Turnstyle: super-minimalist turntable

Designer RD Silva's Turnstyle record player reduces a turntable to the bare minimum: a stylus arm, a motor, a switch and a speaker. It's the polar opposite of the first record player I bought for myself, around 1985 -- a Panasonic all-in-one radio/turntable/double cassette deck that was the size of a bar fridge but weighed only a few kilos, having been bulked up in a big, largely empty box to make it seem more substantial and therefore worth the price.

Nothing But Scratch (via Neatorama)



  1. careful the smaller the base the record has to sit on the more you will notice any abnormalities in the record. So you will notice the smallest warp a whole lot more on this. Terrible if you buy used records.

  2. Really minimal picnic spinners of this style weren’t actually uncommon in the 1960s. They were, however, terrible record players. There’s a reason for a turntable to pay lots of attention to stability and so forth.

  3. Does it come with some kind of weight to hold the record down? There is no way this will play a record and keep it flat. I mean you can clearly see it is a model though it looks cool enough it seems impractical – even in a sterile designers studio… it would be great if things didn’t have to be manufactured, and they would magically work like in a book or film.

  4. There are a couple things this thing really needs as were pointed out by the comments on the original posting.

    1) Full size baseplate, preferably weighted.

    The baseplate provides a couple of functions. It provides support for the entire record so that it is not bending at pressure points, such as where the needle rests on the record. It also provides inertial support so that the spindle speed doesn’t vary too much. I don’t think adding a full size weighted baseplate would detract from its minimalist appearance.

    2) Audio output other than a tiny speaker.

    Lets face it, you will never get the sound you want out of a tiny speaker. Maybe some old records that sound good from old record players could benefit from this kind of setup, but you could get the same result from a good sound system that implements different types of filters. Having flexibility with a simple audio out port would add to the value of this device without sacrificing simplicity. In fact, it could probably replace the volume slider and the in-built speaker, further simplifying the design.

    I really do like the design, but the practicality of it is quite low. It’s a good display piece, good art, but with little function.

  5. Cory, I think I have the Panasonic Sound Sistem you mentioned, did it have a big volume dial with some kind of spring that didn’t have line measures?

  6. This thing is pretty, but it will warp records. And it’s not going to have a consistent RPM without a baseplate to act as a flywheel.

    Oh and that cartridge is bizarre looking, and obviously nonstandard. Bah!

  7. This is what happens when designers run amok. Far too many products, particularly faux ‘high end’ products designed by people who are too clever by half.

    Turntables, being analog and mechanical devices, need mass and materials choice to reject acoustic noise from the environment, to mitigate the variability in record manufacturing and age-related deformation (warping, wear and dust) just makes it worse.

    A good turntable is heavy, has a full, and ideally heavy platter and isolation hardware between the device and the furniture it sits on and the rattly bits (motor) that drives it. Tone-arms with substantial mass and precise control of tracking force and angle are also necessary.

    This isn’t magical thinking invented by people trying to sell you unobtainium cables and green magic markers these are things with measurable and easily perceptible effects on sound quality. If the turntable is poorly isolated and the traffic outside makes your house subtly shake, you will hear it. If you walk, heavy footed across a hardwood floor, you’ll hear it. If your house is old enough, the turntable poorly isolated enough, you’ll actually skip the record.

  8. oh, people, read the original article, they have some sketches there with a counterweight for the needle, which I think, was replaced by the farthest white thingy in the image above

  9. What you got back home, little sister, to play your fuzzy warbles on? I bet you got little save pitiful portable picnic players. Come with Uncle and hear all proper. Hear angel trumpets and devil trombones. You are invited.

  10. as someone whos house is full of minimalist eqipment, i feel that tis would be a great thing to have. though i always wish i was a record collector, i cannot bring myself to pay more for music. but if a did i would want this record player

  11. There are much more minimal ways of making a turntable. Why all that copper wire? You don’t need to connect the motor to the tonearm at all. And what’s with that big ugly white plastic thing?

    I recall seeing a turntable in an audiophile magazine many years ago that had separate motor and tonearm pieces that you’d set on the table with the proper spacing.

    The motor doesn’t want to be small, as the previous comments strongly suggest, but it can be simple – a metal cylinder 4″ in diameter and 1″ tall is sufficient. The switch can be in the line cord.

    1. I recall seeing a turntable in an audiophile magazine many years ago that had separate motor and tonearm pieces that you’d set on the table with the proper spacing.

      Indeed, and I have one. It’s the Pro-Ject RPM-1.

      The motor unit is separate to reduce noise (but sits within a special space defined by the minimalistic base). It’s a really great turntable.

  12. This turntable is a good example of a problem in the contemporary design community: products like this are designed first and foremost to satisfy the criterion of looking designed and are created so people can own or aspire to own them as signifiers of design sophistication.

  13. I think Nimdae’s last comment sums up things here. This isn’t really intended to be a practical product. It’s intended to be a ‘prop’ that uses a traditional and readily recognizable function -at least for a certain age group- as the basis of exploring new design concepts. Records are a plainly anachronistic media -as much as they are a passion for some still. The ‘point’ here is the contrast of that anachronism to contemporary technology and culture. It’s sort of like one of my own small amusements; using an iPad/iPhone on the Internet to ‘tune into’ an FM radio station (WFMU in NJ) in order to listen to live playings of Edison cylinders on the opposite side of the country.

    The record player is a ‘classic’ or ‘elemental’ mechanism/artifact in the manner of the desk telephone, tea pot, radio, TV, camera, car, etc. Because these functions are very generic and universally recognized they serve as a blank ‘canvas’ for exploring design possibilities. Ever notice how industrial designers are obsessed with chairs? From a market standpoint, the world generally doesn’t need a great many different kinds of chairs. But it is a very fundamental artifact open to an infinite diversity of interpretations, methods of fabrication, and potential designs. And so industrial designers are forever trying to re-invent the chair in novel ways as a way of flexing their imaginations, even if most of these variations aren’t particularly practical. I see this turntable concept in this context.

    A lot of designers today have taken this game a little too far, in my opinion. It’s one thing to use some artistic license to stretch the bounds of functionality and fabrication technique to someplace new like the above design was doing, But many designers have now decided function is irrelevant, style is everything, and that it’s OK to throw the basic laws of physics and the bounds of known technology out the window simply because they can model something on a computer screen. This is why web sites like Yanko Design piss me off as often as they intrigue. You can plainly see that a lot of students are coming out of industrial design schools completely scientifically and industrially illiterate, without any understanding of the simplest and most common of manufacturing processes or their lineages. They just teach them how to use modeling programs and push them out the door. What use is industrial design without industrial literacy? Any school that does that to a kid should have its staff trussed up on Phillippe Starck designed pillories. Now there’s a concept design I’d like to see!

  14. ooh, that RPM-1 looks really, really nice. even if the player above isn’t practical, I do certainly appreciate posts like this one. and i also don’t think design can go ‘too far’–there are a continuum of people with different wants and needs. and that’s okay :D

  15. is that small rubber ring in the middle the only drive?

    how is that achieving any sort of torque. one piece of dust and the needle will fall off or float into space

  16. If it’s going to be impractical, I prefer the “vinyl killer” little toy cars.

    Mark blogged them 3 years ago (feb 2008)

    Doppler shift and too-heavy needle, away!

  17. Seems that a thick piece of circular glass could act as a functional baseplate without detracting from the visual design.

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