Functional vs. aesthetic
One of the challenges facing any audio or video designer or engineer is the quandary of form vs. function.
On the one hand, function is a requisite for any sensible design. If it isn’t easy or useful the product doesn’t have a long life in store for it. But form and aesthetics?
If a product doesn’t appeal to us we rarely give it a second thought. We’re visually attracted to equipment first, then look to make sure it fits our needs second. And that’s what all the reviews and talk concern, not how it looks but how it performs.
Of course, in the end, it’s function and performance that wins, but without the aesthetic to attract us, we rarely get past first base.
The good designs are a combination of function and aesthetic where aesthetic does not dominate function.
The very best designs are when function exceeds aesthetic promise.
We make sense of a complicated world by neatly organizing products, ideas, and concepts into tidy little boxes. Unfortunately, there are consequences to generalizing because we ignore edge cases.
It is out in the fringes where the exceptional audio and video products and services live.
Take for example class D power amplifiers. Most of us have mentally cataloged them in the “powerful yet not quite up to the gold standard of Class AB amplifier” status. We believe them to be lacking in sweetness of top end and rarely do we ascribe openness and transparency to this class of amplifier. While this generalization might apply to many class D amplifiers it surely does an injustice to designs like our own M700 monoblocks, or some of Bruno Putzey’s latest work.
You can see the problem. There are hundreds of “better thought of” class AB and A amplifiers, and yet the majority pale when compared to exceptional designs from other disciplines. And let’s be honest. Within any category, there are only a few exceptions when it comes to performance. Hint: it’s why they’re called exceptions.
If you’re interested in exceptional performance you need to choose exceptional products. Our tendency to generalize pulls us away from the fringes and plops us smack dab in the middle where the dull live.
My advice is simple. Look to the people who design the products rather than where the common wisdom leads you.