Sounding out the looks: do aesthetics matter when it comes to buying audio equipment?
For many, good looks have typically ranked low on the list of priorities when it comes to buying a high-quality sound system, but distinctive designs can play a big part in the auditory experience
In a poll conducted by www.computeraudiophile.com, the yes and no votes were about evenly split when respondents were asked whether design aesthetics enter into their audio equipment buying decisions, with the majority of respondents taking the middle ground. Specifically, nearly 42 per cent agreed that “I have the ‘spouse acceptance factor’ and general good taste to think of”.
Typically, home audio systems have been more about substance than style. For true audiophiles, purity of sound was the primary objective, with aesthetics well down the priority list – if ranked at all.
Now, it’s possible to enjoy the best of both. High-end hi-fi brands have finally recognised that good looks can be complimentary to an exceptional auditory experience.
After last October’s launch of a wireless version of its iconic Zeppelin, British audio brand Bowers & Wilkins has followed with the new Zeppelin Wireless in white – created, the manufacturer says, “to appeal to palette purists and design enthusiasts who prefer a more neutral colour tone”.
With this refreshed look, Bowers & Wilkins offers the same exceptional sound quality the brand is heralded for, in a cabinet reinforced to reduce vibrations.
Danish brand Bang & Olufsen gives a nod to the company’s 90-year heritage, while embracing the digital future, with its intelligent loudspeaker BeoLab 90. The 360-degree state-of-the-art design has no apparent visual front, its black fabric covers hovering like sails above a curved wooden base.
The product’s beam direction control steers the sound radiation to your location of choice – and can change the listening experience from a dedicated sweet spot, to an all-over party room setting.
One of the first audio-video companies to embrace the internet of things, Bang & Olufsen has also this year launched its BeoLink SmartHome solution, allowing users to connect its products with other technology devices in the home. It also offers full integration with home integrators such as Crestron, Control4 and Savant.
KEF injects colour into its speaker range with the aesthetically striking Blade Two. With all of its predecessor’s acoustic prowess and iconic design, this slightly scaled-down model is easier to position where space is at a premium.
The cabinets are available in a palette of finishes, including piano black, snow white, warm metallic grey, light metallic silver and racing red. “Given time,” says the British manufacturer with more than 50 years of audio innovation behind it; “we'll also match any colour you want”.
Inside, ingenious new venting, bracing and wave management technologies ensure every component operates comfortably within its performance envelope, for a listening experience noticeably more precise than is possible with conventional speakers.
From Gryphon comes the Mojo S, a speaker with distinctive wraparound wings and contemporary styling seemingly just crying out for a worthy domestic interior. It’s available in a broad range of distinctive colour options finished in multiple layers of semi-gloss or high gloss two-pack automotive paint.
And new from Wilson Benesch is the revolutionary, carbon-fibre P1 series, unveiled at luxury trade fair Munich High End in May and brought to Hong Kong for the High End Audio Visual Show in August. Flashes of red detailing across the honeycomb grill, mid and top plates gives this loudspeaker a racy, Formula One appeal – for those who take their sound, and interior design, seriously.
So, you might be among the 27 per cent of surveyed audiophiles who suggested that, when it comes to equipment, their aesthetic care factor is zero. Specifically, they wouldn’t be fussed if their hi-fi sound was “coming from cardboard boxes”. But why would you, when the alternatives are so attractive?