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Sennheiser HD800: Spray Painted Plastic and the New Acid-Washed Jeans.

post #1 of 902
Thread Starter 

10 Design Rules of Dieter Rams from Braun in the 60's:


• Good design is innovative.
• Good design makes a product useful.
• Good design is aesthetic.
• Good design helps us to understand a product.
• Good design is unobtrusive.
• Good design is honest.
• Good design is durable.
• Good design is consequent to the last detail.
• Good design is concerned with the environment.
• Good design is as little design as possible.

I personally hate plastic, especially when used on headphones. For instance, there is no comparison between the HP1000 and the RS1; the HP1000 exudes teutonic logic and build quality. O.K. so I hate plastic. Who cares? The fact is that plastic, for better and worse, changed the 20th century and will continue to be the ubiquitous material of choice in the 21st century. Just because I hate plastic on headphones doesn't mean I am not in awe of it, because I am. Its use in medicine (the artificial heart) is just one incredible application of plastic. With this said, I don't buy that plastic needs to be used on the outside of headphones to control unwanted resonances or that its inertness makes it a great material. It always feels and looks cheap to me (though I don't feel this way about bakelite). Whatever Sennheiser says, I believe that the use of so much plastic was chosen as a way to control costs. Its not a bad thing really, especially if the HD800 does indeed become the new reference dynamic headphone. Would I prefer the HD800 to be made with richer, more exquisite materials like the Qualia 010? Yes. But that is just me. The downside is it would also add a pretty penny to the bottom line. The HD800 reminds me of my father's very nice new BMW. Though a great performer, the interior of the BMW is just loaded with metallic looking plastic "accents" and it frustrates me to no end. Porsche does the same thing and so does Mercedes. It is just a sign of the times I guess. I still hate plastic.




Silver-Painted Plastic Gadgets Must Die
By Brian Lam
If there's one thing that makes me vomit in my mouth, it's plastic gadgets painted silver.


It's not the plastic. I like plastic fine. And although I prefer solid molded colors, painting plastic with other colors is ok, too. It's just that the overriding reason for painting a plastic device silver is to make it look like metal. Which is stupid. This needs to stop as surely as wooden panels on station wagons needed to stop 30 years ago and why tofurky is a totally unacceptable replacement for either turkey or tofu.

Silver painted gadgets started rising in prominence in the cellphone world, and 8 years ago were thought of as a premium finish to those in design circles. "Blame Motorola or Casio," say some designers I talked to about the trend. Now the "tin man" treatment is reserved for the cheapest devices while the best get done up in real metal. I'm still confused as to why this was a good idea in the first place, and why companies, even some high-end brands, still maintain the facade. (I'm totally looking at you, Pentax, Canon, Dell and Sony.)

First off, it's insulting to buyer intelligence. Are makers trying to fool us into thinking a device is aluminum or magnesium or stainless steel when its actually a light piece of bent polymer? Maybe from 10 feet away, they'd think that we couldn't tell the difference, and they'd be right. Visually. Allan Chochinov from Core77, says:

Painting plastic objects so that they appear metallic is a fudge of course—and often convincingly so. But the lie becomes apparent soon enough; at the corners or wherever there's any kind of friction, the paint wears away to reveal the true plastic.
Industrial designers talk about the virtues of an "honesty of materials" in design practice, and when that honesty is expressed in the final product it's really great—but rare. With the almost-suffocating cost constraints and real pressure to pump things out quickly, the artifice is just too irresistible.

Yes, the methods of turning a hunk of plastic into a shiny thing is getting better, so these piece-o-craps look better than ever close up. But contextually, they're not fooling anyone with half a brain. Everyone, everyone, EVERYONE knows that when they see a huge silver TV, even from 30 feet away, it's probably not made of metal but rather coated with Pantone 877c. And that overly curvy designs are likely plastic sprayed with paint. And mainstream gadgets, like PSPs and DVD players made in China, well, those things are too chintzy to ever get the full metal treatment. They're not worth their weight in metal.

Which brings us to cost. Yes, like most commercial compromises made in the world, plastic made to look like metal for the most part comes down to saving dollars in manufacturing. Cormac Eubanks, a principal engineer from Frog design told me:

As a raw material metal (aluminum or zinc alloy) is many times more expensive than the same volume of material in plastic. In processing metal, parts need to be die cast, stamped, or (if money is no object) machined. Then one needs to finish them with brushing, tumbling and/or bead blasting. Lastly metal parts need to go through a plating or anodize process to prevent corrosion and oxidation over time. All these finishing steps add considerable additional cost. Painting plastic on the other hand can be inexpensively injection molded and painted silver in large volumes in a repeatable way. Secondly, painting polymers to look metallic is insulting to plastic, which isn't hard and cold like metal, but has its own wonderful qualities and implications. Like translucency, as shown in Zune's cornershot multilayered finish and Samsung's red-tinted LCD TV bezels. And resiliency, flexibility, strength and lightness of weight. Or if you like, some plastics can be heavy and stiff, since there are so many ways to make it. Plastic can also insulate from heat and electricity, and when it's really cold, plastic won't stick to your hand like a piece of metal does. It can also be easily shaped into radical forms without having to be moved through an extensive finishing and forming process. Those qualities are totally undersold when a machine's plastic casing is passed off as being made from metal.

Leaving material qualities behind, I'm sure there's an aesthetic appeal here, too. At least in the minds of tacky Vegas-brained marketers. And maybe at first, the appeal works on those too stupid to catch the drift that they are being had. But as anyone who's owned a silver painted device knows, within months, if not weeks of heavy use, the thin veneer soon gives way to the gray/white/black plastic underneath. Which would have been fine and beautiful in the first place, had it not been covered up. Worn out silver colored plastic is uglier than the late Tammy Faye Bakker's make-up job after a tearful sermon. The Wii in white looks just as nice as it would in aluminum, to me. And because the color is solid, it'll look good no matter how often it gets scratched.

Eubanks says that companies should be "true to the material. That means making plastic look like plastic, metal like metal and rubber like rubber. Honesty with materials means you are being honest with your customers.”

I can agree with that. And look forward to the day silver-painted gadgets are no longer made.


Edited by davidhunternyc - 6/18/13 at 7:30pm
post #2 of 902
Metal causes unnecessary reverberations from what I've read here.
post #3 of 902
I am sure that in a 1400+ dollar phone they took into account the inherent vibrations in frames made of plastic, metal... and picked the one with the least inherent interference. Whatever material sennheiser used I am sure it is the best material for the phone.
post #4 of 902
Apparently, they are using some sort of space-age plastic that's as hard as aluminum (?) but lightweight and reduces vibrations.

I'm not sure what your problem is with it. There's no reason to hate it if it sounds good. If it were made out of real metal, I'm sure it would weight around 600g, which is a bit too much for a headphone.
post #5 of 902
In car interior - use metal instead of all the plastic and you got an extra ton on your car. That's excellent for performance, ye know?

Same thing here...would you rather have a kg or 2 on your head?
post #6 of 902
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tintin47 View Post
I am sure that in a 1400+ dollar phone they took into account the inherent vibrations in frames made of plastic, metal... and picked the one with the least inherent interference. Whatever material sennheiser used I am sure it is the best material for the phone.
Like I said before, I just don't buy this reasoning and I wish nicer materials were used in its construction. In the end, if the HD800 surpasses the sound quality of the R10, then this post is trivial I suppose. I studied industrial design in art school so how an object looks and how it conveys meaning is very important to me and it is why I brought this subject up. If looks could kill, the HD800 is the mirror to the Qualia's Medusa.
post #7 of 902
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaloS View Post
In car interior - use metal instead of all the plastic and you got an extra ton on your car.
Just as plastics have come a long way since they were introduced, so has the design of use of metals. The interior details I'm talking about in cars are the surrounds in the dials and on the dashboard and console. Lightweight aluminum and brushed steel laminates are used extensively in the Audi A5 and Aston Martin DB9 to stunning effect. I wish I could use the word "stunning" to describe the looks of the HD800. Instead, merely "nice" comes to mind.
post #8 of 902
As long as it doesn't break like cheap plastic, I could care less. Plastic is great for plenty of things, headphones being one of them. Metal is nice, but as others mentioned, can be quite weighty.

I'm personally a fan of wood being used in products, including headphones. It would've been nice if Sennheiser had included wood in the HD800's cups, but I'm not going to complain. The important thing is the sound.
post #9 of 902
Thread Starter 
If plastic is so nice, then why does everyone spray paint it to look like metal?
post #10 of 902
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaloS View Post
In car interior - use metal instead of all the plastic and you got an extra ton on your car. That's excellent for performance, ye know?

Same thing here...would you rather have a kg or 2 on your head?
While your point stands for the headphones, the use of plastics for car interiors has little to do with saving weight. Weight on a car is not a bad thing, in fact, car weight trends have been upwards since the start of production for multiple reasons. In fact, some car makers make the bases out of thick plated steel to increase weight and bring the center of gravity of the car down. The only reason you would want to reduce the weight of the interior of your car is so that you can put a heavier engine in and increase the power.

Anyways, apologies for the tangent, just wanted to clear up a misconception.
post #11 of 902
Quote:
If plastic is so nice, then why does everyone spray paint it to look like metal?
Because they want the look of metal with the advantages of plastic (e.g. cheaper, lightweight, easy to mold, etc.).
post #12 of 902
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zotjen View Post
Because they want the look of metal with the advantages of plastic (e.g. cheaper, lightweight, easy to mold, etc.).
...with emphasis on cheaper.
post #13 of 902
Personally, I don't find the phones attractive at all. That said, I don't plan on buying a pair, so that's all right.
post #14 of 902
and for the headphone, they don't use metal in order to reduce the weight or in the other word, make them more comfy.

When you wear something like Grado SR325i or HP1000 for 3-4 hrs, you may feel it's a bit uncomfy and sometimes the phones may fall off easily due to their weight.


Quote:
Originally Posted by davidhunternyc View Post
If plastic is so nice, then why does everyone spray paint it to look like metal?
just for its look. that's all.
post #15 of 902
They should have used carbon fiber...

mmmmmmm carbon fiber mmmmmmmmmmmmmm

and some titanium too...

mmmmmmm titanium mmmmmmmmmmm
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