A Simple Guide to Creating a Musically Satisfying Hi-Fi System

Originally published 2010

You would not believe how many e-mails I have received over time from fellow music lovers and audiophiles that start out with, “My Hi-Fi system sucks, I need some advice …” or a variation on that. Most of the time people ask me about getting a new piece of Hi-Fi gear that will remedy their system’s ills, and most of the time that’s not really the solution to their problem.

We Hi-Fi and music enthusiasts are willing to spend many thousands of dollars on electronics for a Hi-Fi system that will give us long term listening satisfaction, and yet for many enthusiasts this results in getting on an equipment merry-go-round that costs us much of our hard earned money and ends in disappointment with the results. I think most of us (I do) really just want a musically competent Hi-Fi system so that we can just kick back and enjoy our music and focus on building our music library for the long haul. If you have limited financial means like I do, every equipment purchase that doesn’t work out in our Hi-Fi system effectively robs us of hundreds of albums for our music library cost-wise, so a mistake can have a lot of negative impact on building a library that will enhance our listening pleasure over the long haul.

I thought I’d do my best to distill my hard earned audio experience into simple & straightforward advice on putting together a musically satisfying Hi-Fi system in three easy steps. My goal is to equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to choose the right equipment, get a musically competent Hi-Fi system set up & running and out of the way – with a maximum of fun and a minimum of fuss & frustration – so you can focus on kicking back and enjoying your music while building your music library for the long haul.

Step One – Music 101

The first and most important step for getting the most out of your home Hi-Fi system is knowing a little something about music so that you can judge whether or not your Hi-Fi system is playing the musical content of recordings at its maximum potential. The greatest source of dissatisfaction among audiophiles is pursuing optimizing their system around the sonic content of recordings (recording artifacts like soundstaging, imaging, transparency, etc.) instead of the musical content. If you get your Hi-Fi rig dialed in so it plays the musical content of recordings well, the sonic content will fall into place automatically, and then a magical thing happens – you begin to enjoy the music immensely and forget about the gear.

What is musical content? It’s simply the

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