Seen, Not Heard: The World's Most Beautiful Audio Equipment

Somewhere along the way, audiophiles became as obsessed with look as with sound quality. So set aside for a minute your ears and your skepticism: Here are the world's most beautiful-looking audio devices.

The ClearAudio Statement: At $100,000 the ClearAudio Statement, seen above, is everything that is wrong with the audiophile culture, combined into one four-foot, 770lb, variously suspended, NASA-electronics-adorned turntable (check out a full-length shot here). But it's a design triumph, coaxing a polished, demure aesthetic out of what should by all means be an ostentatious CNC-machined mess.

Seen, Not Heard: The World's Most Beautiful Audio Equipment

Speak-er: Spawned by a playful concept that nobody honestly expected to get made, the Speak-er isn't fancy, powerful or technologically impressive. It's a dead-simple desktop speaker in a fantastic shell, which opens up a slew of design possibilities for your office, room, or live-action comic book troupe.

Seen, Not Heard: The World's Most Beautiful Audio Equipment

Sonnance Freewheeler: Continuing the simple-but-perfect theme, the Sonnance Freewheeler is a wireless speaker disc, about the size of a car's wheel and able to run for about 8 hours on a full charge. It's also $21,000, but that neither here nor there, "here" being "within the range of you to buy" and "there" being "at all worth it, even if it was." But, pretty!

Seen, Not Heard: The World's Most Beautiful Audio Equipment

BeoSound 5: It's somehow heartening to see so much design go into a remote control. That's what the BeoSound 5 is: a 1024x768 screen with a brushed aluminum control wheel that serves solely as an interface for the BeoMaster 5, a giant B&O media server.

Seen, Not Heard: The World's Most Beautiful Audio Equipment

Montegiro Lusso Turntable: Apparently designed in the Towers of Hanoi tradition, this conical turntable is adorned with enough expensive-sounding features for even the most credulous discerning audiophile. It's just under $50,000, but really, you can't put a price on tying a room together, can you?

Seen, Not Heard: The World's Most Beautiful Audio Equipment

Sony Sountina: So, it's a speaker in a glass stick, but it's also one of the rare speakers that would work in virtually any setting. As a bonus, it can be illuminated in blue, amber or purple light, though I think it looks best without any at all.

Seen, Not Heard: The World's Most Beautiful Audio Equipment

V-Moda Vibe Earphones/Headsets: This is one of the few items on this list that people actually buy, and with good reason. They're capable (though not outstanding) earphones, on which V-Moda has shown extreme attention to design. The corrugated bodies, Mont Blanc-esque pen-tip wire accessories and (sometimes) fabric wire casings make for the most stylish earbphones on the market today.

Seen, Not Heard: The World's Most Beautiful Audio Equipment

Harman Kardon Soundsticks: You've seen this at Apple Store and Best Buys for years, but they're due some credit: they bring a stunning transparent aesthetic to mainstream buyers, perfectly complementing a generation of Apple hardware while being generally gorgeous enough to be appealing to the PC crowd too. You'd still be hard-pressed to find a lovelier set of speakers for under $200.

Seen, Not Heard: The World's Most Beautiful Audio Equipment

Opera Sonora Speakers: Every once in a while, questionably scientific theories of audiophilia result in extremely handsome products. That's the story of the Opera Sonora line of speakers. The theory: Bolting little speaker driver on to the back of tonewood—the same stuff used in high-end violins—will provide a rich, warm sound. The result: Speakers that look like they were designed by a reanimated Antonio Stradivari, with a sound—well, not many people have actually heard them yet.

Seen, Not Heard: The World's Most Beautiful Audio Equipment

Sony Qualia 010: Priced at over $2500, slapped with a painfully pretentious name and jinxed forever to be rejected by mainstream-averse audiophiles, these futuristic headphones were doomed from the start. But whatever, these are subtly good-looking cans, blending in for day-to-day use but revealing meticulous design and construction on close examination. (Image from Head-fi)


Listening Test: It's music tech week at Gizmodo.