Does a component's industrial design matter to you? How much?

Stereophile's picture
In a blog comment, reader Henry writes "I won't buy a component that does not look right . . . . It needs to have a look like someone cared deeply about the appearance of the thing as a function of performance."

Does a component's industrial design matter to you? How much?

Does a component's industrial design matter to you? How much?
Yes, very important
36% (118 votes)
Yes, somewhat important
33% (108 votes)
Yes, but just a little
18% (61 votes)
No, not really
9% (31 votes)
NO NOT AT ALL!
4% (14 votes)
Total votes: 332
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Comments
audio-sleuth@comcast.net's picture

The important thing is that it's reliable and easy to use. Sounding great is why I buy it, but all this stuff sounds exactly the same, when it doesn't work.

stephen w sweigart's picture

A speakers' design is important, since it most noticable.

Daniel's picture

Given that, especially with British hi-fi in the past, designers appear to have wilfully and deliberately aimed for ugliness, limited practicality, and sharp edges, the profusion of good-looking components these days is a real pleasure. This is especially the case with loudspeakers, the majority of which need to be directly in one's line of sight. When I ditched my old speakers (rectangular and black ash-effect vinyl-wrapped) and replaced them with the attractively veneered and curvy new ones, the performance improvements were augmented by the aesthetic pleasure given by their appearance.

NeoN's picture

In my opinion, a true high-end product must be a powerful performer whose look is perfect. You must love the product. It's a pity that some companies are building marvelous components at astronomical prices and doesn't spend a dime on design. The result is an unfinished product. It's not high-end, it's just a premium product.

Louis P.'s picture

To get a meaningful improvment over my current gear, I would have to spend at leat $5000 per component. At that price, there ought to be a few dollars spent on the design. Also, I don't like lots of exposed tubes. Maybe in a small amplifier, but otherwise, they are accident waiting to happen, IMHO.

Jason H.'s picture

I try to make all aspects of my home functional and beautiful. I won't throw off the vibe of my listening room with boring boxes.

John H's picture

The thing I find most annoying about Stereophile reviews is when the writer gives his opinion about the appearance of a product (no matter how garish it looks, it's usually described as beautiful). Please: Use the ink for something else. I don't need a reviewer's help to form an opinion about appearance. To the manufacturers: Appearance can only be a neutral or negative factor in my buying decisions. I am only willing to pay for sound quality, reliability, and features (in that order).

Ulah's picture

If the product's design isn’t functionally well thought-out, my wife does not have the patience to try to connect the dots. She has many great personal traits, but technology is not one of them. Not everyone enjoys trial and error. Anyone who is arrogant enough to say that their spouse doesn’t count in their major buying decisions definitely has some major social issues and is most likely headed for divorce court.

DG's picture

Not s' much. I listen through those holes on the sides of my head and find the best sessions are when the eyes are closed. There are a few companies out there that have great looking gear that I can't stand to listen to for > 5 minutes. That my Wilson-Benesch TT & speakers look nice (to me) was not part of the purchase decision process.

Nodaker's picture

I said just a little. Recently purchased a Dacmagic and while it doesn't appear audiophile built, it sounds great on music off my computer. Don't spend big bucks on digital is my new mantra!

toomasp's picture

When form follows functions, things are obviously beautiful.

Tim K's picture

Sound signature is most important, but all things being equal, I'd rather the piece look nice.

tom collins's picture

Yes, I like clean purposeful but attractive industrial design, such as the Luxman products. This is going to be a part of the decor of the room.

Chris's picture

Looks are not the be-all/end-all of a purchasing decision, but yes, I definitely think that a product that is attractively styled shows an overall care in design. Now, of course, the sound quality, reliability, and overall build quality are important as well, but at attractive, handsome exterior design is the icing on the cake.

Myba llsaresore's picture

If it looks like crap, who wants to look at it? Simple/plain is fine, but it has to at least look decent.

M Jarve's picture

I'd much rather have some bit of ugly that sounds good than a work of art that just does not do for me.

Meezou's picture

Form follows function, doesn't it? So the basic box/rectangular shape of components to sit in a rack or on a shelf doesn't vary much. Everywhere you turn, an LCD display turns up where once the need was nonexistent, but simplicity can be timeless.

Jim Tavegia's picture

At least I thought so until I saw the Thorens 309 in red, but I am smart enough to know that the Rega P3-24 in red with the TTPSU is the better value and much less money. Still, that 309 is on my lust-for list. It is my screen saver for right now. If Rega had any decent pictures of their colored tables, that could change.

Mike Agee's picture

It's hard enough to find the sound I'm looking for without halving my chances by requiring that the visuals and ergonomics match my tastes as well. That said, form can, indeed, when it's allowed, follow function. Anti-diffraction speaker cabinets can be beautiful, as can brass cones, tubes, heat sinks, and mass-damped casework. What peeves me are attempts at high-style that fall off, are uncleanable, look like a Buck Rogers set piece, or obviously represent dollars that should have been devoted to sound. Nothing taunts like fancy looking gear that sounds like &%$#.

Daniel's picture

After a while, you get used to the design, and if it sounds good, it becomes beautiful! Like people...

ToussaiPr's picture

A set of speakers, yes. They are very visible. From the rest of the stereo, it would be nice that it is easy to operate, but it is not important. Sound is key.

Jørgen Skadhauge's picture

It should not, but it does—a lot!

Eric Hendriks's picture

I do care about design (I own a Chord Electronics power amp and like the cool looks), but the sonic qualities of a component are most important of course. If that isn't right, a pretty face doesn't help.

Steve R's picture

I'm more interested in how a component sounds. I don't want it to be butt ugly.

Max L's picture

Nice design is important to the extent that I would like to think that, if care went to design the outside, care also went into the design of the guts. But, some components go way overboard of exterior design, adding needlessly to cost, and I am sure that there have been some products, in every industry where the product has been all show and no go

Wes K's picture

I couldn't agree more with Henry's comment

ECC's picture

It has to look as good as it performs.

Paul J.  Stiles, Mtn.  View, CA's picture

It is moderately important in that appearance may be the decidng factor between selecting it or a competing model. But, I wont pay significantly more just to get some pretty piece of eye candy.

Ted Clamstruck's picture

My main concern with industrial design is related to structural integrity. If a power amp has heavy power transformers, the chassis needs to be robust enough to handle their weight for example. An exception might be a component that tries to look like some sort of cheesy art, which I would not want at all. In general though, high-end audio has become a beauty contest where audio jewelry having mediocre performance is the order of the day. It's all about bragging rights now, not performance.

Jim M's picture

To me it matters. One example is that no matter how well that DarTZeel products might perform, I could never look at their products in my system.

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