We sat down with Ryan to learn more about his gramophone and how he came to make it.
What inspired you to make this product?
By 2011, I started seeing more and more people with smartphones, and one thing I noticed in particular was that they were using them to play music on. My flip phone had some songs on it, but these new phones had much improved speakers on them. I would see people playing music on their phones and instead of using headphones, they would just play music through the built-in speakers in the phone. At this point my wife had already upgraded and finally convinced me to upgrade too. I was amazed at how good the little built-in speaker was. I started tinkering in my garage looking for ways to amplify the speaker that was already built into the phone.
Can you tell us about how you designed the gramophone?
I started using musical instruments to amplify the speaker. I started by chopping damaged, unplayable trumpets, trombone, and French horns and using the bells of those instruments to make acoustic speakers. I then started looking for bigger and better ways to amplify the little speaker in the phones so I started using phonographs, gramophones, and tube radio horns. It originally started out as acoustic speakers, but phone models kept changing and with the introduction of so many tablets, I knew I needed something that could accommodate everything so I redesigned them into Bluetooth speakers.
How does your gramophone work?
These work on the same principle as a megaphone. Picture a football game where the cheerleader yells into the small end of a megaphone and it is amplified out through the large end.
Why combine a vintage gramophone horn from the '20s with modern technology?
There is something so intriguing about the mixing of technologies. I think that is why the steampunk culture is growing and why record players are making such a comeback. These speakers take modern music and give them a vintage feel. It is also really cool to listen to music from that era and feel like you are hearing it how they did.
You write on Etsy about how you made the device to match your Moto X! Why did you choose walnut and white for your phone and what did you think about when making the Bluetooth speaker to match?
I have been very drawn to Danish Mid-Century Modern furniture lately. With dressers and credenzas, it has been very popular to paint the trim white to contrast the wood drawers. I was excited to see the wood options for the new Moto X. I had to get the walnut and love how the white looks with it.
When I listened to a demo of your product, it sounded like the speaker has a vintage sound to it. Are there any special acoustics incorporated into your speaker and if yes, what were they?
Yes and no. There is nothing special that I am doing to these horns. I am using these horns the same way they were used 100 years ago. It is a very simple process. Music is going into the small end and it is being amplified out the big end. I am using modern technology to get the music to the horn, but it gets that vintage sound because it is being amplified the same way it was 100 years ago.
What's your favorite thing to play through the gramophone?
Etta James's "At Last" is always a go to when I am playing one for someone for the first time, but there are plenty of modern singers that sound amazing on these. One of my favorite songs to play is Lana del Rey's Video Games and Duffy sounds awesome too.
As I think about it, my smartphone really did change my life. I started making acoustic speakers which were inspired by my new phone. I put a couple online to see what people thought. An international publication found them and included them in an article and it blew up my little shop. Two weeks after the article hit, I had a wait list over 100 people long. I was able to quit my job as a restaurant manager two years ago, and this has been my full-time job ever since.
If you’re as inspired by Ryan’s work as we are, here’s your chance to win one of the SpeakerBlocks he created. Tweet your favorite song with the hashtag #MotoTunes for the chance to win starting at 1 p.m. CT.
Posted by the Motorola Blog Team