How important is the visual design of an audio product to you?

Stereophile's picture
Some audio companies, such as Bang & Olufsen, concentrate just as many resources into their products' appearance as into their sound. Does this matter to you?
How important is the visual design of an audio product to you?
Extremely important
17% (44 votes)
Very important
35% (90 votes)
Somewhat important
31% (79 votes)
Not important at all
16% (42 votes)
Total votes: 255
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Comments
M.D.  Chubb's picture

I like a component that performs sonically, first and foremost. And if it's visual presentation is equal to that, so much the better! (But then again, my Hafler DH-200 didn't come with those solid brass, brushed chrome plated rack handles, did it?)

george saunders's picture

I expect to get my monies worth

GREG PEYTON's picture

i cant deny that many of the components i own look cool,for example my cd player by MUSICAL FIDELITY ,THE X-RAY....

HIFIGI's picture

Exterior design and considerations signal a "pride in work" attitude by the manufacturer/designer.

L.  Solom's picture

Never thought much of this, until I was captivated by the looks of EAD's new TheaterMaster line. I mean, so sleek, so high-tech, no knobs, etc. Then I learned my lesson. There is a place for knobs & buttons on the face of a preamp/pro. The ergonomics of the EAD were sub-par. I traded it in for a Proceed. So much more convenient & user-friendly. I guess the lesson I learned is to not place looks over functionality.

Craig Copeland's picture

Appearance is important to the extent that it allows functionality in use of the controls and fit of the components into real-world living environments. Beyond that, sound quality is by far the most important consideration. Great performance has a way of making the different or unusual not only acceptable in appearance, but even sought after and imitated. Witness the groundbreaking AC Cobra and its 427 iteration, and the Thiel line of speakers.

Ernie Watson's picture

Black Monolith, Silver Monolith, Gold Monolith, Black Box, Gold Box, Silver Box, That about covers the design spectrum of most "high-end" audio gear. I often like to listen to music in a dark room. Just keep the chintzy panel displays off of my gear. And yes, some monoliths and cubes do look better than others.

Barry Willis's picture

First, it ought to sound good, and second, it ought to look good. Audio equipment should aspire to be more than a music-making appliance---it should be functional art.

Johan Saarm's picture

Its the total experience of the product/brand that matters - not only looks or only "performance"

Nikolaj Hermann's picture

I would prefer to check the "Not important at all" box---but who is not impressed by the beauty of some high-end products?

Diego Estan's picture

First and foremost, it's the equipment's ability to reproduce sound. A fancy faceplate is just icing on the cake.

Mike Downie's picture

Attention to detail on the outside can be an indication of the attention given on the inside. Like buying a car or hiring an employee, appearance can be an indication of a company's commitment to the unseen . . .

marc g.'s picture

I'm fine with plain and simple, like my Bryston gear. It's not wimpy looking, but built like a tank.

Dale Fellbaum's picture

Because my house is not large, the music system and TV system are both in the living room. Having small, elegant sound equipment would be great. New equipment that I purchase will have to be visually appealing, easy to use, and have a remote. I want to merge the audio and video and still have good audio. The days of having large-footprint speakers, every possible function having its own big black box, and all the boxes connected by garden-hose cables are gradually fading away for me.

Bernard Durand's picture

I will never again buy a piece of audio, regardless of how it sounds, if the unit is not user-friendly. Usability, ergonomics, and sound quality are equally important to me and my partner. Take, for instance, a control unit that can be used only with the remote, simply because the front of the unit has absolutely no buttons. What if you lose the remote, or the remote freezes on you, or dies for that matter? It is too bad that mass-market audio includes so many useless features on their receivers, for instance. This is not doing the high-end industry any favor, and certainly not educating the people who buy such units. Those same individuals will highly likely compare other units to their Christmas tree (glorified receiver). I salute smaller companies such as Classé, SimAudio, and Cambridge Audio, just to name a few, for presenting us with simple yet excellent performers.

Brad Bryant's picture

Three things are important, in this order:1. sound 2. brand name 3. looks

Ken So's picture

My wife wouldn't let me buy anything for the stereo unless it looked pretty good in the living room.

Brad, Atlanta's picture

I am an audiophile because I love sound. But at these prices I should get looks, too.

Christopher's picture

My system consists of a YBA CD2a, Classe' CP-50, conrad-johnson MV100, Sonus Faber Concerto's on matching stands and Kimber Kable. The components sit on a lead-shot filled Lovan Sovereign rack, including the c-j, which is on its own lead-shot filled Sovereign Amp Stand. I didn't JUST buy these products because of their stunning auditory virtues, but also because they appealed to me for their aesthetic qualities as well. Each component embodies what I was listening and looking for. Let's put it this way: If there were two products worth considering, both of equal sonic ability, but one is gorgeous and one only a mother could love, well, I think the choice is obvious, to me anyway. But, if the ugly duckling sounded a significant amount better than the cute chickadee, then call me Daffy. But this example is black and white while in reality there exists an endless amount of gradations. Certainly, in this vast world of electronics and loudspeaker manufacturers there should be something for everyone. Tube or solid state. Digital or analog. Dynamic, electrostatic or magnetic planar. Straight cable or networked cable. Metal stands or wood stands. If you buy something based solely on its sonic ability but think it's ugly, then you haven't done your part in finding the perfect piece of equipment. It is out there. One last point: When I sit in my big, fat, black leather chair during a listening session, my eyes aren't always closed. Christopher - Minneapolis god@espud.com

HD audio's picture

Not overall appearance. There are certain areas such as speaker connections or audio imputs. I rather pay for the performance than the appearance. I do not want a $1000.00 amp that gives me $500.00 of performance. I absolutely love $500.00 components that out perform $2000.00 products.

Dave Carpe's picture

Of primary importance to me is the sound, tempered by a clean design. B&O I find concentrates too much on the appearance and not enough on the sound. That needs to be factored with price. The more expensive it is, the better it needs to look. By the same token, I am much more tolerant of inexpensive pieces that sound good but look a bit rougher.

Waldemar Okon's picture

I don't care much about the appearance of audio gear. In fact, I like when it looks rather odd, because your friends will think you have some WWII tube gear, but when they hear it . . . Are AR preamps pretty? How do they sound? Well . . .

Steve Robertson's picture

Cosmetics needlessly drive up the prices.

Kim Petersen's picture

Bying expensive high-end the look and feel is important. Because if not, why should I pay a lot of money?

Don Bilger's picture

My listening room does double duty as a family room, so I pay some attention to the size and appearance of the big items (speakers, racks and media storage units) that I put in that room. I pay very little attention to how the rest of the system looks; to me, the system's sound is much more important than its appearance.

Frank Mason's picture

As much as I like product with style, the sound is the thing. If it looks like hell but sounds heavenly great. If it looks like heaven but sounds like hell, forget it.

John's picture

Given two similar-sounding components, the one with the best design wins. Furthermore, unless someone really says "Listen to this, it's great!," many people will listen only to components that they like the look of. And lastly; the hobby known as the "High End" isn't just about sound. The satisfaction that people get from this hobby comes from assembling exciting, great-sounding systems that sound good, are well thought of in the industry/press, and are made up of components that they are proud of and want to share with others (then upgrade to even the even cooler stuff reviewed this year).

Ben Blish's picture

I said it's very important, but that's not to say that I always like modernist stuff. The main problem right now is all this black gear---I'm sitting an equal distance away from a CD player and a Marantz preamp. The CD player is black (predictably) and I can't read one single control legend from here. I can read EVERYTHING on the Marantz silver-face 3650. When (supposed) aesthetic considerations reduce utility, I'm turned off. I won't buy unless I have no alternative---hence the CD player. Would you want to read a black book with white print??? Ugh!

Michael Crespo's picture

Sound is the most important, but looks can make a good sounding component even more pleasing.

Duane Barker's picture

I look for reliability,soundness of design and sound itself above appearance.

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