We live in a very digital-oriented world, where most of the content that we enjoy comes in a digital form or is distributed through non-physical channels. Despite the brief renaissance of turntables and records, the majority of people still listen to music on their smartphones. At the same time, however, people still crave the physicality of musical instruments or devices, even the likes of turntables that give the sound a unique quality and charm. Wouldn’t it be grand if you had the best of both worlds? Yamaha Design Lab thinks so, too, which is why it came up with a few quirky objects that bring back the joy and fun of physical and mechanical music devices, except they’re powered by a smartphone this time around.
Few of today’s youngsters might even know what a phonograph is, let alone be familiar with the unique music they make, thanks to their physical media. The resurgence of interest in turntables in the past few years might have brought this retro machine to their attention, but not enough to make them give up their Spotify, Apple Music, or using their smartphone to listen to music, for that matter. They won’t have to with TurnT, a rather creative take on the turntable design that mixes smartphones with the old-school way of playing music.
TurnT is practically a wireless speaker that you can connect to your smartphone to play music. What makes it different is how you actually play the music, which involves placing the turntable’s stylus on top of the screen, just like you would on an actual record. Lifting the stylus stops the music immediately, and moving it “inward” towards the center of the disc displayed on the phone’s screen changes the track that’s being played.
TurnT is just one of Yamaha Design Lab’s “Stepping out of the Slate” series of fun little gadgets, each one putting a whimsical twist on an old music device. Winder, for example, is a tall, hexagonal block of wood with a windup key on top. The idea is to recreate the experience of playing with a music box, except that the music is being played on a smartphone. MusicLight looks like a simple candle holder, but the light of the candle controls the music on the smartphone, wavering as the candle flickers and eventually fades as the fire dies.
RhythmBot is actually a collection of four small robots, each equipped with a tiny version of a percussion instrument. This time, however, you play your own music, which the smartphone listens to. The phone, in turn, controls the robots so that they play to your beat, creating your own small performance band.
These small gadgets don’t bring anything revolutionary to the field of music, but they add an element of fun to listening to it. YDL says that these devices offer a unique experience that you can never have just by swiping and tapping on a screen, celebrating the human sense of touch as well as sight. Quirky and adorable, we can only hope that these prototypes will eventually become products that collectors and music lovers will definitely want to get their hands on, figuratively and literally.