Poll: Do the Visual Aesthetics of Audio Gear Affect Perceptions of Sonics?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by ShockControl, Jan 2, 2018.

  1. ShockControl

    ShockControl Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The title says it all.
    bluesky likes this.
  2. xcqn

    xcqn Audiophile

    Gothenburg, Sweden
    I think it does, yes.
    crispi and bluesky like this.
  3. F1nut

    F1nut Forum Resident

    The Mars Hotel
    No! It doesn't matter what it looks like if it doesn't sound good.
  4. Robert C

    Robert C Sound Archivist

    London, UK
    Yes. Same with price/perceived value.
  5. volta

    volta Forum Resident

    Denver, CO
    I think this is very true. I personally think many Wilson speakers are ugly and maybe because that, I've never been impressed with the sound. I've heard them for many years at RMAF, and never walked away impressed.
    However I personally love how some of the real high end Sonos Faber speakers look, and also have thought they sounded great. Who knows, but I think there is truth to this.
  6. PooreBoy

    PooreBoy ~Well Respected Man~

    East TN
    I would say it depends on the individual. But if it does that would soon wear off leaving that person disappointed. So my answer would be 'maybe'.
    Leonthepro likes this.
  7. kinkling

    kinkling Forum Resident

    Ordinarily, I would say not at all, except

  8. Kyhl

    Kyhl formerly known

    Not for me. My last two purchases stick out like a sore thumb next to the other equipment but they much improved the sound. It disappoints me that they are butt ugly but I don't hear with my eyes.
    oxenholme, Dave and toddrhodes like this.
  9. ralf11

    ralf11 Forum Resident

  10. F1nut

    F1nut Forum Resident

    The Mars Hotel
    Seem to be a lot of people here that would kiss a pig with lipstick on.
  11. I can guess what you got. That gear looks like... Yeah, we know. The name gives it away. If I judged sound quality by how the gear looks I wouldn't like my DAC. Fortunately I judge sound performance based on what I hear and not how it looks. I've heard more expensive DACs that look much better that I don't like the sound of. I've heard plenty of other well regarded expensive gear that looks nice but I don't like the sound of. One example is the HeadAmp GSX mk2 headphone amp. Expensive, looks good, well regarded over on head-fi. To me it sounds bright and flat. I don't like that treble. Don't like its soundstage. It doesn't do subtle very well. If I was influenced by my eyes and the opinions of others to I'd have to like the amp. If I was looking for a solid state headphone amp I'd rather have the Schiit Ragnarok. It's not good looking, but at least I like its sound (for a SS amp).
  12. Kyhl

    Kyhl formerly known

    I can understand that one because it is designed for simple build and assembly. They can stamp out parts quick and easy using two presses, en mass. The beauty is they seem to pass the savings on to the consumer.
    The other has a fugly design as their image. They have been that way for decades and it's part of their brand. Luckily they have gotten better with the latest models but their standard look is still there staring at you. :sigh:
  13. bluemooze

    bluemooze Forum Resident

    Frenchtown NJ USA
    A good-looking bad-sounding speaker will sound bad always and forever.

    Are some of you saying that the looks of a good-looking bad-sounding speaker would cause you to think it sounds good? o_O Or that you would prefer to listen to a bad-sounding speaker because you like how it looks? :sigh:
    F1nut and toddrhodes like this.
  14. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    South Bend, IN
    I don't think a single component I own, save maybe 1, is "attractive." I'm more than happy with the sound, though, so I voted no. I haven't personally encountered a setup where its visual appearance elevated the quality of the sound I perceived.
    F1nut likes this.
  15. Johnny Reb

    Johnny Reb Résident du forum

    For me, yes. The looks of the gear will cause me to give it the benefit of the doubt as it were (perhaps better stated as "it will sound good unless proven otherwise"), while if it looks bad, the opposite will be the case. Such biases wear off after a little while, but yes, they would affect my perception for that time.
  16. Not to me, my equipment is not great looking, I do love high-end attractive equipment but appearance has nothing to with sound, real or perceived to my ear. I purchased a few CDs that had been defaced with Auric Illuminator, didn't sound any different despite looking like my granddaughter had gotten ahold of the CDs and a marker pen.
    F1nut and Dave like this.
  17. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    The aesthetics certainly can impact a person's preconceived sound quality expectations about a given piece of equipment prior to hearing it. But after hearing it, these should make no difference to the evaluation of the sound quality.

    However, that is not to say that an inferior-sounding component cannot have superior build quality and/or gorgeous aesthetics (or visa versa). And yes aesthetics can and do influence purchasing decisions. But I don't think that they in any way influence how a unit sounds. But they probably do have a significant impact on how satisfied you may feel about a given purchase, as well as how much you feel like showing-off a given piece of equipment.
  18. BIGGER Dave

    BIGGER Dave Forum Resident

    For some people yes, for others no. It’s as simple as that.
    Helom and Encore like this.
  19. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    People who study psychoacoustics and who develop psychovisual studies have long known about how esthetics affect how our brains process what we see and hear. Our eyes and ears are not intelligent, but the parts of the brain that have to process what we see and hear certainly are intelligent. Esthetics affect everything: perceptions, conscious and subconscious choices and preferences - everything.

    An audiophile’s appreciation of how good a component looks to him always positively affects his appreciation of the component. Even when that audiophile doesn’t ultimately like how the component sounds to him, the component still won’t sound as bad to him as it does to his friend present at an audition with him who dislikes the component’s appearance. After that, it’s all about the friend persuading him that the component was even worse than he thought. When a component that the audiophile thinks is bad looking or just unappealing happens to sound better by some objective measure, the audiophile may require a long time to change his mind and often may never do so and end up not making a decision about a component.

    The decision making process depends in part on how a salesperson or a marketing piece sets up a prospective customer about both the visual and aural appeal of a particular component. An arguably ugly component can be polished up with language like straight-line design that gets to the sound and the essence of the music, etc., etc.

    Surprise yourself. Audition three competing components blindly. After matching volume levels, have someone switch between them without telling you which component is active.

    Once I tell someone that a component they think is great looking also sounds great, that’s what their brain is going to expect. Their brain will automatically try to process away anything its experience doesn’t like in order to favor the ‘fact’ I initially offered - that the component sounds great. In fact, the component will then usually have to be truly awful to get the person off that particular item when I’m demoing something at my place. I’ve done it dozens of times. Amps, integrated amps, CD players, networks players, speaker cables, interconnects - it’s all the same. It’s possible to easily influence someone’s perceptions. It’s easy because it’s not their eyes doing the seeing or their ears doing the hearing - it’s their brain. The eyes and ears are just sensors that collect raw data. The moment a thought is planted - an expectation, a foregone conclusion, an anticipatory suggestion, falsely made up on the spot or otherwise - that’s it for objective judgements and that’s it for eliminating visual influences.

    Nobody escapes this. We can’t. Our eyes and our ears are just dumb things - complicated sensors, nothing more. All they do is send signals - data - to the appropriate processing areas of the brain. Other parts of the brain that process esthetics and the associated emotions then have their influence. It’s inescapable.

    Ten different amp makers choose ten different physical case designs in which to house their electronic engineering. The amp maker decides on a physical presentation that he hopes prospective customers will like just as much as he does. He knows that something perceptibly ugly (to him) will be a very hard sell. But that still doesn’t mean that amp will look good to me or to you.

    I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met over the years who shied away from a component they considered ugly solely for that reason alone. In some cases, after a period of consideration has passed, they start to think regretfully about the ‘ugly’ component with thoughts like “maybe I should have auditioned it a bit longer” running through their minds.

    I have a friend who hates Krell’s faceplates. He hates the big, polished control knob front & center with its circle of indents. He hates the look and the sound of my S550i. He loves the austere look of my LFD NCSE MK II though. I’ve got the two components stacked one over the other separated by 3” spacers, both amps turned on. I fool him all the time. “Please don’t run the Krell,” he says. “No problem,” I reply, while fiddling with the LFD’s volume control (LFD’s don’t come with remote controls). Then I play music through the Krell anyway, sometimes, or not. He can’t tell the difference and neither can I most of the time. As long as he thinks the Krell is not playing, he’s happy and thoroughly enjoying the music.

    Take esthetics out of the ‘mix’ and many competing components start to sound far more alike than different. There are differences both measurable and audible, but they’re often far smaller than any of us care to admit.
  20. SquishySounds

    SquishySounds Yo mama so fat Thanos had to snap twice.

    New York
    Dewars looks drinkable if you put it in a decanter.
  21. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident

    I remember a demo many years ago of a mini-monitor- I can't remember what it was- perhaps the first Sonus Faber- wasn't that a relatively small expensive speaker? It was in a showroom with other gear, not immediately clear what speaker was playing- imaged like crazy, deceptive, given its small size.
    Sure, psychoacoustics and aesthetics probably play some part in the buying decision.
    I could care less what the gear I own looks like, main concern is how it sounds, how well built it is, knowing I'll get support.
    When set up, I don't want to look at the gear while music is playing- it's a distraction. I do have to keep an eye on the turntable for an unfamiliar record so i don't go into the label, but otherwise, really don't like pilot lights. Tube glow is nice, I guess, but still a distraction. One of my friends (using solid state gear) listens in a dedicated room that is pitch dark when the music is on-- it really helps the illusion. He turns on a turntable light when he is cueing, but that's it. It's a very involving experience.
    I do think the aesthetics of the room itself are important. I don't favor cave-like rooms (notwithstanding how much I enjoyed my friend's system in the dark). I like natural light in the room, an open, airy, non-claustraphobic environment. Is that part of the aesthetic experience? Sure, but less directly to do with the gear itself.
    Kyhl and timind like this.
  22. DPM

    DPM Forum Resident

    Nevada, USA
    Several years ago I visited an audio dealer in southern California to audition a pair of Estelon loudspeakers. I've always considered Estelons to be visually elegant, and I REALLY wanted to like the pair I was demoing. Alas, it wasn't to be. The sound just didn't match up to the visual beauty on display. So I gave them a pass and eventually bought a pair of great sounding speakers that are the proverbial rectangular box.

    So, for me, looks are just that and are only skin deep.
    F1nut likes this.
  23. ralf11

    ralf11 Forum Resident

    I'd pick good ergonomics over just looks any day...
  24. missan

    missan Forum Resident

    I am glad so many have voted for 'yes'. All is not lost.
    Manimal, russk and ShockControl like this.
  25. Gary

    Gary Nauga Gort! Staff

    Can't vote.

    Initially if it looks impressive, yes.

    After a while when it becomes normal and you are used to the look of the gear, no. Then reality sets in.

    Of course if you are used to amazing looking gear, skip my first comment completely. :)

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