Sometimes two completely unrelated things can lead to a conclusion not previously considered. This is precisely what happened to me recently. A month ago I received an email from a local dealer advertising a new promotion on something they recently acquired. This was nothing singularly remarkable - audio dealers regularly send email advertisements to me. What set this one apart from the others was that this was advertising a new painting, not an audio component.
This dealer, who was absolutely a high end dealer, also sold art. When I visited them about a year previously I found it unusual that I could buy an amp, turntable, speakers, or an oil painting. When I asked why sell both, the explanation was quite simple - they are both works of art.
The other week when I was having my yearly carpet cleaning done, and when I was going into very specific detail about the audio system, one of the carpet cleaning guys told me that I had a "beautiful" system. I thanked him, naturally, but was struck by the comment because my system was not even playing. At least to me, I tend to attribute beauty, as it applies to an audio system, as reproduced music. I seldom relate the beauty of an audio system to aesthetics.
Taken individually both of these occurrences have little to do with each other. They could hardly be more unrelated. Taken together, however, it offers a conclusion perhaps not often realized. That our audio systems are, aurally notwithstanding, also visual works of art.
If one visits an art gallery and listens to an expert describe a painting they may hear comments about technique. Or maybe the artist's use of brushstrokes. Or maybe something about composition and the use of shadows. Does this in any way sound familiar? Think about how the music our audio systems produce are described. The parallel is unmistakable despite being tied more closely to sound than visual attributes. But a parallel nonetheless.
In thinking about the subject more, I came to realize that a high end system is truly like a work of art. In addition to sonics, most manufacturers put considerable time and effort into making their product just as visually stunning as audibly stunning.
Speakers are painted using "piano gloss" or automotive grade paint finishes. Speakers in particular often have unique shapes that can be quite visually stunning. Many component manufacturers machine their cases with a jeweled finish or give their product a "brushed" look. Some manufacturers have graceful curved machined fronts on their components. Even audio racks are often designed to look good sitting in a room despite whatever their sonic achievements may be.
So when a carpet cleaning guy took the time to notice and comment that a stereo system looked "beautiful" I'd say that the manufacturer(s) did something right. Maybe, then, it can be argued that an audio system is also a work of art.
I'd venture to guess that most audiophiles could describe their system in great detail. They can, in all probability, and from memory, call each component by manufacturer's name and give the model number. I know I can. I can even recite what interconnects and cables I use with each component. This from a guy who occasionally forgets why he walked into a room and what he wanted when he got there. It seems therefore obvious that we care deeply about our systems and are excited to have someone hear the results of how our systems sound. Perhaps we should also be as mindful about how they look.
Given the cost, manufacturers should put as much effort into what the product looks like as how it sounds. I cannot agree with that sentiment more. But I never really thought about it before. So it is funny how two unrelated things can sometimes cause a different outlook to occur.
As audiophiles, we are deserving of viewing our audio systems with a certain sense of solemn pride. After all, we spend a considerable amount of time, effort and financial resources assembling a way to play recorded music. The culmination of our efforts is very easy for all to hear. One has little more to do than listen. Maybe, in addition to the satisfaction we collectively feel about the way our systems sound, we should also be mindful of the way they look.
A work of art is not always necessarily on canvas. Sometimes art may even be found in an audio system.