The Audio Carpenter - Luxury Turntables from Audio Wood

An interview with Joel Scilley of Audio Wood

By on July 15th, 2008 09:13 GMT
If you've ever wondered if there are any unique, state-of-the-art pieces of audio technology, this article brings a definitive answer: Yes, there are! And Joel Scilley is the man behind the exceptional Audio Wood turntables, some of the most intriguing and eye-catching vinyl records players around, and by far among the most beautiful ones man can devise.

The Audio Wood turntables are quite hard to tell apart from other high-class, audiophile technology items and works of art: crafted from exquisite varieties of wood and fully expressing the inner beauty of the materials, these turntables boast a remarkable and fluid, natural styling, suitable for refined interiors and top-shelf custom installations.

It was really hard for me to think about the most suitable speakers to be used in conjunction with any of the Audio Wood turntables, as their unique and stunning presence would definitely be a match for any of the crazy-expensive cabinets out there.

Audio Wood turntables are loaded with premium technology, adding to the overall value of these pieces, Rega tonearms and Maxon DC motors, and come in a variety of configurations, including the classic separate motor casing, adjustable metal spikes and pretty much anything the most demanding customer could desire.

And, I myself was looking for more info related to these amazing and artsy turntables, I've decided to conduct a small interview with no other than Joel himself. He was most kind to answer my questions and to let us know more about what's behind his breathtaking vinyl players.

Softpedia: Hi, Joel! It's been almost 20 years of custom wood-working - how does it feel to be an audio-carpenter, creating unique and impossible-to-repeat things for the audiophiles?

Joel Scilley: I'm enjoying audio woodworking quite a bit. I've done a lot of different projects from custom kitchens to garden fences and custom wineracks, but I really appreciate being able to design from scratch and build to the highest quality standards. The small scale of turntables in particular allows me to be more creative than might be possible with larger objects. For instance, I've always had an interest in architecture (and have studied at Parsons School of Design and elsewhere), but as I never became an architect proper, I can't just build the things I think up. Furniture and turntables, however, are more manageable in scale.

Softpedia: What's more fun: giving shape to your own ideas or striving to make your customers' dreams gain a physical shape? Have you ever considered yourself an artist who actually brings people's dreams to life?

Joel Scilley: All of it is fun. In some ways, there are three forces involved: design ideas, a potential or actual client's needs, and the demands of raw materials. Any one of these can be the primary force that determines a design. For example, I use a lot of burlwood because of its sonics, but also because the shape of the wood itself determines the course of the overall design. The trick is to get the most out of a given piece of wood while still making something that works properly and is a pleasure to use.

Softpedia: How hard is to build a top-drawer turntable? How many work hours one needs until the final product is ready for acoustic bliss? Anything "secret" you could share with us, like wood essences you prefer or favorite designs?

Joel Scilley: Building unique turntables is very hard. So far, each table seems to take between 20 to 45 hours to build. I have done some simple plinths for vintage tables that took less time, but the full tables are very time-consuming and difficult. The actual woodworking takes half the time and assembly, finishing, getting parts and shipping make up the rest. All of my tables demand sanding by hand, and an individual part of a table can take up to an hour or more to sand properly.

I would have to say that Gabon ebony is one of my favorite materials. It adds a solidity and elegance to the tables that is unique, but it is expensive and hard to work with. I generally sand ebony bits till they have a mirror finish, but the density and appearance of this wood is worth the trouble.

Other than that, I like doing things with arcs. And I have a secret plan to build plinths out of a very non-resonant material that hasn't been used for turntables yet (to my knowledge). But, that's a secret...

Softpedia: Have you ever considered creating loudspeakers? THAT would be even more majestic!

Joel Scilley: I would be happy to work with anyone who wanted unique speakers, and I think I could do some very interesting stuff in this area. I have no plans to do anything in this area without having a client to work with.

Softpedia: How much is the cheapest of your turntables? And how much green for the most expensive?

Joel Scilley: I make simple plinths for less than $500 and the most expensive designs so far are between $3,000 and $4,000. I'm trying to keep prices as low as possible, but the parts and materials for a quality turntable add up quickly! I'm hoping to do a series of simple but interesting AR plinths for around $300 or so.

Softpedia: Finally, what do you think about the crazy-expensive gear out there (Goldmund, DaVinci and so on)? Is rock better than wood?

Joel Scilley: Well, to state the obvious, the world is a crazy place. Some very expensive gear is probably "worth it," if this is where one's passion lies. If I had $50,000 to spend on a turntable, I would probably spend 10k on the table and $40k traveling and listening to LIVE music. But, if my music budget was $500k, then the investment of $50k might be "reasonable." And, I'd much rather have a very expensive turntable than a very expensive watch, for instance.

That said, I don't claim to know about how every product sounds. I'm trying to do work that uses fairly well-proven designs (separate motor pods, substantial platters, good motors, good low-resonance materials, etc.) but within this area there are a lot of materials that might or might not make improvements. In general, I'm fairly skeptical when it comes to the absolute superiority of one material over another.

And that said, I'm happy to entertain offers from clients who want me to build them some "crazy-expensive" gear!

Softpedia: Thanks a lot for these remarks, Joel!

Joel Scilley: Thank you, as well.

Now, have a look at Joel's exceptional art and enjoy the gallery below:

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