Critical Review

In my project I set out to create a sound based product that involved interactions with physical forms of music. In terms of the three categories of People, Design and Technology I would say that this project is a relatively evenly weighted between each reflecting on the final outcome. The theme of the tangibility of music came from speaking to many vinyl record enthusiasts who I know and via online forums. Although there were many areas within vinyl records to focus in on, the physicality of the music and the present lack of this ownership of objects in the digital age seemed a very prominent and strong scope for my project. Technology wise I was glad that my not so strong coding knowledge was not pushed to unrealistic limits, managing to sort out the RFID scanning early in the second semester which gave me a good perspective on what would be possible with this concept. On the other side of the technology were the inner workings of the turntable, which was lifted from an old deck and modified. In terms of the design of the player, I wanted it to play vinyl so it was important not to venture too far from the traditional forms of a turntable with the circuit boards also limiting the shape slightly. With that in mind my main focus in the design was about material selection and finishing with the design kept simple to allow the machine to function like a regular record player. The wood choice and finishing takes nostalgic influence from classic wooden record players and the shape of modern popular turntables such as the Technics Sl 1210. I feel like the final outcome of the product compliments both the traditional aesthetics and the new technology embedded within.

Over my time at Dundee and free time outside of university I have developed a great personal interest in sound related design, so from the start I always wanted my honours project to involve this subject. By choosing this theme early I hoped to find a project that satisfied both my personal interests and the criteria for a strong interactive product design module. Overall I really enjoyed this year and being able to dig deep into a very specific subject. Along the way I learned a lot about a number of subjects that I would definitely like to follow up beyond university, in particular focusing in on the building of record players from their raw components then subsequently designing with the goal of optimum sound quality. This is something that I found myself increasingly interested in whilst building my own player and although the main focus of my player was not revolved around extremely high audio quality this scope influenced my designs greatly. With that in mind, overall I am very happy with the sound of my player, with aspects such as the choice of thick wood, solid mounting of the components and the weight of the whole player decreasing vibration despite keeping the player in proportion and conforming to traditional turntable forms.

I found going into the project with an open brief exciting but also surprisingly more difficult that I had previously thought the freedom of no subject constraints would be. Throughout the project, this openness made me strive for an excellent concept choice, however this also resulted in finding myself trying to do too much at once in a number of areas such as incorporating a lot of different technologies to a single idea and not narrowing down concepts quickly. From a few periods of slow decision-making I have learnt that the majority of the time simplicity in design is often the best path to choose followed up by proper execution of the simplified ideas.

Coming back from in January after a period where the honours project took a slight backseat for the dissertation hand in, I found myself feeling slightly distant from my project having been consumed by the writing for well over a month. After having a good semester of initial research speaking to record enthusiasts, early concept generation and a productive Guru’s day with a running theme for my displays that got good feedback from the Gurus, I started back up with the honours project still with a very open subject. From there over the first month of semester too I struggled to narrow down my ideas moving forward developing two in particular which in hindsight set me back a few weeks for my final. After these initial first few weeks, the year began to move exponentially faster through the second semester and as time went on the problem of my indecisiveness seemed to hold me back from beginning my final prototype for a couple of weeks. When I eventually settled on the decision to go ahead with my final idea I was glad to get going with the building of the player. I particularly enjoyed using the milling machine, which I had previously only used lightly. Over the course of two weeks I spend many hours on a scale test piece getting everything placed and measured exactly right which although was time consuming resulted in swift completion of the final piece with very little mistakes and relatively easy but time consuming assembly.

In terms of what I wanted to achieve this year I feel like my project had covered a lot of the bases that I was aiming to. Things I would do differently all revolve around slow decision making and waiting a bit long to start on things as a result. I feel like if I had settled on this idea at the back end of semester 1 or at least the first couple of weeks of semester 2 that I could have dedicated much more time to other elements to this project that I would have liked to explore deeper such as making the player an efficient and high performing vinyl turntable in itself as I mentioned earlier, along with the added technology and interaction which was something that I’d had in mind for a considerable time. Working with wood was definitely a big positive for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of going to the saw mill to milling out the whole player shape which I was very happy with even though the detail is concealed and then finishing off the product.

I feel that this project has set me up well for the next few years. I have been interested in vinyl and record players for a number of years now but in particular I’m really glad that I went down the route of building a turntable and feel that its an area of design that I would love to focus in on, along with speakers and other audio equipment. Through the summer I hope to take what I have learnt this year and build a purpose turntable from scratch, hopefully improving and learning from all the positives and negatives I have experienced throughout this year.





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