- To promote the 2021 Lexus IS, the automaker partnered with musicians Madlib and Kaytranada, the music review website Pitchfork, and Hollywood effects house SCPS to create an in-car turntable for the Lexus IS Wax Edition.
- With enough engineering, the production teams were apparently able to build a record player that doesn’t skip while driving, but most of what you see in the accompanying video is people bopping their heads in a stationary car.
- Yes, this is an idea that the auto industry tried and rejected over a half-century ago, but who’s to say in-car record players won’t make a comeback now that vinyl is once again popular?
Everything old is new again. Despite how easy it is to play just about any recorded audio in our vehicles today, sometimes you just want to spin LPs old-school style. Or, perhaps, you just want musicians Madlib and Kaytranada to promote the sound system in the new Lexus IS by debuting their new single on an in-car turntable.
First, a short history lesson. The auto industry as a whole pretty much gave up on the idea of in-car record players following the debut—and flop—of the 1956 Chrysler Highway Hi-Fi, which technically worked but required its own vinyl records and cost the equivalent of around $1950 today. In the end, only 42 of the special ultra-microgroove records were released and Chrysler discontinued the option. A few other in-car record players were sold – the RCA “Auto Victrola” turntable, the Norelco “Auto Mignon”—but automakers gave up on installing record players into cars when the cassette tape came along, and they didn’t look back.
But now we have the Lexus IS Wax Edition, which may seem like an early April Fool’s Day joke but is just a modified 2021 Lexus IS sports sedan—in a vinyl-appropriate matte black exterior paint, of course—with a record player in the glovebox that’s big enough to play full-size 12-inch vinyl records. While the turntable is a one-off project, the key here is that Lexus would like to point out that the high-fidelity vinyl sound gets pumped through the car’s Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound audio system, which has 17 speakers and an amplifier that pumps out 1800 watts of power in a 7.1 surround-sound field.
The turntable in the Wax Edition was designed with help from the custom fabrication studio SCPS, which also builds items for the movies. The record player uses 3D-printed parts along with carbon fiber and machined aluminum and features a rotating motor to stabilize the turntable when the sedan is moving.
Madlib and Kaytranada (fresh off two Grammy wins) can be seen creating their music together and listening to it in the IS Wax Edition in a two-part promotional video series called “Driven by Sound,” produced in partnership with Pitchfork.
In a statement, Lexus said, “Creating an in-car turntable that works flawlessly with the vehicle in motion was a challenge worth pursuing,” implying that piles of money are readily available for the taking at Lexus HQ.
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