Korean designer Rhea Jeong says she's been astounded by the amount of interest in her conceptual Void LP record player. One look at the design and you can see why it's made so much noise without even uttering a sound. Close your eyes and imagine a little red globe spinning around on top of a vinyl record emitting sound from speakers inside it. The record itself is suspended in mid-air above a simple black base unit - no strings attached, no wires holding it up and definitely no safety net. The imagery is quite simply jaw-dropping. But can such a thing really work?
If someone were to rush up to me and excitedly claim that they'd seen vinyl flying through the air my first thought would be that they had just watched the failed attempts at killing zombies in the hit rom-zom-com UK film "Shaun of the Dead". But on seeing the Void player for the first time myself, I have to admit to being overtaken by the wow factor. It looks cool. Very, very cool. But as it mocks the senses and toys with the emotions and the wow factor is rapidly replaced by that of "got to get me one of those", eventually things settle down a bit and give in to the inevitable "hang on a minute that's just not possible".
Music lovers take cover
The idea of an object riding around on vinyl and producing sound is not new. Audiophiles have been having nightmares about their precious LPs being totally destroyed ever since a tiny VW van first spun around on top of a precious slab of 12in vinyl screeching out the most hideous sound. And so the Vinyl Killer was unleashed onto the world. Yet the Killer had and continues to have great appeal, that novelty wow factor. It's something that Rhea recognized and was so inspired by that she created the concept Void player. Rhea's design adds even more zing to the basic idea though - not only would an object spin round the disc reading all the grooves and belt out tunes at whatever volume and clarity the inbuilt speakers can handle but it would do this while the record levitates.
It's proposed that it will work something like this. The record would sit on a sort of cup-like cradle which would be lifted above a base unit using the power of magnetism. On the cradle would sit your precious Beatles White Album and on top of that would spin the little red ball containing all the audio bits and pieces necessary for reading and producing the sound. A recipe for disaster? Sadly, at this point in time, it probably is.
Although some folks have assumed that because it looks real then it must be, the Void player is still a concept, a "vague idea," as Rhea puts it. An eye-popping idea certainly, but a concept nonetheless. If it was to be made in its current form it's unlikely it would ever get off the ground (excuse the pun). The technology currently exists to breathe life into the different parts of the complicated processes at work here. But getting them to work together in one unit, now that's just something else entirely.
Raising the vinyl from the cradle and even controlling any spin are well within the realms of possibility. Current examples include those terrestrial globe things that appear to gravitate with no visible support whilst rotating in similar fashion to their big sister. The self propelled groove-reading device we've already seen in the form of the Vinyl Killer. Rheo Jeong proposes replacing the Volkswagen van (or the recently released Mini) with a color contrasting little red sphere.
In the red corner, weighing in at...
However small the red ball is though there is still the obvious problem of weight. It will weigh something and considering it is proposed that it contains a stylus, a self propelling mechanism of some sort to control its speed and orientation as well as speakers this might turn out to be quite the beefy little orb. But whatever its weight, it will appear very heavy indeed to that innocent LP hovering in the middle of nowhere with only magnets and the will of God to keep it there.
As can be seen from the mockup images, Rhea expects there to be some tilt. The trick to making everything stay in balance on a working model would not only depend on the weight of the red sphere but also the power of those magnets and the technology used to make sure everything stays afloat and in one place. I suggested to Rhea that using some sort of laser to read the grooves on the record instead of a stylus might reduce the weight of the sphere and help avoid deadly scratches. The technology already exists for playing vinyl records using lasers (see the ELP Laser Turntable) and she confirmed that this is something she has recently been considering.
Removing the amplification equipment from the sphere and replacing it with lightweight Bluetooth or radio transmitting technology would also help with weight loss and might very well lead to an improved audio experience as well. Although it wouldn't be as visually stunning, perhaps ditching the red sphere altogether and reading the record's grooves from the base unit below might be easier to achieve. These are things which may need to be considered sooner rather than later. Why?
May I present the future?
Thanks to all the attention the Void player has been getting recently, Rhea has decided to try and make a prototype. I for one wish her the best of luck and look forward to such a creation become a reality. I don't even think it would matter if the sound was terrible, the visual experience would be more than enough to compensate for any poor audio issues. Of course, I won't be risking any of my precious vinyl on such a device until I had an absolute guarantee that no damage would result.
If you have the technical know-how to help turn this eye-catching concept into a crowd-silencing reality or you would just like to see more of Rhea's work, why not stop by her website and say hello?