Do You Care About AESTHETICS? What Are Your Gear/Listening Room Preferences?...

Just wondering about how much people care about the aesthetics related to this hobby.

To what degree do you care, or not, about a speaker looks, an amp, etc? Is it only about the sound, or do you appreciate or require your gear to be attractive to your eye as well?

And more generally, how much do you care about the aesthetics of your listening space?

My answer to both is: I care quite a bit about the look both of my gear and my listening room.

I’ll elaborate on my preferences first.

I just love a beautiful looking piece of gear, especially speakers. I generally prefer a wood finish, and for instance some of the Tidal speaker finishes are drool-worthy to me - any speaker that has a gorgeous rich wood grain with an impeccable finish will stop me in my tracks, especially if it features a graceful or cool design. (I hate a wood finish that has blah color/grain//execution) . I’m also open to other non-wood-finish designs. I spend a fair amount of time on pinterest just looking at beautiful audio gear.  Though for me my current Thiel 2.7 speakers, in one of my favorite wood finishes - ebony - are almost ideal. Sleek, contemporary, beautiful without being garish and...very important....SPEAKER GRILLS!

This is where I depart from many of my audiophile brethren who seem to want to see every bit of technology they paid for, including all the drivers. Although some drivers can be beautiful...most are not (IMO) and so often the screws around the drivers strike me as "industrial" with an unfinished look. The kind of thing you’d never get away with in most other high quality products.

I also don’t like staring at speaker drivers because, for me, it impedes the illusion of soundstaging/imaging/speakers disappearing. If I am seeing the woofer and tweeter right in front of me while the music is playing, I can’t help but perceive them as part of the experience, so I’m conscious of the midrange coming from THAT driver and the highs coming from THOSE tweeters right there! Once the drivers are covered in a nice grill, I don’t perceive the music as coming out of the speakers (if they "disappear" well to begin with).

That general aesthetic carries to the rest of the gear and room. I certainly love some audio jewlery and I’m a tube fan. But ultimately I much prefer a clean, uncluttered visual environment for listening to music (and watching movies). So my amplification/source gear for both my 2 channel and home theater surround speakers is in a separate room down the hall a bit. (If I had to have them in my room, I’d still want to orient them out of my sight when listening to music).

So essentially all I have on view in my listening room is my stereo speakers, and some discretely hidden home theater surround speakers.

Having the preferences I do, I can often find myself somewhat aghast at set ups in which the owner clearly doesn’t care about aesthetics at all "who cares how anything looks? It’s all about the sound!" This can go from set ups (that I’ve also visited) that are the audiophile version of a frat boy’s first apartment, where you think "Ok, I know why you live alone." Wires strung everywhere, speaker grills lying around the floor, just...tons of crap everywhere. I just couldn’t relax in that type of environment.

Then there’s the more studious version, in which the owner clearly cares about aesthetics....they just have a different sense than I do. For instance, those set ups that featuring speakers with a billion exposed drivers, with giant subwoofers (woofers exposed of course) beside each speaker, every bit of amp/source equipment around the speakers, cables prominently displayed...all that stuff to me is the equivalent of being overwhelmed by the technology to a practically intimidating degree.

I like the technology, and I am definitely willing to pay more when I can for a more beautiful, higher class looking product. Speakers especially because they are unavoidable pieces of permanent furnitur, and they can be beautifully crafted. I also love any other gear that’s beautiful and I can always get the aesthetic pleasure of their being in my rack. But I prefer all that to take the back seat to my concentrating on music, hence the clean look for my room. (Which is actually a huge challenge for me to pull off, since I’ve had to integrate both my 2 channel system and home theater system in the same room).

So with my own likes and dislikes laid bare, I’d love to hear others chime in on the same subjects.



The larger Maggies are more imposing than attractive---can't have everything.  My ARC amps sound a lot better than they look, as well. The whole setup is quite big in a medium-size room---not so aesthetic, so I repurposed the living room as my listening room, and it all looks better. 
I certainly think HiFi aesthetics are very important. Simple though it may sound, if something is visible in my home I want it to look good/beautiful. In fact, I have just assembled, what I consider to be, a truly beautiful and spectacular sounding 2C system. See my previous post on this system for details:

I could not be happier with the sound and truly stunning looks of this system.
Sound is first, but at the prices charged for equipment everything must look good too or forget it. At least in my first system.
I have found no direct correlation between appearance/aesthetics and sound quality. However, in speakers if aesthetics drive the purchase it should be understood that it will dictate performance parameters; i.e. selection of dynamic speaker over panel or omni to satisfy aesthetics. 

I have found no direct correlation between appearance/aesthetics and sound quality.

@douglas_schroeder   Doug, has this been formally evaluated by you or your colleagues at Dagogo? If so, it is a very interesting finding.

The choices and reasons for, by gear manufacturers with respect to design approach is worth exploring in detail. Perhaps a future article (if this hasn't already been done)?