2 Channel Audio Guide: Building The Best Stereo HiFi System

Related Categories

Stereo Speakers

Stereo Receivers


Integrated Amplifiers

What You Need To Know Before Buying Your Next Home Stereo

When it comes to sound quality, 2-channel systems, also called stereo hi-fi (high fidelity), offer some of the best sound possible. Left and right speakers deliver full, crisp sound front and center for superior listening enjoyment. Depending on the number of inputs on your receiver, you can plug in a variety of media sources. Audio components, portable devices and even computers can be connected. Sound is at your command by simply selecting the source devices on your receiver’s remote control.

2-channel systems give you the best in stereo sound, and they won’t break the bank. A great quality stereo can be purchased as systems or as components. A 2.1 system means two channels (left and right), plus a subwoofer. With a small investment, you can put together a 2-channel system to rock any size space.

Why 2 Channel?

When shopping for a new stereo system, you may find some systems with seven or more speakers. While having more speakers may be good for home theater and movies, it’s not the best for 2 channel music. Most music is recorded using a left and right channel in the studio and will sound the best played back through a powerful receiver or integrated amplifier and a quality pair of speakers.

Best Stereo Audio Sources

Mobile Phones & Computers

Mobile phones with large storage capacity and expansion memory slots make storing music on your smartphone easier than ever. When at home, desktop and laptop computers can archive your entire music collection and allow you complete control over your favorite music with changing discs or fussing with physical media. In addition, popular music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora allow users to stream stereo audio they don’t already own. Connecting these digital devices to your 2 channel system can give you access to virtually any music on the planet.

2 Channel Bookshelf Speakers

Get the most out of your vinyl collection thru 2-channel stereo. Advancements in turntables are the driver behind the movement back to vinyl. Audiophiles are again collecting vinyl for its distinct sound quality. And what would DJ’s do without them? Plug in a turntable and discover a world of limited edition recordings available today in vinyl from many of the world’s top artists.

iPods, iPads & Tablets

Many 2-channel receivers offer plug and play ports for the latest models of music players. Plug in an iPod® or MP3 player using the USB port and enjoy a direct digital connection while your device is being charged as well. Look for receivers with Bluetooth connectivity to conveniently link your smartphone or wireless device as well.

Blu ray, DVD & CD

CD, DVD and Blu-ray players plug into your 2-channel receiver for crisp clean sound. The very best digital music is found on CDs as the audio is uncompressed and has amazing detail. Using a digital cable instead of the standard red/white analog cables will ensure the very best sound and allow the superior DAC in your receiver to convert the signal to analog.


Although technically not a source, these devices will improve the sound quality coming from any digital device. Compressed music on a computer, smartphone or portable device will especially benefit from this component. Whether you're on the go or at home, these amazing processors come in both portable and component sized varieties to suit any need.

Stereo Receivers vs. Integrated Amps

Stereo Receivers

Stereo receivers combine power for two speakers plus a radio tuner in one essential component. Adding a powered subwoofer will add additional bass and thump to your favorite music. Although many people think more watts mean better clarity, this isn’t always the case. Be immediately suspicious of high wattage ratings as manufacturers may test their gear in different ways to inflate the wattage. A low-tech easy way to tell if a receiver will have lots of power is by looking at the weight. Heavier receivers will have bigger power supplies, bigger heat sinks and be able to output more power at lower distortion levels.

Integrated Amplifiers

Without all the bells and whistles of a 2-channel receiver, an integrated amplifier includes an amp and pre-amp in once easy-to-use component. With fewer features to pay for, more of your hard-earned money goes towards a better quality amplifier, power supply and higher quality guts. You'll often find these units include an upgraded DAC, high-end rear connections and solid construction that any serious listener would appreciate. Integrated amplifiers deliver high quality sound in a single box, perfect for a dedicated stereo system to get the most sound from the smallest equipment configuration.

Seperate Preamplifiers & Amplifiers

Separately sold pre-amp and amplifier components offer the very best sound quality and power for your money. Sensitive electronics are isolated in the preamplifier component which helps keep distortion low and sound quality high. Keeping the gear seperate also makes it very easy to swap-out either component and to fine tune your amp/preamp configuration to match your preferences. Sadly, separately sold amps and preamps are harder to find as they tend to be expensive, heavy, and take up more room. For the audiophile, however, there is no other way to listen to stereo music.


Based on your room size, budget and décor, there are many sizes and shapes of stereo speakers available. Tower speakers offer the very best full-range sound and usually reproduce the original performance most accurately. Bookshelf speakers are smaller but combined with a powered subwoofer can offer a very impressive performance. Number of drivers, type of tweeter and power handling are all important specs to review before buying speakers.


A 2-way speaker has a tweeter for producing high frequencies and a woofer for delivering the mid and low frequencies while a 3-way speaker will adds a mid-range driver dedicated to the middle frequencies. Driver materials can consist of paper, plastic and metal along with more exotic materials like Kevlar or ceramic. The goal is to use a rigid, light-weight material that will offer low distortion but nimble enough to react quickly and accurately. Because of the diverse materials and personal preference, it’s best to listen in person to the speakers to ensure full satisfaction.

2 Channel Bookshelf Speakers
Power Handling

Speakers can only take a certain amount of power, designated in watts. This is crucial to consider when piecing together components for your 2-channel stereo setup. Too much power can damage speakers. The quality of a high powered amplifier is lost if your speakers can’t handle the wattage. Be sure to check the maximum wattage on the speakers. It should equal or be greater than the wattage your amplifier can produce.

Closing Advice

Whether you decide on bookshelf speakers or tower loudspeakers, try to place the speakers at ear level. Having the speakers in opposing corners is best and position your primary seating about the same distance apart from either speaker. When possible, avoid having furniture or other obstructions between the speakers and your ears.