Over the years one can't help but notice the evolution of fashion and style in music, cloths, and yes indeed, audio products! Back in the day things were more akin to a form follows function, with a good basic design perhaps leaning towards the industrial look. Loudspeakers were generally wood wrapped rectangular boxes and turntables were another box with a platter and tonearm on top. While working at Heathkit back in the day, my first day job at the ripe ol' age of 18, the company chose the usual boxed design for amplification as our friends on the other side of the pond were a bit more creative.
Starting with source components, digital disc players are basically boring boxes with a few exceptions such as the Shanling units, plus am an avid vinyl junkie and turntables seem far more interesting. If you check out Enjoy the Music.com's Lust Pages, the turntable section is jam packed with photos of many units that are a fest for the eyes! One of the relative newcomers is the Teres branded model 340 seen here. This splendid combinations of careful fabrication and wood is without a doubt a fest for audiophiles with wood flooring, and perhaps, stately wood-paneled rooms.
On the other side of the design coin we have the likes of Clearaudio, who combine the latest material formulations of plastic and metals in combinations with a few wood accents on some designs. There is little doubt the German's are highly enthusiastic vinyl connoisseurs, and this explains the vast number of turntable manufacturers from the country and the abundance of vinyl records for sale at the Munich show. Add to the fact the huge variations possible with turntable designs that includes tonearms that are straight, 'S' shaped, and linear, to name a few. Then you have wood platters, acrylic platters, metal platters, various items to be placed on top of the platter, record hold down devices... The list is almost endless to the variations! Each designer also must choose if their design uses a sprung design, i.e. Linn LP12, or be mounted is a solid base made with wood, acrylic, metal or some combination thereof.
If there is one specific music reproduction device that has changed over the years from being the proverbial ugly ducking to growing up into a beautiful swan it is without a doubt the loudspeaker. While ignoring the designs pre-1940, of which i am familiar as an avid vintage radio and 78 rpm buff where Thomas Edison's horns design for 78rpm were followed by an electrostatic-type design for AM radios, we will fast-forward to the formal invention of the sealed box design that signaled the then modern era. Paul W. Klipsch's corner horn combined the horn-loaded design for the upper range while a large driver produced the lower frequencies. Seen above are a few of the modern designs by Klipsch and this basic design was the mainstay, with few exceptions such as the Quad electrostatics that eventually came into the marketplace.
If we fast forward to today, the choices have greatly expanded as aerospace technology, CNC machining, and other modern technics have permitted the designer a more free flowing canvas to paint upon. Seen here is the Duevel Bella Luna that uses a combination of transmission line for the bass and carefully machined wood into lovely cures for horn-loading. Additional wood accents round out this wood sculpture.
The hornspeaker to the right in pearlescent white and black is by Avantgarde Acoustics. While other colors such as deep blue, red, silver, etc are available, it shows that modern technics allow the hornspeaker to break out of the wooden box and enter into a more shapely design. It also shows that what is old is new again as the basic horn idea is much like that found in Edison's devices. With that said, it is time we migrate from horns to the amazing array of sealed boxed and ported designs.
From the Uk is a company called Design e that takes advantage of curved spherical enclosures. Also available in a variety of colors, this design would easily be suited for the finest of modern homes and art galleries. Gone is the rectangular box in favor of carefully crafted curves. This is but one of many examples where modern technology aids designers to freely go from what is in their mind to sculpt it to a substance.
There literally thousands of variations and designs in the market, from flat panels rounded designs, that there is no excuse to be dissatisfied with whatever choice you make in visual design. There is no longer the early Ford automobile thinking of "any color you like so long as it is black," as the variety of synthetic substances, wood types/grain/stain and machines able to shape these materials with incredible precision only dreamt about years ago are easily accessible.
Like fashionable cloths, if you wait a few decades what was once old is considered new again. This is very true with amplification as vacuum tubes gave way to solid-state devices in the 1970's. There is little doubt tube amplification is here to stay as within the past decade we not only have thousands of newly-developed designs using tubes, there has been a resurgence in the manufacturing of the tubes themselves! Seen here is Nightingale's AMD-30 integrated tube amplifier, a stunning Italian creation with a chorus of output tubes that graciously surround the supporting smaller tubes. While Nightengale utilizes wood for the chassis and metal for the top plate, some manufacturers go for all metal that may be brushed aluminum, chrome, or gold plating. Your visual senses are almost forced to stare at the glorious glow of the tubes in a darkened listening room.
Today there is no reason for having a gathering of black or silver boxes placed somewhere in your home, as if to be more like an apology than something to be showcased. High-end audio is first and foremost about sound quality, yet your system can easily be part of the ascetics versus a shameful section within a well-appointed room. And speaking of your room, Enjoy the Music.com's very own Rick Becker, who owns a furniture store, has written about other ways to adorn your home within his articles Decorating For Music Part I,Decorating For Music Part II, and Decorating For Music Part III.
So invite your friends and neighbors into your home and showcase your sound system! Share not only the amazing sounds that generously fills your home, but also the style and pizzazz that separates high-end audio components from the low-fi boring boxes of today! Of course in the end what really matters is that we all....