In this section you will find some of the questions that we are often asked in store and we have tried to answer them here as comprehensibly as possible. If you have any further questions please either call in to the stores or email us at questions@radfords.co.uk.

1) Should I spend more on the CD player, Amp or Speakers?
There are many schools of thought on this subject. Linn for example say that more should be spent on the source (CD player, Turntable) and less on the amplification or speakers. We on the other hand tend to think that balance is best; basically spend the same on each component. By doing this if you decide to upgrade your hi-fi at any time in the future you will know that your system will always be balanced. Also by balancing your system the features on your equipment.

2) Why is cable important? How much should I budget for?
The rule of thumb is with audio products spend 10% of the cost of the equipment on cables. On vision products you will need to budget for around 15% of the cost of equipment. Also, ensure that you budget for the cost of cables from the outset, not as an extra. Cables can also be upgraded at a later date and are also an easy and affordable way to upgrade your system. Also, make sure that you listen to the cable you can afford during your demonstration of the equipment.

3) What are 5.1, 6.1, and 7.1all about?
Simply speaking 5.1 refers to an industry standard Dolby Digital surround sound system: 5 surround speakers and 1 subwoofer. Each speaker and the sub is controlled separately so when you are watching a movie each speaker runs independently. A 6.1 or 7.1 system simply adds an extra one or two rear speakers to the system. There are lots of 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 systems on the market from all-in-one boxes to a full separates system. Just give us a call to discuss what would be best for you.

4) Do plasma screens really deserve the bad press they sometimes get?
In a word no. Like any technology plasma has gotten better over the years. Like a conventional television (CRT) the brightness of any plasma screen will gradually diminish over time. You should however expect to get at least 10 to 15 years of use out of your plasma with very little loss in brightness. The phosphorus gas will also never need to be replaced. You also need to bear in mind that not all plasma screens are created equally so before spending your hard earned cash on a 'budget' plasma screens talk to us on the many reasons why you should think twice.

5) What are the differences between LCD and Plasma?
The difference is really down to the technology each uses. Both technologies have been around for a while now and are getting close to being perfected. In real terms, LCDs are usually better for smaller applications such as bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens, as most models have built in TV tuners as well as being slim. They also do not reflect sunlight so are great in sunny environments such as conservatories. Plasma screens on the other hand come into their own over 42". They are a perfect large screen TV, giving you a large viewing area without the bulk associated with large CRT televisions. When looking to buy a new screen it is important to look at your requirements first then decide which type of screen in best for you.

6) Are projectors a real alternative to TV?
Home cinema projectors are one of the fastest growing areas of consumer electronics in the UK at the moment. For considerably less than the price of a decent plasma screen you can reproduce the feel of your local cinema in your front room. A 12 foot crisp picture is always going to be better than a 32" TV! Perfect for the latest blockbuster but not always practical for everyday viewing, especially if you are a heavy television viewer as projectors use a bulb that does need to be changed and they do not come cheap! So, our advice when thinking about purchasing a projector is to think what you want to use it for and think twice before throwing out your TV.

7) I was just starting to understand CD-R. Now what is DVD-R and DVD-RW?
Just as CD-R was the nail in the coffin of the cassette, many industry insiders are predicting that DVD-RW will be the death of VHS. A DVD-RW is a disc which can be used over and over again and like a MiniDisc it shifts recordings to optimise the time left on the disc. You can therefore use it like you would a video cassette, or there is DVD-R discs which like a CD-R can only be used once. DVD-R machines are starting to come down in price but like all electronics there is a massive difference in the quality of the machines on the market. If you are looking to buy one of these then you should consult an expert before doing so as if you buy the wrong type of DVD-R machine you could be in a bit of a 'betamax situation' in a couple of years time.

8) I'm looking to upgrade my hi-fi. I'm happy with all the electronics. What options do I have?
There are a number of ways to improve your system without having up to upgrade the electronics. Adding a mains cleaner such as Isotek's mini-sub will clean your mains electrical supply which will produce a cleaner, crisper and more detailed sound. Borrow one for a week and I promise you'll want to keep it! Other more conventional ways of upgrading your system is by purchasing better interconnects or vision cables (upgrading your scart leads or changing from RGB to component cables) can produce amazing results. Hi-Fi racks and speaker stands can also dramatically improve performance. See Q10.

9) Are there any advantages to floorstanding speakers over bookshelf ones?
Floorstanding speakers thanks to their size can produce more volume and therefore move more air which in turn will produce a bigger sound and undoubtedly better bass. There are of course exceptions to the rule where a bookshelf speaker can produce stunning sound such as the PMC DB1. But do remember that by the time you put the speakers on a set of speaker stands they take up about the same amount of room.

10) Why do I need to bother with equipment supports or speaker stands?
Speaker stands for bookshelf or stand mounting speakers are essential as they keep the speakers static so that all the energy of the drivers is used to shift the air not move the cabinets. And by placing your equipment on a hi-fi rack will improve the sound especially the bass extension and treble clarity. An easy and relatively inexpensive way to upgrade you system.

11) What Hi-Fi? has given a product I was looking at a bad review. Should I cross it off my list?
In a word no. Hi-fi magazines are very important but you should use magazines like What Hi-Fi, Hi-Fi Choice and the like as a guide and not as a bible. They test machines in an office; they are journalists first, hi-fi enthusiasts second. They also have different ears to use, probably like different music and will be testing equipment on hi-fi much different to you. Use magazines do produce a shortlist but make no decisions until you actually sit down and listen to the equipment. And, if you need some advice go to your local independent dealer. They really should know what they are talking about. We do!

12) What exactly is, and what are the advantages of bi-wiring and bi-amping speakers?
Bi-amping a pair of speakers basically entails adding a power amplifier to your system so that your integrated amplifier drives the tweeter units whilst the power amplifier drives the bass units. This ensures that the speakers are driven more efficiently which in turn will produce a greatly improved sound. Bi-wiring on the other hand simply means bypassing the crossover unit on the speaker so that the speaker cable goes directly into the bass and tweeter units. Bi-wiring can produce an improved sound but it really depends on the speakers you are using. Ask for advice before bi-wiring your speakers as it may not be worth it.

13) How on earth do you wire up an AV Receiver?
The short answer is don't try if you are new to home cinema as the back of one of these machines can be very scary. If you are determined to do it yourself then talk to your dealer first to make sure you have all the right cables for your system, then carefully consult the handbook to ensure you have everything in the right place. You will then need to balance the speakers and set up the sound levels. Some receivers have a microphone that makes this easier but if you get it wrong you are in short wasting your money. Our advice would be to pay a professional to do it for you. He will be able to ensure that all the leads you have are of optimum quality for you system, will be able to set up the sound levels quickly and efficiently.

14) Where should I position my loud speakers?
There is unfortunately no rule of thumb for this. It really is a case of trial and error. What sound your speakers produce varies hugely depending on a myriad of factors: room acoustics, positioning of the speakers, size of windows, type of walls, etc. The best advice is to listen to a song you know well through the speakers in various positions until you feel you have achieved the optimum sound. Then play around with the bass ports, grills and such like until you are happy!

15) What is the advantage of a widescreen picture?
Most DVDs released now and a growing number of television channels broadcast in widescreen. This is the natural format of film. If you look at your holiday snaps they are in widescreen. The cinema produces a widescreen image. Most televisions sold today are widescreen so if you haven't already then join the bandwagon, because if you don't you will miss out quite literally.