A tonearm on a record player.

How the record player by IKEA and Swedish House Mafia came to be

How do you make a record player bold, yet simple and affordable enough to be fit to gift a friend? That’s the question engineer Carmen Stoicescu and designer Friso Wiersma sought to answer for IKEA and Swedish House Mafia’s OBEGRÄNSAD collection – resulting in the first record player from IKEA since 1973.

IKEA has quite a history of furnishing the home with music. Storage solutions fit for essential music items have been in the range since at least 1952 but flip through the pages of the 1973 IKEA catalogue and you’ll find even more musical items. A piano, a stereo system, amplifiers, and a record player among them.
 
An page of an old IKEA catalogue.
A page from an old IKEA catalogue with a record player, pianos and tv:s.

I never thought I'd work with producing a record player.

Carmen Stoicescu, Product Design Engineer at IKEA.
Now, IKEA hosts a range of speakers – like VAPPEBY or the SYMFONISK products with Sonos that quite elegantly blend into home furnishing – but hasn’t made a record player since. Until now, in collaboration with Swedish House Mafia.
 
“I never thought I’d work with producing a record player”, says Carmen Stoicescu, Product Design Engineer at IKEA. She beams with excitement when she adds: “But I will be the first buyer of this one.”
A woman in a blue shirt standing in an office environment with her arms crossed.
Carmen Stoicescu, Product Design Engineer at IKEA.
The last time Carmen had a record player was in her childhood home in Romania, where it mostly spun the tango, opera, and classical Romanian music of her parents’ choice. That is, until she visited Bulgaria on her first travels abroad.
 
“I wanted a souvenir, and I was in one of these shops filled with knickknacks. I found a record with a collection of The Beatles songs, and back then, it was difficult to listen to international music in Romania”, she recalls. It’s a chance encounter and purchase she partly credits for setting her taste in music until this day. “I love music – especially from the sixties.”
 

The surprise that became a record player

But Carmen didn’t go into the collaboration with Swedish House Mafia new to record players. In fact, she was involved in the development of one set to be part of a previous project, which fell through due to challenges with strict design requirements and cost consciousness. It’s an experience that essentially made Carmen a surprise co-instigator of having a record player be part of the OBEGRÄNSAD collection.
A black and white sketch of a record player.
A sketch of the OBEGRÄNSAD record player from the product development process.
“Before meeting with Swedish House Mafia, we decided not to go into electronics too much, because of the challenges they pose. But then one of the guys from the band started talking about making a record player, and all of a sudden, I forgot everything we had discussed”, Carmen recounts, remembering the surprise she felt at herself with a smile.
 
“When the question came to me, I just said, ‘We actually tried to do a record player before, so we could use the same supplier maybe?’”
A black and white sketch of a record player.
Sketches from the product development process.
A black and white sketch of a record player.
And so, there was no looking back. Among those instantly thrilled by the fact was IKEA designer Friso Wiersma. 
 
“I remember Axwell said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if you could buy a record player as a gift for a friend?’, and that became sort of a brief. To make something so simple, so accessible, and sort of plug-and-play that you could basically buy it as a gift for anyone who enjoys music”, he says.
 

Designing with both simplicity and boldness in mind

The idea from Swedish House Mafia to make the OBEGRÄNSAD record player the perfect gift put simplicity in focus alongside the boldness of music at the heart of the collaboration. It was key to unlocking the right design and development choices to make a quality record player that would be affordable, easy to use, and a statement piece for any music lover.
 
A prototype of a record player.
A prototype of the OBEGRÄNSAD record player.
A black and white portrait of a man.
IKEA designer Friso Wiersma.

“Today you see a lot of slim record players that are almost trying to hide, but we wanted something very bold, and we wanted the record player to be a very physical manifestation of music”, says Friso. “Everything with Swedish House Mafia is a very conscious statement. I really like that approach. Music is a big part of my life as well. I would want to showcase that in my interior too”.

The first suggestion for the record player from Swedish House Mafia was a sketch of it in the form of a circle. It didn’t quite work functionally, but Friso really liked the idea and made sure to bring it into the design of the final product.

“The square and the circle together, the chunkiness of the whole piece – it gives just the statement that we wanted for the record player.”

A record player with a vinyl record.

A bold yet simple design to the eye, bringing the principles of Democratic Design to the development of a record player was nonetheless a challenge.

“There’s nothing simple about designing something that looks very simple. It’s actually even more complicated to develop”, says Friso. “The engine of it all, having a pre-amplifier built in, getting enough juice from just a simple USB cable to run everything. There are so many things happening inside the product without you noticing as a customer. Carmen and the technical team really did some major work in making it all happen.”

An affordable record player for the many

Bringing past learnings into the new project, Carmen coordinated between different functions and expertise at IKEA to get everything in place for the record player to become a reality. The notion of keeping it simple echoed in the technical development as well.

“In the previous project, we tried giving a specific design to all parts, but with OBEGRÄNSAD, we tried to limit the molds. We wanted to make it simple, mechanical – so we looked into what gives the best sound, and we put all our eggs in that basket.”

The basket in question? A replaceable cartridge and needle of well-known make and good quality, as well as a sound, solid overall construction bound to absorb any vibrations from where the record player sits comfortably, say, in or on an IKEA furniture solution.

A record player.
The OBEGRÄNSAD record player is powered by a USB cable and can be connected to standard wired speakers - or more advanced sound systems with an adapter.

The IKEA and Swedish House Mafia OBEGRÄNSAD record player and collection is set to launch in Fall 2022.

 

 

 

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