Under Water Record Player Is Very Mesmerizing

Once in a while we get a really awesome tip about a technical art installation — there sometimes isn’t much info behind it, but the idea and concept behind it alone sparks our curiosity. That is most definitely the case for this submerged record player.

Artist [Evan Holm] has created this awesome installation which features a black pool of water — with a built-in record player. He’s somehow waterproofed the player itself, and integrated the controls and needle into a tree, which is part of the installation.

He has a very long and artsy description about the meaning of it, how it represents loss and mystery, and the collective subconscious of the human race… We just see it as a really cool hack. There’s also a full documentary about how he sets up the installation at various shows.

We’ve included both videos following the break — it is very tempting to try recreating something similar!

[Thanks Brendan!]

36 thoughts on “Under Water Record Player Is Very Mesmerizing

  1. Hack – or – Hoax?

    I find it hard to believe the turntable would function under water. Seems like the water would damp almost all the signal between the record and the pickup needle.

    Would be easier to make with a hidden MP3 player somewhere in the mix.

      1. Try to move really fast through water. Notice any difficulty compared to air?
        That’s what is meant by ‘damping’, the higher frequency components of the audio would become all but lost.
        It takes more energy to move something that weighs more, and even more energy to move it through something more viscous than air.
        I imagine the sound would be muddy at best.

        1. I’ve seen DJ’s put a few coins on the needle head and arm while playing music with a lot of high and low frequencies (drum and bass), mostly to keep the needle in the groove of the record, but they also claim that they get better frequency response. The viscosity of the water would have a similar effect to the coins on the head, pushing the needle into the grove. So as long as the pickup (Piezoelectric, magnetic or Strain-Gauge) in the head is out of the water as it appears to be, I would not expect to hear too much frequency dampening of the sound.

          1. Or he could simply be using the water’s movement to weigh down the needle, all he’d need is a piece of angled plastic or metal submerged alongside the needle, the spinning of the record moves the water enough to add the downward force required on the needle (similar to how a spoiler adds downward force onto a car)… As for beating the viscosity of the water, he could simply be using a more powerful motor (with more torque) and/or gears to make up for the loss of speed while the platform is submerged. Or perhaps all that is unnecessary, it might work just fine under water…

          2. Those coins are generally there to keep the head on the vinyl, especially in club environments, when you have a few tens of kW of sound system, generally in close proximity to the turntables.

            The water wouldn’t have anything like this effect here. [netbeard] is entirely correct in his reasoning behind why this just wouldn’t work!

      1. It does interfere with intimate contact and thus damps the higher frequencies. This leads to the myth of cleaner sound, less hiss. Much like defocusing makes a lower def image look better.

  2. Apart from all the usual pretentious arty “meaning of life” twaddle, all he’s done is make a record player very wet. Having said that…. I actually really quite like this ! :-)

  3. the platter is belt driven (by a stepper motor hanging from the tree, notice, they are two of these, and there are two turntables) .. the weight on the record is obviously to ensure the record stays flat (we often use these on old 33/45/72rpm records that aren’t perfectly flat, to avoid the needle from skipping) the arm is at the end of a huge rod, the weight of the arm itself is probably enough to keep the needle in place .. as for frequency loss, he uses a mixer, probably to compensate the loss of *some* frequencies (just watch the pseudo “making of”).. I don’t believe this to be a hoax, but I’m pretty sure he’ll have to change the cartridge needles a few times during a week due to oxidation .. just remember you can build your own turntable with a needle and a peace of paper shaped in a cone, so, why not ?

  4. At the surface of the record the water is moving along with the vinyl, from the boundary zone effect. Compensate for hydroplaning with more down force.
    The myth of wet vinyl is just a way to kill highs in the groove, not make it cleaner sounding and unless cleaned replay is worse. Worst of all would be hard water deposits.

  5. The sound is bad enough that the “submerged” (actually just a thin layer of water at the contact point) playing is credible; note that the cartridge contacts stay dry so the only real challenge here is keeping the drive motor working underwater. It *does* look cool though.

    You can generate your own BS “artist’s statement” here: http://www.artybollocks.com

    1. Taken as an art installation, which is what this is, it’s very nice. As far as the audio quality goes? Abysmally clipped. Only skipped through the “build” video… If I were doing this, I’d probably build a magnetically coupled driver/driven turntable with a liner in between (or the driver table/motor in a sealed case) to keep the drive motor nice and dry.

  6. Great idea and I am going to make one myself for the summer time. I dont think the water affects the sound too much as I dug around the net and found other projects that people recreated as a homage to this. I love the idea of bringing elements of nature into the set up. Because we all know records sound very soulful and natural as compared to digital mediums. I might make mine portable to take to the park ad such. the looks and attention alone would be worth it. I figure that it is belt driven and not direct drive as per the spinning arm that comes down from above. Maybe a magnetic driven platter would fit the bill and maybe not. trial and error are the way to a successful build. Kudos to You sir. You have won many audiophiles hearts today.

  7. Hello Hack-a-day and fellow commenters.

    This is Evan, the person who created these turntables.

    There is no trickery here- these turntables work just as viewed on these video documentations. I’ve been working and re-working the engineering behind the installation for about two years.

    For serious inquiries into how this is pulled off feel free to contact me though my website. http://www.evanholm.com

    To those bashing on art- I’m sorry you feel alienated. I try to be as transparent and approachable as I can with my creative pursuit so please don’t group me with what is perceived as high minded elitists. I work very very hard to bring these creations to the public.

    Thanks and enjoy!


  8. I dont’ get the comments about sound quality. Of course the sound quality is going to be affected, probably mostly in a reduction of high-frequency content. But who cares? The point of this isn’t to create high fidelity; it’s to make art.

    And for those who don’t get the artistic pretense behind this work (of which I include myself), isn’t it enough to just appreciate it as a interesting hack? Isn’t it enough to look at this and think, “wow, that’s unusual and quirky and fun.” You aren’t required to walk away from this and have your entire world view change or have some deep revelation. It doesn’t have to be anything more than just cool.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.