Hi-fi can mean so many things to different folk, so a quick search on the internet seemed in order and Wikipedia had the following to say: “High fidelity –  or hi-fi or hifi  – reproduction is a term used by home stereo listeners and home audio enthusiasts (audiophiles) to refer to high-quality reproduction of sound to distinguish it from the poorer quality sound produced by inexpensive audio equipment.”

I’m never even sure whether you should write hifi or hi-fi and so interchange the two at random!

This got me thinking! I participate in a number of hi-fi forums and no one person seems to agree on what hifi actually means. I suppose if being an audiophile meant the same to everyone then we would all be playing identical hi-fi systems, but the truth of the matter is that there are those with valve amplifiers, solid state amplifiers, horn loudspeakers, “normal” loudspeakers. Some audiophile folk prefer analogue front ends and use a record player, others prefer their hifi pleasure delivered by cd players and some prefer their music to be delivered by streaming hifi systems. There are those audiophile types who use digital sources, but then talk about how best to achieve an analogue sound. If I was starting out down the audiophile path all over again I have to say the world would look a lot more confusing than it did thirty years ago.

Back in the day there were few options. You bought an amplifier, a record player (turntable is the preferred word I believe these days…or even vinyl front end) and you bought a pair of speakers. Many of us will have also bought a tape recorder and a tuner to complete our hifi separates system. But then the cables you used to connect your individual bits of hifi became important and then CD appeared on the scene and then streaming audio became the flavour of the day and then…

I digress. There are those audiophiles for whom the all important factor is how a hi-fi measures. For them the main consideration is that the technical data all adds up and that the frequency response graphs are flat. Then there is the audiophile who says that the only useful tool when measuring a hifi is your ears.

The arguments get quite heated and I’m afraid to say the arguments become cyclical and repetitive.  I’m not saying that the arguments are boring – I love to visit one particular hifi forum for the simple reason that people are so impassioned that their path is the one true path to audio nirvana and they argue with such fervor that it’s hard not to admire them.

There are yet other audiophiles for whom the whole listening to different bits of kit is as important as achieving nirvana – the box-swapper – for these people there’s the profession of hifi reviewer.

I was reading another of these cyclical arguments about audiophillia yesterday on my favourite forum and one guy seemed to sum it up perfectly for me: “I love music and I love playing with kit. Hi-fi is obviously the perfect hobby for me”

For me I love all the different kit. I love the journey of playing with different cartridges, trying (yet again) to get to grips with streaming audio, moving my speakers a few centimetres to improve the sound, messing with different supports and hearing new kit, but most of all I love the music and I love the way that my hifi lets me to connect to the music in a way that I don’t believe an iPod and a pair of ear-buds would allow.

What does “Hifi” mean to you?


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