Looking at the Wheel turntable from Miniot, you’ll almost immediately notice something strange. Yes, it does resemble a flying saucer, but that is not what we’re talking about. Where is the tonearm?
Instead of following the standard layout used by the vast majority of turntables with the tonearm mounted in the top right corner, the Wheel uses a tonearm hidden within the platter, playing the record from below instead of from above. This has practical advantages — you don’t have to worry about dropping the needle on the record improperly, for example — but it also results in one of the coolest-looking turntables we’ve seen in some time.
The placement isn’t the only unique thing about the tonearm used in the Wheel. Machined out of a single piece of laminated mahogany, the tonearm features a built-in infrared sensor for accurate movement and placement. The tonearm is fine-tuned for damping, resonance, and weight distribution, which Miniot says makes for excellent sound — but does have a downside in that the modified AT95E cartridge isn’t user-replaceable. Fortunately, the stylus used can be replaced by the user, with replacements being made available when the Wheel finally ships. Miniot says that all fragile moving parts being built in help prevent scratching your records or destroying the stylus, so hopefully, replacements won’t be as necessary as with some other turntables.
The unique build also adds another curious feature to the Wheel: It can be placed as you would any other turntable, but it can also be hung on the wall like a clock. Control is provided via a center stick — right in the middle of the record — that handles turning the Wheel on and off, playing and pausing, volume, and even skipping to the next or previous track, while turning the stick adjusts the volume of the built-in headphone jack.
The Wheel turntable is currently in pre-production, and the company has turned to Kickstarter for funding. Early-bird pricing has already come and gone, so if you’re interested in getting your hands on one, you will need to pledge the full amount, roughly $600. This gets you a single turntable, available in walnut, cherry, or mahogany varieties.
Miniot initially set out seeking roughly $53,000 in funding and has already blown past that, raising more than $150,000 at the time of this writing. The campaign comes to an end on March 17, so there is still plenty of time if you want to order one of the 400 remaining models — just be aware of the usual risks associated with Kickstarter campaigns. If everything goes according to plan, the Wheel should begin shipping in November. For more information, see the campaign page.