To us, the term HiFi has come to represent the large wooden looking speakers that were typically found in the audiophiles house – the ones that made everybody sit and listen to them blaring out Radiohead or Beethoven with crisp execution.
The truth is that HiFi actually refers to the term ‘High fidelity’ audio which is the attempt made to get ‘high fidelity’ to an original sound, so it felt live. Marketers used the phrase ‘high fidelity’ when selling the related audio equipment and this is where the public first started using ‘HiFi’ to describe the audio equipment.
High fidelity audio was first pursued in the 1930s but it couldn’t take off because other discoveries were yet to be made for it to be possible. These other discoveries started falling into place from around 1948. Reel-to-reel audio tape recording, actually a German innovation that was taken post-war, Long Play (LP) vinyl records, FM radio and amps with better responses to frequency and had a higher output capability. These all came together to make high fidelity audio possible.
‘Stereo’ wormed its way into colloquial language somewhere in the late 1950s as a description for the high-quality audio equipment but the true term for the sound would still be high fidelity in any case. Long live HiFi!