Building a Hifi System

For newbies. What is a DAC? What is a preamp?

Building a Hifi System


When I first started out my site, I think it was pretty easy to navigate. Even newbies have no problems. Hoowever, as we grow bigger, with more stuffs on the site, I get many questions asking how do all these things link up together? There’s a Monica, there’s a Maggie and there’s Charlize? How do they hook up?

I’m partly at fault here. Though we assume the readers have some knowledge about audio, it is still, nevertheless, an assumption. There are definitely first time visitors, overwhelmed by all the stuffs.

So what should we do? Go back to basics!



At the very least, a hifi system for music consists of a Source, an Amplifier and your pair of Loudspeakers. Comprehende?

This is the most basic setup which almost everyone starts off with, but then slowly and surely, as we grow, we get nuts and begin acquiring more gears, segregating each components down to more components of very specific functions.


As you could see above, your source could be a Turntable, CD player, Radio or a Personal Computer. Nowadays, it could even be a DVD player, Cable TV Tuner, MP3 player or your Ipod.

However, as you could see, it doesn’t just end like this. Not all Turntables come with phono stages, so you’ll need to get a Phono Preamp. Likewise with CD players, it could be separated into a CD transport and a Digital-Analog-Convertor. Monica is a DAC.


When we speak of just "an amplifier", we usually refer to an Integrated Amplifier. This could be separated into Preamplifiers and Power Amplifiers. Maggie is an autoformer volume control so we could wire her up as a Passive Preamplifier. Passive as there are no active components (requiring electricity to function) inside.

Charlize is an amplifier module which you could wire her up as an Integrated Amplifier, or just a Power Amplifier. In this case, the difference between the Integrated and Power is just a volume control. If you wish to use Charlize with Maggie, then you could wire her up as a Power Amplifier.




Is the above clearer now? Now the digital source could be a CD/DVD player, a Discman, our USB Convertor, Cable TV Tuner… anything that has a SPDIF digital output signal. Cool moi?


I hope all the above is clear to you now. This is how a hifi system is built, from various gears, each with its specific functions. From a 3 component system, trust our audiophile brethrens to break things down to even more components. Hey, no wonder these are toys for big boys!



As we break up the components further down, the above is said to be the "ultimate". Not only the functions of each components are broken down and segregated, the signal is also broken down to its specific frequency range. Now we have high, midrange and bass frequencies. More power amplifiers, more speakers!

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