Jony Ive spent two decades as Apple’s chief design officer, responsible for envisioning products such as iPods and AirPods that have become icons of modern music consumption. His new creative studio, LoveFrom, which officially launched in 2019 with the help of Marc Newson, has brought Ive’s exacting approach to a historic typeface and royal seal, but not yet a physical piece of industrial design. That changes with Sondek LP12-50, a new turntable by British audio brand Linn celebrating the original’s 50th anniversary.
While teaming with LoveFrom to create an audio device far more analog than an AirPod may seem counterintuitive, Ive, a lifelong fan of Linn, was eager to get involved. The brand’s turntables cost a premium, but promise to capture vinyl’s utmost subtleties and offer modular, mix-and-matchable parts that can be upgraded over time, birthing a community of fervent audiophiles. Gilad Tiefenbrun, the brand’s CEO, invited Ive to assess each of the LP12’s components and see what could be fine-tuned. “If you’ve ever had a real estate agent look around your house,” Tiefenbrun writes, “you’ll be familiar with how I felt.”
Given Linn’s philosophy, not much could change—a healthy exercise of designing within boundaries. “When it’s such a broadly recognized and respected icon, and elements of the design are familiar, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re optimal,” says Ive, who took on the project pro bono for the sake of exploring the craft, noting how LoveFrom’s longer-term contracts with Airbnb and Ferrari provide the income to explore passion projects.
They ended up introducing a dense wood plinth that minimizes vibrations and identified several areas where gentle design tweaks could be feasible. These came in the form of smoothing the edges of squared-off components, swapping out a plastic rocker power button for charcoal aluminum, and developing hinges so the dust cover could stay open at any angle. “When you have products that assume the status of becoming iconic, and have that sort of cultural resonance, it’s easy to assume they’re beyond improvement,” Ive tells Fast Company. “This is a challenging design problem to respectfully evaluate the product.” A limited run of 250 units will go on sale starting in August for $60,000 each.