At the end of my 2013 CES report on digital electronics for The Absolute Sound I wrote "Audiophiles and manufacturers both agree that a $5000 product should offer greater performance and features than a $500 product in a similar category, but manufacturers are beginning to realize that a premium product should look different as well."
What I meant by this is simple, rectangular boxes, no matter how thick and "luxurious" their faceplates may be, are still merely rectangular boxes. And a premium "high-end" product in the 21st century needs something more in the way of visual flair than merely another, thicker, metallic covering. It needs a new shape.
At CES I noticed that some manufacturers are realizing just how square most audio components have become, and they're doing something about it. Light Harmonic's DaVinci DAC is a case in point. Once you've seen a DaVinci, you will recognize one from across the room. And while some audiophiles will never think of spending the kind of money that a Davinci demands, even the most penny-pinching hobbyist can't help but be impressed by its visual bravado.
Wadia's new Intuition 01, which is only the first of several new Wadia products that will utilize a shape that isn't square, actually looked like something that might appeal to non-audiophiles. It's curvaceous, colorful, and includes the ability to directly drive speakers - in other words, a one-box solution that is both attractive and innovative.
MSB's new "the Analog" DAC is another digital product that has struck out in a new and more stylish direction. Not only is it's shape more like a isolation shelf, but it uses a modular input scheme that allows users to customize it for their particular applications. MSB even has an App for remote functions. And for those users who need some sort of visual feedback, the "The Analog's" display is on the upper right hand corner of it's top. Here's one audio component whose display won't disrupt your mood lighting.
Obviously audiophiles who like to stack their components or put them into a rack won't be crazy about "boxes" that are no longer boxes. But for most humans, banishing rectangular metal boxes from their environment will be a welcome reduction and improvement in their everyday environment, because, after all, this is the 21st century.