This Spinning Speaker Adds a Doppler Effect to Live Music

Sophia Smith

Sophia is an editor at Make:. When she’s not greasing editorial gears, she likes to run, ride, climb, and lift things, and make lo-tech goods like zines, desserts, and altered clothing. @sophiuhcamille

82 Articles

By Sophia Smith

Sophia is an editor at Make:. When she’s not greasing editorial gears, she likes to run, ride, climb, and lift things, and make lo-tech goods like zines, desserts, and altered clothing. @sophiuhcamille

82 Articles

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Undulating chords bounce out from a spinning, double-horned apparatus reminiscent of a phonograph. It fills the space around it with a Doppler-like effect that layers differing volumes of sound waves before they hit your ear.

Photo by David Kindler

The mechanics are simple enough. The rotation is like that of a slow turntable, powered by a flat belt and servomotor. The horn is mounted to a lathe-turned steel shaft that is in turn mounted to tapered roller bearings and spoked brackets, which allow for continual air passage.

Photo by Eric Futran

Photo by Eric Futran

“It’s an outgrowth from my geometric imagination,” says Chicago-based Maker Ian Schneller. “The octagonally fluted shapes happen to coalesce, design-wise, with the visual aesthetic.”

The spinning double horn speaker, as it’s called, has caught the interest of many notable musicians, including Jack White and Andrew Bird, for its curious capability to be both intuitive and magical, almost an instrument in itself. People began to cry in the studio when Bird played through the speaker for the first time, and museum attendees have stayed at exhibits where it’s displayed for extended periods of time, even lying down on their backs on the floor to listen to the composition.

[youtube https://youtu.be/dOAW5rol9MY]

“It slows you down and brings you into the moment,” Schneller says. “It transports you that way, because there’s really no escape.”