Good evening,
Here is one more repost from last year:
We originally blogged about Jónófón as part of our student series. Having attracted lots of attention and praise, Jónófon is now also part of the new Fritz Hansen flagship store. Congratulations!

Jónófón is an acoustic vinyl-record-player that uses a papercup and a horn made out of paper to amplify the music from the vinyl record.

The gramophone that was invented more than 120 years ago by the german Emile Berliner was a piece of furniture that played heavy records through a big metal horn. It is a symbol of sorts for the beginning of recorded music – before its time there was no other option but live music.

While technology today has gotten so complicated that it is not made for the average Joe to understand, jónófón is a return to simplicity – it comes in a flat-pack and by putting it together from the scratch, the user obtains an understanding of how the player functions.

The player is put together out of thin plywood and contains a simple electrical system that is possible to power with a 9 volt battery or to connect to power supply.

The horn consists of a thick paper, needle, a plastic film, steel wire and the bottom of a paper cup that is used to amplify the sound waves that the needle carries up from the record.

The material used in the horn colors the music with a certain feeling and that is why the music played through the jónófón is characterized with the color of paper.

Why did you choose to work with sound?

I love music. That’s basically it. I have always wanted to try to join music and product design, and designing something that plays music worked well for me. I’m both a guitar player in the band Ultra Mega Technbandið Stefán and a singer in Sing for me Sandra, and play a lot and would definitely say that music is as big part of my life as the design part.

What were the inspirations for this project?

My main inspiration for starting this project was music. I started out researching things that play music, such as speakers and all kinds of music players and the mechanism of them. I’m quite fascinated by designing assemblies and technical solutions so I wanted to dig deep into how those things work and ended up giving the record player much more interest than the other ones. It is right to point out that like I mentioned earlier, that I, like most other people, had no idea how those things work, so it was basically just research. I had never made any music player before and I hadn’t even worked with electronics before, but it has a very simple electrical system = a motor, on/off button and to plugs for power. Sound is created with vibration and that is the beginning of it all.

There is also something about records, the feeling they transmit. Much more the feeling – the snarkle and pop – rather than the high definition sound quality. Many people have a lot of records but a broken record player or even no record player at all. If you own a player you also need to own speakers, so I wanted to make a player that would be acoustic. I’m copying such an old design, the gramophone (it was invented more then 120 years ago) that I figured that it couldn’t be too complicated. I mean this is basically the start of recorded music. This is basic sound physics. This technology could even be used without electricity.
The gramophone and those early sound recording inventions are the reason for we have all those crazy sound systems today. The gramophone is the father to both the electric record player and also the beginning of the loudspeaker as we know it.

What are the materials you used and why did you select them?

The player itself is put together out of thin plywood. I was going to work with only cardboard but decided that the plywood would both be more stable and more durable. The shape of the player is just very light and open, so you can see all the mechanism that powers the spinning disk. The electrical system is as basic as it gets, both because I have no background in electricity, and also because I’m trying to communicate how the player works. And to be able to communicate that, I had to understand it first. So simple was the way to go.

The acoustic part was a little bit more difficult thing to find out what to use because some materials work better with sound than others.

A record player needle
Another needle could damage the record, the shape has to be right so the grooves (the incraved music) aren’t damaged.

A steel wire
Steel is a flexible material that reshapes very quickly and is therefor very good for carrying soundwaves.

A plastic film
The plastic film is wrapped around the needle and the steelwire. When the film is heated it shrinks together so the needle and the steelwire are very tight together. Those two parts have to be very well fastened so they transmit the soundwaves in the best possible way.

The steelwire is fastened to the bottom of a papercup. The needle/steelwire are vibrating back and forth and moving the soundwaves up to the papercup bottom. The steelwire is vibrating the bottom of the papercup, and because it has a much bigger surface then the steelwire alone, the papercup amplifies the soundwaves which is transmitted up from the record.

The main reason though for using a papercup is because the bottom of it is so stretched. If it would be more loose there would go too much energy into trying to vibrate it and the music wouldn’t be as loud.

The paper forms a horn that also helps amplifying the music, but the material in the horn also characterizes the color of the sound played through it. So the music played through the Jónófón is characterized with the color of paper.

What is good product design in your opinion?

A good product design is something that has a good strong concept behind it and works as it should work.

For more from Jón Helgi Hólmgeirsson, take a look here.

Images courtesy of Jón Helgi Hólmgeirsson