EYE ON INNOVATION: Turning the Tables on Turntables

The resurgence of vinyl records has been well documented.

The biggest music industry comeback story is the soaring popularity of vinyl records, the Wall Street Journal recently reported. Nearly 8 million records were sold in 2014 in the United States, up 49 percent from the previous year. Indie-rock fans especially are buying records in greater numbers, attracted to the perceived superior sound quality of vinyl, the ritual of putting needle to groove and the physical connection to album art that is sometimes lost in the digital age.

One Chicago-based startup has turned the tables on record players by creating the Floating Record, a vertical turntable that sits on a simple, minimal block of wood that contains speakers and electrical components.

Gramovox, a consumer electronics company that, as its website says, “re-imagines vintage audio design with modern technology,” just closed the books on a $1.6 million Kickstarter campaign for this vertical record player. The Chicago Tribune reports that Gramovox is working with AssemTech as its assembly partner, and expects to deliver the turntables to market by December. Last year, Gramovox brought the Bluetooth Gramophone to market, a Bluetooth-enabled speaker that looks like an antique gramophone.

How does the Floating Record vertical turntable work? A record is secured to the polished, acrylic platter with the use of a clamp that holds the album in place vertically. A belt spins the record and the custom carbon-fiber tone arm uses a spring to apply the force that keeps the elliptical diamond stylus in touch with the album’s surface — needle to groove if you will. The player can handle 33 1/3 and 45 rpm records. Aligning the belt lets you select the speed.

As Designmilk.com reports, the product is put together as an “all-in-one design.” The Floating Record player includes, as a self-contained unit:

  • Walnut or maple veneer wood base with vibration dampening heft
  • Integrated, 2-inch, full-range stereo speakers
  • A/C synchronous motor with precision motor control circuit
  • Adjustable tone arm
  • Acrylic platter
  • A digital amplifier

In other words, the product comes without the need to install a cartridge, set the tracking force or purchase a phono preamp or speakers. The system does have the capability of handling off output to a pre-amp and external speakers for a more robust sound.

Finally, though some audiophiles claim that this vertical design orientation prevents tone arm skating, the vertical player is primarily an aesthetic choice. And, in fact, the sense of space surrounding the player and the rotating album give it an elegant, modern-art feel.

Read more about the vertical player, which has a preorder asking price of $400, at its website.

Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at cool technology and products that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.

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