RetroProgressive – Keeping records…

Style supremo John Galliano, has a “boogie box” – a retro cassette player with cheesy disco lights that flash in time to the music, as does Jade Jagger. But whatever happened to the genuine, old fashioned record player?

When I moved house a few years ago, I determined that my trusty old music centre/hi-fi/record deck (or whatever the term was/is) should go. What a big mistake. I’ve loads of old records, but no means of listening to them.

I’ve seen a few interesting digital alternatives to the record player though. Young designer Martin Skelly’s version has to be the most stylish.

There are two parts to the design: the player, and the record box containing five coloured covers. Once the playlists are chosen (via a computer) and ‘synced’ to the player with a memory stick, the user customizes the outside of the sleeve with artwork of their choice. When the music is played, the outer ring of lights on the disc illuminates. The rings of light on the disc move towards the centre, the further one runs through the playlist – like a needle tracking on a record – except there are no tracks. And, although this is designed in the style of a 1970s hi-fi type record player, unfortunately, it doesn’t play records either.

Alternatively there’s a faux 1930s multi-function music centre courtesy of a major newspaper. This plays everything from records and cassettes to CDs – plus there’s a radio… and the option of spending hours downloading all your records on to your PC, which of course, was what you were looking to do all along, no?

Anyway, if anyone knows where I can find a tasteful contemporary sound system that  plays records, please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll have to see if I can find another tried and tested original. Know of any good car boot sales?

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

10 thoughts on “RetroProgressive – Keeping records…

  1. Gaw
    October 2, 2010 at 09:50

    Only last night I was bemoaning my lack of a record player. Watching Joni Mitchell on BBC4 (natch) singing Chelsea Morning reminded me of the lovely cover on Clouds, an LP that’s currently sitting in a wicker box in the loft, unplayed and much-missed. I suppose I could download it. But somehow I want to listen to (and look at) that particular object. Anything else wouldn’t seem the same.

    BTW companies pressing vinyl are apparently doing very well.

    Gadjo Dilo
    October 2, 2010 at 10:02

    We had ‘radiograms’ in my day: the needle jumped around all over the place during parties and so one had to weigh it down with paperclips – try finding a solution to the similar problem with CD players!

    Joni Mitchell indeed – it was my favourite ironing music, but on cassette tapes on which I’d pirated the music off of library-issued LPs. Ideal.

    October 2, 2010 at 11:15

    What better, on a cold, clear Autumn morning than a delve into the retro, some would say neo Luddite world of vinyl, that pinnacle of the hi-fiers universe, the ultimate aural orgasmatron except of course it never was, comprehensively outperformed by open reel to reel tape. Buffs will pay top dollar for ‘extra thick’ records, sitting enraptured watching it whizz around, popping and crackling like rice crispies listening through loudspeakers that can only be moved with the aid of a fork lift truck.
    Young Skelly’s version may strike the right chord, the deck looking like the old Garrard SP25 and the ersatz thermionic devices (valves) setting a fifties tone.
    As Gaw intimates, the vinyl stampers are doing well, these guys are among the best, they do after all make the Linn LP12 turntable.
    However, if you have their playback gizmo they will sell you a hard drive complete with their entire catalogue in 24 bit flac, the sound quality indistinguishable from records. Offering you the pleasure of listening to that delectable Chanteuse Barb Jungr.

    If however your long felt want is for the spinning platter I can offer you a Garrard 401 turntable and a SME 2012 arm, bought in the 1960s, never ever assembled let alone played, add your own plinth and cartridge and off you go, down memory lane, Tapestry, Hair, James Last, Frankie laine Klaus Wunderlich, Lulu…….

    October 2, 2010 at 15:43

    Only known Shop Curious for a few weeks Susan, but by the cut of your jib I would guess that retro could be quite high on your list. If yes, and you place nostalgia ahead of sound quality, why not travel back to post-war Blighty and pick up an original but reconditioned Dansette. No need to hack around boot sales either; let your fingers do the walking, and scan E-Bay. Sixty quids should do it.
    The other end of the aural spectrum is a dark forest, populated only by men – the sort of men discussed in Gaw’s earlier post on Sex and Shopping. They look quite normal, but when the sun slips down behind Heathrow, they drop into each other’s houses and discuss hertz and sine waves. They will happily pontificate upon the joys of owning a Michell Gyro converted to battery/DC motor drive, and expect you to keep up. If you spot one of these blights, do not even think about ‘having a go’ – they inhabit a hair-trigger emotional world and, in a nanosecond, can morph from librarian to full-on psycho.
    Third choice could be Malty’s unused 401/SME combo. I’m sure that, for a small consideration, he would be happy to level your plinth…

    October 2, 2010 at 18:55

    Gaw, isn’t it amazing what gets squirreled away in the loft? Come to think of it, Mahlerman, my parents still have an old (and unworking) Dansette in their loft. Once upon a time I played funny little children’s records on it, which, curiously, were made of red vinyl. Gadjo, I remember getting LPs from the library too, along with sheet music. Illegal taping never crossed my innocent mind, I’m afraid…

    Malty, your mention of the hi-fi as an aural orgasmatron makes me think of Abigail’s Party. Thanks for being such a treasure trove of curious knowledge. I’ll consider your offer of state of the art 1960s turntable technology.. ta!

    Hey Skipper
    October 2, 2010 at 19:31

    Record players (with USB output) are easy to find in the States.

    Are they Newtro?

    October 3, 2010 at 13:00

    This is a difficult one. “Tasteful” and “contemporary sound system” don’t really seem to go together. I’m in the market for one but having tried a couple of hungry-looking audio dealers full of metal boxes I realized the next stop with these fellows was probably Arthur Daley’s portakabin. As others have suggested, it might be Ebay or the best all-in-one you can find in a shop with an inexpensive turntable from Richer Sounds plugged into it (they also advertise USB ones). Or … there’s Malty’s Garrard, but don’t tell him it’s so old that it’s probably become extremely valuable. After all, “classic” trumps all other genres. I wonder whether the Russians ever produced anything in this line, perhaps an amazing analogue contraption that’s the hifi equivalent of a Lumo camera (but not, in this case, with the unwelcome surprise of massive electrocution).

    Hey Skipper
    October 3, 2010 at 17:56

    This is a difficult one. “Tasteful” and “contemporary sound system” don’t really seem to go together.


    My sound system packs a lot more performance in a much smaller package than was possible back in the day.

    Combined with an RF remote, the whole thing disappears into a tasteful cabinet, with speakers so small as to go practically (visually) unnoticed.

    October 3, 2010 at 19:16

    Mark, you’re making Malty’s Garrard sound very attractive – though Hey Skipper, would be great to see a photo of your ‘tasteful cabinet’ and curiously invisible speakers.

    October 4, 2010 at 21:18

    I’ve still got me trusty technics 1210’s from my djing days, listening to vinyl on them makes mp3’s sound very very bad indeed in comparison!!!

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