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
Janko Papic - CHILE's picture

When I listen to music, I listen. Not look.

Dismord's picture

It's a balancing act really. I don't like the dental surgery looks of my Meridian 808.2 CD player, but to my ears it sounds so like analog master tape on good recordings, I put up with it. On the other hand I'd never agree to live with those hideous bright yellow mid-range drivers on B & W speakers. Do they really have to be that nasty color? Truth is though, I'd rather not see any of my audio gear, only hear it.

Robert Koch's picture

Its gotta be practical. I look for sonics and reliability or at least percieved reliability first. Looks... Well if they grow on you all the better. "Look at me" products, leave them out of my room, thank you!

mike's picture

It boggles my mind when a company puts out an ugly product. Especially these days, when aesthetics so clearly sell.

Jim Mitchell's picture

The appearance of my equipment has no impact on its sound (it's all solid-state and all resides handsomely in metal rectangular prisms). That said, I do have to look at the stuff, so at a minimum it can't be distasteful (one reason I've stayed away from NAD products, for example).

Austin Kuipers's picture

Doesn't something like 30% of design and production costs go into thick faceplates and expensive design teams? I want it to sound good. It doesn't take that much money to make a attractive product, either. I would rather pay $7k than $10k for the same performance.

Postal Grunt's picture

Unfortunately, my disposable income available for music reproduction doesn't approach my level of aesthetic appreciation.

D.A.B., Pacific Palisades,'s picture

Some of my finest sounding and reliable components are "industrial design." Others look like the works of a finely tooled Swiss watch. The point is that it's all about the sound, right?

Ramon De la Cruz's picture

The fit and finish as well as the "feel" of the knobs, buttons and switches must convey the sense of quality and durability expected with high-end gear. A piece of equipment that is pleasant to operate makes every music listening session even more enjoyable.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

I have to live with it. A component need not make an artistic statement, but if it pegs the ugly meter, it better be a stone bargain.

Seth G.'s picture

For the speakers, it is somewhat important, but my idea of great looking and great industrial design usually is met with more than a few eye rolls from my partner, though he is quiet patient with me while we make the rounds to all the stereo shops. Usually offering some input on the sound even when he's "not listening" and being very patient with me while I ogle all the stereo doodads!

craig's picture

Performance is my top priority, but I have to admit that if a piece of equipment performs but looks junky, I probably couldn't bring myself to buy it, so I checked yes, somewhat important. And the apearance "inside" counts even more than on the surface to me. I'd never buy anything if I could not see what's under the cover.

Doug Bowker's picture

Well, as an industrial designer, let me just say this: good design is not something that happens after the fact. It's concurrent with the the entire engineering process. Thus user interface, ease of setup, and overall functionality are all part of it. How they all work together might be called aesthetics. That's the way it should work- too often it's not the way though. You have a clunky product that gets some style applied, or you just case the whole thing in some outrageously expensive chunk of aluminum, etc. I'd cite a good deal of Creek's products, latter day Krells, Rega, and some others as clearly having design as an integral part of their process. The ones that just "pretty up" their product to make it look expensive are too many to mention. In the end, I look at it like a good ca— you get performance out of a great automobile, but they also take some real time to work out the details, too.

Ken's picture

it should be about results, not looks, right?

gallardo's picture

The thing is how the gear sounds, if it looks good, great, but if isn't: never! mind.

Chuckie Girmann, San Diego, CA's picture

Generally speaking the equipment has to look the part. Exotic automobiles, bottles of fine wine, high-end audio components, etc., these things all have an appealing visual presentation but the function of these things is not to please the eyes. Rarely do you hear a piece of gear before you see it and that first look sets the stage.

df's picture

Of course, sound counts above all, but it should look right, too. After all, I don't hide this stuff away in a cabinet or behind a curtain. It's out for show, so it should look as impressive as it sounds.

Wolfram's picture

While not an aspect of product performance, it is an important aspect when considering first impressions. No matter how you put it, your first impression of a product will inevitably be its styling. If you are looking at a new product with a $10,000 price tag and it looks like something from a textbook of a third-grader, you will very likely be asking yourself, "Is that really worth $10,000?" If something costs $10,000, it better look like it had cost $10,000.

Krell nut's picture

The most inportant thing for me is sound quality. I myself have a mish-mash of a stereo-set with devices that all look rather agricultural. They are not really lookers. Except the loudspeakers. These do matter for me, because i think they should not be too ostentatious. Their looks should be well-balanced, since I have them standing in the living room.

Al Marcy's picture

I am only in it for the music. My system looks like a hobbyist's nightmare. Sounds a bit better!

Antonio G.'s picture

Since I like to openly display my audio gear, it has to look as good as it sounds!

Tom S's picture

Sound is the most important, looks are just a by-product

Cihangir Güzey's picture

In these days, if something doesn't look fashionably styled, there is little chance to find many customers for that. Why? Because by buying a fashionable looking product people: feel better (in these hard days even more); get more satisfaction by personally interacting with the product (pushing the button, turning the knob, handling the remote, etc). It gives pleasure to human beings to physically inreact with finely crafted items. Otherwise, fine Swiss watch manufacturers would starve in hunger. If you have a good, furniture-purposed product at home, you have something to show to friends. Since you paid good amount of money (much more hardly earned money in these hard days), you want the thing to look nice, not only function well. IMHO, this matter is such that if the person evaluates components as consumables, design will be very important (don't lie to anyone saying you don't care about the design; you can cheat anyone but you can not cheat yourself). If the person only uses components for listening the music, design may or may not be so important. For example, I don't care about above things for my hi-fi items. But, I am a reliability concerned (as first priority) mechanical engineer. However, if one day, if Bryston makes the same reliable product with nice looks, sleek remote control, that gives me more pleasure. All in all, we are all human beings suffering from the above ambitions more or less.

HifiDan's picture

It doesn't matter because I do all my serious listening eyes closed. Happy listening!

Dave's picture

Appearance is an indicator that the designer knows and cares about every element of design. However, form and function should go together, supporting one another.

MJS's picture

I won't buy a component that I consider down-right ugly, but there aren't many of those. I hold speakers to a higher appearance standard for obvious reasons.

Nick's picture

Absolutely, take my YBA CD1a player. It is a thing of beauty with form following function; top loading, no disc tray, toggle switches that have a lovely industrial design and a quirky ritual for reading the information on the disc. Oh yes, it matters. On another note, I no longer would purchase a CD player with a cheap plastic tray. So look, appearance, and quality feel are very important.

ch2's picture

Form is (should be) function, ergonomics, and all that stuff.

Mullard EL34's picture

The industrial design of a component is somewhat important to me, but only up to the point of demonstrating overall competence on the part of the product design team. Personally, I favor the laboratory instrument look-and-feel of the early Audio Research and Mark Levinson products (black anodized aluminum chassis, silver brushed aluminum face-plate, and black anodized rack-mount handles).

Jason's picture

Sound and price...looks essentially irrelevant...

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