The Vamp by Paul Cocksedge


22 March 2013

A red cube with its corner sawn off is affixed to a 1960's Bakelite speaker in the studio of London-based designer Paul Cocksedge. "It's called The Vamp," says Cocksedge, as Roxy Music's Love is the Drug throbs out of the Bakelite.

The Vamp is a design that converts traditional speakers into portable bluetooth devices. Quickly hooked up to any speaker by either a two-way jack or red and black speaker wires, The Vamp connects via bluetooth to devices such as phones and laptops, and streams music from them through the speaker.

The device is currently being developed by Cocksedge's studio, which has launched a campaign on Kickstarter, the online crowd funding platform, to fund its manufacture and distribution. The project is retrospective and nostalgic, its charm being the opportunity to control classic pieces like the Bakelite speaker through an iPhone’s screen.

"The inspiration was London," says Cocksedge. "I started to see old speakers in markets, or left out in the streets with a little note left on them saying ‘Please take me.’ It got me thinking, why aren’t these speakers loved anymore? They were built for sound and built to last. I wanted to make something that could bridge the gap between these speakers and more convenient, modern bluetooth versions."

At the heart of the project is nostalgia. The Vamp cannibalises the bluetooth technology of modern speakers and redistributes it the classical speakers that were rendered redundant by that technology’s emergence. “Those old speakers gave such great sound quality and I wanted to bring that back,” says Cocksedge.

Prototype versions of The Vamp are made from metal, although the finished version - expected to launch at London Design Festival in September - will be rubberised plastic. A magnet in the device's base affixes it to speakers via a magnetic disk supplied with the product; the speakers Cocksedge has collected as part of the device's testing currently have pennies glued to their sides to provide the contact point.

The Vamp is sold in red, black and white versions for £35 through Kickstarter campaign. "People want bluetooth speakers because they're more convenient,” says Cocksedge. “Who wouldn’t want to have a portable device that is simple and easy to control. But they’re £150 or more, whereas The Vamp is cheaper and gives you a comparable sound."

The project explores similar territory to Cocksedge's 2011 Change the Record, a smartphone loudspeaker made from a distorted 12” vinyl LP. "Everything around us now is highly designed, but old speakers were more characterful and undesigned," says Cocksedge. "Both projects are celebrations of the past. Why should someone have to buy all new, expensive technology, if something cheaper can bring back that past?"

This interest in the past led Cocksedge to trial Kickstarter rather than rely on traditional manufacturers ("Would recycling and reuse really sit well with electronics companies?"). The Vamp, if successful in its campaign, will be manufactured in China and sold directly to consumers through Cocksedge's studio. "We live in a world where there isn’t a barrier to manufacturing and designers know that," he says. "Selling directly gives a designer greater control over the project."

The design of the piece is simple and blocky, so as to reference the cubic design language of traditional speakers. “Most of these speakers are angled and square, so it made sense,” says Cocksedge. “It designed itself really and graphically it forms interesting compositions when attached to a speaker.”

The project’s name plays off ideas of revamping and reusing, while also referencing an element of vampirism and parasitism within the project. "We had a few ideas for names, of which 'Mr Speaker' was one," says Cocksedge. "But I asked a friend and he preferred The Vamp. He said it would probably look like a little bloodsucking parasite when attached to a big speaker. That was the deal breaker."