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Minimalist turntable gets under the groove

The underside of the record is played using a tonearm and cartridge mounted within the body of the Wheel turntable
The underside of the record is played using a tonearm and cartridge mounted within the body of the Wheel turntable
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Left/right RCA output ports connect the Wheel to a living room hi-fi system, a ground terminal is included if needed, there's a headphone jack and a switch to choose between phono or preamp line signals
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Left/right RCA output ports connect the Wheel to a living room hi-fi system, a ground terminal is included if needed, there's a headphone jack and a switch to choose between phono or preamp line signals
The rosewood linear tonearm is mounted within the Wheel's platter
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The rosewood linear tonearm is mounted within the Wheel's platter
A Wheel prototype, showing the gap in the mat that's home to the system's tonearm
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A Wheel prototype, showing the gap in the mat that's home to the system's tonearm
The Wheel turntable can be mounted on a wall for arty vertical play
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The Wheel turntable can be mounted on a wall for arty vertical play
The Wheel's spindle, or center stick, is used to control operation and playback
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The Wheel's spindle, or center stick, is used to control operation and playback
The underside of the record is played using a tonearm and cartridge mounted within the body of the Wheel turntable
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The underside of the record is played using a tonearm and cartridge mounted within the body of the Wheel turntable
The Wheel's tonearm is made from a single piece of machined mahogany laminate, ending in a modified AT95E cartridge
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The Wheel's tonearm is made from a single piece of machined mahogany laminate, ending in a modified AT95E cartridge
Left/right RCA output ports connect the Wheel to a living room hi-fi system, a ground terminal is included if needed, there's a headphone jack and a switch to choose between phono or preamp line signals
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Left/right RCA output ports connect the Wheel to a living room hi-fi system, a ground terminal is included if needed, there's a headphone jack and a switch to choose between phono or preamp line signals
The Wheel will be available in cherry, walnut or mahogany, though a special rosewood version is also being produced as a special Kickstarter edition
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The Wheel will be available in cherry, walnut or mahogany, though a special rosewood version is also being produced as a special Kickstarter edition

According to Nielsen's year end analysis, vinyl sales in the US increased for the 11th consecutive year in 2016. Though that means an aging turntable might be getting a dust off for its return to the living room, folks new to vinyl will no doubt be looking for fresh platter goodness to get in the groove. We've seen quite a few eye-catching takes on the trusty turntable over the last 12 months, including a mid-air spinner and a design where the stylus was dragged around a stationary record. Now, a family business in the Netherlands has launched the Wheel on Kickstarter, which may have onlookers wondering where the tonearm and phono cartridge have gone.

Where the traditional turntable format calls for a tonearm and phono cartridge to be strategically positioned at one corner of the plinth, the Wheel doesn't have any corners. Instead, the creative team at Miniot has hidden a linear tonearm within the platter, so that the Wheel plays the underside of a vinyl record instead of the upper side.

The rosewood linear tonearm is mounted within the Wheel's platter
The rosewood linear tonearm is mounted within the Wheel's platter

Currently at the pre-production prototype stage, the Wheel's tonearm is made from a single piece of machined mahogany laminate, ending in a modified AT95E cartridge. The company says that the cartridge and tonearm (with an IR sensor for tracking) have been tweaked for optimum damping, resonance and weight distribution, which means that the modified AT95E can't be user replaced (though the stylus can be swapped out).

A 12-inch vinyl record is placed on the aircraft-grade aluminum alloy platter topped by a rubber mat, which is spun at 33.3 rpm by an electronically-controlled belt drive system (with less than 0.05 percent wow and flutter being reported), and secured in place by the platter's outer ring and a built-in lock/unlock spindle. The Wheel's functionality is then controlled using the 23.5 mm (0.9 in) high spindle.

This center stick, as the makers call it, turns the unit on and off, starts playback and activates a pause in the music, and engages forward or back track skip. Twisting the stick also raises or lowers output volume. All of this stick handling does have us a little concerned about potential damage to vinyl, but Miniot does promise scratch-free, stylus-loving operation.

The Wheel's spindle, or center stick, is used to control operation and playback
The Wheel's spindle, or center stick, is used to control operation and playback

Under the wooden plinth – which is available in genuine cherry, walnut, mahogany or rosewood – are the left/right RCA output ports for connecting the turntable to a living room hi-fi system, a ground terminal if needed, an amped headphone jack and a switch to choose between phono or preamp line signals.

Miniot says that the Wheel turntable can be used horizontally – placed on a table or hi-fi cabinet, for example – or mounted to an upright stand or hung on a wall to turn record playing into visual art.

The Miniot Wheel project has launched on Kickstarter to fund production. Pledges start at €472 (US$500) for a standard model, or €663 for a special edition with a rosewood base. The Wheel will come supplied with a transparent LP record which serves two purposes – it should keep the internal mechanism free from dust between listening sessions and actually includes sample music from some Dutch bands, with its see-through nature also allowing users to see what's going on during playback.

If all goes to plan, the Wheel is estimated to ship in November. Have a look at the pitch video below to see the pre-production prototype in action.

Sources: Miniot, Kickstarter

Wheel by Miniot

6 comments
butkus
Beograms are a text book example why custom cart designs are like the worst thing in vinyl world to push on the consumer. It is usually accompanied by sweet performance BS and instantly makes any turntable a throwaway.
Bob Flint
Not being able to ascertain that the pressure on the underside performing equally in horizontal or vertical mode is disconcerting to the original vinyl owner, on the damage a sudden drop or even a slow release of a cherished album onto a reversed stylus on the underside could bring to the vinyl surface. The traditional upper tone arms all had varying ways to gently lower and balance the tracking weight on the grove to provide true sound without the excessive force to damage the surface. The poops and crackles so sought after are not really the thing you want for the vinyl, that's a dirty surface and even the best brushes won't perfectly clean a dusty LP.
Jose Gros
Nice design!. As vinyl records get some wear from the pickup, and also the device itself requires every now and then an spare needle, I wonder if a Laser, no physical touch reading head, could be designed for plastic analog records. Can we?
Rocky Stefano
Yes I'm sure this one will get off to production with the same success as the TRNTBL from VNYL... NOT... watch where you put your money.
Adrien
looks like they are throwing away a bunch of turntable basics here in order to look "minimalistic". The record has to move independently of the tonearm, which is fixed in the base, therefore the record is moving independently of the base, which means it's flapping around. Vinyl isn't rigid enough to not cause major problems here. Other high end turntables get large mass platters and clamp the record onto that. This is the opposite, I'd predict major problems with low frequency noise.
JimFox
Lateral thinking. I like it; combined with the Desktop Valve Amp, what a funky minimalist system, for peanuts in cost, really. One advantage is the dust problem- OK you can use a dust cover but the damage is caused by the stylus grinding dust into the vinyl groove- which shouldn't happen when playing the underside. Maybe not the ultimate in hi-fi but bet it will sound good to the average listener.
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