BDDW's Handmade Record Players

By Jaime Gillin / Published by Dwell
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When Tyler Hays founded BDDW more than a decade ago, the company wore many hats: depending on the project, it might be a design-build construction company, a recording studio, an architecture firm, or a furniture business. Over time Hays narrowed BDDW's focus down to furniture—"that's the scale I prefer to work in," he says—but he's kept his own interests remarkably broad. "I've got literally fifty hobbies," he told me over the phone, when I called to chat about one of his sideline projects: making exquisite, and exquisitely expensive, custom record players and speakers for audiophiles, under the name Phila Audio Corporation. Hays defines 'audiophile' as "a person who likes to spend too much money on stupid audio equipment," and he counts himself among them. He's been making high-end, handmade audio equipment since college, but now that he's got a fabrication shop, he makes every part of every piece of equipment, down to the bearings, excluding the motor and stylus on the record players and the drivers on the speakers.

This solid marble record player (above) weighs 500 pounds, and technically isn't for sale. He's still tweaking it to improve the sound.

This record player, with a solid leather platter on a silver-plated bronze box, is priced at $12,000.

Here's a prototype record player with a machine base from an old mill. He plans to cast it in bronze, and sell it for between $20,000 and $30,000. "Think of it as a work of art," he suggests.

Hays has already sold ten pairs of these simple, beautiful speakers, which come in a dark claro walnut and a lighter American holly. They're priced at $7,500. "For what they are—super-heavy, with amazing sound quality—they're reasonably priced," says Hays. "There are plenty of $100,000 systems out there, but they're ugly: I'd put a sheet over them before I'd put them in my house. These are for audiophiles with good taste."

Jaime Gillin


When not writing, editing, or combing design magazines and blogs for inspiration, Jaime Gillin is experimenting with new recipes, traveling as much as possible, and tackling minor home-improvement projects that inevitably turn out to be more complex than anticipated.

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