Fact Checked

What is Hi-Fi?

Sherry Holetzky
Sherry Holetzky

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.”

Hi-fi refers to various stereo components, a stereo receiver and speakers.
Hi-fi refers to various stereo components, a stereo receiver and speakers.

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.

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Discussion Comments


In today's terms, this is all crap. Everywhere you go, places advertise that they have "hi-fi" available. What does this have to do wit the modern usage of "hi-fi"?


The phrase "High Fidelity" was coined by the Englishman H.A.Hartley in 1927. I am the current owner of that original company now known as Hartley Loudspeakers,Inc.


Hi-Fi is a term that was invented to distinguish the cheap from expensive equipment in the 50's. It doesn't actually refer to anything. It's a marketing word and it's been obsolete for 40 years. The cheapest MP3 player you can find is "Hi-Fi". I think it's pretty funny to see it actually being defended as an actual thing in the 21st century.

The new meaningless marketing word is "HD". Now the sound is "HD", a concept that can only be reasonably applied to images. Also, for some crazy unknown reason, a lot of audio component companies are referring to "stereo sound" as "Hi-Fi", so even they are confused.


who is the founder of hi-fi?


Thanks for the info. Well written, easy to understand.


Like the brazilian said, it is a very understanding and easy-to-read article. if this could come up with all of the electronic names/words and explaining it, i would have read all of them, because I'm interested in electronics. Good!


Very cool text, very nice article. I liked this site a lot. the way you people write turn it easy and comfortable to read. Congratz! PS: I'm a brazilian so sorry if the english is not all right. =p


can a wireless headphone work with audio output of a laptop or personal computer?

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    • Hi-fi refers to various stereo components, a stereo receiver and speakers.
      By: kornienko
      Hi-fi refers to various stereo components, a stereo receiver and speakers.