In response to a âboomâ in vinyl record sales, Mr. Brown, director of Dunedin-based Design Build Listen Ltd, launched The Wand unipivot tonearm in 2011.
The arm was important for hi-fi enthusiasts because the music was stored in microscopic ripples in the playing grooves of vinyl records and any movement, even at the micron level, made a difference in the sound reproduced. he declares.
He recently traveled to Europe and visited turntable manufacturers and was in discussions with some to sell them tonearms.
A training product designer, Mr. Brown worked for Fisher and Paykel âon and offâ for many years. He also has a long-standing passion for a variety of musical styles.
He designed a turntable in the 1980s ‘when they were fading a bit’ and has always maintained the interest. The vinyl boom seemed like an appropriate time to take another look.
While many people threw entire turntables, very few focused on the tone arm – the part that carried the needle. The work was “quite specialized and a little geeky”, but it made a difference in the sound and he thought his design represented a sea change in tone arm design.
The popularity of vinyl can be attributed to a number of factors. For some people, who grew up with DJs and nightclubs, it was âjust plain coolâ.
Mr. Brown’s generation in the 1980s was told that compact discs and digital media were far superior, with perfect sound. More than 25 years later, digital media is still evolving, he said.
Many people now felt more confident in saying that digitally delivered music lacked “a little bit of magic”, and there were valid technical reasons for that, he said.
He compared listening to vinyl to the slow food movement. It was ‘slow music’ – sitting down and listening to one side of a record was part of the experience.
Mr Brown launched the original baguette at the end of 2011 and it was immediately named a finalist for the Best Design Awards, an initiative of the Designers Institute of New Zealand.
It has been praised by the passionate hi-fi media around the world. Last year, the UK magazine HiFi Choice gave it five out of five stars and shortlisted it in its annual awards for the most important products of the year, while another five-star ranking was awarded by the UK magazine HiFi World.
Mr. Brown now produces the tonearm in two sizes and launched a commercial version several months ago.
While it was still in its infancy, there was “a little opportunity” and there was also an opportunity in terms of materials, he said.
New Zealand had a well-developed carbon fiber industry and its tonearm was much more powerful than most in the market, he said.
It was always going to be a niche business. Even though vinyl was booming, “it will always never be a large number.”
But it was the kind of niche market that could be “a really good deal” and it could be done from New Zealand.
Mr Brown said he needed to “go out and see people around the world a little more” and go to shows to make him more visible. He will attend a trade show in Melbourne in October.