My name is John Zimmer. I'm the owner of Sound Representation, which specializes in the sale of high-end audio equipment. I really learned everything that I know about high-end audio from working at this store that we're sitting in right now, Stereo Exchange. I'm going to teach you what to look for when you want to shop for a stereo.
The basics in hooking up a stereo are just understanding signal flow. You're going from your source to your integrated amplifier, and then from your integrated amplifier, out to your speakers. The connections between components are called line level connections. So those connections you're going to use line level interconnects. Most commonly this is going to be terminated with RCA plugs.
And then speaker cable is used between an integrated amplifier and your speakers. Higher-end speaker cable also always comes pre-terminated in specific lengths with special connectors, and that's really the stuff that I recommend.