, it also includes digital files that can be streamed or played via a USB input in many hi-fi systems. Your source material plays a huge part in the quality you can illicit from your system, so you want to use the best equipment as well as the highest quality files. If you have a big CD collection, our new RCD-1570 will really get the most out of your music. If you like radio, including Internet or digital radio, a tuner like our RT-12 is a great option; it also allows you to stream media from another device, such as a computer or a media server.

If you plan on listening to mostly digital files, a lot of our equipment is made with built-in digital-analogue converters (DACs). These are used to convert the digital bits that make up your music (think of binary code - millions of 0s and 1s) into an analogue signal that can be sent through your amplifier. If you fall into this category, you can use the DAC chip in one of our amplifiers or get enhanced digital audio quality with one of our standalone DACs.

Amplification

The next step in your hi-fi system is amplification. This consists of a pre-amplifier and power amplifier, which can be consolidated into an integrated amplifier.

The job of the pre-amp is to control and mediate the signal by applying gain and adjusting the volume. It also receives all your inputs, so if you use multiple sources, it's responsible for switching between them.

The power amplifier is in control of amplifying the small signal received from the preamplifier so that it covers the entire bandwidth evenly with complete control, instructing the movement of the speakers to create sound.

An integrated amplifier does both these jobs and only consists of one unit. For the sake of space and simplicity, this is an excellent option. Integrated amps like our RA-1570 are class leading performers with complete support for digital and analogue inputs along with pristine sound quality. All of our integrated amplifiers also contain phono stages, which provide a vital equalisation step for turntables, so it's easy to get into vinyl or revisit your old collection.

 However, if you have the ability and the space and are interested in full control, more musical dynamics, better detail and often more power, getting separate components is best. Our new RC-1570 and RB-1552 Mk II or RB-1582 Mk II make excellent combinations for optimal audio quality.

Speakers

The final link in the chain is your speakers. You're a bit spoiled for choice here. There are a lot of brands and types of speakers that each excel with different genres and in different listening environments. Some people believe that the speaker is the most influential component on the final product of your hi-fi system, but this is definitely not the case - the quality and type of your sources and hi-fi equipment make an enormous difference to the sound that is produced.

It's important to consider here the size and shape of the room your hi-fi system will reside in. If it's a large room, bigger speakers with better bass will be necessary to properly fill it. There are a few other considerations such as the height of ceilings, carpeting and furniture that will affect your speakers.

It's important to match the ability of your amplifier and your speakers for the best quality and the safest operation. A mismatched pair can mean either an incomplete or distorted sound at low or high volumes, or serious damage to your speakers or amplifier.

The best way to make sure they're compatible is by comparing specifications. Two important factors in this are impedance and power handling. Most speakers will have a nominal impedance of 4, 6 or 8 Ohms and a continuous (also known as nominal or RMS) power handling which is listed as a certain wattage. Impedance refers to how much work your speakers put your amplifier through - the lower the impedance, the higher the workload on your amplifier.

Power handling refers to the level of power the speaker can take over a long period of time. The continuous power handling is the important figure - while it can handle more or less power comfortably, this is the figure you should base the rating around.

Comparing to the specifications of an amplifier, it's important to check that the amp's continuous power output (playing at the listed impedance) is equal or greater than the speakers' power handling rating. To be safe and get the best outcome, some recommend getting an amplifier with around a 10% higher output than the speakers' handling.

Putting together your first hi-fi

Now that you've got a bit of an idea of what is necessary, it's time to consider what you want, what you need, and how you want to use it. If you're a relaxed listener and like to enjoy your music while talking with friends or reading a book, take a look into our integrated amplifiers. First time hi-fi users love pairing these with a turntable to listen to their classic collection while using the inbuilt DAC for digital audio.

If you're an active listener interested in diving into the deep end, putting together a pre-amp and power amp combo allows for the utmost control and quality. It also makes it easier to eventually upgrade components should you choose to do so. For the ultimate clarity and genuine reproduction of your music, setting it up with one of our CD players will be sure to move you.

  • Rotel Team
  • 12 series15 series2 channelampamplifiercd playercomponentcomponentsdacdigital analogue converterhi-fihi-fi systemhifihifi systemhigh fidelity