It’s being touted as the most minimalist take on a turntable ever, and definitely caught our attention with the original take on spinning records. Wheel is a cleverly inverted turntable, hiding all the functional components like the tonearm, needle, and amplifier to fit compactly within the platter. If you didn’t know it was a record player, you’d probably think it was the perfect display for your vinyl record. It can be mounted vertically or horizontally without affecting playback, and as well as looking elegant as hell, it also brings an ease not previously seen with traditional turntables. Play and pause with the push of a button? Wheel does it. Skip tracks with a mere flick of the central spindle? No problem for Wheel. It’s made possible with the linear tracking arm with modified Audio-Technica AT95E cartridge and infrared sensor.
This evolved version of the humble turntable is created by Miniot, a Dutch design firm famous for their commitment to craftsmanship and timeless aesthetics. The polished wood of the Wheel turntable is perfectly in keeping with their usual meticulous output, but perhaps a little more technical than anything they’ve done previously.
We had a chat to the makers of Wheel to learn more about the inspiration and creation of this modernist turntable, and the runaway success of the Kickstarter behind it:
What was the original goal behind Wheel?
The goal was to make record playing less cumbersome and more fun.
What were some of the problems you perceived with the standard record player?
Most record players don’t know where a song starts. Dropping the needle in the wrong place and missing the beginning of a beautiful song has always been a vibe-killer to me. You have to get over the anti-climax and repeat the process until you get it right. And dust covers. They’re always in your way and they scratch or crack. They make your record player look great when new but from there it’s downhill.
Which records did you test playback with?
We’re happy owners of a lot of great records. In the 80s I collected half-speed mastered and even direct mastered records from Mobile Fidelity, and great sounding favorites like Abbey Road, Aja, Wish You Were Here, Das Lied Von Der Erde – Haitink – Concertgebouw Orkest, Pictures At An Exhibition – Lorin Maazel, Night Beat, Stop Making Sense, Blues Masterworks etc.
What were the challenges of revinventing the record player and creating Wheel?
Wheel is the logical outcome of our goal to make a simple record player. It looks and works simple but it has been a challenge to fit everything in a very small space and eliminate unwanted vibration.
Did you have any other ideas for a revolutionized record player that didn’t quite make the cut?
Some ideas didn’t make it this time. Perhaps after Wheel.
Have you been surprised by the huge response and following Wheel has amassed? Or did you predict that many others felt the same way as you about the lack of elegance in listening to vinyl records?
We are thankful for the recognition Wheel generated. Of course we believed in the idea but you never know if it takes off.
On the Kickstarter page you mention a commitment to sustainability. How do you honour this when sourcing wood for your products?
We personally select and purchase our wood from suppliers we know. Almost all wood we use is FSC certified, or harvested from well-managed forests. Sometimes it’s difficult to track (we’ve used ebony that has been in stock with our supplier for 70 years), but in most cases we know.
The Kickstarter really took on a life of its own, reaching 100% of the goal on the first day. Is it going to be difficult to handle that many orders?
We are used to designing, manufacturing and shipping and supporting our products for years now. Wheel feels like a logical next step.