The idea of a record console might seem like a throwback to the days of bellbottoms, shag carpet and really bad sound — but Scott and Debra Salyer are hoping the old school concept can make a comeback. With some modern-day techniques and bleeding edge hi-fi to help it along, of course.
Scott cut his teeth in the recording studio, while his wife Debra has always had an eye for design. So, after teaming up to make some original recording equipment consoles and furniture in their spare time, the San Diego couple decided to follow that passion into designing high-concept hi-fi equipment that combines Scott’s audiophile known-how with Debra’s design skills. Now, the couple runs Wrensilva, a hi-fi design and production firm they started a few years ago. Through the company, they build a gorgeous retro future we never got to see.
With the company gearing up for the release of its first-ever small console, the Wrensilva Loft ($2,999), which clocks in at several thousand dollars cheaper than their typical full-size rigs, we chatted with the couple about everything from design to if they really think the old-school record console is ready for a modern day renaissance.
“At the end of the day we’d be in the shop hanging out together and listening to records, which admittedly don’t hold up too well because of the sawdust,” Scott joked. “But, both of us had this affinity for the consoles that were in our childhood. I was coming from a recording studio musician background, and wanting to get back into building something that did more than just sit there like a coffee table. I wanted to make something that truly enriched your life, because music is what enriches us a couple.”
Their larger consoles range in price from $6,000 to $10,000, and feature stunning industrial design and a laundry list of top shelf audio gear. Their flagship console, the M1, houses a Ortofon 2m Red MM Cartridge, and IcePower amplifiers from Bang & Olufsen, just to start. Then, when they can’t find a piece of tech that will fit what they need, Scott and Debra make it themselves — like many of the speakers housed in their cabinets. Not surprisingly, their products are stunning. They combine retro design with modern sensibilities to serve as both a stereo and centerpiece for a room.
They also try to source as much as they can from U.S. companies, from the turntables to the responsibly harvested wood that makes their cabinets.
“We only use two turntable companies, one is an American company that has been making incredible turntables in New Jersey, a company a husband and wife started 40 years ago,” Scott said. “Another is a new company out of Boston that makes awesome stuff and is wonderful to deal with. For the turntables, that was very important to us. We just want it to sound amazing.”
With the Loft, Debra said they aimed for a design someone didn’t “have to plan their living room around.” One of the most interesting challenges has been putting their own stamp on the console style, and Debra explains they sometimes spend years designing a unit to make sure the form really does meet the function.
“Being woodworkers, we love vintage design and just the craftsmanship. So, for us coming up with something, the last thing we wanted to do was take an old design and copy it,” Debra said. “We wanted to make something new. I love modern furniture, too. We look at the proportions, the wood and metal, the base, and all the different things you can do. We wanted to make something new for the future.”
Scott said they also spent a lot of time engineering their way around the biggest flaw in pretty much any all-in one console, which dates back to when The Beatles and The Monkees were still putting out new releases on a regular basis: Finding a way to actually be able to crank up the music, without having the vibration from the speakers wreak havoc on the turntable mechanism.
“I knew it’d be an issue, but you realize just how incredibly powerful sound waves can be, and how they want to make everything shake. Doing it at this level and battling it,” he said. “The audiophile crowd, the first thing they’ll tell you is you can’t put a turntable and speakers into a cabinet, so we worked really hard to overcome the issues that can create. We started with the sound and built around it. One thing that makes our consoles special is the obsession with battling that noise.”
Debra explained one tactic they’ve mastered is isolating the speakers in their own enclosure to the point they almost “float,” then dampening around them, and the turntable, to isolate those functions.
“The whole console design started with the sound,” Scott added. “When we decided to do it, it wasn’t like ‘Hey, lets get off the shelf speakers and put electronics into credenza. it was hey, let’s build our own and design our own speakers for the situation they’ll be used in. then start by getting that right, and start to build around it.
With the Loft available for purchase now, Debra said she’s still amazed at the reception and market they’ve been able to carve out in high-end hi-fi. With vinyl sales growing stronger, she said they hope Wrensilva has a long and vibrant future ahead.
“One of the biggest things for me was how receptive people have been to it, especially this new generation of millennials coming up,” she said. “They have the world at their fingertips, a buffet of music for free, but they want to come back to something analog and own something, and appreciate the art.”