HiFi systems buyer’s guide
Welcome to Crowdstorm’s buyer’s guide to hi-fi systems, where you’ll find the answers you need for all those basic music system questions.
We’ll walk you through the different types of hi-fi, before briefly explaining how Crowdstorm works so you can complete your purchase with ease.
When we say ‘hifi systems’ we’re generally talking about all-in-one music units that include an amp and speakers as part of the overall package.
Home and portable HiFi systems
Traditional home hi-fi systems were (and many still are) record player sized, so somewhere in the region of 12-inches wide and deep. These are still the standard dimensions for separates, especially with the recent resurgence in vinyl popularity (thanks, hipsters!). But when we initially moved from records to tapes and then CDs as the primary form of album, the size if HiFi systems changed accordingly.
Micro or mini HiFi systems take their dimensions from the CD, making them up to half the depth and width of traditional units. They still have separate speakers and some even have a mini record player on top, although serious audiophiles start visibly shaking at the prospect!
The term portable HiFi tends to be used to describe what were originally called ghetto blasters; single unit systems with speakers built in that also have a carrying handle and a battery compartment, meaning they’re just as useful for annoying people on the train or in the park as they are for home use.
Wireless for sound…
This is a tricky term when talking about HiFi systems, because it is used in several different ways to describe very different products – and sometimes doesn’t mean wireless at all!
- Wireless speakers: Your serious music lover probably won’t entertain the idea of losing all those high quality cables. But for those who hate miles of stereo wire a set of wireless speakers helps reduce the clutter. These speakers tend to connect to the HiFi system via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. But some require direct power, so may be required to connect directly to the mains.
- Wireless HiFi systems: This term is often used to describe portable Hi-fi systems, or all-in-one speaker/amp units that give you options such as radio and digital music. Again, these often require a plug for mains use or will hit your wallet for some serious battery requirements.
HiFi system sections
Before you choose your new HiFi system, make sure it has all you need to play your favourite music. These are the sections they may have – but you shouldn’t take any of them for granted – always make and check off a list for each system you compare:
- Amp: This will be built in as standard, but the level of control you have over the sound will vary. For example, you may want features to alter the levels of bass and treble – although a good speaker system should reproduce the music just as the artist intended.
- Record player & cassette deck: These are both niche now, so don’t presume they’ll be included as standard.
- CD player: A CD player is still generally a standard feature, but you may want to check whether the system will play, or be able to record onto, CDRs. You can also still find devices which will take several CDs at once (often called CD changers).
- Digital (DAB), internet & standard radio: Again many HiFi systems will come with a radio built in, but do check which frequencies these systems offer. Once you’ve experienced digital radio, it can be hard to go back to twiddling those dials! While internet radio adds the world to your listening mix.
- iPod dock & digital music: Newer units will allow you to play digital music, either by plugging in your MP3 player or phone or by using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. If you’re picking up a dock, make sure it is compatible with your current Apple device as it has a tendency to change its connectors – meaning older devices won’t be compatible with newer phones, and vice versa, without paying extra for a converter.
- Remote control: While not a section in itself, a little remote control unit can massively enhance the lazy music listening experience!
- Voice control: But even using a remote control is too much like hard work! With Siri and her pals taking over the world, it was inevitable voice control would become a common feature elsewhere.
What HiFi inputs do I need?
If you fall in love with a HiFi system that doesn’t offer all the sections you need, it won’t matter if you can still plug in the extras. A simple USB port will often allow you to play digital music via a phone, MP3 player or memory stick, as well as charging those devices too.
Remember that if you want to plug in an external turntable you’ll want the hi-fi to have a ‘PHONO’ port, while connecting other pieces of kit will tend to use an input often labelled ‘AUX’ (or auxiliary). This should allow you to get stereo sound from anything from your TV to your PC.
Nowadays, a 3.5mm aux-in port can let you connect to all sorts of other devices, such as an Echo or your television.
Finally, if you’re wanting to pump up the volume while not making enemies of your family and neighbours, it’s worth checking the unit has a headphone socket!
So, what do I do next?
Once you’ve found your ideal HiFi system, the next step is easy. At Crowdstorm we have relationships with the UK’s leading online and high street retailers, letting you compare their prices with confidence. Once you’ve found the right stereo, and the right deal, simply click through and purchase.
You’ll be taken directly to the product page of the item you’ve chosen on the retailer’s own website. From there you’re dealing directly with them, not with Crowdstorm – we make our money from advertising these great brands and retailers, not from you, so there are no hidden costs. So it’s a simple process of buying direct from them online.