How important is the Look in audiophile gear?

I saw a post today about B&O. Some were dissing this gear as just made to look good. I was about to do some dissing myself and then I wondered how much of the cost of other high end audio gear might be down to the "Look"? (Impressive looking rather than boringly functional.)

Is the "Look" closer to 20% or 80% of the cost on ultra high end gear? How much are you willing to spend on "Look" relative to cost that goes into purely audible qualities? Does the "Look" give you a feeling of how amazingly good it should sound? Does "Look" enhance the listening experience in the same way a well presented meal is more enjoyable to eat?

Examples of "Look": large silvery tube amps openly exposed on a silvery mount, massive turntables with visible big wheels/levers/belts, shiny imposing isolation feet, exotic spikes and stands, ultra thick cables made from exotic materials, futuristic speaker shapes (other than a plain mdf box).
I think that's always been an interesting consideration for us audiophiles since most of us are guys and we boys do have a thing for how cool our gadgets look.

That said, the deeper I get into this hobby, attractive industrial design becomes less important. Not that I totally ignore how a component's design strikes me, but as I strive for audio enlightenment appearance becomes less critical.

For proof just look at my virtual system, heheh. Also, only two people have ever heard my system, and neither are audiophiles.
The Look does matter some, but it tends to get discussed mainly as a a W.A.F. issue.
very little I buy audio equipment for listenting to not looking at
If there was a very suttle difference I might go for the better looking item but most of the time sound is more important. However I would have a hard time buying tube mono blocks that I didn't see the tubes love the orange glow and the attention they get when friends walk in. I will also listen to stuff in a shop if it looks cool but I would rarely aske to listen to that black box amp.
Would you want an ugly wife, car, house etc? Function is the most important thing but looks count too. Music is an art and art shouldn't be hung in a dump.
Rwwear....your post prompts this follow up questions..

You have the choice of two women as your wife.

#1 is drop dead beautiful. To live with her is hell on earth.

#2 is a nothing to look at. To live with her is heaven on earth.

Ok, which one do you want...???
Sugarbie - can't I just take choice #1 then peddle her on the WifeGon(e) when I get tired of her?
Meisterkleef....As the old saying goes. #1 is the type you demo; #2 is the type you keep.
As much as I do appreciate visual asthetics, I've never found much in the realms of the standard fare of high-end audiophilia to be very attractive, even when it is designed with that in mind. I have strange taste though. The most beautiful stuff made, by a longshot, if we are talking about "art" in the actual form of the stuff, is Electronluv's creations. Other than that, it's all glorified boxes that perpetuate corporate identity that exploit materials that speak of "luxury" without any artistic aesthetic, or it is driven by functionality with economy of materials and design. I can think of very few exceptions. I don't look at the stuff, I listen to it. If I had Electronluv gear I'd look at it too as it is worth more than casual contemplation. I can't think of any other gear I'd really WANT to look at for any length of time. What it sounds like is most important to me. If it could all be completely invisible and take up no space at all, I'd much prefer that. I agree, music can be an art (it isn't always). Audio equiptment used to reproduce music is NOT music, it's audio gear. Yes, there is potential for audio gear to be artfully designed as well, but I don't see anyone besides Josh Stippich, and a few selective speaker builders giving it that kind of treatment. If I had the choice of dropping added $ to make my favorite component(s) "look better", by typical Audiophile manufacturers standards, but sound the same, I'd more likely spend the money elsewhere. It's probably no coincidence that I buy components that emphasize function over form. Relating audio components to your life partner is a pretty sad choice of metaphors. A car, a bicycle, a house...OK...but your wife?

I'm not married.
I love great looking gear, but it has to sound great too! Some great examples of this are Hovland, Art Audio, and well, I guess that's it. Actually I think that Wavac looks pretty good too, and I love the way Sonus Faber speakers look as well. Also for sources how about Audio Aero or Audiomeca? Well I think with that bunch of gear you could put together a very nice system, eh?
I'm not married.

I won't touch that one.

Take my word for it, most folks, married or not, do not take kindly to being compared to an object, nor judged by their apperences. At least that's been my experience.

I buy all gear strictly based on looks- even expensive power cords. I set it all up perfectly and fine-tune the hell out of it.

Then I sneak out to my Eldorado, fire up the bong, and listen to the 8-track.

Sounds better every time:)
I think the look matters most when it comes to speakers. most of us are staring right at our speakers if we're in the sweet spot. I don't think I could ever live with gigantic panels (e.g.soundlabs) no matter how good they sounded. otherwise it should be said that good looking gear which doesn't sound great will be found out pretty much immediately and go the way of the dodo...

Does the car have a landau top, and is it chocolate brown?
Thanks for asking.

The ElDoDo is White, Red pleather interior, pink fur on dash.

Convertible, of course. TV antenna on trunk lid. Lotsa Biatches in the back seat.
Less than some other passions. In fine may have to do a bit with name/history, but mainly it's taste/olfactory. In cars it has much to do with looks...and about the same in an original Ferrari GTO can be best by many modern cars...except in looks. In audio I think sound comes first...with how it looks/fits into a room a close 2nd.
Absolutely nothing pretty about my Portal Panache except the sound it produces through the equally unattractive Meadowlark Kestrels. Looks mean absolutely nothing to me when considering audio gear. My wife on the other hand, is gorgeous.
Like my woman, I prefer gear that both looks & sounds good!
What about smell?
In a contest between my wife and my system the edge would got to my system. My preamp has a mute button.
The superior car exhibits high performance and beautiful design.

The superior wife is loving, devoted, "heaven on earth" to live with and also drop dead beautiful.

The superior audio component sounds great, is also beautifully designed, a pleasure to operate, and an artistic addition to one's living or listening room.

Any arguments are only a function of your insecurity or fears of shortcomings in any of the areas listed above.


Of course, there is room for subjectivity here. But we all know that many cars, women and audio compoents don't really live up to the standards of both categories mentioned above. Be honest.
"You have the choice of two women as your wife.
#1 is drop dead beautiful. To live with her is hell on earth."

So...when DID you meet my wife!
Rwwear, I think if you can get past the smell, you got it licked.

On the more serious side, and aside from cosmetic issues, one could dispense with photos in an ad if looks were not important. Some mfgs go to great lengths to design a component that is appealing. The looks capture you, the sound keeps you. However some seasoned audiophiles can & are willing to overlook a product that is ugly if the sound is killer.
Only if it is butt-ugly would I not consider a piece. I'm sorry but looking at something so physically unappealing everyday would take its toll.

Remember, audiophiles have more than one system, if you know what I mean. I would be out of town alot.
Timrhu, I think there's something really charming about the looks of the Portal Panache. Like a Glock, I find beauty in its brutishness.

The Panache could be like a lot of the non-model, non-pornstar women in LA living from paycheck to paycheck. They try harder to please and have less attitude.
Dean- are you insinuating that some of the women in LA are in the porn industry?

Say it ain't so!
Yo Dan,

Just because I work in Woodland Hills located in the San Fernando Valley which is often recognized as the porn capital of America...

just because Woodland Hills is where Artie Lange of the Howard Stern Show had a load blown on his chest during a porn star orgy...

just because I see porn actresses at the Ralph's supermarket across the street from my office after work before I drive home or at the sushi bar during lunch...

...means that some women in LA are in the porn industry.

How dare you!!! Heheh.
If you'd ever seen me you'd know 'looks' are NOT an issue.
As long as the looks are thrown in for free, I don't mind them, but everything is about the sound to me.

Audio for me is about hearing and not seeing. I want as much of my money going to "better sound" and I'll paint it and put a flow in it's crack to make it pretty if need be.
I'll know where to find most of you - at Fernando's Hideaway. Dean'll be in the back room with the video cameras and some local 'talent'. The rest of you? Well, all I can say is, "You look mahhhhvalassss!"

Hey, Electronluv started building speakers recently; I got'cher form over function right here pal!! I still think Josh is the lovechild of Dr. Seus and Horton (of Who-hearing fame).


Wow that Electronluv stuff is amazing. It reminds me of artistic work for the Dune movie (I admit the movie was bad but the artwork was amazing). I would seriously love to own a pair of those speakers...although one would probably enough for effect...what a statement!

Maybe that speaker is actually a disguised triffid.

Look out folks .... the invasion has started!

Now if only H.R. Gieger would design Hi-fi gear! I wonder would that might look like?
Wow that Electronluv stuff is amazing.

Yeah, I agree. Josh Stippich's designs are clearly the product of his passions in more than one dimension, fueled by a remarkable imagination and unrestrained by conventions. They are truly works of art. I don't know if the speakers are available, but his amps and preamps are (I believe everything he does is built to order). Never had the pleasure of hearing his amps, but reports indicate they sound as amazing as they appear. He used to pair off in the shows with Terry Cain, of Cain & Cain (another remarkable craftsman bringing his formidable talents to bear in this industry, albeit in a more conservative form)... Now that Josh has his own speaker(s?) I wonder if he'll be on his own at the shows...Though his stuff isn't exactly catering to the general public. I believe the amps are between $15K - 60K. Can't imagine how much a pair of those speakers must run. I wonder what materials he's using for them since he's a metal artist. I can't imagine they're metal, but it would not surprise me seeing what else he's done. Reminds me of something out of the film, City of Lost Children. Gieger, indeed!

Most, given choice, would take the alluringly exotic on spikes (ouch!) - hooked up to obscenely heavy cables of course - over a plain box bearing the imprint of B(&)O, additional cost or no. The extra cost may even magically add to the attraction as it imaginably does to the cachet. So much for the obvious.

I do wonder though whether the (predominantly manly) preoccupation with equipment, materials and looks, may one day become less obsessive, and not due to enlightenment or anything of the sort, rather just to the simple fact of size.

Here's possibly why: the potentially disappearing form factor as the things that microchips can do grow. The more smd can do, the more equipment size, and hence its "looks", becomes neglible.

For anyone who was around in the day of punch-cards, it is almost eery the amount of functionality that can be fit today in a few cubic centimeters. Not audiophile yet, but the quality cometh. With that I mean also the pleasing sound.

But more on topic. What is this Fernando's Hideaway? A high-end shop? And how does the gear there "look"? Will it make me feel good about my system? So many open ends. They make this hobby marvellous.
I listen with my ears, not my eyes.
I really don't care much about looks. My room is an aesthetic disaster, so putting a lot of effort into the looks of my equipment really isn't a priority. I'll buy a butt-ugly piece of gear if it's sonically superior to a pretty unit. Fortunately, my gear is both good-looking and -sounding, so I guess I'm lucky in that regard.

"I listen with my ears, not my eyes"


"I am looking down the road when I drive fast, not at the shape or color of my car from the side"


"It all ends up mixed in my stomach any way, so who cares what it looks like on the plate?!"


"Clothes should be comfortable. Besides, who is going to notice the cut of your jacket when it is hanging on the back of your chair?"


"Houses are for shelter. I am not looking at the proportions, doors, windows, or rooflines when I sit on my couch watching TV"


"They all look pretty much the same when the lights are out"


High end products of any kind should excel in

a) performance,
b) reliability,
c) build quality AND
d) design

Thank you for listening.

I really don't pay too much attention since most of my audio gear is made by McIntosh - which looks great all the time. I have it set up in a walnut Salamander twin 30 stand and all the non-Mac gear has silver face plates. Not too flashy just nice enought looking to let the casual observer know my audio gear didn't come from Best Buy or Circuit City.

High end products of any kind should excel in

a) performance,
b) reliability,
c) build quality AND
d) design

Thank you for listening."

- cwlondon

My ranking is different:


that's it.

I don't know what cause you are after but good luck!

I like good sound, too.

I don't know why my post went straight over your head, but good luck to you as well!

probably cuz a lot goes over my head.