If you’re an audiophile and ready to listen to the highest sound quality for your favorite music, you’ve probably looked into setting up your hi-fi system. It’ll significantly improve your listening experience to have a complete setup. However, a high-quality sound system seems way too expensive – why does hi-fi cost so much money anyway?
Hi-fi is so expensive mainly because of the quality of the equipment and the demand of the market. Some hi-fi equipment is hand-made or personally customized, and even the less expensive equipment is specially designed for high fidelity audio quality. The high clarity and rarity add to the price.
In the rest of this article, we’ll discuss why hi-fi equipment costs so much and the market demands around hi-fi setups. We’re also going to detail what goes into a personal hi-fi set and how to save a little money when you’re beginning to buy the equipment.
The Price of a Hi-Fi Setup: An Overview
A hi-fi setup is all of the audio equipment parts – a source, an amplifier, and a speaker. If your audio setup is hi-fi, then all these parts are hi-fi quality pieces of equipment. Hi-fi is more expensive than standard equipment, for more reasons than just sound quality or niche marketing.
Of course, there are levels to the amount of money paid for audio equipment. Some people don’t spend as much for a more straightforward setup, and others can pay thousands of dollars for customized materials and the highest tier of musical equipment.
It’s important to remember that the most expensive options aren’t always the best.
Every hi-fi setup and rack is different, so the price depends on several factors: the caliber of speakers and amplifiers you want, how many pieces you’re looking for, and if you get any other add-ons (such as a hi-fi rack, extended cords, or a complete surround sound setup).
Your hi-fi setup is unique to you and will cost whatever you’re willing to put into it.
Hi-fi is not just a better sound quality than regular audio. Many factors go into the price of hi-fi equipment, including the market, the particular setup, and the equipment demand.
Even with the high cost of a hi-fi setup, the prices are better than they’ve ever been with the latest technology and marketing advances.
These are only a few of the factors that lead to the hi-fi prices being what they are. There are many other reasons outside of the music industry – societal norms, market capabilities, and the expense of specialized materials, to name a few.
However, inside the music industry and market, the following factors affect the price of a hi-fi setup.
1. The Best Possible Audio Quality
High fidelity is all about the reproduction of sound. The perfect sound is completely lossless – everything recorded is heard.
Most regular speakers and setups don’t have the intense clarity of hi-fi speakers, and the listener will miss some of the sounds.
This clarity costs money to produce, but the difference is audible, especially for audiophiles.
Related article: Is Hi-Fi Audio Really Worth It?
2. Requires Multiple Audio Equipment
If you want a proper hi-fi setup, you’re going to need more than one piece of audio equipment.
While some only have the primary three – source, amplifier, speaker – and are happy with that, other music enthusiasts or recording artists put together a more complex speaker system.
Of course, the more components you have in your hi-fi, the more money it’ll cost you.
3. Very High Quality of Components
Because the audio is better, the components in a hi-fi system will be of a higher quality. Some manufacturers use specific kinds of metal for their wiring or special casings made with a custom mold.
The technology behind hi-fi audio makes it more challenging to craft a good hi-fi speaker so that the finished product will cost more.
4. Hand-Made Boutique Equipment
Some of the most expensive hi-fi audio equipment is hand-made for optimal performance. Even the existence of boutique speakers and amplifiers can make all hi-fi equipment seem more expensive.
There are also mass-produced items with high levels of craftsmanship, such as amplifiers with gold conductors in the wiring.
5. Economics, Supply, and Demand
In reality, an equipment rack costs what the market dictates – as long as people are willing to pay that amount for good quality equipment, the manufacturers will charge it.
The economics of the music industry are always at play here. The number of people requesting these products is small so that the price will be higher.
6. Difficult To Find (Not Mainstream)
Audio stores are few and far between. While some audiophiles choose to purchase their equipment online, many still prefer a brick-and-mortar store run by an expert.
Some specialty items can only be purchased online or in certain stores, which adds to the price tag. The less available a piece of equipment is, the more expensive it’ll probably be.
What Do You Need for Hi-Fi?
As we’ve said, a hi-fi setup only has three base components: a source, an amplifier, and a speaker. Of course, they have to be high-fidelity components, or else you could use a regular phone.
You technically don’t need any more than this to put together an ideal hi-fi setup and hear the most of your music.
However, many audiophiles have multiple sources, amps, and speakers in their perfect arrangement.
Also Read: The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Hi-Fi Audio
How do you listen to music? Whether it’s through headphones or speakers, you have a source of music. Sometimes this is a vinyl record, sometimes a CD, and often a computer or streamer playing digital files.
Related article: Is Tidal Hi-Fi Worth the Money? Here Are the Facts
Whatever you prefer to listen to music on, you’ll have to buy a source that is compatible with the other pieces of audio equipment in your setup. Using a computer or a phone paired with a better DAC to stream music from a streaming service usually works just fine for beginners.
However, many audiophiles prefer a dedicated streamer when listening to their main Hi-Fi setup at home.
If you don’t have an amplifier, you won’t hear your music. Amps come in all shapes and sizes – you can buy an integrated amp to begin with, as that will have a preamp built-in together with a power amp, which will save you money and space.
Amplifiers connect your music source to your speakers, so you can’t go without them. However, there is usually a bigger difference between speakers than between amplifiers.
Be sure to find an amplifier that matches your speakers, but if you want to save some money, doing it on the amp might be the best option.
Read more: Do Hi-Fi Amplifiers Sound Different?
Speakers are generally the part of hi-fi that cost the most. They’re what makes the sound come out so clearly and crisply, making it feel like you hear the music live.
There are two kinds of speakers, passive and active. Passive speakers require a separate amp to drive them, while active speakers already have an amplifier built-in.
Passive speakers are the most popular option for audiophiles, as they let you choose all the equipment separately and also make it easier to upgrade specific parts.
A separate amplifier will give you more flexibility and more options to use different sources.
However, there are definitely some really good active speakers on the market, which could be a great option for you, especially if you just want to stream digital music or hook the speakers up to a computer to get audiophile quality sound on a budget.
The pros of active speakers are that high-quality options will have a built-in amplifier that perfectly matches the speakers, making it unnecessary for you to try to find an amp working optimally with your speakers. Also, it will save you some space as you don’t need a big amplifier standing somewhere.
An example of a really great and popular alternative to passive speakers and a separate amp is the active speakers KEF LS50 Wireless II. It’s the perfect all-in-one speaker system!
Most Hi-Fi music systems have two speakers and possibly a subwoofer. That setup is called 2.1. Using more speakers to get surround sound is mostly for home cinema owners.
How Can You Save Money on Hi-Fi Equipment?
Although hi-fi setups will always cost some money, there are ways to cut down on the cost of buying personal equipment. If you keep an eye out for quality used equipment, you can find deals on some of the components.
The complete customizability of hi-fi setups means that you can pick and choose what you want to be a part of yours.
If you want a portable solution with headphones and a headphone amp to use with your phone, a very inexpensive alternative is to look at Chi-Fi. It might not be the best audio quality possible, but you can actually find some very cheap gems, sounding like much more expensive gear.
Studios and private homes will often have a sale on their equipment, including hi-fi components. You can keep an eye out on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or online chat forums for big deals and individual pieces of equipment.
Local audio stores might also have some resale items to save your wallet.
Unless you’re incredibly technically savvy, you probably won’t be able to make your hi-fi equipment. However, you can fudge some of the smaller components with cheaper items.
It all depends on what’s the most important to you – if you have the best speakers, you might not need to splurge on an amplifier as much.
If you decide to pursue an actual audio hi-fi setup, you’ll probably be investing some money (and time) into finding the perfect equipment for you.
While it’s expensive, many audiophiles find it completely worth it for the higher quality of music and lossless audio.
The higher price reflects the craftsmanship, finetuning, and demand of your hi-fi equipment setup!