One can't help but factor in the looks as we see with our eyes first. As Hannibal said, we covet what we see every day. How much weight that carries depends for me as something that lacks aesthetics, having awkward proportions, or is downright ugly gets a pass, for me.
Components didn't used to have to match but the last two incarnations of my system does and I've grown accustomed to it. With speakers, I give a lot more latitude as long as they sound great. Great sound overcomes looks in that regard.
Many of these questions are already addressed by manufacturers. In Europe and other areas there is a tendency to like aesthetics more and companies often cater to that sense. Europe has many audio engineers and design professionals in audio companies who start from the ground up to make a more visually pleasing product. Americans don’t care that much, this is probably due to the fact most are undereducated in art and design and aesthetics take a back seat to budget or at the other end "I just have to have the best!"
I give very little consideration to how something looks. That is why I have no trouble with the custom builder who made my amps and linestage using VERY old industrial equipment cabinets which he repurposes. I used to run a pair of Audio Note Kageki amps, which i turned around so that the back faced forward for convenience (power switch would otherwise be in the back). I really had no idea how the thing normally looked. I was once at a dealership and heard a fantastic sounding setup and asked the proprietor what amps were running the speakers. He frowned because the amps were Kageki's, which is the same model he had sold to me, and I didn't even recognize them.
My priorities are: sound quality, cost, and remote controllability.
It would bother me if every component faceplate was a different color - black, gold,silver,red,etc.Cabinet doors would be required. Unusual looking speakers that sounded incredible to me I would decorate the room to compliment them.Sound is number one,decor second.
looks and feel matters, something that is very ugly or quite awkward to use can indeed be a knock out factor, but the sound quality must be worth having in the first place - it is the raison d’etre for a piece of hifi gear
I won't buy 'pretty' if it doesn't sound good. I won't by 'ugly' if it sounds great. A credo that applies to most things in my life. Looks great/sounds good, sounds great/looks good works quite well though.
Great question, no right or wrong answer here, this is purely a personal choice. In my case, the aesthetics of a HiFi system in my living room are important, I don’t want to look at an ugly collection of boxes whilst listening to music. Case in point, this is one very aesthetically appealing (to me at least) systems I have ever assembled:
The latest MoFi SourcePoint 10 speaker has the top veneer installed cockeyed, 90 deg. to the horizontal veneer up the side. I have never heard the speaker and would never buy it because of that. Call me anal but esthetics does factor in a bit and I never though I would say that.
There are some pretty butt ugly speakers out there but overall, if they sound good I could live with it (except the SourcePoint 10)
There is a hierarchy that assists in distilling my product choices.
Intuitively, first and foremost…it’s best-of-breed class audio performance in each their budget strata respective equipment class, ... Full stop. Build quality and audio performance matters ..,, it’s the big first one that selects the contenders from all the pretenders .
BUT …..and it’s a big “BUT” …. it’s also their appearance & impressions with an “EZ on the eyes “ additional further decision factor among the distilled contenders above , thst cannot be simply ignored either . For example. Classy polished wood high-end speaker cabinets build , instead of defaulting to cheap cost cutters with vinyl over MDF.
But i dont care at all about esthetic when i pick what i must pick , and if i must modify it i do it... Esthetical no more .... 😊
Only sound and S.Q. /price ratio matter...
Especially with low budget audio ...
For example :
I could upgrade , i had the money say my financial adviser 😁( my wife)
I could upgrade to a beautiful TOP headphone amplifier by Berning the microzotl 3...
but i am very happy with my Sansui alpha 607 i covered by what some could call junk , i will call beautiful minerals, it is not ugly for sure, but it is not esthetical and clean...The soundfield is perfect....
If i am afraid to upgrade with a top of the world product and a beautiful one,then you have an idea how a 700 bucks well chosen system well optimized can perform...😁
in the dark evening though , my 2 glowing Schuman generators under a big quartz are beautiful like glowing tubes....
Then perhaps esthetic play a role in my unesthetical audio corner...😁
The upgrade to a better dac would be the only real upgrade for sure, will cost too much... I must wait... I think i will not upgrade the amplifier.... the headphone modified for vibrations and comfort are not beautiful but they are impossible almost to be beaten... Stax Omega ? RAAL ? i dont think so after reading all reviews between line and comparing with what i already have ...
Esthetic is one aspect of thing.... Sound quality at low cost another completely different factor...
The second matter the most for me almost exclusively ... I dont show my audio system anyway i listen to it...
What looks good or bad is a very personal decision, but if a manufacturer can't make a product that looks good to somebody, then they probably can't make one that sounds good to anybody. The two go hand in hand. It doesn't have to be stylish or ornate, but a product should look like someone took a few minutes to think about how it looks. As an example, I had waffle iron that had plastic feet and when you stored the iron upright the plastic feet made a smiley face. So simple and they didn't have to do it, but they cared. The waffles clearly tasted better!
Zero. I have my own house of stereo, so who would care what my equipment looks like, not I, sound only. It's like art, you either like artwork on your walls that mean something or ones that match the drapes. That right there will separate the true audiophiles from the rest. And I love them all, just saying.
How something looks comes into play in almost everything we humans do. People go to the car dealership and want to buy a particular vehicle because it looks good to them but they know little to nothing about it's fuel economy, reliability, or safeness. They'll buy a dog based on literally nothing but how it looks. A lot of audio components are quite literally audio jewelry (Dagostino stuff being one of the best examples) with prices to match but not sound quality.
Personally, I've been a function over form person for as long as I can remember but I think I'm definitely in the minority.
1. Prior to Appearance and Relative Locations of Equipment (which is important to me):
2. Listening Space. Private Listening Cave (perhaps ’perfect’) or Natural/Shared Living Space (best achievable within that space) (influenced by WAF).
My Current Listening/Living Space:
Daylight; Plants; Artwork; Donna’s ’pretty’ stuff, life acquired furniture, including meaningful family heirlooms; listening position(s); lighting control.
Equipment: Each piece individually has it’s personal appeal, and work together based on my happiness whenever I simply see the equipment prior to listening. Some, like a SACD player, not visually interesting, perhaps annoyingly slow, but excellent sound makes it special to see/hear.
Next: Operational Height: Turntable/CD/Reel to Reel/Preamp Controls/Remote line of sight: Best achievable, i.e. Turntable lower than ideal, but highest relative to height of windows behind. Tape a bit low.
NOTE: Dining Table??? As all horizontal imaging is Phantom, speaker created, the dining table is not problematic once you have achieved the ability to ignore it's presence.
Of course I have compared: removed the table, placed a carpet over the large exposed wood floor, listened with friends to same content: makes no difference to horizontal imaging perceived by me or my friends. Probably surprises many, but happily it is true. Height and Depth are Mind Created in any case.
I recently replaced my beautiful looking amp with a plain Jane looking one that performs much better, especially at higher volumes. Would I go back to the pretty one? Heck,no. Most of us want to close the eyes and just listen anyway.
For me it's in line with "variety is the spice of life". There is so much variety out there in our wonderful hobby, I would argue that for a desired sound, at a desired price point, one would find many variations aesthetically to float ones boat.
I dig gear that looks a little different. Scale too... There's a lot of art and design in HiFi.
I have some pristine and flawless pieces, (my Margules ACRH and recently acquired Cary SLI-80HS) and I have scratched and dented ones (my Mac240, Cary 2300A amps, TDL Compacts). I love them all.
I have some that are sort of stuck in time. (an Ariston integrated amp that just screams "Miami Vice 80's".
I wish i could say it's all about the sound, the HiFi.. but I cant honestly. The way things look and speak to me on a visual level matter.
I look at it like this. if someone gave me a choice between a group B Audi S2 monster rally car, and a Porsche 356, I'd choose the Porsche every time.
This all may not have made a whole lot of sense, I have two new puppies and I'm sleep deprived.
Most hifi equipment is aesthetically boring. When all is said and done, an amplifier is a box, a DAC is a box and a speaker is a box. I let my ears and wallet steer me. My KEF Reference 5’s are tall skinny boxes that I bought with my eyes closed and after almost two years, I’m still very happy with them, but if you put them side by side with the R-11’s they look pretty much alike, but my ears knew the difference.
Aesthetics were very important to me when I met my current wife of 30 years. Her, not so much. I win.
On the subject of audio. I’ve owned great-sounding (to me) gear over the years that was so ugly it looked like it has been ate by a coyote and s--- off a cliff. In my older age, I’ve been hypothesized by big blue lights, so the "military surplus" look has gone to the wayside. But, still safely stored in my loft (with original packing, manuals, etc). My hand-built 6’-4" Alpine white monoliths have remained in the living/listening room for decades. So glad asthetics are not a high priority for my wife. She likes the sound. And, tolerates the additional "furniture" in the room.
Sometimes, good looks can earn a product more respect than it deserves. Some of the Japanese receivers from the 70's commanded a lot of respect due to their good looks. The sound was FAR from great though. IMHO
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