Instant expert... hi-fi separates
Why matching pairs are a winning combination
We advocate separates over all-in-one systems. Sound-wise, separates tend to perform better, but when buying we still suggest you demo the same maker’s matching amp and CD player. The kit usually shares the same design team and will sonically complement each other: if you like the sound of the amp, you’ll probably enjoy the CD player, too.
Listen to your favourite music, not the dealer’s
Hi-fi dealers should have a decent CD and vinyl collection for demonstration purposes, but we suggest you take your own. Take tunes you know so you can concentrate on how the kit is performing, rather than on the new music. And don’t just take your ‘good’sounding CDS. If you listen to lots of compressed pop, take it along as well and hear exactly how it sounds.
Position before you listen – and don’t stack it, rack it
You’ve bought your shiny new system. But you’re not going to stack your new amp, CD spinner and turntable on that rickety table, are you? And don’t even think of putting the kit on the floor. To sound its best, hi-fi kit needs a dust-free, level and secure base. Invest pounds in a dedicated rack, and the sonic (and visual) rewards justify the outlay.
Give your amplifier room to breathe
Well done for buying that nice equipment rack, but before you undo all your good work, make sure you give your stereo amplifier room to breathe. These machines get hot, and the chassis vents should not be covered up. The top shelf of your rack is ideal, but if you also own a top-loading CD player and/or turntable you’ll need clearance for all.
There’s nothing optional about essential extras
Before you hit the shops – and we recommend you buy from somewhere you can hear your kit – work out your total budget. Allow roughly the same amount for each component (including a pair of speakers) and then add 15-20 per cent for extras such as cables, speaker stands and a dedicated equipment rack.
Have you got a screw loose?
New hi-fis are like bicycles. Sort of. Three months after purchase, dig out your spanner and tighten up the situation. You’ll most likely find the bolts of the equipment rack and speaker stands have worked a little loose. Double-check your kit rack is still level, too.