Cameras, Entertaiment

How to choose a HI-FI stereo system

How to choose a HI-FI stereo system
qa range

Building the perfect HiFi system isn’t necessarily about buying the most expensive components or picking big-name brands and being done with it. It’s about considering what you want, what you need, and what matters most when enjoying your music.

That goes for every HiFi component you buy, but by far, the speakers you choose are the most important aspect of any HiFi systemis. They’ll transform the electrical impulses sent from your Amplifier into a gorgeous, room-filling sound that delights time after time.

However, from floor standing to bookshelf speakers and sensitivity to speaker placement, there are countless aspects to remember when searching for your perfect HiFi Speakers. Like all things HiFi, it’s about research.

But what do you need to know when you search for those elusive, wonderful speakers? This guide will take you through everything you need to know. So, join us as we guide you toward your next speaker purchase.

1) Decide on a Budget and Consider Your Requirements

Before thinking about any speaker purchase, you must consider the budget you want to play with. Speakers, like any aspect of HiFi equipment, can vary wildly in price – even within the product range of one brand.

For example, Q Acoustics’ award-winning range runs from their 3010 Bookshelf Speakers at just £159 ($199) to their Concept 500  Floorstanding Speakers, which come in at £3999 (+$4500). Both are terrific speakers at their price point, but before you take the plunge, you must decide which pool you’re keen to play in. Tremendous speakers can be had at every price point, whether looking at £500 or £5,000 ($750 or $7,500) speakers, but it’s important to know your requirements.

Though value scales very well in speakers, there’s no point in buying unless you know your requirements, which leads us to…

2) Understand the Types of Speakers Available

Is your room large? Does the type of music you favor bass or a more expressive midrange? Do you intend to upgrade the other elements of your system soon? These are all questions that you need to ask yourself before you buy. With an idea of what you need from your ideal speakers, join us as we discuss the version types of speakers available. But first, what is a speaker?

At their most basic level, speakers take an electrical signal created by a source (a CD player, iPhone, or otherwise) and Amplifier and convert it into vibrations through drivers, which are amplified by cones and reach your ears, producing incredible audio.

Almost all speakers produce sound this way, but the sound level and frequency response a speaker can generate can vary wildly, depending on the number and size of the drivers it uses. Even the smallest speaker can produce most sounds audible to the human ear, but the bass response is typically an issue for these units.

So, what kind of speakers should you go for?

Floorstanding or Bookshelf?

With your budget broadly set and understanding what you’re looking for, it’s important to understand the types of speakers available.


Generally, speakers come in one of two flavors; floor standing or bookshelf (sometimes called stand mount). Thankfully, to avoid confusion, you’ll find that their names are pretty accurate descriptors of their appearance, with floor-standing speakers being significantly taller and standing on the floor. In contrast, bookshelf speakers are small enough to fit on a bookshelf.

Floorstanding Speakers

Sometimes known as tower speakers, these are designed to stand upright on the ground and, as a result, are generally at least 60cm tall and can even rise to two meters tall in some models. Inside these larger cabinets is room for more drivers and dampening material, offering a less resonant cabinet and, therefore, cleaner sound.



Though there are wonderful speakers in both shapes, floor standers generally offer the two’s larger, more expressive sound. This is thanks to several tours, including a larger cabinet design incorporating better resonance (vibration) dampening and more driver units.

They’re also, broadly, more sensitive, meaning that they require less power for amplifiers to reach higher volumes. With more drivers, floor standers can produce richer bass, more defined mids, and the same high-frequency response that a bookshelf speaker enjoys.

You’ll also find that floor-standing speakers require less dedicated furniture – all they need is a flat bit of floor, and they’re ready to go.


On the downside, their large size means they won’t be suitable for every space, and the lack of wall mounting options will hinder their suitability for some buyers. There’s also the cost issue, with floor-standing speakers generally being more expensive than their bookshelf counterparts.

You may also find that floor-standing speakers are more demanding on partnering equipment, often requiring a more powerful amplifier, though this varies from model to mode.

Bookshelf Speakers

Meanwhile, bookshelf (or stand mount) speakers are designed to sit on an object, be it a shelf, a rack, or a dedicated stand to help them reach your desired height.

Cedric Ligonnet FR C20 4 3 17Customer Photo Credit: Cedric Ligonnet


Bookshelf speakers boast much greater flexibility than floor standers thanks to their size, but they can also produce some truly incredible audio. You’ll also find that they’re generally a little less fussy when it comes to pairing and an amplifier, making them a simpler choice for many.


Bookshelf speakers often have to work a little harder to get to the same level of audio fidelity that floor standers offer, thanks to a generally lower number of drivers.

However, you’ll find that manufacturers have become extremely adept at crafting incredible bookshelf speakers with stunning audio despite their smaller sizes.

If you’re struggling to choose between the two and budget isn’t an issue, our advice would be not to make a decision either way. Having a selection of bookshelf and floor-standing speakers in mind as you move through the rest of this guide will mean that you’re better able to figure out which is right for you – you don’t have to decide right now.

Passive or Active?

Beyond the floor-standing/bookshelf dichotomy, you can have passive, active, or powered speakers. Here’s a brief, simplified description of each type:

  • Passive – The vast majority of speakers available on the market today are passive, so be prepared to encounter plenty of them when searching for your perfect speakers. Passive speakers don’t do anything independently, instead relying on an amplifier to produce sound. Passive speakers receive direct signals to separate drivers via a crossover.
  • Powered – Powered speakers feature their in-built Amplifier. This requires active speakers to have a separate mains supply.
  • Active – Active speakers feature their in-built Amplifier, with the signal being separated into frequency bands, amplified from within the cabinet, and sent to individual drivers. This requires active speakers to have a separate mains supply.

The advantages of active speakers are plentiful, with most active speakers not requiring a separate amplifier to drive them. This, in turn, can lower the cost of your overall system purchase and result in a more compact HiFi setup. However, they’re not without their issues.

On top of (generally) being more expensive than comparable passive speakers, active speakers aren’t upgradable like passive speakers. Consider for a moment the fact that a HiFi setup based around passive speakers will include a source (be it a CD player, record player, iPhone, or otherwise), an amplifier, interconnects, and speaker cable (at the least), and that each of those components can be upgraded or replaced to improve audio fidelity.

However, because active speakers combine Amplifiers, speakers, and cables, if you’re looking to upgrade or replace them, you’ll have to do so with the lot, all at the same time. Despite their initial convenience, that can make them both inconvenient and expensive in the long run.

The choice, ultimately, will be yours, but we’d recommend passive speakers for most use cases. By building your system, you can customize the sound profile to your choosing, whether bombastic or neutral and upgrade at your choosing.

3) To Biwire or Not to Biwire?


These days, you’ll find that many passive speakers have four terminals at their rear for you to plug in your speaker cables. This is for ‘wiring,’ connecting two speaker cables to the same speaker. Why?

With a single speaker cable, all frequencies across the high, middle, and low ends are sent simultaneously toward your speaker. However, suppose you’re using two sets of speaker cables to bi-wire your speakers. In that case, your amp can drive upper and middle/low-frequency signals separately, theoretically delivering a purer sound to your speakers.

The opinion is split on whether such an arrangement is worthwhile, and you do need an amplifier that supports wiring, but if you’re interested in wiring, it’s worth checking to see if your speakers support it.

4) Match your Speaker Choice to your Amplifier

Choosing the perfect speakers isn’t just about reading reviews and setting a budget; it’s also about ensuring compatibility and synergy with your Amplifier. It’s a surprisingly complex subject we’ve covered in a previous guide (click here for that), but we’ll cover some of the basics here to save you a click-through.


Impedance relates to speakers and amplifiers and is a measure of electrical resistance in your components, measured in ohms and represented by the Ω symbol. Speakers typically have ohm ratings between 4 and 8, while amplifiers usually operate best and are rated within a specific range, like 6 and 12 ohms.

You can find the impedance of both amplifiers and speakers on their spec sheets. Our general advice would be that it’s perfectly fine to connect speakers with a higher impedance to an amplifier capable of operating with a lower impedance, but what you shouldn’t do is connect speakers with a lower impedance (say, 4 ohms) to an amplifier with a higher minimum impendence (10 ohms, for example). Keeping to that rule, you can ensure a safe speaker and amplifier pairing, which is always a good idea.


When we speak of ‘power’ in speakers and amplifiers, we’re talking about how much power a speaker can handle and how much power an amplifier is outputting. Both are measured in watts, but a few wrinkles complicate the matter somewhat.

Specifically, there are two terms you’re going to come across which might well confuse you: continuous power and dynamic power. Continuous power delivers a fixed wattage to a fixed number of ohms, like 50 watts per channel into 4 and 8 ohms, and is the best indicator of an amplifier’s general power.

Dynamic power, however, is designed to ensure that in moments of particular intensity, an amplifier can drive more power to speakers to ensure effective audio delivery. Again, we’d recommend checking out our previous article on the subject.

However, for our purposes, you should pay attention to continuous power readings from your Amplifier and compare them to the recommended amplification levels on your speaker choice. You’re on to a winner if your speaker’s recommended amplificatspeaker’sl is within your Amplifier’s minimum/maximum power output.

Sensitivyou’rensitivity is a term used only in speakers. It refers to how loud a speaker will be in decibels when one meter away from the listener and being driven by just 1 watt of power.

For example, Q-Acoustics 2050i Flo has a 92dB sensitivity rating. Has with 1 watt of power (way less than any amplifier would provide), the 2050i’s would produce a sound p2050is level of 92dB from 1 meter away.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – won’t these you’re dangerowon’tloud when driven by any amplifier? The answer is no, and for one simple reason: the amplifier power output has to be able to increase a speaker’s sound pressure level speakers; by keeping with our 2050i Floorstanders example, it would take 2 watts for the 2050i’s to hit 95dB, 4 watts to2050i’sdB, 8 watts to hit 102dB, 16 watts to reach 105dB and so on until your eardrums can’t handle it anymore.

Couple that with the fact that the further you move away from your speakers, the faster sound pressure (volume) drops off, and you need to ensure that your chosen speakers are sensitive enough to hit the volume levels you desire in whatever room you’re placing them in.

5) Read Lots of Reviews

Buying a new pair of speakers is a serious financial commitment, not something you want to get wrong. So, how do you cut through the marketing jargon and find out whether a speaker is your time? The answer comes in the form of professional reviews.


Professional and well-respected review sites like What HiFi, HiFi Critic, HiFi Choice, and more all provide fully find dependent, balanced, authoritative reviews on HiFi equipment, like speakers and amplifiers. They’ll help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of any given speaker on the market, as well as help you compare them against other speakers you may have an interest in.

This is another invaluable resource for discovering the true value of your speakers Hspeakers’ true value isYou’ll discover there’s a plethora of advice, dn, and debate on these forums, al, alongside plenty of people willing to give you a hand in figuring out which speakers are for you. We can’t recommend investing a little of your time researching what experts allow enthusiasts are saying about a product before you put your money down.

6) Think about Speaker Placement

Setting up your Hi-Fi speaker for best sound (5)

Setting up your Hi-Fi speaker for the best sound

Speaker placement cathe n greatly affects your speakers’ overall sound, so do take the time to think about your speaker placement. Though different speakers will thrive in different environments, there are some general rules to follow.

Those include trying to avoid placing your speakers directly against a wall or in a corner, but in general, we’d recommend paying attention to manufacturer placement recommendations. Manufacturers test every product they release extensively in various positions and configurations.

As such, it’s always worth checking out the manufacturer’s recommendations for speaker placement to see whether they’re suitable for your planned setup. However, we should stress that manufacturers know that most people won’t be able to adhere to their guidelines exactly so that we wouldn’t worry too much about it. At Q Acoustics, we’ve noticed many of our customers prefer to wall-mount their new speakers, so we’ve modified our bass, enabling modification through foam bungs.

7) Consider Aesthetics

Bookshelf speakersHiFi equipment can be absolutely beautiful, or it can be something of an eyesore. When deliberating over which speaker to buy, consider the speaker’s aesthetics. Though they’ll blend into the background over time, they will remain a prominent fixture in whatever room you place them in.
That means that your speakers should not only sound brilliant but also look brilliant. At Q Acoustics’ we’ve always understood the value of aesthetics in HiFi design, and though it shouldn’t lead your decision-making, how your speakers look is important and should be kept in mind.

From glossy blacks to stark whites and natural wood finishes, there’s a speaker design to suit your home – so don’t settle for anything less than something which wows you every time you look at it.

0/5 (0 Reviews)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *