Looks are Everything

Not really.

But they ARE [almost] everything for some people, and I thought it might be fun to think about what categories high-end audio components might visually fall into and how we might assign these categories to various popular components.

Impressive Looking

I think some components are obviously Impressive Looking. Big amps like the 350 lb Boulder amps, or the big tube amps like ARC and VTL. The Wilson Alexandrias most might agree are Impressive Looking speakers and the 70+ lb Esoteric top-o-da-line digital might be as well.

Functional Looking

I would put most Audio Note gear and the Walker turntable in this category. What these companies say is that they spend their time and investments in improving the quality of the sound, not appearance [I add this because Functional Looking is interpreted as a somewhat derogatory category to some people ].

Artistic Looking

The Brinkmann turntable belongs in this category, I think minimalistic designs like these belong in a museum [if there is no museum for these yet, perhaps we should start one :-)].


Most turntables belong in this category – things in this category have lots of gratuitous stuff that is primary for appearance sake.


Of course, most equipment, have not only several sonic characteristics, but several visual characteristics as well.

For example, Jeff Rowland gear is a little Artistic and little Blingish and a little Functional looking but not very impressive looking [I remember us – back in the day – comparing the old Levinson Impressive Functional Looking 20.6 monoblocks to a Model 6[?] Rowland monoblock. The Levinson so much more Yang to Rowland’s (much more attractive) Yin appearance. We chose the Levinsons, I believe [hope] for sonic reasons :-)].

One of the important points here, for manufacturers, dealers and audiophiles, is that there seems to be a natural human expectation that, when sonic virtues are not very well known by a person, the more expensive and, in particular, the BETTER gear, will naturally be more Impressive Looking .

And, unfortunately, this natural human expectation is almost always incorrect. The better gear is the better gear, looks be damned. 🙂