If you were around in the mid to late 1970s, and especially in the early 1980s, then you may remember the surge in popularity of the boombox.

Back then, the idea of having a stereo system meant having a portable rectangular unit with a tape deck, a radio receiver, two (possibly detachable) speakers, and a tiny equalizer.

The quality of these music devices varied, as did the cost. Their star burned brightly though, even if many users were socially inconsiderate with them.

If you were looking for a stereo system today, you would probably want something for your home, and less portable. The choices are far more varied and complex than before.

So, how do you select what to include in your home stereo system, and what do you really need? 

How have stereo systems evolved?

All the way back in 1887, Emile Berliner patented a system for sound recording. This became available to the public in 1888 and was known as the gramophone. Originally this device played discs made from glass, which then changed to zinc, and again to plastic.

Modern times saw the advent of the record-player, or turntable, which played vinyl, and bedrooms were filled with the sounds of Elvis and Buddy Holly.

Around the same time that boom-boxes were seen in the streets, and on window sills, stacking systems were making their way into homes.

Tall, often silver, these stereo systems came with every component you could imagine, and often were set in wooden cabinets with room for records to be stored underneath. People then started to put together separates to make their own customized systems. 

What is the right sound system for your needs?

Separates were a very popular way for audiophiles to put together their stereo systems and still are. There was a period where all-in-one stacking units sold well, but there was no control over which components were used.

The advent of the iPod and docking systems allowed many people to simplify their bedroom music set-ups. And for some, this is all that is needed.

You will need to question your needs a bit before you can decide which components are needed in your system. 

How do you listen to your music?

This can play a great part in what components you need. For instance, there are some great streaming services for rap music out there. If you are mostly streaming then you probably don’t need a turntable.

However, if you have a stack of old vinyl or CDs, then there may be a time when you want to play these. 

Your budget will define your options

How much you have available to spend on components will also decide what you buy. Some people are very happy with just an amplifier, turntable, and speakers. You may want more out of your system, and therefore you will need to work carefully with your budget. 

Are you looking to make a home theater?

Are you purely using your system for music, or do you want to incorporate your TV into the mix? Then you have to consider surround sound and a soundbar. 

How do you build your sound system?

Where to buy your components is also something to consider carefully. There are many online retailers these days as ecommerce booms. Buying online is convenient, and can save time. Often it can save money too.

One disadvantage to buying online is that you will be unable to test the equipment first. You also may not be able to talk in detail to a music tech either. Fortunately, there are some online sound system suppliers such as SoundImports who have technical advice on hand, and the biggest brand names.

If you choose to go for online purchases, check out any guarantees offered, and their returns policy. Stereo components can be heavy, and returning one might not be easy.

What basic components do you need for a sound system? 


Something that will either be vital to you or not important is the turntable. Today, vinyl is undergoing something of a resurgence and is now outselling CDs for the first time in decades.

However, regardless of how great the remastered albums being released now are, if you have no interest in vinyl then you won’t need a turntable. 


If you are considering making a home theater then you might find a receiver is the best choice for you. A simple stereo receiver will be fine for casual music fans, and an A/V receiver will service a home theater.

If you are a bit more serious about your music, then you will want an amplifier instead. Either way, you will need one of these in your system so that your speakers have something to belt out. 


Like the turntable, not necessary unless you want the full system, or unless you love the radio. 

Compact Disk Player

Do you still buy CDs? If that is a yes, you are a rarity. According to Statista, at the peak of the compact disk, sales reached nearly 1 billion a year in the states. In 2020 though, they managed just 31.6 million sales.

You alone know whether in this day and age you require a CD player. 


Not just essential, unless you like listening to music exclusively through headphones, but perhaps your first purchase. When choosing components, you could say it is the source that comes first, then the speakers. 


This is used to connect digital devices to convert to analog. You can connect a variety of digital devices to it including computers and iPods. Are these essential? Carry on reading below to find out. 

Do you need a DAC?

While there are integrated DACs in all manner of devices including iPods, headphones, computers, and amplifiers, many audiophiles would tell you that you cannot beat an external component.

DACs convert digital formats into analog so that devices such as loudspeakers and amplifiers can then process them and play them. Without a DAC, your digital files would be next to useless.

Using an external DAC can improve the sound quality of your system, but it can also show up flaws if you play low-quality compressed files, so your source is vital too.

One component that is proving popular with audiophiles today is the miniDSP, which if used correctly can improve all areas of your sound system. However, a DSP needs to be tuned by a computer, and you may need a professional to do this if you are new to the game. 

Basic set up for your sound system

Your first basic component should be your input source, whether this is a computer or streaming source, a turntable, an iPod, or a CD player. You need a source for your music, and of course, you can have more than one.

Next, choose your speakers. These days it is common to buy DIY kits as well as purchase off-the-shelf units. Consider the quality you can get for your budget and choose accordingly.

Next, you need an amplifier. You can use a receiver, but an amplifier is a far better choice for music fans.

Lastly, consider a DAC or DSP. One of the best hacks for rap music listeners is to adjust the sound quality of your system. A DAC or DSP can help you get the best out of your favorite artist’s music. 


Choosing the basic components might be all that you need for a very good sound system. The speakers and amplifier are of course highly important, with the former possibly using up a big chunk of your budget.

However, without a quality input source, your components won’t matter so much. Choose a good quality source if you are streaming, and then a DAC or DSP can be added to make sure you get the most out of your music.