If you are paying large sums of money for a piece of high-end hifi then it is perfectly reasonable to assume that some thought has gone into the way that the kit performs on an aesthetic level as well as, of course, into its audio performance.
We live in a world where there is increasing emphasis on the home and the way it reflects the home-owners personal lifestyle choices and as a result, product design in every sphere, not just hifi, is becoming ever more important. Gone are the days when a loudspeaker manufacturer could simply do the maths, ponder the physics and then put together a box of suitable proportions, pop in the drivers and then sell it to the audiophile masses. Whilst to the seriously committed audio enthusiast the bottom line will be “how does this product sound”, to a growing number of people great sound needs to be complemented with great looks.
Of course, there is no accounting for taste and what may appeal to one person and their sense of style, may be abhorrent to another individual and their idea of what looks desirable.
High-end audio and audiophilia is, for the large part, a male dominated diversion, but most of us have to share our environment with other people, not least ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ (SWMBO) and so the ‘Wife Acceptance Factor’ (WAF) can play a major function in what bits of audio and hifi equipment are sanctioned as being suitable to cross the threshold and make their way into the family home. For the solitary audiophile all this is of little consequence and, if they so choose, they are free to import whatever piece of equipment into their man-cave they so wish.
Now I’m very fortunate and had the good sense to carefully select a mate who allows pretty much anything hifi, however hideous, into the house, though the line has been drawn on some items even with her. A simple “No” and I know that I’ve pushed her aesthetic sensibilities just that one pace too far and quickly retract my application for permission to introduce said item. The first rule is to know how far you can push it and to push it no further if you want to maintain a harmonious living arrangement. Push it too far and the home can become a discordant environment and your listening pleasure will (I assure you) be compromised.
Some Audiophiles develop certain strategies to gain acceptance for a particular item of kit that has been beaten with the ugly stick and the main tactic goes something like this:
- Audiophile sets his heart on item X that he knows has low WAF and knows that his life will not be worth living unless he acquires said item and manages to install it in the front room of the house.
- Audiophile does not mention to SWMBO that his heart is now set on item X and goes out and buys or loans an even uglier item Y.
- Item Y is stored out of sight, a garage is good for this purpose, and only installed in the home when SWMBO is out for the day. The truly astute audiophile will send his beloved out for a special days pampering at Rancho Relaxo, or some other spa by way of ensuring that he has the best chance of securing success with his Machiavellian undertaking.
- SWMBO returns from Rancho Relaxo and is greeted by a pair of loudspeakers the size of a small shed, constructed by a team of trained orang-utans and so loathsome and repugnant that not even their mothers would love them.
- All the pampering seems to have been for naught and the lady of the house seems to have been possessed by a demon whose only utterance seems to be a guttural (and somewhat menacing) “get that piece of crap out of my house now!”, but no…this is all part of the wily audiophile’s plan.
- Audiophile looks somewhat dejected and compliant and says to SWBO “You are, of course, absolutely right and what was I thinking? I’ll remove these carbuncles from your sight with immediate effect!”
- Carbuncles Y are removed to previous hiding place.
- The next day the devious audio enthusiast loads the offending items into the car/van and returns them from whence they came, loads up original item X from the shop, drives them home, waits until SWMBO is out for a short while and installs them in the living room, safe in the knowledge that his plan is about to come to fruition in a wholly acceptable manner for everyone involved.
- SWMBO returns to find husband stood next to new item X freshly installed and playing calming music and then utters the words that he has been longing to hear “Now don’t they look so much nice than those monstrosities you had in here yesterday. Make me a cup of tea and I’ll have a listen to them.
- Our intrepid hero retires to the kitchen to prepare a refreshing brew with a big grin on his face and a new bit of kit in his set up.
Of course all the above nonsense can be successfully avoided if you accept that certain concessions will have to be made from the outset, but the truth is that these days there is so much really beautiful looking kit out there to suit every palate that you can have your cake and get to eat it too.