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Beautiful Japanese designs from the golden age of record players.
Portable technology has always been an essential part of humanity. Whether a stone tool or cellular phone, there’s an undeniable enjoyment that comes with being able to carry your favorite device anywhere. Vinyl is no exception. When it became possible to have a recorded copy of your favorite song, it was only a matter of time before engineers and designers created record players as easy to carry around as the records themselves.
Manufacturers in Japan including Toshiba, Columbia and Takt led the way with an array of designs in the 60’s and 70’s to accompany this novel new phenomenon. Collector Fumihito Taguchi recently helped preserve and share these marvels of design by showcasing more than a hundred portable Japanese made players in an exhibit and book released last year. This selection of players brings together a few found in the book plus a few other noteworthy favorites.
Takt brand record players were made by Tomikura Electric, and these turntables come in some of the most impressive colors and minimalist designs. The TP-880 had a stunning walnut trim and was Tact’s premium player. This solid state machine had AM radio and a sleek look that was less playful than other models they carried. The tone arm nests in a concave nook and is held down by tension clasp that protects your needle. The cover for this one isn’t shown here, but it’s transparent, which means the design is always in view.
The TP-5 plays both 7-inch and 12-inch records. Its simple lines and bold use of colors runs through many of the company’s other models. The speakers are comparable to other mid-range portable players, and the video just below demonstrates what it sounds like.
This tiny ultra portable turntable could almost fit in a back pocket, and most definitely in a school bag for recess time jams. The tone arm is on a spring that can be pushed flush with the body of the unit, and the metal speaker grill makes this model small and durable.
This stunning player integrates a 23 key electric piano that’s perfect for playing along to your favorite tune. It plays both 7-inch and 12-inch records, and has a speaker that’s small but mighty.
This player has a beautiful perforated metal grate for the speaker that would look great poolside. You can easily switch to AM radio or, if you need a bit more oomph, connect it to your favorite pair of speakers.
Columbia GP-3 Mixer and GMX-3 Turntables
On this three-piece set-up, you can sequence your favorite tracks without the threat of the dead air that happens when flipping over a record. It even features a pitch fader for the aspiring picnic DJ. It can fit both 7-inch and 12-inch vinyl comfortably and the platter automatically spins when the tone arm is lifted. The audio quality is impressively solid for a small player, as evidenced in the video below.
This Columbia model is perfect for those who have a mix of tapes in their music collection. A hearty three-speed player accommodates 7-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch records, its larger profile houses a powerful speaker. It was made as a light standalone media player and has a suitcase handle for maximum utility.
Sony Flamingo PS-F5
Leave it to the 80’s to turn convention on its head with these vertically playing turntables. Out of any of the players on this list, this without a doubt has the best functional design for spinning, but it’s also the only one without a speaker attached. It seems to have been designed so it looks like it would digitally read the record, but this is a fully analog device with a linear tracking needle similar to your average horizontal player. The body of the device is about the size of a VHS. But perhaps the best feature of these players are the matching booming speakers that were sold separately. You can listen to these unique objects via the video below.
The KP-747F is definitely for a more sophisticated bunch. It’s the only portable player on the list that allows for tone adjustment and it’s also the lone player that can play FM radio. It plays all three standard speeds and has a metal encasement that makes this one perfect for camping or any activity that would require extra durability.
The GP-55 was more of a toy for children, and it sports many of the standard features of the other players such as AM radio and basic speed adjustments.
Strobo Scope Auto mini-auto player
This tiny player is meant for an equally tiny human, and this toy machine could play 7-inch and 12-inch records. The sound wouldn’t be exactly satisfying to a music lover, though if you’re a child you couldn’t start playing vinyl on anything more adorable. We call this one “Baby’s first record player.”