When it comes to audio technology, there are two unfortunate trends that are quite prevalent: listeners are ambivalent towards sound quality and few audio products are built to last generations. In fact, audio equipment has become rather invisible in the home. Symbol Audio, a company with a background in furniture design and marketing, hopes to reverse that trend with its Modern Record Console, on display at ICFF 2012.
Of course there are companies who address these concerns, but these products are exorbitant in price and require a fair amount of tinkering and calibration to set up. Symbol's goal was to find the sweet spot between price, quality, longevity and ease of use. With the MRC, it might have accomplished that.
For starters, there's the design. Up close and in person, the thing is nothing short of beautiful. Available in a walnut finishes and a trio of accent colours, the console shell itself takes its cues from mid-century modern design but does its best not to be indebted to it. Instead of splayed peg legs propping the console up, there's a sculpted chunk of 1/4-inch plate steel anchoring the entire thing. Symbol designed all its products with the idea that it will be in use for decades, and it outfitted the pieces with only the most essential and universal technologies. For everything else (such as streaming audio), they want to give users the freedom to upgrade as they see fit.
Then there's the audio. The Symbol team may not have its background in audio gear, but it appears as if it did its homework. It went out and recruited a team of experienced audio engineers — althought it won't say who — to develop a custom tube amp that pushes 15W to the pair of 6.5-inch, single-driver speakers. The turntable is no slouch either, though you've seen it before; the company went with the Pro-Ject RPM 5.1 turntable, outfitted with a carbon tonearm and a Sumiko cartridge. Symbol's Matt Richardson said the company could have developed a custom turntable as well, but in searching for that golden price-quality-simplicity zone, went with the RPM 5.1. And if you get bored with that, there's also room to plug in an Airport Express so you can stream from your iOS device without anybody ever knowing it.
For those looking for something a bit more understated, there's also the TT1 tabletop hi-fi system. Roughly 2.5 feet (76cm) wide and sitting eight inches (20cm) off the ground, the TT1 also takes the spirit of mid-century modern design and presents itself in a more contemporary manner. Available in a handful of finishes, such as walnut and oak, the TT1 packs two four-inch speakers and a 5.25-inch subwoofer into the small package, which is then powered by a Class-D amplifier. As for inputs, you have your choice of 3.5mm audio in or RCA in.
Symbol isn't quite ready to talk pricing for their products, and though neither product will be cheap by any means, they should be priced within reach for anyone wanting something tastefully designed and well-constructed enough to stick around more than a few years. [Symbol]
Video: Michael Hession