Whats this all about then?

 The biggest problem trying to start out in Hi-Fi is, IMHO, that:

    People who want to buy Hi-Fi have no one to talk to
I'm lucky. I've never owned a mini-compo or midi system before. Instead, I've been given old but very usable separates. This meant exposure at a young age to items like open-reel recorders (thrown away), turntables (still have a Thorens) etc... Of course, first came the interest in listening to beautiful music, the interest in acquiring equipment that is able to convey the musical message to the listener comes later...

 But in general, Hi-Fi is a strange new world, and it seems hard to get any information. Most of the stores that a first time buyer would go to don't have any helpful staff. Can't blame them because these are like, sales assistants who aren't audio enthusiasts. Then, there are the specialist stores. The boss is usually in the store, and he probably has some (if not a lot of) knowledge about Hi-Fi. However, the impression (sometimes justified, sometimes not), is that they only want to talk to you about 'expensive' stuff and/or only about stuff they sell.

Then there are magazines. The most popular, (and yes, its quite fun to read initially) for Singaporeans would probably be What Hi-Fi? with their '5-star' rankings. For Singaporeans this is not much of an issue because it seems the stuff Singapore shops sell parallels remarkably components recommended by Stereophile and the Absolute Sound (and for the lower end, What Hi-Fi?). So if you go into a Singapore shop, the stuff sold is bound to have been favourably reviewed somewhere :).

So, what you're left with are your ears. Basically, this is a great equaliser. Even if you have not much knowledge, if you bother to spend the time auditioning all sorts of equipment, you'll be able to recognise 'good sound' when you hear it. Of course, there are tons to qualifications to this... as you'll never get to hear the equipment A/B as the demo rooms of different shops are usually very different (in terms of ancillaries used). Also, a short audition at the shop is not likely to reveal all there is to know about the product. However, if you select a product after auditioning a few of its competitors,I don't see how you could be dissatisfied with it, unless there are serious equipment incompatibility problems (or maybe, you buy $10,000 speakers and put them in your system with your Marantz CD63 and expect the speaker to sound just like the reference system in the shop)

Luckily, there are loads of audio enthusiasts, whether here in Singapore or overseas, who are happy to chat about Hi-Fi. There is no guarantee that you would have the same taste in equipment as he does, but the information is invaluable in your quest for sonic happiness. 

Anyway, its also important to note that Hi-Fi shouldn't just be about expensive equipment. We all have to start somewhere, and its possible to get good sound from inexpensive separates.