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Poll: Do design aesthetics matter to you for audio?


james45974
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Do design aesthetics enter in to your audio equipment decisions?  

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I have enjoyed looking at the photos Chris has posted from the recent High End 2016 show and I thought to myself that, given the audiophile and industry audience of the show, there was some pretty ugly equipment among the gems.

 

There is a saying in the food world, something like "you eat with your eyes first", I believe that there is a grain of truth in a possible correlation "you listen with your eyes first." I am an architect and like to think that I have an eye for good design. I though it would be interesting to get other members opinions on the matter.

 

I am not thinking of ergonomics here, whether a button is in the right place, or the display reads well.

 

There is no right or wrong answer, aesthetic taste is as personal as taste in music!

 

Hopefully we can have a good discussion, and fun, calling another member's equipment ugly is not tantamount to calling their mother ugly! :)

Jim

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While I appreciate that the WAF is important in many homes, it is irrelevant in mine as I live alone. I don't really care what the equipment looks like as long as it can be physically accommodated in my setup. Sound quality is all important. If it looks good too that's a plus, but not one that would influence my purchase choice. In any case, what one person considers ugly may be aesthetically pleasing to another.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

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I have enjoyed looking at the photos Chris has posted from the recent High End 2016 show and I thought to myself that, given the audiophile and industry audience of the show, there was some pretty ugly equipment among the gems.

 

There is a saying in the food world, something like "you eat with your eyes first", I believe that there is a grain of truth in a possible correlation "you listen with your eyes first." I am an architect and like to think that I have an eye for good design. I though it would be interesting to get other members opinions on the matter.

 

I am not thinking of ergonomics here, whether a button is in the right place, or the display reads well.

 

There is no right or wrong answer, aesthetic taste is as personal as taste in music!

 

Hopefully we can have a good discussion, and fun, calling another member's equipment ugly is not tantamount to calling their mother ugly! :)

 

I liked all the stuff you thought was ugly. :D

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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I liked all the stuff you thought was ugly. :D

 

Yes! To each his own! :)

 

I concentrated on comments about speakers, they are probably the most prominent piece of a system visually, but I give props to companies that are thinking outside the box for the boxes in a system such as Devialet and Chord. Come on guys, do we still need "rack width" boxes in today's day and age?

Jim

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To add to the discussion, I find that the oldest pieces of technology in an audio system, speakers and turntables, are the sources of some of the most unique design aesthetics. A lot of everything else, amps, preamps, DAC's, are just decorated boxes.

Jim

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To add to the discussion, I find that the oldest pieces of technology in an audio system, speakers and turntables, are the sources of some of the most unique design aesthetics. A lot of everything else, amps, preamps, DAC's, are just decorated boxes.

 

Oldest = biggest. What's in the boxen is in large part microelectronics, small enough that it doesn't force people to think about enclosures as something physically dictated, but indeed as decoration. What's left is UI, which these days tends to be screens (hard to argue, they allow for a lot of flexibility, which unfortunately isn't often used well).

 

What do people who own the Chord Dave (which I noticed you mentioned) think about whether or not it is easy to use?

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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I don't really care what the DAC and amp looks like, as long as it isn't a total eyesore. But the speakers have to be as nice as the furnishings in the room. (I probably care more about this than my wife, FWIW.)

 

An amazingly large number of audiophile speakers seem to resemble coffins.

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Visual design is v important to us. I often dream about the day we can afford to replace my entire music system with an eye toward making the pieces "go" together. Maybe even a complete Stienway/Lyngdorf system or the like. Realizing, however, that's not going to happen, we go on living and enjoying the music as is.

Same thing with cars - as in 911!

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What do people who own the Chord Dave (which I noticed you mentioned) think about whether or not it is easy to use?

 

Yes, there is that aspect. People are used to things working a certain way and when the method is changed there is a learning curve! Ergonomics can't be thrown out the window for the sake of aesthetic design!

 

With equipment like the new uRendu, Regen, Itona, they can be hidden, aesthetics don't really enter into the equation in my opinion, I don't care what they look like!

 

Decorated boxes can have their own appeal, I kind of like the looks of the Brooklyn DAC from Mytek.

 

On to speakers, I wish Magico would make a low rent version of their Ultimate Horn speaker, I like their Dr. Seuss flavor!

Jim

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Agree about speakers needing to be a work of art on top of sounding amazing. Still a big fan of wood look. Not putting a McD garbage can looking thing in my room, no matter how good it sounds.

 

All the gear gets chucked in the closet as most is too noisy,so am not too bothered by it.

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It's easy, pick the speakers first and then design the room around them... :) At least that's the argument I made to my wife. Then again, deciding what looks good aesthetically is a highly personal choice that just gets a bit more complicated when you start with 6 foot high speakers.

Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>SMSL M500 DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

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I remember thinking the Magnepans were something nice looking understated and being thin relatively unobtrusive for speakers. Something wives wouldn't complain about. I learned over time with a few pairs and women that the design is universally loathed in a deep way by women. One comment was they were a stupid looking attempt to hide as room dividers.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I prefer equipment that looks good and feels good (i.e. nice finish and solid feel) in addition to sounding good. I'd even sacrifice some sound quality for aesthetics. And, no way I'd ever buy coffin shaped speakers, no matter how good they sounded. However, I find all too often that I have to settle for something that doesn't look as good as it can because there sure is a lot of ugly stuff out there. There's a lot I really liked about the 1970's hi-fi industrial design. I miss those days!

mQa is dead!

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I remember thinking the Magnepans were something nice looking understated and being thin relatively unobtrusive for speakers. Something wives wouldn't complain about. I learned over time with a few pairs and women that the design is universally loathed in a deep way by women. One comment was they were a stupid looking attempt to hide as room dividers.

 

Just make sure you get your Maggie before you get your woman and make sure she knows you and "Maggie" are inseperable... ;)

Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>SMSL M500 DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

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Just make sure you get your Maggie before you get your woman and make sure she knows you and "Maggie" are inseperable... ;)

 

LOL

 

And don't talk about Maggie on the phone with lots of passion. You could end up with a Jake from State Farm moment if the lady overhears the conversation.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Is there anyone who doesn't like the look, feel and general aura of quality the old McIntosh gear had? Both the last of the tube gear and the early solid state.

 

It isn't necessarily the most beautiful I have had hands on, or the best sounding or the best ergonomically. But it certainly oozed solid, heavy, quality and was an excellent combination of attributes. A rack of that gear is impressive and beautiful both inside and out.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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It's easy, pick the speakers first and then design the room around them... :) At least that's the argument I made to my wife. Then again, deciding what looks good aesthetically is a highly personal choice that just gets a bit more complicated when you start with 6 foot high speakers.

 

And when you change/upgrade speakers? I'm sure the wife will be 100% in agreement with redesigning the room, furniture, and furnishings. In a way that might be the cure for audiophilia.

 

I'm surprised most folks are picking looks over performance. I don't mind coffin boxes as long as they sing.

 

FWIW though vintage scores on both fronts... are absolutely lookers/stunners and then will blow the socks off everything mid-fi in performance too. Surprising with more resources we cannot create the quality and looks of the amps of 60s-80s. Give me the Sansui AU series anyday.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world - Martin Luther

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FWIW though vintage scores on both fronts... are absolutely lookers/stunners and then will blow the socks off everything mid-fi in performance too. Surprising with more resources we cannot create the quality and looks of the amps of 60s-80s. Give me the Sansui AU series anyday.

 

Hey, I think I still have one of these vacuum tubed Sansui receivers stashed in the basement somewhere.

 

Sansui 1000A | Classic Receivers

 

sansui-model-1000a-front.jpg

 

Seems a couple of the necessary small signal tubes were weird types I couldn't find.

 

Of course when I realized some of the caps needed replacing in this rat's nest I found other projects to work on.

 

sansui-model-1000a-inside-bottom.jpg

 

I intended to build a new amp around the xfmr's, but it ended up one of many un-finished projects.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I prefer equipment that looks good and feels good (i.e. nice finish and solid feel) in addition to sounding good. I'd even sacrifice some sound quality for aesthetics...

 

I totally agree with this.

I have dementia. I save all my posts in a text file I call Forums.  I do a search in that file to find out what I said or did in the past.

 

I still love music.

 

Teresa

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No I really don't care what audio equipment looks like, especially when with electronics at least there is little relationship between form and function. I have to confess though that my Cornwall3s are really not a good look in my living room, although I imagine they would sit well in a Frank Lloyd Wright style interior.

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Ultimately, I would like the gear to look nice but I can put up with some less-than-pretty aesthetics (Magnepan & Ohm come to mind) if the SQ moves me. Living alone has its advantages of course ;-)

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I'd just like to put in a good word for coffin-shaped speakers. The shape of my speakers doesn't bother me as much as the color, which reminds me of Miami Beach in the 1960s. Still and all, they sound so good I'm more than willing to tolerate the somewhat kitschy statement they make.

 

As far as the boxes go, my approach is that if they're all black, they'll go together and look great with any decor.

 

I'm all about design, but hey, form follows function.

 

--David

Listening Room: Mac mini (Roon Core) > iMac (HQP) > exaSound PlayPoint (as NAA) > exaSound e32 > W4S STP-SE > Benchmark AHB2 > Wilson Sophia Series 2 (Details)

Office: Mac Pro >  AudioQuest DragonFly Red > JBL LSR305

Mobile: iPhone 6S > AudioQuest DragonFly Black > JH Audio JH5

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I voted "I don't care' but there are obviously degrees of not caring.

 

I'd never buy gear on looks but I have seen some gear that I would dismiss regardless of how well it performed.

 

The missus is very keen on good sound so WAF doesn't come into it.

Source:

*Aurender N100 (no internal disk : LAN optically isolated via FMC with *LPS) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch - split for *LPS) > Intona Industrial (injected *LPS / internally shielded with copper tape) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > W4S Recovery (*LPS) > DIY 2cm USB adaptor (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > *Auralic VEGA (EXACT : balanced)

 

Control:

*Jeff Rowland CAPRI S2 (balanced)

 

Playback:

2 x Revel B15a subs (balanced) > ATC SCM 50 ASL (balanced - 80Hz HPF from subs)

 

Misc:

*Via Power Inspired AG1500 AC Regenerator

LPS: 3 x Swagman Lab Audiophile Signature Edition (W4S, Intona & FMC)

Storage: QNAP TS-253Pro 2x 3Tb, 8Gb RAM

Cables: DIY heavy gauge solid silver (balanced)

Mains: dedicated distribution board with 5 x 2 socket ring mains, all mains cables: Mark Grant Black Series DSP 2.5 Dual Screen

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I can see and have witnessed some people buying gear solely based on looks alone because their wife likes the looks vs sound. Me, sound first looks second. But looks are in the eye of the beholder.

The Truth Is Out There

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I can see and have witnessed some people buying gear solely based on looks alone because their wife likes the looks vs sound. Me, sound first looks second. But looks are in the eye of the beholder.

 

 

While everybody likes to own nice things, and if you compare Dan D'agostino's beautiful power amp or dCS' lovely digital components with Van Alstine's plain-jane equipment or Schiit's no nonsense "test-equipment" cosmetics, you have to take into a account that the level of fit and finish that we all ooh and ahh over can make up more than half the cost of manufacturing the component, and thus the price you and I pay for it. Case in point: The D'agostino Momentum 250S stereo power amp is 250 W/pc at $30,000 with it's fancy (and lovely) casework, but for $12,000, one can buy the D'agostino Classic Stereo amp with 300W/pc and a rather plain (but still well made ) rack-mount case. IOW, less than half the cost and more power That fancy case is very expensive to make and very expensive to buy. I'd almost guarantee that nobody could tell the difference between them in any kind of listening test you can imagine. Now I'm not saying that people shouldn't spend that more than the double the price for the bling if that's what they want, I'm just showing that most high-end gear could be much, much less expensive if the same circuits were housed in more modest casework and it could be done without sacrificing one iota of real build quality or performance. I suspect that's how Schiit can offer so much audio performance for so little money while manufacturing their line of equipment right here in the USA rather than in a Chinese sweatshop!

George

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