Brionvega’s Bellini reissue is the ultimate in ’70s hi-fi design

Brionvega’s Mario Bellini reissue is the ultimate in 1970s hi-fi design

Brionvega re-releases Mario Bellini’s RR231 Totem, a beautiful reminder of the heyday of immersive and stand-alone audio systems

Italian audio specialist Brionvega has taken a step back with its latest product, a reissue of a modernist classic. The RR231 Totem was originally designed by Mario Bellini in 1970, at the height of the interplay between electronics, pop art and high design. In designing the stand-alone architectural piece, Bellini created a purist half-meter white cube that unfolded into a state-of-the-art (for the time) stereo system, incorporating a turntable and AM / FM radio, with concealed controls revealed by unfolding the fenders.

The Totem Pole went into production the following year, garnering appropriate cult following and finding its way into MoMA’s permanent design collection, one of 23 objects it owns by the Italian designer. Bellini’s approach to technology was also recently celebrated at Cooper Hewitt; he is one of a select group of designers who have paved the way for a more ascetic and human relationship with technology.

Although Bellini’s electronic designs, notably for Italian maker Olivetti, were constrained by the limits of the technology of the time, he still brought a strong graphic and sculptural sensibility to the genre. To celebrate Totem’s 50th anniversary, Brionvega has reissued the RR231 in a new updated edition. Sold through the MoMA Design Store, the new model retains the exact same shape but finds room for DAB, a USB output, and revised and improved speakers (three on each “wing”).

Numbered and signed by Bellini, the Totem Brionvega RR231 is a beautiful reminder of the heyday of immersive and autonomous audio systems. We’ve seen several sleek attempts to rekindle the physical presence of music in interiors, from new stereo consoles to bold sculptural speakers that serve as the centerpiece of a room.

Thanks to Brionvega’s continued effort to bring their impressive archives to life, you can now go back to basics with Bellini’s original brilliance. In its heyday, the RR231 could be purchased alongside the TS502 folding radio by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper, and proto-Memphis forms of the RR126 stereo system by Achilles and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni.

The company still works with contemporary designers, offering products like the Michael Young ts217 WeariT portable speaker. §

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