Design: The New Shape of Sound

Listen up: the latest stereo gear is simpler and more "wifeable"

A revolution is taking place in stereo listening, and it is not spinning on the turntable. It is the turntable. And the amplifier. And the loudspeakers. For a number of sound reasons, stereo gear is becoming more sensuous, simpler and a little more fun to have around the house. One smooth new rig hangs on the wall, and others sport faux-marble finishes. Says Klaus Bunge, who imports advanced West German equipment: "The Harley-Davidson look is over."

Stereo styling often has been left to the boys in the back room -- engineers who allowed function to outshout form. One disturbing result is...