Sound system specifics

For many people new to building their own sound system or replacing parts for their existing system, the wealth of options can be intimidating. Even with a good working knowledge and a clear idea of what you want, it can be hard to make judgement calls when choosing components ‒ especially those that can colour the sound such as EI vs toroidal transformers. While technical knowledge is desirable, and most aspects of what makes a good sound system are objectively quantifiable, the best way to formulate an idea of what you want the final result to sound like is by extensively comparing a variety of components and system types.

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Many of the qualities that make a sound system ‘good’ are objective, such as efficiency, frequency response and signal-to-noise ratio. A good introductory guide to home stereo sound systems and the importance of their components can be found online.

In addition to being educational in its own right, an extensive comparison of different types of sound system is extremely important in understanding what sort of sound you are aiming for. This can be difficult to accurately express or convey, even for those with a high level of technical and audio knowledge.

Select a song ‒ preferably of the highest possible sound quality ‒ and play it across a number of different sound systems. Make notes about the system’s individual qualities and assess accordingly. Once you have found a sound system with a character you like, find other sound systems with similar components. This approach can prove useful for building a practical understanding of how the components can affect the overall sound and can help you to decide what you want from a sound system.


Having a firm idea about the sound you want is good, but as always these things must be tempered by practical issues. The most prominent of these issues are usually acceptable noise levels, available space and money; among these, price is probably the hardest to gauge, as every system is different and the cost/benefit ratio of typically high-quality components such as toroidal transformers from and tube sections must be considered separately and accordingly.

Although a good working knowledge is essential when building a sound system, it is equally important to have a good ear and a practical frame of reference.

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