Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Ugliest Audio Gear money can buy

Much as we might wish to believe it's all about the sound, for most of us the aesthetics of a product are important drivers of our satisfaction and enjoyment of a product. Listen to how many audiophiles on forums slaver over the fit, finish and detailed workmanship involved in their favorite toys. It's not crazy, the look and feel of speakers, tables, cables and components do seem to matter. With that in mind, let me share my list of products that absolutely fail my 'looks good' threshold. I make no comments on the quality, value or general desirability of what follows, am confident they are fine sounding pieces of gear, but something about them just turns me off. Your mileage might vary, nominations welcome (manufactured, for sale equipment only please, as you will see if you follow the link below)

image of REAL turntable
1. The Merrill-Williams REAL turntable

I don't know if it's the corky top, the stick-it-under-the-plinth power supply, the oversized chess piece center-weight, or the goofy inverted ball rubber feet but this table looks like a pieced-together kit made in someone's garage out of a modified 1980s mid-fi spinner. Nothing elegant about this player, let's hope it sounds more coherent than it looks!

2. Salk Soundscapes

image of pair of speaker
I am sure these are very well-made but, and it's a big but, these boxes cannot escape the giving the impression that someone plonked three blocks together, stuck some chunky footers on them and tried to use beautiful veneers to tie the results together. Owners and potential purchasers 'ooh' and 'aah' about the look, but I cannot shed the impression that this is a speaker made for men who imagine the wife would welcome a new tube-amp for their wedding anniversary.

3. Wyred 4 Sound MMC5

image of W4S MMC5
Price is right with most products from W4S but this type of utilitarian sheet and rivet look would not look out of place in a Soviet-era knock-off. The little black fascia panels might soften the blow but this box oozes the vibe of something made up from the clearance-sale list at Parts Express.

4. Wilson Audio Polaris and Maxx 3 

I don't care how well reviewed or expensive these are with their material X and Y construction , but the
image of wilson speakers
Star Wars robotic look suggests death-ray lasers interwoven with the soundwaves. If you entered your listening room late at night without thinking you might imagine alien intruders standing by the stereo. Bad as the Maxx and Alexandrias appear, that Polaris seems to be doing a passable impression of a fat R2D2. Out of this world looks to go with those prices.

5 - You tell me.....

For now, I am restricting this to commercially available gear, avoiding some of the Frankensteinian efforts of DIY-ers, and I am definitely excluding room treatments which are just too easy to hate, but you will surely be tickled by some of the images here, if not for the gear alone, at least for the Herculian efforts some folks make to give such gear a home. 

1 comment:

PatrickD said...

And who'd have's a new forum discussion on just this topic: