Brionvega Totem rr231 stereo system transforms from minimalist art piece to functional audio machine

Even audiophiles might not be listening to music all day, so this modern take on a 70s audio system transforms into a piece of minimalist room decor when not in use.

As with almost everything in design, fashion, and culture in general, there has been a revival in interest and sales of vinyl records. Those naturally required the production of equipment that could play that old-school media and even recreated the little flaws that made them sound unique. Many modern turntables, however, are pretty basic and try to also recreate the look of their predecessors a bit too faithfully. One company, however, took inspiration from a design that was already way ahead of its time when it came out decades ago, reviving a stereo system that blends form and function in a truly unique way.

Designer: Mario Bellini (via Brionvega)

When famed Italian designer Mario Bellini created the original Totem rr231 back in 1971, he was already thinking outside the box, literally and figuratively. In contrast to the turntable designs of that period, Bellini included speakers to create a fully integrated and independent audio system. But rather than just create a set of separate pieces, the designer created a single piece that embraced minimalism ahead of current design trends.

In its “dormant” state, the Totem rr231 deceptively looks like a simple white cube with seems that run across its width and down the middle. Those seams, however, give way to two speakers, each with a two-and-a-half-way system, that swing out like the wings of a futuristic machine. Those speakers can actually be separated from the main body and positioned in other parts of the room to fill it with your favorite tunes.

The rest of the box houses the ProJect turntable and a set of buttons and dials that match the minimalist aesthetic of the Totem rr231. Unlike the original, this modern-day version naturally embraces current audio technologies, including Bluetooth connection for streaming from mobile devices. In more ways than one, Brionvega’s recreation blends the past and the present in a deceptively simple design.

Admittedly, the Brionvega Totem rr231 requires a bit more physical work to use, especially if you keep it closed in its box form. Of course, that has the benefit of having a minimalist piece of art in the room at no extra cost, but that user participation in opening the box also creates a sort of “ritual” that makes the act of listening to music more personal and, in a way, more human.