Shout “enhance!” a few times at your computer like you’re in some kind of CSI-type show, or just peer more closely, and you might notice something odd in this 2021 Lexus IS’ glove box. An arm, a needle, a vinyl record … yup, that’s a turntable. In the glovebox. In 2021. And if you aren’t a turntablist, or a vinyl enthusiast, you might not recall that records skip.
Before even the eight-track player, a few companies experimented with in-car record players, and it was a goofy extravagance that never really worked all that well. Because, well, records skip, even with specialized spring-isolated enclosures—especially when installed by indifferent dealers back in the day.
But these early systems were state-of-the-art, one of the only ways at the time to play music in a car beside the radio. We’ve basically transcended physical media at this point with audio streaming and MP3s and what not, so maybe Lexus decided the time is ripe to remix the idea. Vinyl is cool now rather than just the best option people had at one point. So Lexus hired a fabricator, and brought in Madlib and KAYTRANADA, both DJs and producers, to consult on the build and actually cut a new track.
The physics issues haven’t changed since poorly-installed Highway Hi-Fi record players drove their Dodge and Plymouth owners crazy. G-forces can tug on the motor, changing the record’s rotation and thus playback speed, and bumps can of course make the needle jump. Lexus upgraded their 3D-printed, carbon fiber turntable with a stepper motor to help with g-forces, a tone arm with highly-tunable tension settings, and a silicone pad under the record to absorb vibrations. Plus, the setup motors out of the glovebox quite dramatically, and plays up to 12-inch records through the IS’s renowned Mark Levinson sound system.
It is not clear if Lexus is aware of the irony here, but this new Lexus concept has an interesting parallel. Guess what the last car on sale to offer a standard in-dash cassette player was?
The 2010 Lexus SC 430, as detailed in our list of automotive lasts. We don’t see Lexus installing a retro-cool tape deck in a future concept, but who knows?
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