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.
Electronics are at the heart of any great stereo system. If you're buying a stereo, you're going to need to either buy a receiver, an integrated amplifier, or separates, which means a pre-amplifier and a power amplifier in separate chassis. So, a stereo receiver is probably a little outdated these days, being that it has an AM/FM tuner included in it, so most probably an integrated amplifier is going to serve you well. This is just a device that has a pre-amplifier and a power amplifier in one chassis, minus the AM/FM tuner. In higher end equipment, a pre-amplifier is completely separated from a power amplifier. A tuner is completed separated from a pre-amplifier. This kind of a system gives you ultimate flexibility because you could have a really high-powered separate power amplifier that will really let your speakers sing, whereas a receiver is going to be limited in the amount of power that it can provide. When you start getting into the really cost object systems, the stereo power amplifiers are split into one power amplifier for each speaker. Basically, the more you isolate something, the better sound you're going to get.