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Simple hi-fi setup guide for beginner audiophiles

If you’re reading this, you’re probably at a stage in your life where you’re dissatisfied with the way you experience recorded music.

While the endless accessibility of music through streaming platforms enables us to explore new bands and genres every day, it feels as if this abundancy comes at a price – the inability to enjoy the moment, or the subtle intricacies of each piece, and the mystical effect tangible formats convey when you hold them and place them on your CD player or turntable.

In many ways, a hi-fi system helps you (re)connect with the music you love on a deeper level and brings you back to a time when music felt finite. If this is what you’re looking for, keep reading to learn how to set up your first hi-fi system.

About the author

I’m a musician and audiophile with extensive experience in the world of audio engineering and the science of sound. Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate the purity of audio reproduction, and today I share my knowledge with anyone who wants to delve into the world of hi-fi systems through in-depth articles and gear reviews.

Hi-fi system essentials

There are four items that are absolutely necessary when setting up a hi-fi system: the turntable (or CD or tape player), the phono preamp, the power amp, and the speakers.

Turntables and speakers are undoubtedly the essential elements of your setup, and a big part of your budget (around 60%) should cover these two items.


I’m sure we all know how a turntable looks like. It comprises a circular platform called a platter, a tonearm holding the needle (stylus), which is encapsulated into the cartridge, and the motor which spins the platter.

Fluance turntable
Fluance RT85 turntable | Image: Fluance

Each element of the turntable is crucial to deliver the timeless analog sound reproduction we’re all familiar with.

Phono preamp

A phono preamp is a device that amplifies and equalizes the delicate audio signal produced by the vinyl player. It’s a vital element that defines the reproduction quality of your sound system and can be found as a standalone unit or integrated with amplifiers or receivers.

Essentially, a phono preamp amplifies the signal to the level when a power amp can take the sound and amplify it to a higher power level, so that the sound can reach the speakers and your ears.

Furthermore, a power amp plays an important role in impedance matching and preventing overloads and short circuits.


Finally, the speakers, or, to be precise, the passive speakers. Contrary to their active counterparts, passive speakers do not have the built-in electronics necessary to amplify the audio signal on their own, so they require the aforementioned preamp and power amp to function.

They generally feature multiple drivers: woofers for low frequencies, tweeters for high frequencies, and mid-range drivers.

KEF hi-fi speakers
LS50 Meta speakers | Image: KEF

Passive speakers are the final step in the process of bringing audio to life through a hi-fi system, and their role is to reproduce frequencies perfectly across the whole spectrum.

Compatibility and further customization

As in many things involving audio technology, options to customize your hi-fi system are endless. For instance, you can combine a preamp and power amp into a single unit (integrated amplifier) or get a turntable with an analog-to-digital converter to digitize your vinyl collection.

As you’re creating your own sound system, you need to ensure each element is not only compatible with the others but also that it doesn’t negatively affect the final sound.

For instance, even with a high-end turntable, music won’t sound pristine if you pair it with sub-par loudspeakers. Therefore, I suggest buying components of similar quality to achieve a balanced sound.

Beginner audiophile setup examples

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, here are some beginner setups that can help you enter the world of high-fidelity audio.

All items below are interchangeable, so if you feel you want to mix my recommendations, you can do so without issues.

$720 setup

Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT + Yamaha A-S301 + Sony SS-CS5

An affordable setup that delivers a pristine sound without breaking the bank. The Sony SS-CS5 is a formidable speaker that excels in small/medium environments, bringing to life a high-fidelity sound that will upgrade your listening experience.

Similarly, the record player LP60XBT and the integrated amplifier A-S301 perform admirably for their price, with enough power and sonic accuracy to breathe new life into your record collection.

$1200 setup

Pro-Ject E1 + Denon PMA-600NE + Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2

Slightly more expensive than the previous trio, this is definitely the setup I’d go for if I was a beginner audiophile.

The Denon PMA-600NE is legendary among music listeners on a budget. With its Pure Analog technology, this is the perfect integrated amplifier to enhance the warmth of your records.

A pair of Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2 will give you the sonic transparency and sense of spatiality typical of passive speakers two or three times its price.

Finally, the Pro-Ject E1: aesthetically stunning, solidly built, and with a captivating sound, this is a record player that you might keep for a lifetime.

$3600 setup

Fluance RT85 + Marantz PM8006 + KEF LS50 Meta

Here’s my final recommendation for those willing to spend more to get perfect sound accuracy from day one.

To me, the KEF LS50 Meta is the speaker for audiophiles. Reasonably priced and with an enveloping and transparent sound that’ll leave you speechless, the LS50 Meta exudes sonic clarity and elegance, whichever genre you play.

To make the most of such an astounding speaker, you want a record player and integrated amplifier that are just as performing. The rich and detailed sound amplified by the Marantz PM8006 provides an immersive experience with perfect stereo imaging, even in big environments, enhanced by the precision and musical accuracy of the Fluance RT85.

For more options, check out our picks of the best budget bookshelf speakers, the best budget integrated amplifiers, and the best turntables for beginners.

Hi-Fi disposition

The way your hi-fi system sounds will also depend largely on the room where it’s placed. Without getting too technical, large rooms will require more powerful speakers and higher volumes to faithfully reproduce the entire audio spectrum.

When it comes to speakers’ disposition, you should place them at least two feet away from the wall to give room to get a more balanced sound. Speakers should be placed between four to eight feet apart, depending on the room’s size.

If you want to get the most out of your sound system, the tweeter (the smallest cone of the speaker, reproducing the higher frequencies) should be at your ear height. Getting a couple of stands will help you explore more options to find the perfect sound.

All in all, your biggest enemy is vibration, which occurs when different elements of your hi-fi system affect each other. For instance, if you listen to loud music on vinyl and your turntable is on the same table as your speakers, chances are vibrations from the speakers will have an impact on the music.

There’ll be a lot of trial and error involved, but in the end, you’ll get a hi-fi system that satisfies your needs and perfectly aligns with your environment.

A few words on budget

You can spend thousands of dollars on a hi-fi system and be unsatisfied with the quality of music reproduced simply because you don’t know how to make the most of it or because it’s not the best system for the designated room.

You can get great turntables and speakers for a few hundred dollars, and in the right environment, they can reproduce a clear, detailed soundscape. All you have to do is plan in advance, understand what you need, and how much you’re willing to spend.

If you already have an idea of the turntable you want, go ahead and buy speakers that are within the same price range. In this way, you’ll enhance the possibilities of your sound system and make the most of your budget.

Aside from the four essential items, you’ll have to consider other expenses such as cables, stands, headphones, and anything else you think might upgrade the sound.

Final thoughts

Setting up your first hi-fi system is an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Your listening sessions will become moments of focus and relaxation, and each album you place on your turntable will feel unique.

Your music collection will be tangible proof of your passion and dedication to music, and songs you listened to a thousand times will sound more complex and deeper than ever before.

Your journey to become an audiophile starts today. Good luck!