Hi-fi is simply the shortened term for high fidelity. It became popular in the 1950s and was used to describe the reproduction of images or sound in their purest form. Hi-fi is most often associated with sound, such as music. It means that reproductions are clear, are generally free of background noise, and offer minimal distortion. Since the equipment is meant to make reproductions as true to the original as possible, enhancements are limited.
High fidelity audio and visual components were at first treated with skepticism. Many people didn’t believe there was much of a difference and thought that hi-fi was a gimmick to sell more costly equipment. Enthusiasts soon learned that it did indeed offer higher quality reproduction. This equipment became so popular that the term was used to refer to the components themselves as well as to the technology. For example, when referring to a record player or turntable, people might say, “Put a record on the hi-fi.”
Today, the term is used to describe any sound system of above average quality. It also refers to other components that make up home theater systems. It may include everything from a television, DVD, and satellite receiver, to the compact disc player, other stereo components, and surround sound speakers.
Much like computer enthusiasts, hi-fi enthusiasts enjoy putting together custom systems. Just as a computer enthusiast will choose separate components from diverse manufacturers in order to take advantage of certain specialties, a hi-fi enthusiast will do the same. Not only is this the best way to create a unique, high quality system, but it also allows the enthusiast to build the system one piece at a time, giving her greater freedom to spend more on each component. Instead of putting out a lot of money at one time to purchase an entire system, one can build a collection of high quality components at his own pace. This is also important when it comes to upgrading equipment, as the enthusiast can simply replace one piece at a time.