Audio hi-fi equipment on a patch of grass against a city backdrop

Audio Erotica traces the evolution of hi-fi brochures

Advancements in audio technology and shifting trends in graphic design come together in this extensively researched book

Audio Erotica is the latest book by English writer, broadcaster and DJ, Jonny Trunk. Best known as the founder of cult British label Trunk Records, as well as for his 2004 publication Dirty Fan Male (which was made into a Channel 4 documentary), Trunk’s most recent publishing venture has seen him delve deeply into the world of hi-fi systems.

Having been a passionate audiophile since the late 1970s, Trunk’s knowledge comes through in the book, which takes as its premise the rich history of hi-fi brochures. Beginning in post-war Britain, Trunk traces the evolution of these systems, and their accompanying literature, until the turn of the century.

Pink hued poster featuring images of audio equipment which have been laid out to resemble a robotic face
Poster featuring a profile shot of a person with shoulder length hair against an orange hued background, overlaid with a concentric circle pattern

“Remember roller-skating while wearing your first Walkman?,” writes Trunk, “Or relaxing to easy listening in your pure white Philips lounge? Or playing chess on your JVC tabletop radio? All these scenarios can be found in the geeky and rarefied world of the vintage hi-fi brochure, where graphic design and acoustic apparatus make magical music together.”

Featured in Audio Erotica is an extensive range of audio manufacturers, from Braun to JBL to Nakamichi. The brochures within reveal not only the technological advancements of their systems, but the way in which these companies chose to market their products, evoking certain attitudes and lifestyles that they felt aligned with the sophistication of top-tier hi-fi.

As Trunks notes in the book’s introduction, much of this involved a rather unsubtle male gaze, with alluring images of women found in abundance in the brochures. This wasn’t intended to be the focus of the book, Trunk noting that “the ‘Erotica’ element of the title was intended as solely as a reference to the sexy tech on show”. Yet it is a revelatory discovery nonetheless. “This clearly demonstrates that throughout the last century, women were an integral part of a very lazy, male-dominated, sales process.”

Sony Walkman poster showing a motion blurred image of a person dressed in yellow clothing and exposed legs while riding a bike and holding a walkman
Poster showing audio equipment in the foreground, set against a blue-hued close up image of a person's face with thick eyelashes

Looking beyond objectified women, the imagery on show features some brilliant displays of retro graphic design. From the futurist-tinged images in Japanese manufacturer Aiwa’s brochures, to the groovy typefaces of Massachusetts-based audio company Scott, Audio Erotica also functions as a fascinating archive of commercial design through the ages. Again, even in the smallest details, the zeitgeist of the time comes through, be it the apparent domestic bliss of the 1950s or the countercultural spirit of the 1970s.

“From austere post-war Britain to poppy pre-millennium Japan, Audio Erotica presents a nostalgic nirvana of the strangest and most significant period hi-fi brochures,” writes Trunk. “Alphabetically listed, from Aiwa to Zenith, with Braun, JVC Nivico, Nakamichi, Sony and everything in between, this book will resonate with any music fan.”

Poster showing an illustration of a piece of hi-fi equipment against a black background. The top of the poster reads 'Schneider Hi-Fi' in an angular retrofuturistic font
Catalogue front cover showing illustrations of hi-fi equipment surrounded by lots of blank space
Blue poster for Philips tape records showing a black and white photo of a couple standing over a tape recorder, which is encased in the end of a trumpet illustration
Horizontal poster headlined 'Come wrap the sounds around you' next to a colourful 70s illustration of a person wearing over-ear headphones intertwined with rainbows, sunbeams and flowers
Poster showing a person wearing silver clothing and headphones partially covering their face. The photograph is divided into five boxes in the style of TV screens

Audio Erotica by Jonny Trunk is published by Fuel;