(FORTUNE Magazine) – Audiophiles are a fanatical breed, willing to go to the ends of the earth--and to spend tens of thousands of dollars--in the never-ending pursuit of crisper highs and cleaner lows that are inaudible to most noncanines. And speaker manufacturers will do anything to make them happy. To see if speakers like the snail-shell-shaped B&W Nautilus ($35,000) really produce better sound, FORTUNE talked to J. Gordon Holt, founder and chief tester of Stereophile magazine. We also asked Christopher Mount, a curator at New York City's Museum of Modern Art, to evaluate its design.

How does it look? "Harsh," says Mount. And how do they sound? "Harsh," agrees Holt.

So if you're in the market for a pair of exotic speakers, remember: Look before you listen. Your living room's decor--and your dog's listening pleasure--depends on it.

--Ed Brown