If you are worried about what you will do for music once the whole digital age thing comes crashing down, and you just never got around to trashing your cassette collection, then this is for you.
ELBOW is a minimalistic portable cassette player. While the audio cassette itself lacked the needed support to make it in into the new millennium, there apparently remains a niche audience addicted to wow, flutter and tape hiss. Well, actually, it’s more about missing the interaction between the medium and the device that brings it to life. If all you know is “Siri…Play such and such” then you really wouldn’t understand. fact is, the tactile intimacy of physical formats is dearly missed—just look at the resurgence of vinyl.
And that’s where ELBOW comes in. According the PR, “Despite being such an ordinary everyday object, the audio cassette is not just a medium – it’s a cultural icon. Therefore we feel it should not be obscured inside a device, but brought to the forefront of user’s attention. By exposing the cassette to the elements, ELBOW offers a fresh user experience, allowing the listener to directly appreciate the mechanical motion, or even forcibly interrupt playback. The music player becomes more like an additional element – in a way, the cassette plays itself.”
So, how’s it work? Pretty simple idea really, and one that must be making the designers of the original Walkmans smack their foreheads and say “Why didn’t we think of that!?” With a typical cassette player, a capstan and a pinch roller pull the tape over a magnetic head at a constant speed. Additional mechanics rotate the take-up and supply reels to maintain the speed and as tape unloads from one reel to the other, clutches, belts and springs adjust the speed of both pulleys. Alternatively, capstan and reel pulleys can have separate motors, so, suffice it say there’s a lot going on inside that relatively small box.
In ELBOW, just one pulley is used to drive the tape. The biaxial arm rotates in two directions -moving it up enables the insertion of a cassette, moving it to the side allows to manually switch the playing direction—sort of like a tonearm on a turntable. A multi-function control wheel is used to turn the device off, play a cassette adjust volume and change direction.
From the time the concept was first unveiled in 2015, until recently, ELBOW has been little more than a side project by the audiovisual art duo BrainMonk. However we know understand that there’s a chance it may see the light of day. Musiccrowns.org reports that “ELBOW has entered prototype stage, where they are figuring out the physical and financial realities of the project.”
For more information go to ELBOW Cassette Player