If Apple made a turntable, would it cost $60,000? Almost certainly not, but that’s the lofty price tag on the new 50th anniversary Linn Sondek LP12-50, sketched out by former Apple chief designer Jony Ive and his firm LoveFrom.
It’s his first hardware design project since leaving Apple in 2019. And he did it for free.
Jony Ive’s first hardware design since leaving Apple is a $60,000 turntable
Since leaving Apple after leading design on a slew of iconic products starting in the 1990s — iMac, iPhone, Apple Watch, Apple Pencil, iPod, AirPods and more — Ive hasn’t been idle. His design firm LoveFrom has worked on a typeface, a clown nose for charity, an ongoing collaboration with AirBnB and more.
But the pricey turntable from the British audio company Linn marks his first return to hardware design. He talked about the project and why LoveFrom did it pro bono with Fast Company. He described it as “a very gentle and modest project for us that was really motivated by our love and respect for Linn.”
“There are many things that I’ve always wanted to be able to do purely for the love of doing them,” Ive added. “And there’s a substantial percentage of our work which we do purely for the love of doing it.”
Ive is a longtime fan of Linn
His work on the Linn Sondek LP12-50 began when he talked last year by phone with the company’s CEO, Gilad Tiefenbrun, looking for advice on buying a turntable (that’s how rich, famous people shop, apparently). Ive is a Linn fan and had visited the factory in his 20s. The conversation turned to Linn’s upcoming 50th anniversary. And by email the next morning Ive agreed to work on a special edition.
It took a year of collaboration between Linn engineers and LoveFrom designers, who looked at every element of the classic LP-12 turntable. But in the end, radical changes weren’t possible because the finely tuned gear is designed to work with replacement parts over time.
“What really characterized our approach, and what I think defined our contribution, was just a sense of deference for what is without doubt an icon in this product category,” Ive said. “But that being said, we saw a number of areas where there could be small improvements and gentle evolutions of the current design.”
Several design changes
So the new Linn Sondek LP12-50 shares the same form factor with the LP-12, but there are several design differences that don’t compromise audio quality. The LP12-50 has curved corners, a more rounded tone arm, new floating hinges for the cover and a circular multifunction aluminum button rather than a rocker power switch, to name some examples.
“I’ve owned multiple Linn products over the years, and music has always been profoundly important to me,” Ive said. “So you can imagine, I think the first consequential music player that I designed was the first iPod, and that began a journey of multiple generations of iPod, and multiple Airpods and music accessories. I feel really fortunate to have gone the full circle … so many years on from my first visit to the factory.”
Only 250 Linn Sondek LP12-50 units will be made, with a special commemorative plaque recognizing the LoveFrom collaboration. So hurry up and cash out your 401(k) so you can buy one! Reserve yours here.