Oh look, another turntable on Kickstarter. Is that what your snide little mind is thinking? Don’t, because Wheel is likely something special.
To start with, this turntable’s from Miniot, that tiny family-run company in Holland known for its meticulously hand-crafted cases for phones and tablets. Second, this thing is clever, making it stand out in a wave of wild, weird, and whollywonderful turntable introductions we’ve seen over the last few months.
Wheel is a minimalistic thing of beauty the turns the traditional record player upside down. Literally. The tonearm and stylus are located below the record, inside the cavity of the rotating platter. As such, your records spin counterclockwise which purists might see as an abomination. I think it’s cool. Wheel can also be hung on the wall to further disorient the traditionalists in your life. And because it’s from Miniot, the tonearm is milled from a single piece of laminated mahogany, while Wheel’s base will be offered in choices of mahogany, walnut, or cherry.
That stick at the center controls all the functions: on/off, pause/play and volume. Hell, it’ll even let you skip between the next or previous songs. Like I said: clever.
Although still very much a niche in terms of overall music sales, vinyl sales have continued to grow in recent years in what some are calling a return to “tangible music.” The trend is driven at least partly by a nostalgia for artists who were popularized in the physical format. After his death, David Bowie, for example, became the bestselling vinyl artist with five of his albums in the top 30. Vinyl even managed to outsell digital downloads in some markets, including the UK during one auspicious week in 2016.
Despite my enthusiasm, it’s important to remember that this is a Kickstarter project and that means there’s risk involved for you, the potential backer. €568 worth of risk to be exact, which is about 30 percent off the expected retail price of $ 850 / €806 whenever Wheel reaches production status. Miniot’s expertise is in selecting wood and then milling it into finely crafted cases. Wrangling electronics suppliers is hard work, especially when you have to ship at scale and support a finished piece of consumer electronics. Having said that, Miniot’s previous success was at least partly due to Peter Kolkman’s and Greet van den Berg’s obsessive control over the end-to-end manufacturing of their cases. So I’d expect the same dogged persistence in bringing Wheel to life.
In other words, I wouldn’t bet against Miniot, especially now that the campaign has doubled its €50,000 goal (from 223 backers) with more than two weeks to go.