Jeff Colen (President, A Sharper Home, Inc.) gives expert video advice on: What are the essential elements of a stereo system?; Will my CD player play CDs that I burn on my computer? and more...
What are the essential elements of a stereo system?
The basic components of a stereo system are an amplifier, speakers and source. That source could be a CD player, a DVD player, an iPod or a TV tuner - anything that provides audio and video. A pure stereo system only has audio, no video. If you move to video, you're typically talking about something called an AV receiver, which is an audio-video receiver which incorporates audio and video processing into the whole picture.
What is a "receiver"?
A receiver is an AM/FM and sometimes satellite tuner, so a receiver allows you to pick up radio stations.
What is an "amplifier"?
An amplifier takes low, line level audio signals and amplifies them so you can hear it through your speakers.
Will my CD player play CDs that I burn on my computer?
Most CD players will play CDs that have been burned off your computer. What you should be looking for if you're going to go that route is to find a CD player that explicitly says that it plays an audio format like MP3 or WMA. If you don't see that on your CD player, it may or may not play, and you're going to have to drop a CD in to find out.
Is a CD player a necessary part of my stereo system?
A CD player could still be a useful piece of technology to buy. A lot of our clients are buying integrated DVD-CD players to cut down on the number of devices sitting on their rack. A lot of our other clients are using newer technologies like MP3 players to play back their audio on their stereo systems. An MP3 player is definitely becoming a large part of the audio listening experience in somebody's home. Most of our clients do end up incorporating some type of MP3 player into their stereo systems.
Should I buy a turntable?
A lot of our clients do buy turntables for their systems, because they like vinyl, they like the way it sounds, and they have record collections. On the other hand, if you are not planning to listen to albums and you don't have any records, then a turntable is a piece of equipment that you don't need in your system.
What is a "shelf system" and should I get one?
A shelf system, also known as an all-in-one system, integrates a tuner, an amplifier and a DVD player into one box, and typically combines that with a either a two or five speaker system and you hear them say that it's an all-in-one system or stereo system - compact stereo system. If you have a shelf system and one element of that system fails, like the DVD player, that system is done. You can't really use it anymore. If you have a component based system, it tends to function better. Also, if something fails, you're able to return it or replace it or upgrade it without having to junk the whole system.