Hi-fi can be a strange and tempestuous beast at times, and with the many variations in a sea of possibilities, it’s easy to get caught up in the notion that there is now ‘one-size-fits-all’ checklist that will assure the best from your desired system. Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s not true. No matter the system, there are some universally agreed upon tips, tricks and tweaks that will ensure you’re getting the best. We have collated them here for you, alongside a few in-house recommendations for what to get.
Do any one of these things and you will be improving your system’s performance and getting a better sound. Do all of them and you will be guaranteeing the best.
Mains, speaker, interconnects. Cables are not only important, they’re crucial. We’re bringing them up first because of this: they’re usually the last thing anyone will consider, when in reality they’re actually the first thing you should be looking at. After all, cables move the necessary power and signals from place to place. If you have an inferior cable, your signal will also become inferior. A well made and well shielded cable to preserve the musical signal from degradation. The best system in the world will sound mediocre if the cables aren’t up to the same spec.
Some cables can assist with colouring the sound too, should you need tonal assistance in some areas. Do your research and see what will suit your system best. For a good all-rounder, we have found the Chord Clearway Speaker Cable to be a serious favourite amongst both punters and critics, and at a very reasonable price.
Where your system is placed can make all of the difference, and it may take a little while (and a few different positions) to get the one that’s right for you. Here are the three things you need to remember:
1. It must be a stable area
2. It must be resonance-free
3. Your source and amplifier (etc.) need to be as far away from the speakers as possible
Carefully selected and positioned stands and racks are how you solve your stability and resonance related problem. Something like the Atacama Evoque Eco 60-40 Bamboo Hi-Fi Stand is a good place to start. Racks particularly can be very easily customised to suit the needs of your system, and will help with any overheating problems. Whatever you do, don’t stack your equipment. Separation is critical.
Turntables in particular need extra assistance with this due to the extreme sensitivity of the signal they produce. The tiniest amount of interference can destroy the sound – so looking into appropriate isolation via furniture is critical to performance.
The placement of your speakers is possibly even more critical than the placement of your system. Yes, they need to be far away from the system to reduce resonance, but there are other factors to consider. Some will work best snugly against a wall and some will need plenty of space.
It’s crucial to place your speakers in a triangular position (as per the diagram above) approximately the same distance apart from you, with a similar distance between, and angling (or toeing) the speakers towards you. The placement of your system simply needs to be as far away from the speakers as possible – but your speaker placement is crucial, dependent on where you’ll be listening from and likely to take a little bit of messing around before you get it right (especially the toeing – that requires a little patience and a lot of tweaking!)
Is your turntable calibrated and aligned properly? If the answer is anything but: “yes, definitely” then the chance are you’re not getting the best out of your turntable. As I said before, turntables are extra sensitive. The tiniest disturbance can have a monumental effect on the sound. If you use a turntable and you want a significant improvement in the overall sound, look to your turntable before you look to anything else.
There’s a lot to look at here: cartridge alignment, tracking weight and bias. All very easy to get wrong, but thankfully there are a few handy tools out there that will help you get it right. Check out our selection of turntable set up tools, and get in touch if you need a hand. Turntable set up is something we take very seriously.
One of the most important choice you will ever make (well, in terms of hi-fi!) is whether you opt for floorstanding or bookshelf/standmounter speakers, which we cover in a greater depth in this blog. There are a number of pros and cons to each, and what you ultimately go for will depend entirely on two things: the sound you like, and the space you occupy.
Now, this is critical: spikes and stands. We have already talked at great length about the importance of both spikes and stands in terms of dampening and isolation, spikes for fixing to the base of the cabinets, to corresponding plinths, or even to the base of stands. You only need stands for bookshelf speakers, but these are less of a tweak and more of a necessity! Stands are much like speakers in the sense that it’s very dependent on taste as to what you go for, but for the absolute best – of any size – you have to check out the Partington range.
When it comes to hi-fi, a little housekeeping can go a very long way.
To keep your speakers well maintained, periodically tighten up the screws on the driver units. You don’t need any fancy equipment for this, just a bog standard screwdriver and a careful hand. Doing this will reduce interference through unwanted vibrations.
And last, but by no means least: cleaning. A system is only as strong as its weakest link, so keep your connection (the plugs in your cables) nice and clean with something like the Caig Labs range, which is perfect for keeping contacts in good working order and ensuring you get the best possible sound at even the most basic of levels.
For more tips and advice on everything from cables to maintenance please contact our product specialists on 0844 50 403 50 or email us for a prompt and thorough response.