In this section and the FAQ section you will find explanations on some of the words you might hear bandied around hi-fi shops and also some explanations on some of the more technical aspects of buying hi-fi and home cinema.

But remember, the best advice you'll get is by coming down to one of our stores and speaking face to face with our of our sales people and talk through your needs!

Amplifier
Boosts signal to drive speakers. Can be either integrated or have separate pre and power sections.

Anamorphic
Anamorphically enhanced DVD discs have been coded to offer improved picture quality on widescreen TV sets and banish most, if not all of, the letterbox effect, too.

Biamping
Each drive unit of a speaker is driven by a separate amplifier channel, so a pair of two-way speakers needs two stereo amps, and two runs of cable to each speaker.

Biwiring
Some of the benefits of biamping but at a lower cost. You need speakers with two sets of inputs and a split crossover, then send twin runs of cable from amp to each speaker.

Bridging
Increasing power by connecting a stereo power amp for use in mono, then adding a second bridged-stereo amp for the other channel. Power typically triples, but the amps must be designed to be bridged in the first place.

CD-R
CD-Recordable. Once recorded it can't be erased, but plays in standard CD players. CD-R discs look green.

Component video
A connection system - usually between DVD player and display device such as plasma or projector - in which the three colour signals, red, blue and green, are each carried by their own cable. Connections usually on a trio of phono sockets or BNC connectors.

Composite video
A single connection, for example between a DVD player and a TV - in which the whole picture signal is carried. Usually on a single phono socket, generally coloured yellow to distinguish it from the other connections provided.

DAC
Digital-to-analogue converter, turning on/off pulses into analogue sound. CD players have DACs built in. Separate DACs can upgrade a CDplayer or other digital player/ recorder, or can be used with dedicated CD transports.

Dolby 3 Stereo
In cinema sound amps, delivers the surround channel information through the front left and right speakers, while providing centre channel information.

Dolby B, C + S
Noise-reduction to boost quiet signals when recording and reduce them on playback, cutting hiss.

Dolby Digital
Also known as AC-3, this is the latest home cinema sound system from Dolby, using five discrete channels of digital sound plus a separate subwoofer channel

Dolby Digital Surround EX
Development of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio that includes a matrixed centre-rear audio signal to provide additional surround envelopment. Requires a suitable decoder, with amplification, and either one or two additional centre rear speakers.

Dolby Labs
Developed noise-reduction and cinema surround systems.

Dolby Pro-Logic
Uses an extra centre speaker at the front, which locks dialogue to the screen. Now mainly used when viewing material sourced from video tape or off-air broadcasts, or with older soundtracks on DVD lacking discrete surround channels.

Dolby Pro-Logic II
Enhanced version of the original Pro-Logic, with improved channel steering for an effect closer to that available from true Dolby Digital source material. Also capable of extremely good effects with stereo material when using the Music mode.

Dolby Surround
Encodes sound for rear effects channels into the stereo tracks. Needs to be replayed through a decoder to produce surround.

DTS
Discrete-channel home cinema digital sound system.

DTS ES Discrete 6.1
The only 'true' 6.1 system, with an entirely discrete digital channel providing centre-rear channel effects.

DTS ES Matrix 6.1
Variation on the Dolby Digital Surround EX theme; similar results.

DVD Audio
The standard is based around 24 bit/96kHz sampling. Some audio-only discs have already been produced using the DVD Video standard.

DVD-R
This is a type of DVD that allows once-only recording of data. DVD-R discs will store 3.95GB on a single-sided disc, and 7.9GB on a double-sided disc.

DVD-ROM
Like CD-ROMs but better! Read by DVD-ROM drives installed in PCs, DVD-ROM discs exist in various capacities from one-sided single-layer (4.7GB) to dual-layer, dual side (17GB).

DVD-RW
A 3GB erasable and rewritable format under development by Sony, Philips and Hewlett-Packard as an alternative to the DVD RAM storage format (see below).

Electrostatic
Speakers that use the force of high voltages to push and pull a thin light diaphragm, which produces the sound.

Impedance
Electrical property. A low impedance draws a high current flow from the source, while a high impedance draws a little. This means that speakers with a low impedance (lower than 6-8ohms) are more difficult for an amplifier to drive.

MiniDisc
Sony's 64mm disc that can record up to 74 minutes of sound. Looks like a mini computer disc but works optically, like CD, on pre-recorded discs, or magneto-optically in the case of blank software.

Monobloc
An independent mono power amp, so two are required for a stereo system. Advantage is a lack of interaction between channels.

Moving coil
Cartridges with a stylus connected to coils which move in relation to fixed magnets, creating electrical signals. Lower output than moving magnet.

Moving magnet
Record-playing cartridge (pickup) design in which a tiny magnet connected to the stylus moves relative to a fixed coil in the body, thus generating the signal.

MP3
MPEG 1, layer 3. The compression system used for downloading music files from the Internet to a PC or MP3 recording device. It reduces file sizes by a factor of 12 to enable faster downloads, but it's possible to code music at a number of data rates, from pretty good to definitely lo-fi.

Over sampling
Used in DAC systems. Increases signal frequency, making it easier for conversion circuitry and ancillary systems to filter out unwanted signals.

Phono stage
Cartridges output signals at much lower levels than CD players and tape decks. Many amps have the extra amplification built-in, but increasing numbers don't, and require an add-on phono amplifier.

Power amplifier
Supplies audio signals to the speakers.

Power handling
The maximum safe power for speakers. But be aware that it's easier to damage speakers with an amp of too low power driven hard, than with too much power.

Preamplifier
The control part of an amp. Built into integrated amps, but can be separate and then needs to be used with power amp or active speakers.

Progressive Scan
Conventional TV pictures are made up of two fields, each one comprising alternate lines of the 625 used to make up a PAL TV picture or the 525 used in NTSC. Your eye is fooled into seeing a whole picture by the speed of the scanning. Progressive scan improves picture quality by scanning the whole field in one hit, not just half of the lines at a time, but to take advantage of this you need a video source - usually a DVD player - and a display device such as a TV or projector - capable of supporting this system.

RGB
Simply, Red, Green and Blue - a video connection, usually on a Scart cable - in which the three colour components of the picture are carried separately. In order to make this connection you need a DVD player and TV with RGB-enabled Scart sockets - not all older models are. You'll also need a 21-pin Scart cable that's either fully wired - ie with all 21-pins connected at ends - or, if you're running the sound from your player through your hi-fi system, at least a cable with the correct video pins hooked up. Some dedicated RGB cables only have these video connections, leaving out the other Scart capabilities in the quest for better picture.

S-video
Mini-Din plug connection used to carry video signal between source and display, in which the brightness and colour components of the signal are transmitted separately. Opinion is divided whether this or a Scart connection gives the best picture quality.

Scart
A 21-pin connection between audio-visual components, carrying sound, vision and other signals. An RGB Scart is held by many to give the best picture quality for most people hooking up a DVD player to a TV set. Not all Scart cables are fully-wired - some have only the basic picture and sound connections made, while others are designed to carry video only. For more on this see entry under RGB.

Subwoofer
A separate woofer box to produce the deep lows smaller speakers can't reach.

Super Audio CD
Developed by Sony and Philips, SACD uses 1-bit Direct Stream Digital (DSD) recording technology. Most discs are dual layer, with a standard CD layer which will play on a conventional CD player and a second SACD layer for improved performance when replayed on a dedicated SACD machine.

THX
Developed by LucasFilm, this is basically a set of standards for Dolby Pro-Logic gear, which should guarantee a certain quality of home cinema sound. Needs electronics and speakers made to exacting specs, which tend to be pricey.

THX Surround EX
Officially-licensed decoding system for Dolby Digital Surround EX software. Mode can also be applied to DTS-ES software. Usually uses two centre-rear channel speakers.

Tonearm
The device on a turntable which holds the cartridge.

Triamping/triwiring
Like biamping and biwiring, but for three-way speakers. Needs three runs of cable in the case of triwiring and three stereo amps if you want to triamp the speakers.

Valve
Amplifying device: electrodes in a glass vacuum enclosure. Produces a warm, seductive sound.