What is HiFi?
HiFi is the shorthand version of the words “High Fidelity”, but what is it? Let’s explore the origins and history of the word to get an idea of where it comes from and what it has come to mean today.
To understand what high fidelity (or HiFi) is, we’ll break down the two words. First is the word, “High”. The word high can be taken to mean a number of things but in this regard we’re talking about this definition : “great, or greater than normal“. Next is the word, “Fidelity”. For defining HiFi, the definition of fidelity is this : “the degree of exactness with which something is copied or reproduced“. So, if we put it together here is our dictionary definition:
High Fidelity or HiFi is a greater than normal degree of exactness with which audio is copied or reproduced.
Our definition refers to the reproduction of sound. So when it comes to HiFi we’re talking about the best equipment used to reproduce sound. Equipment like speakers and headphones, recording and playback equipment, etc. Whatever equipment used, with Hifi it is whatever best represents the original audio and sound of the source. It doesn’t add noise, or other sound artifacts to the original audio.
When you listen to someone sing in person you hear their voice as it sounds naturally. Now imagine if a person were to record them singing with low quality equipment that picked up static. Then you listened to it playback on low quality speakers that added too much treble or bass that wasn’t naturally there. You’re experience of listening to the singing is very different between hearing it live and hearing it recorded and played back with low quality equipment. This recorded experience would be described as “LoFi” or Low Fidelity.
LoFi is a term often used to describe this lower quality audio equipment as well as to describe older recorded audio when the technology was in its infancy. Older recordings often had static, hiss, or other audio defects. This includes most all audio recorded up to around the 1940s.
With this in mind we can now more accurately define what HiFi is. When someone says that they are into HiFi, they are saying that they are an enthusiast of listening to music with high quality equipment that best reproduces the original sound during recording and is likely from a time after the 1940s.