How to Camouflage Your Hi-Fi System for Higher WAF

I have to hide all my audio and video gear. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on custom built-in cabinetry, a crown moulding valance to hide the top of my projection screen, a 400 pound armoire entertainment center and in-wall and on-wall wire and cable channels. All of these architectural and furniture investments have come at the request of my wife. Her request is simple: hide it.

Audio and video components are ugly (to my wife and probably your spouse too). Their case designs are beholden to function first (vibration and heat protection), classic science fiction second (how great would a Clear Audio and Krell system look on a Syd Mead designed star cruiser?), and branding third. All three of these design ideals appeal highly to male sensibilities (which I’m sure females can have too, I just haven’t met any). We love to see steam punk tubes, galactic empire heat sinks, and american psycho brushed aluminum knobs and buttons. A blue LED above a pre-amp’s flush power button sparkles like a diamond engagement ring. My wife doesn’t want to see any of it, all of my components are hidden away behind a blank, black wood door.

What’s odd is that these same aesthetics, shunned in the living and family rooms, thrive in our kitchen. All of our appliances are stainless steel with black powder coated trim. Unfortunately, my DVD player can’t keep celery crisp and my stereo amp can’t roast a turkey. The stainless steel works in the kitchen because we have designed around it. Juxtaposed against our dark, hand planed hardwood floors and white with black knobs cabinets, the high-tech appliances become appealing. So why can’t we marry these two design flavors in the high-end audio world?

I propose detachable, modular, real wood, antiqued, component top, side, and front panels. When the component is encased in the the wood it would look like your typical antique Asian/African/South American hand-carved woodenware box. Hidden in the panels, the component could sit on an exposed table in the middle of all the other antique knick-knacks camouflaged like E.T. in a closet full of stuffed animals.

Technically, I have no idea how the panels would deal with heat. Last time I checked, wood is an insulator, so the paneling could cause the component to reach dangerous tempuratures. To accommodate the modeling of the wood the panels would have to be at least an inch thick. Maybe they could have embedded heat sinks that could dissipate the heat out inconspicuous vents near the back.

The next technical hurdle is access to IR sensors, panel controls and interconnect ports out the back. IR repeaters can easily solve IR sensors hiding behind the front panel. When you need to access the front panel controls the front panel could flip up on embedded hinges like an old, manual garage door. The back panel would have adjustable slots hung from the top edge of the panel to allow cables to pass through, it would flip up just like the front.

How would the paneling fit all the different shapes and sizes of audio equipment out there? At worst, each panel-box would need to be custom-made according to component dimensions. At best, each panel would have interlocking, sliding layers of wood that could open up and close down to any odd dimension. The layered approach would have its limits so we would still need S, M, L, XL, XXL sizes.

I proposed the hide-a-component system to my wife this morning and she didn’t think it was crazy, she almost liked the idea.

So, for those of you not blessed with an American Psycho bachelor pad and have to deal with spousal decorating limits, does this sound like a good idea?

Has some company already tried this and failed that I don’t know about?

Would you still love your precious digital players, phono pre-amps, and monoblock amps if they were hidden in antiqued, wooden boxes? When you have friends over are they more impressed with the industrial design or the sonics of your hi-fi system. I would hope you’re going for sonics and the Forbidden Planet-style aluminum case and blue LEDs don’t matter.

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