What Comes First Looks Or Sound Quality?

What comes first for you the looks of a stereo or the sound quality?

Would you accept a drop in sound quality if the look of a system or system component was visually more appealing?

I always thought sound quality first and foremost and my recent upgrade from P6 to P8 is a case in point I’m not a huge fan of the visual aspect of the P8 but it’s a large improvement over the P6 sonically.

The stereo in the corner has always been a bit contentious with my other half she would like it as small and discreet as possible with sound magically appearing from nowhere whereas I’m not bothered.

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I don’t think it is black and white. Everyone has limits to which they cannot put up with even if they lived alone. Whether they admit it or not is another matter.

Personally, I do not require hifi to be visually appealing. But I would certainly accept a drop on sound quality for something that wasn’t actually an ugly eyesore.

Case in point, let’s pretend for the sake of argument, that I thought Chord was the most sublime sounding electronics on the planet. My personal tastes are such that I find their gear just hideous to look at. Naim isn’t exactly pretty but it is low key enough to ignore. I’d definitely go for second sonic fiddle in that scenario,

Where people put that threshold of visual acceptance is highly variable of course.


Hmmm, it’s all about meeting one’s standards. Drve a LR4 forit’scapabilities… BUT no matter how capable would not buy a new style Discovery… Will need to be a Defender… because I need to live with it too. Same with HiFi equipment. Personally think eg Mackintosh kit look awful would not touch it… luckily there is plenty of choice of quality without compromise.

I don’t find stereo equipment particularly appealing and in my mind the question is whether it’s important to make the system less visually unappealing. When I look at the System Pics thread it’s almost invariably the small setups that appeal most to me. The massed ranks of boxes don’t look great and when there are piles of random stuff it looks worse.

On a personal level, the system grew from a simple three boxes on a small stand to something larger - much bigger speakers, five boxes, big mains block, then a TT on the wall and it was all starting to look too big and intrusive. So I downsized it and now it looks a lot nicer and fits in better. It doesn’t sound quite as good but the much smaller overall size fits the modest room better.

A lot depends on whether it’s in the living room of course. For those fortunate enough to have their own music room it’s much less of an issue, but even then I’d like it neat and tidy.


My wife is a musician, therefore every bit of kit that we have has to pass an accuracy of sound/emotion test on stuff she has recorded. While looks do play a part what is most important is the musical presentation, period, I think if the right kit looked like a giant dayglo yellow dinosaur jobbie she’d put up with it

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For me, looks are totally irrelevant - apart, possibly, from the speakers where there are limits to their acceptability. I’m quite happy to hide most of the kit - currently, for instance, my 500 is not visible, as it happens. The only pieces that need to be visible are the preamp and streamer, and that’s only to access them.
When I used to make my own kit, looks really were not a high priority.

For me sound quality… I also find the simpler and consequently less visually obtrusive a system is, the better and more consistently it tends to perform. So in my experience there is a degree of correlation between appearance and SQ.


Tricky one. I had the P8 and it is indeed a great sounding TT. But I never connected with it. It felt like a toy to me. So I sold it and got the Vertere DG-1 which both sounds and looks great. I believe there is always something that could tick both boxes if you look out for it and are willing to spend some.

Both! Can’t imagine having an eyesore on display, no matter how sonically brilliant it was and vice versa.


I’ll make @Simon-in-Suffolk words, mine.
Im too on the same boat. Both, with sq prevailing.

Fundamentally sound quality over looks, but not wholly. And there are some things I would accept, but as the room is a family space with other functions when I’m not listening to music they also have to be tolerable to my wife, which is slightly more limiting though she is pretty accepting generally.

Electronics can mostily be hidden, or otherwise are small enough to be placed non-prominently, and that is my preference anyway in which case their ‘looks’ are completely immaterial. For electronics that can’t be or are impractical to hide, I prefer a discrete appearance, e.g. black over silver, but sound quality rules, I think universally as far as anything I have yet seen.

On the other hand, as loudspeakers are inevitably both visible, placed in direct line of sight, and (for full range) much larger than the electronic boxes, their looks are very significant in the room. Some may rule themselves out for being either truly hideous or overbearing, e.g physically huge, including both those that seem to reach up Almost to the ceiling and lean forward looming over you, or so tall wide and deep that they occupy much of the floorspace. Also some of the horn designs with prominent protruberances.

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Totally agree on Chord whereas I really like the understated Naim looks. For me the biggest no no is components that light up like a Christmas tree particularly if it’s blue LEDs

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Blue LED. Just reading it makes me feel bad. Horrible. If the Naim logo would have been blue I would not have owned it. Details.


Not too bothered about how the boxes look; understated is fine. My rack has doors that cover most of the boxes anyway.

To my eyes many speakers/stands are just ugly. Since I have mine in a living room not a dedicated listening room they must be reasonably attractive or at least not overtly ugly. Perhaps as important (the room is not big) they need to be positioned close to the wall. Thank you SL2!

I had a Luxman L-58A for many years, which had an obnoxious white lamp on the front. Not long after I got it, I opened it and glued a piece of orange lamp gel (for studio strobes) on it, crossing my fingers it wouldn’t catch fire*). Worked like a charm and I didn’t remove it until I sold amplifier.

*) perpetually turned on, it doubled as a heater in the living room :slight_smile:

If I went on looks I’d own all olive gear rather than classic and I certainly wouldn’t own a Chord product… and yet I do.

Sound quality first, size second and looks third.

If it looks ugly to me, I won’t bother checking out the sound.


Both for me. Although I do like things to look a bit different. Within context of the space.
A system could bring interest in one room and look totally out of place in another.
My reference 3A speakers are far from a conventional looking wooden box, and my partner wasn’t taken with them when they suddenly appeared one afternoon. We now love the look. Would probably seem unusual swapping them out for something more normal.
Rather taken with my red and purple Nordost cables. If it’s inevitable that there’s going to be a lot of cables - they might as well look pretty.

Somebody once said to me “if it looks good it will be good”. I’m not sure whether he was referring to cars or women but I’m sure it wasn’t his stereo!


That’s often true of F1 cars. Certainly not women, or men for that matter.

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