How much does esthetics and/or looks come into play on a purchase

I see all throughout audio forums, people commenting on how something looks vs in a major way over how something sounds. I know there is the WAF ( Wife Acceptance Factor) for those of us that are married, when it comes to adding big speakers to your home, or huge mono amps on separate stands, but what about equipment that we base our hobby on. There are dacs and or headphone amps with glowing tubes or dancing EQ screens, or multicolour displays representing the sampling frequency or attractive headphones, beautiful wooden ear pieces surrounding/in our ears or even the box the headphones arrive in, do looks drive a purchase or becomes the reason for a purchase ?
The eyes and brain really are attracted to “pretty things” vs bland things. In a Strategy + Business articles I receive, its mentioned;
“The Economics of Aesthetics”

“For businesses, aesthetics is not a matter of esoteric art theory. It’s the way we communicate through the senses, the art of creating reactions without words. Aesthetics is the way we make the world around us special. Successful businesses understand that aesthetics is more pervasive than it used to be — not restricted to a social, economic, or artistic elite, or limited to only a few settings or industries, or designed to communicate only power, influence, and wealth.”

Its pretty interesting how looks impacts our purchase or an acceptance factor in our hobbies, be it cars, furniture, home or audio equipment. I’m not indicating, it’s a fault or a wrong or right answer but could it be its all about the marketing of the product itself that drives a part of our purchase. Just a thought.

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For me and for a headphone purchase sound and comfort come first and are deal breakers if not present.

Aesthetics are a close second but aren’t a deal breaker, though they can definitely be a deal maker if sound and comfort are equal.

Then there’s price but that’s a given.

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Agreed with @splayname, sound and comfort always come first, and I won’t make any exceptions if those 2 don’t cut it for me.

Next are things like build quality, customer support, ease of operation etc. Very important, but not quite as important as sound/comfort.

Aesthetics are more of a “nice to have”, and I am often willing to pay a higher price for something with more appealing aesthetics if my budget allows it, as long as it doesn’t come with compromises in sound and/or comfort.

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Sound and Comfort : Check :+1:

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Agreed with Jsim.

I think Aesthetics (and physical design) is more of a factor with electronics (i.e. your amps, etc). For example, I had to narrow my short list of DACs down based upon the physical limitations of space on my desk and then look at the other factors such as sound/features. Sound is always a deal-breaker if something doesn’t match what I like. :slight_smile:

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The physical design comes into play I thing more with speakers and like you noted amps. I tried to talk the wife into some Magnepan 3.7i for the family room, until she saw them and where they would set, and that was that. At least headphones can all set quietly together in a small space LOL. And agree, sound is foremost in a decision making process.

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Esthetics / Appearance is a dealbreaker for me, right along side Sound & Comfort. I’m stubborn that way, when I’m spending money I want everything just so.

Mark Gosdin

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Design is very important to me. It’s important in other interests as well like cars, so why wouldn’t I take it into consideration? Obviously sound and comfort are most important factors in this hobby. But since there aren’t any stores that stock a wide variety of headphones around here, I have to use the web as a proxy for all three factors before purchase. Design is the easiest of the three to get a good idea of in this way so it probably influences my purchase more than it influences my enjoyment of the item once purchased.

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You noted something of importance I think to a lot of us. No stores nearby to view the product. That makes it difficult to make a choice . Like you noted cars. At least we can go drive the car, set in it, feel it, smell it, hear it. At times using the web, and relaying on others opinions is all we have when it comes to headphones.

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Here is what Tyll Hertsens has to say in his farewell video. It’s a good video to watch in its entirety, but the portion relevant to this discussion starts around 23:30:

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I like his comments, he feels " Sound Quality, Comfort, Build Quality, Simple Styling and Functionality", but he did mention that studies show people buy headphones by the way they look and feel. And he did gig by talking directly in this video to the manufacturers, the "Ridiculous Pricing. Good video.

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Another thing that occurs to me is that since I freely use EQ, the sound is less of a factor when purchasing headphones. I’m not saying EQ fixes everything but it certainly helps for me. So I would really rank comfort as the most important factor for me over sound with design becoming a more important consideration than it would be otherwise.

EQ is something I haven’t used. I guess its because my headamp is not connected to my Desktop or laptop. of any kind… I do rank comfort as key.

I think the studies reveal the truth, but the participants of the studies were likely randomly chosen or volunteers, so the general public probably buys headphones mostly based on looks and comfort.

But wacky audiophiles like us, who DO know what good sound sounds like, probably are a lot more interested in sound quality as the most important factor.

And yeah, the best comment of all was his admonishment of the manufacturers for charging ridiculous prices.

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I wonder if there is any correlation to an emphasis on aesthetics by age or gender. I am male and older, and I don’t put much store in the aesthetics of audio equipment, certainly when it comes to headphones (and particularly since I only use them wired at home so no one even sees me other than my wife). That’s not to say that I have no interest in aesthetics at all, but I wouldn’t pay a higher price for it.

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I’m in the same demographic as you and I actually pay more attention to aesthetics than I did when I was younger. When it comes to things like electronics anyway.

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Sound, comfort and reliability all come before aethetics for me. But we do see our headphone purchases before we hear them, and if they’re a work of art I do think that can bias us a little into wanting to like/keep them more. I call it “hearing with my eyes.” :slight_smile: But if my headphones sound amazing, are comfortable and they look great, well… that’s just the cherry on top.

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Design is probably more important to me than most things in gear (regardless whether it’s a sofa, a plate, a wheelbarrow), and even more so in audio. I mean, of course, functionality is the first thing, but especially if there’s a significant sum of money involved, I want something that’s fun to look at and touch if possible. I know a lot of audio is plain black or silver boxes and wonky-ass cables, and yet lots of brands manage to do something really creative … or tasteful … or even stunning at times. It’s why I’ve become a big fan of super-integrated amplifiers, for instance, because you automatically reduce the “spaghetti junction” factor of cables and power cords twisting every which way all over the living room. Streaming is a godsend in that regard. That said, what equals appealing design in audio for me can range from traditional wood-craft elegance (like DeVore Fidelity speakers) to pop-art sci-fi tube amps. …

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With electronics I’m very strongly driven by function – it must work as intended. The physical shape/design therefore must conform to practical needs. This means I’m happy with plain, ordinary, or uninspired aesthetics.

I do indeed appreciate product quality and durability, but absolutely resist spending on luxury content such as furniture grade wood, milled billet/CNC cases, etc. with electronics. This comes down to how quickly electrical devices depreciate and are superseded by better devices. I’ll happily buy a cheaper item if it sounds the same to my ears. I choose to spend my luxury budget on other (non-depreciating asset) hobbies or travel – or just save the cash for the future.

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A good point and one I’ve been looking at as well. Brands that come to mind that provide the power required, the functionality and at times a pretty good dac are T+A, Hegel, Naim, Lyngdorf, NAD and others.