I’ve had an interesting week playing with all manner of knobs. British readers will appreciate the smirk-worthy double entendre I just wrote, but I’ve been neck-deep in working out the differences between Chroma Caps and Coolorcaps, the results of which will arrive tomorrow (Tuesday). But my mind turned to why such products have come about in the first place.
EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
It’s rare for gear to be truly ugly. Some, like the Numark TTX (our review here) threw out the established Technics blueprint and dared to be different, winning many fans (me included) for not just being a very capable turntable, but also challenging traditional turntable design. That said, it seems that people just want their turntables to look like Technics, hence the slew of me-too Technics alike turntables. But within that, there is a burgeoning business for turntable modding, where people take raw Technics and pretty them up to their own specifications. Is this down to being unpretty, or just wanting to stamp their personality on it?
One thing a great many people (yes probably you and me too) are guilty of is judging by looks alone. I’ve lost count of how many times commenters have issued a dismissive “looks like a toy” without reading a single word about the product. And this is a clear indication of how much people care about how something looks with scant regard to what it does.
AND NOW THE SCIENCE BIT
In just milliseconds, we have formed our first impressions of anything we come into visual contact with. Be it people, things, or even Google results, those impressions are formed and usually last. And confirmation bias comes into play as people latch onto similar opinions that back up their first impressions. It’s rare for anyone to go looking for opinion that goes against their first impressions.
As far as products go, we skim something and from visual cues (colours, sharp lines or curves etc) and our own personal opinions and even prejudices (it’s not a Technics and is therefore a toy), form long-lasting opinions. And even if presented with evidence to the contrary, those first impressions stick.
So it’s vital that a product ticks as many visual boxes from the moment that the target market gets a first look, most probably on sites like DJWORX. But while manufacturers do their best to create something that they feel will have mass appeal, there is always room for improvement, and beyond that personalisation so that the user can feel properly connected with their inanimate playthings.
Both Chroma Caps and Coolorcaps offer the first level of pimping, via simply popping off knobs and replacing them with something more vibrant. It’s an easy decision, akin to buying a pot of paint from a very limited swatch. For example, a full Z2 set will tax you for $50-60.
Next level up is to physically skin your unit with a printed custom vinyl decals. Companies like 12 Inch Skinz and Styleflip support a huge amount of units, and offer the ability to customise skins using their own designs, or for you to let your imagination run wild and create a look with your own graphics that only a mother would love. Prices start at around $40.
Boss level in such things exists in the realm of people like Jesse Dean, who turn modding into a true art form. Even I was surprised at some of his wonderful creations. If I wanted custom gear, Jesse would get my money.
DO YOU EVEN MOD BRO?
Perhaps austere lumps aren’t your things. Maybe your ideal gear is functionally superb but cosmetically lacking out of the box. Or maybe you just feel the need to imprint your personality or even spread your brand in a very upfront way.
So to answer the original question — no, I’m not one for such things. When I buy gear, part of that decision is based on how the thing looks. I have to admire it out of the box, and buy into the personality that was designed into it. So while I’ve spent a few days popping knobs on and off of a variety of units, I have no plans to make any permanent changes. Hell I don’t even put stickers on laptops, not even DJWORX ones.
SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU
Feel free to provide answers if you will:
- When you see the PR for a new piece of gear, have you already decided if you’d buy it or not based only on your first look at the picture of it?
- If once you’ve read the full spec and know that it would work for you, are you still put off by the looks?
- Is there a piece of gear that was just so fugly that regardless of spec, you couldn’t bring yourself to even touch it?
- Given the ease with which you can decorate your gear, have you taken steps to do so? Is it a subtle redecoration or a vision of steampunk?