It isn’t cheap, but Mario Bellini’s 1970s Totem audio system is a thing of beauty. It has also been reissued by Brionvega.
That’s an unusual step on the face of it, but not necessarily when it comes to Brionvega. It has form for bringing back archive pieces. Perhaps most famously, David Bowie’s audio system of choice, the 1960s Brionvega Radiofonografo record player. You might recall it also returning in a red finish not too long ago.
It’s very desirable and if you want the perfect audio addition for a 1960s house, that really is it. But if you want something space-age and ‘70s, you want to check out Bellini’s Totem, also known as the rr231.
No, it isn’t cheap. But this isn’t a cheap reissue. This is a collector’s piece handmade by artisans, but one that has been updated subtly for the modern era. Visitors will see this as a 1970s icon (which it is) but it also provides a practical audio solution for your home. Especially with the resurgence of vinyl.
The system was designed back in 1971 so yes, this is a 50th-anniversary reissue. And the design was based on the cube. But like the Radiofonografo, a modular piece that is able to be bot an open audio system or something more compact when not in use.
When folded down, this is pretty much that cube – and looking nothing like any kind of record player before or after. Brionvega describes it as a piece of ‘modern art’ and I wouldn’t disagree.
Playing your music involves a ‘ritual’ of opening out the cube, swinging out5 the speakers to either side. But note that the speakers can be removed if you want to place them in different parts of the room. Note that each speaker is equipped with a 2-and-a-half-way speaker system (one mechanical reflex loading woofer, one mid-woofer and one tweeter).
Beyond the speakers is the player itself, which is every bit the space-age dream. Just look at that amazing control panel. You might also notice those subtle additions too. Well, some of them.
The new Totem has AM and FM radio but is now joined by DAB+ reception. It also has a ProJect turntable with Ortofon cartridge within that handmade wooden cabinet. Other details include a 125W + 125W self-limited amplifier, line inputs for external sources, a headphone connector and Bluetooth connectivity so you can stream audio via the system, with the Totem incorporating both aptX HD and a standalone TI PCM converter.
So yes, you can play your vinyl and listen to the radio as originally designed. or you can stream your music to it and enjoy some DAB reception too. The best of both worlds. No cassette, but there wasn’t one here in the first place as far as I know.
Want one? I know I do, but that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. This handmade and remade classic sells for €15,000.