How to Compare Stereos: 5 Steps - MakeSureHow
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The components that comprise a stereo such as the receiver, amplifier, tuner and CD player all serve as a whole in reproducing your favorite music. Modern stereo systems play traditional sources such as CDs and records, with many units catering exclusively to iPod and MP3 playback. If your sights are set on surround sound, you can even use a surround receiver and a pair of speakers in stereo-only mode until you decide to make the investment in the center channel, surrounds and subwoofer.


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    What Do You Need?The first step in navigating the sea of stereo components is to decide how you want to use them. If the stereo is in a small room or office, a high-quality bookshelf system with a CD player, a pair of quality speakers and a USB input for your iPod or MP3 player may suffice. If you plan on making the system the centerpiece of living room entertainment, consider home theater receivers and Blu-ray players to start. Remember that any surround receiver can play traditional surround formats on Blu-ray and DVD in stereo only, called "downmixing." This is achieved by informing the receiver in the unit's setup menu that you only have two speakers. Receivers using an automated setup routine will detect this, making the correct settings accordingly. The two-channel audiophile may painstakingly select through careful audition the perfect preamp, amplifier and sources that subjectively work the best in a dedicated listening room.
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    Unconventional Sources: With the high amount of storage and convenient software for curating a music collection, a computer is a natural source for the music lover. CDs may be imported into a computer with perfect accuracy, or compressed to smaller file sizes to save hard drive space. Selecting an album or individual song from a list is far more convenient than flipping through endless CD jewel cases. Stereo receivers are connected to computers using a 3.5 millimeter-to-RCA cable, while a surround receiver uses either HDMI, optical or coaxial digital connections for audio. Even stereo-only enthusiasts find utility in traditionally home theater-geared sources such as Blu-ray, which offers lossless stereo audio. Older audiophile formats such as Super Audio CD and DVD Audio also offer reproduction using just two speakers. These formats potentially offer higher resolution than a standard compact disc. If your primary source is your smartphone for streaming audio through a network or over the Internet, you'll want a stereo that connects to the device through a USB connection. In addition to offering a pure digital audio path, USB connectivity typically allows the user to control the device using the stereo's remote control.
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    Traditional Media: The resurgence in turntable use and bands issuing content on records is partly nostalgia and partly backlash against the gritty compressed sound offered by MP3. Look for a stereo with "Phono" inputs for an easy direct connection. Alternately, examine the wealth of options available in separate turntable preamplifiers, which are needed to boost the low levels from a record player. Don't forget a tried-and-true CD player. Even if you normally import your music into a computer, you might want to sample a new CD or just listen direct from disc.
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    Speakers and Power: Speakers affect the overall sound more than any other component in a stereo or home theater system. For this reason, it makes sense to evaluate and decide upon speakers prior to selecting the receiver, amplifier and other sources. However, it's important to make sure that you drive the speakers with the appropriate amount of power. Each speaker has an RMS or average power handling rating, giving you an idea of the average amount of recommended power. These ratings are found either in product literature, or on a label affixed to the back of each speaker. Amplifier and receiver power ratings are normally referenced in literature and the product's user guide. Try to match the amplifier's RMS power rating with that of the speaker. Proper powering of a speaker offers better control of the woofers and tweeters that make the sound and produces less overall distortion
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    From Stereo to Surround: Choosing the most current surround sound receiver doesn't mean you have to go whole-hog and purchase seven or eight speakers at the outset. Home theater receivers routinely have excellent audio circuitry and a far more comprehensive array of inputs and outputs, such as HDMI and optical or digital coaxial audio. Add a subwoofer with your stereo speakers to provide more bass oomph, laying the groundwork for a true 5.1 or 7.1 surround system. Remember to select the center channel and surround speakers from the same brand and line as your front stereo speakers to ensure a proper voice or timbre match.

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Categories: TV and Home Audio

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