With a passion for design and building, Joel Scilley of Audiowood makes some of the most unique turntables we've ever seen. We love how he combines high-end, rare woods with modern turntable components to create fascinating record players that are warm, inviting, and sound great.
We had a chance to ask Joel some questions about his turntables and his experiences with records.
How did you first get started with records and turntables?
Well, I grew up in the record era, and was listening exclusively to vinyl from the mid-70s till CDs came out. I still remember my poor mother having to shell out extra money for the turntable with the best vibration isolation (in 1980 or so)! And I definitely recall how exciting it was to come home from high school and listen to a new record, and look at the full-sized graphics and lyrics.
What is your favorite thing about vinyl records?
Primarily the sound. There is a richness to vinyl played on a decent system that is hard to beat. But, I also like the ritual of playing records. It is really great to have friends over and see how much
fun they have rifling through my records, pulling out their favorites, arguing about cheesy cover photos, and so on.
What inspired you to start building turntables?
Well, I built a burlwood table for myself several years ago, and every time people would visit my house they would rave about it, so it got me to thinking...
Playing records is a tactile experience, so playing them on a wooden table that you want to touch just makes sense. I hope that I'm making things that people will be thrilled about using.
What is your favorite turntable that you've built?
I'll have to give the good carpenter's response and say: the ones I'm working on right now! In this case, that answer is truthful, as I've got two tables that I'm finishing up that are pretty spectacular. They will both have my new platter design with wooden/brass weighted "pods" under the upper platter. As part of the platter assembly, these pods will be visible and rotate along with the record. And I'll be able to match the wooden pods to the overall turntable construction. Should be very nice.
Can you describe your design and building process?
With my turntables the design process varies a lot. Sometimes it is dictated by a particular piece of wood I want to use, and sometimes I have an idea I have to accommodate to wood construction. In general, my higher-end tables have independent motor housings, and the need to create space for these dictates a design in various ways. Also, the spacing and weight of components dictate many elements of a given design.
There is always a balance between optimal mechanical design (within a given budget) and my attempt to make things which are visually stunning. I suppose I'm trying push the envelope of what's possible for turntable design, especially using wood.
How much do you generally charge for your turntables? For a custom build?
The vast majority of tables are between $1000 and $3000, but I have plans for a "Louis the XIV" table that will cost plenty! Also, I'm happy to build whatever someone dreams up.
On your site, it says you build audio furniture. What types of things have you built for analog setups?
I've built and am building: Magnepan speaker stands, custom audio racks, custom wooden iPhone docks, Nixie tube clocks, and custom amplifier enclosures.
I'm currently testing a combination remote-controlled tube preamp and class-D amplifier "integrated" amp that I can build into any type of custom wood enclosure. So far, this combo is very promising.
In the coming months, I hope to make a pretty groundbreaking, modular stereo/AV console that will integrate amplification and speakers. Stay tuned...
Any words of advice for someone new to turntables and records?
Try tube amplifiers. Buy collections from people rather than individual records: more music, less money. Buy a decent turntable (Rega P3, VPI, Audiwood!) and amp and then forget about upgrades and listen to your records! That's all I can think of for now.
Thanks again to Joel for sharing his story. We can't wait to see some what you come up with next!