Fern & Roby, located in Richmond, Virginia, designs not only eye-catching furniture with vintage-inspired bases (made from cast iron, bronze or aluminum) but also stunning audio equipment that could double as sculptural works of art. With a dedication to American manufacturing and craft, Fern & Roby impress yet again with The Turntable—made up of a a 70-pound cast iron plinth and 35-pound bronze platter—to satisfy both audiophiles and design lovers.
Founder Christopher Hildebrand knows everything there is to know about fine art and hand-crafting his products. “I’ve worked with metal since I was 16—fabricating, blacksmithing, jewelry smithing and welding. After college and living in Italy for a year (where I was working in stone), I managed a sculptural bronze foundry in Connecticut,” he tells CH. Upon meeting a business partner who had a similar background in both traditional and industrial metalwork, the two moved to Richmond in 2003 to start industrial design firm Tektonics Design Group. After pattern-making and producing foundry tooling for OK Foundry and becoming good friends with the owner James O’ Neill, they began experimenting with integrated custom cast pieces for furniture and then audio.
“This design was a collaboration between James O’Neill, myself, and Luke Smith, an electrical engineer with a specialty in motors and controls. All three of us love audio and have been talking about this turntable for two years,” says Hildebrand of the Turntable. “Naturally, with our affinity for metals, we thought about making a turntable out of cast iron. One of the reasons for this, besides our access to OK Foundry, is that cast iron is inherently non-resonant, which is why it’s used in a great deal of large manufacturing equipment like milling machines and lathes. The sensitivity of a phono cartridge can pick up all sorts of vibrations, so the ideal is to have the only vibrations be those caused by the tracks cut into the record. Otherwise you would be listening to the turntable and not the recording.”
“Another major factor in the design was how it needed to be a thoughtful response to and meaningful departure from the dominant audio aesthetic, which very much trends toward shiny monochromatic gadgets,” says Hildebrand. And the Turntable, which looks like it could survive an earthquake, is sure to far outlast its cheaper, mass-produced counterparts; the Turntable is manufactured in America, adhering to Fern & Roby’s dedication to sourcing and manufacturing locally and responsibly. The final product may be a complicated machine, but its simple and approachable design makes it all the more welcoming to enjoy one of the most wonderful acts of being human: listening to music.
The Turntable can be found at Fern & Roby’s website for $4,500. Their Integrated Amplifier ($2,350) was the result of a similar collaborative process with audio engineer Mike Bettinger, and its materials are meant to complement the Turntable. “The Turntable and our Amp are the result of industrial processes that involve real people and engage with the history of craft and manufacturing in America,” finishes Hildebrand.
The turntable will be brought to New York’s Heard City this weekend, and available for small group listening sessions from Friday, 17 July 2015 until Sunday evening, upon request.
Images courtesy of Fern & Roby