Going by the name, one would think that home audio is all about the audio. But we know better. The aesthetics of audio tech have always been important, although the look that's considered desirable has changed over the years.
The beginnings of the component home audio industry featured big, in-your-face tech meant to look complicated and draw attention. When it came to your stereo system, bigger was better. If it had more than ten knobs, and looked like it came straight out of a space ship control panel, then it was the coolest piece of equipment you'd ever seen. This makes sense, considering hi-fi audio was a relatively niche market; if you were into hi-fi, then you wanted your equipment to look exciting.
It goes without saying that a lot has changed since then. Firstly, the market has changed. It's fairly commonplace to have a stereo or speaker system of some kind in your home, whether or not you're an audiophile. In fact, the main audience for surround sound now includes both music lovers and movie lovers alike, with the development of in-home projectors and other high definition visual technology. Speaker systems are more accessible, and therefore have become more versatile aesthetically. We've transitioned from wanting the surround system to be the centerpiece of the room, to wanting to hardly notice it at all.
This goes hand in hand with technological advancements over the last 50 years, allowing equipment to be smaller and more condensed, while still offering the best sound quality achievable today. One of the best examples of this is the soundbar -- we go into more detail about what makes a soundbar so special here. Beyond its technical innovation, it sums up the general trend of audio tech throughout the turn of the 21st century. We want high quality sound in a thin, sleek, button-less bar. And so, the aesthetic of a giant silver box for an amplifier has come out of fashion.
The moral of the story is that aesthetics have always mattered. So, if you're looking for ways to make your home audio system easier on the eyes, you've come to the right place. There are many options for creating a hi-fi speaker system that doesn't take over your home:
Perhaps the biggest offender to the home audio aesthetic is the cable. We want five speakers and a subwoofer scattered throughout the living room, but who wants to have cables running all over the floor to connect all of it? One of the simplest solutions is wireless speakers. Bluetooth and Wi-fi technology have come a long way in the last few years, and you can now get your hands on a full wireless speaker system that offers impressive quality. Of course, if you love audio, you'll want to get one from a certified hi-fi brand like Audioengine, Yamaha, or Denon. And if you really love audio, you'll probably argue that wireless just doesn't compare to the connection quality of a cable -- and you would be correct. The best of wireless speakers doesn't match up to classic cables, so this solution doesn't work for everyone.
If you don't want to go wireless, or it's not in your budget, the next best thing you can do is put time and effort into cable organization. If you want to have a somewhat permanent installation of speakers in your home, then it's worth taking the time to run cables properly. Running cables through the walls or ceiling is obviously the most discrete way to do it, but you can also get a number of cable organizing accessories that are less involved. Instead of putting cables in the wall, try a raceway that conceals cables attached to the wall or along the floor. Additionally, always use cable ties to keep wires bundled together and prevent them from becoming a tangled mess.
If you want to take things one step further, don't just conceal your cables -- conceal the whole speaker. In-wall and in-ceiling speakers are becoming a popular option for hi-fi audio that you can't even see. These are often preferred for multi-room systems and outdoor audio solutions. While they require a more involved installation process, discrete speakers take up less space and completely blend in to your existing decor. You'll have your guests saying, "what speaker system?"
The final option is for the OG stereo system geeks. Instead of trying to hide your speakers, you can take it back to the good old days and make it the centerpiece of the room. There is one brand in particular, Bowers & Wilkins, that is spearheading this movement with their flagship series, Nautilus. This innovative and iconic speaker design not only is taking audio quality to the next level, but is embracing the use of speakers as an aesthetic focal point. The unique spiral base and Nautilus tubes create an unforgettable look that, even with its futuristic appeal, somehow takes us back to the days of giant hi-fi.