To create a truly outstanding listening experience, you’ll need to invest in premium audio components.
Home theater systems help you better enjoy movies, sporting events, and video games, while also increasing the value of your home. But knowledgeable home theater enthusiasts know that these systems, while great for movies, usually provide a poor music listening experience.
For decades, the high-fidelity (Hi-Fi) audio industry has been making products that offer the best sound quality available. While most of these products don’t ever reach a mainstream audience, music lovers who want the best audio possible will need to integrate Hi-Fi audio into their home theater systems.
Just in case you’re confused about the difference between home theater and Hi-Fi, let’s take a minute to clarify what each term means.
Home Theater Audio
Home theater systems were designed in the 1980s in response to the breakthrough of Dolby© Surround Sound. The idea was to recreate the immersion of the movie theater experience with as much accuracy as possible. Most home theater systems feature:
- Multi-channel audio with dialogue mixed to the center channel
- Sub-woofers that “boom” for explosions, jet engines, and other Hollywood pyrotechnics
- Audio quality that’s built to enhance a video
The history of high-fidelity stretches back to 1954 when an MIT engineer named Henry Kloss dropped out of college to develop equipment that reproduced original musical recordings with as much accuracy as possible. Hallmarks of Hi-Fi audio include:
- Stereo signals – there is almost no music recorded in multi-channel audio
- Sub-woofers that offer tight, accurate sound reproduction
- Equipment that provides compelling audio without the need for visuals
Those are just the major differences, but they should give you a decent understanding of the strengths of each system.
The Importance of High-Quality Source Material
Hi-Fi audio will appeal to a variety of users, especially those that listen to high-quality source materials. Good audio sources for a Hi-Fi system include 180g vinyl records, CDs, and the latest generation of digital streaming services that feature high-fidelity, “lossless” audio.
If you often listen to music on those media — and want the best possible audio quality — then Hi-Fi is for you. The next step to integrating Hi-Fi audio into your home theater system is to find the right components.
A High-Fidelity Amplifier – The Beating Heart of a Hi-Fi System
Unlike home theater receivers, which are designed to power many components at once, a Hi-Fi amplifier’s job is to provide the best possible audio signal — and maximum power — to just two stereo speakers. When conducting a search for a Hi-Fi amp, you’ll likely encounter three common terms.
Pre-Amp – This console boosts the signal of the input, providing a steady signal for the power amp. Pre-amps also refine the signal and produce a more nuanced sound, but must be paired with a power amp to work correctly.
Power Amp – This unit takes the signal from the pre-amp and adds the power you need to drive the speakers. Power amps are usually the more visible component, as they’re significantly larger than pre-amps.
Integrated Amp – These combine the functionality of the pre-amp and power amp into one convenient unit, which saves you the trouble of matching the two, an often-discussed artform within the audio community.
Hi-Fi Speakers – Define the Character and Personality of Your System
Of course, even the best amplifier won’t produce good sound if the speakers aren’t up to the job. Hi-Fi speakers are better engineered than home theater speakers and are made of higher-quality materials. There are so many great options for Hi-Fi speakers on the market, the best we can do here is to help guide you in the right direction.
- Hi-Fi speakers come in a range of sizes and specifications, so a good place to start is selecting a couple of brands that you like then compare their features and pricing.
- What size room do you have? Floor-standing speakers often produce higher volumes, better dynamic range, and more bass, but will be overkill in a small room.
- Do the speakers match your aesthetic? It’s important that your speakers integrate with your audio room, as they’ll likely be an important visual feature.
Are Cables Really That Important?
Yes, but only to a degree. The distinction between quality cabling and super-luxe cable options, while very important for a niche audience, may not be important for your system. If you’re forced to choose, it’s better to invest in a superior quality amp or speakers.
Combining Hi-Fi Audio and Home Theater
Now comes the task of combining the two systems. This process involves making sure that the two front speakers (the Hi-Fi ones), are running through the stereo amplifier, while the rest of your home theater equipment is running through the AV receiver. While interconnected, both systems should be sufficiently independent as not to interfere with the signal of the other.
The technical steps involved in integrating the two systems can be a challenge. If you have any questions about how to best integrate a home theater and Hi-Fi system, it may be useful to ask a professional for help. The Hi-Fi experts at INCTech are always available to help make sure your AV project is completed as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
INCTech – A Trusted Leader in Home and Commercial Audio Visual
Whether you’re an audio enthusiast who wants expert help with their next home project, or a business that’s looking to tackle an ambitious new audio-visual initiative, the INCTech team is always here to help.
A trusted leader in the technology services field, INCTech can help you architect and deploy a wide variety of AV solutions, from home theaters and video teleconferencing systems, to digital signage, light control systems — or virtually any other audio-visual project.
Have a question for your experts? Call us any time at 800.333.2989, or email us at INFO@INCTECH.NET.