How Yves Béhar Gave The Turntable A Digital Makeover
Streaming analog music might sound like an oxymoron, but the LOVE turntable device is designed to transform the ways we experience vinyl
“Although audio technology has made incredible strides over the last 40 years, the traditional turntable has remained relatively unchanged. Record sales have spiked over 60 percent in recent years, but nearly half of the people who own vinyl records don’t play them,” says serial entrepreneur CH Pinhas, CEO of the LOVE turntable, an innovative twist on a classic medium.
“Our goal is to make it simple for anyone to enjoy the natural melodies and pure traditional sound of analog through the convenience of modern-day technology.”
Spearheading the design of the world’s first intelligent turntable is none other than world-renowned industrial designer Yves Béhar, the founder of fuseproject who previously collaborated with partners such as Herman Miller, Movado, Prada and Sodastream. Merging his deep understanding of form and function, the lightweight and portable device questions everything we thought we knew about turntables, spinning around vinyl rather than the other way around.
For a deep-dive into how Pinhas and Béhar’s product plans on contemporizing a nostalgic culture, we sat down with Béhar in an interview which highlighted the many nuances and considerations that went into building out LOVE. Having given a TED talk nearly nine years ago on storytelling as the foundation of product design, LOVE is grounded in many of the same principles as we’ll soon find out.
“Most typical electronics we use are static, you just put them on the table and they sit there…Even wearables, which may be intimate enough to move with you, are still just frozen object strapped to your head or wrist or wherever they may be,” says Béhar.
“When I picked up this project I kept asking myself, ‘what kind of shape becomes one with its function?’ That’s where we got the idea for the aesthetic, which spins in this elegant movement through the air in these abstract formations we call ‘speed forms.’ There is a certain poetry and beauty in seeing it spin around the record.”
By swapping out the traditional scratchy needle for a softer cartridge and stylus, alongside a sensor which weightlessly glides along the surface of a vinyl, LOVE preserves the integrity of records while still enabling audiophiles to experience the warmth of analog crackles and pops they’ve come to know and love. Plus, with a new digital interface the turntable is able to perform functions previously thought to be impossible, such as skipping or repeating tracks, connecting to Bluetooth, altering the volume and even RPM speeds, and syncing with iOS and Android apps.
“I was interested in where vinyl came from, where it is today, and where it’s going—fusing analog with digital, that’s the future of this technology right? In the past, the turntable was this machine that delivered on quality, but there was always a certain level of complexity that proved a barrier for some people. So, as a designer I’m always interested in how I can simultaneously imbue both that quality and approachability into my products,” Béhar tells PSFK.
From a technical standpoint, LOVE is equally as refined as it is beautiful. Featuring both Wi-Fi compatibility, alongside DLNA source connection, you can stream LOVE’s audio through any home speaker system or personal listening device. The accompanying app also recognizes the song playing, and provides details about the record through third-party metadata, as well as album cover artwork.
Currently available on Kickstarter until March 8, you can snag your own LOVE at an early bird price of $329 USD. To date, the company has received nearly 15 times the pledges it set out to secure, amassing a total just shy of $720,000 USD (at the time of writing) dispersed among some 2082 individual vinyl-loving backers. As such, the product is guaranteed to come into fruition, and will force us to rethink our definition of what a turntable really is. Among this new vocabulary for describing turntables includes the words ‘smart’ and ‘connected,’ in line with recent trends among appliance-makers looking to develop products befit a tech-centric, 21st century home.
On the evolution of the smart home and LOVE’s place in the ecosystem Béhar says, “We’re making technology more discrete and integrated in our lives than having single functions deliver this singular utility. So the challenge here is, ‘how do we establish influence in non-distractive ways?’ Because I do think the problem with consumer electronics is how they’ve become a use-distraction in our everyday lives.”
By shrinking down the turntable physically while scaling its capabilities, Béhar is able to achieve just that. It’s often said that the best design is invisible; because all of the features and intricacies work so seamlessly, it’s often easier to miss it altogether than it is to spot. LOVE is a testament to this principle, and is intuitively operated straight out of the box despite boasting an entirely unconventional form factor.
“There’s many beautiful turntables that have been redesigned—LOVE isn’t trying to be a new aesthetic interpretation of the past. What’s its trying to do is appreciate the past by contrasting it with this new everyday technology we have available to us now that we didn’t have then. The idea is that you can honor the medium through creating an entirely new experience, and to do so we needed to have a different physical object than what everyone was already accustomed to.”