Demystifying HiFi Terminology

Introduction to HiFi Audio Terms

When entering the world of high-fidelity (HiFi) audio, you may encounter a myriad of terms and phrases that seem perplexing. This quick guide will help you understand the basic terminology, so you can converse with confidence and make informed decisions when building your home theater’s audio system.

HiFi systems are designed to reproduce audio with minimal distortion and high accuracy, delivering a listening experience that’s as close to the original recording as possible. Understanding the jargon is the first step to achieving that impeccable sound in your home cinema.

Let’s go over some common terms you’ll come across in the HiFi audio realm.

Decoding Audio Specifications

Frequency Response: This spec defines the range of frequencies a speaker or audio component can reproduce. It is usually measured in hertz (Hz) and is represented by two figures, indicating the lowest and highest frequencies the equipment can produce. For example, 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz) is what the average human ear can hear.

Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): THD measures the level of unwanted harmonics in the sound output, meaning distortions that weren’t part of the original recording. It’s expressed as a percentage; the lower the number, the clearer and more accurate the sound.

Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR): SNR compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. It’s often measured in decibels (dB). Higher ratios mean more signal and less noise, which equates to better sound quality.

Speaker and Amplifier Lingo

Impedance: Impedance, measured in ohms, refers to the resistance the speaker offers to the electric signal coming from the amplifier. Most home speakers are rated at 8 ohms. Compatibility between your speakers and amplifier is crucial for an efficient system.

Sensitivity: This term indicates how effectively a speaker converts power from the amplifier into sound. Measured in decibels (dB), a higher sensitivity rating means a louder sound at a given power. This can be crucial in planning your system’s energy usage.

Power Handling: Expressed in watts, this is the amount of power, usually from an amplifier, that a speaker can handle without being damaged. Note that more watts don’t guarantee better sound quality, but rather compatibility with the amplifier’s output.


Understanding HiFi terminology is a foundational element in building a home theater that will provide you with quality entertainment for years to come. By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you can confidently select components that will work together harmoniously to deliver the HiFi experience you desire.

Remember, the goal of HiFi is to bring the essence of live music or a cinematic soundscape right into your home. Each component plays a role in achieving this, and the terms discussed are your guideposts to making the right choices for your audio system.

As you continue to explore the world of HiFi audio, keep expanding your vocabulary, and don’t hesitate to consult experts or join audio forums for further insights. Your home cinema’s sound system is worth the investment of your time and care.