Sound Design: The Indiana-Made Phone-O-Graph

A Broad Ripple carpenter tools a stylish speaker for backyard barbecues.
Phone-o-graph Acoustic Amplifier, $100,
Designer Ben Leffers makes a dock for an iPhone or iPod that looks like it belongs in a Wes Anderson film—a Victrola horn amplifies your Adele playlist. But the gadget, called the Phone-o-graph (get it?), appears more self-conscious than it is. The inspiration was pure Hoosier sensibility: Leffers wanted a similar $500 speaker from Restoration Hardware and knew he could make one himself for a fraction of the cost.

The guts are basic. A PVC pipe funnels music to the horn, which Leffers found at an Indian market in Lafayette Square. The design, though, is deceptively thoughtful. Hardwood pins allow the box to come apart for repairs, and you can set a drink on the Marmoleum top without leaving a mark. The wood is regionally sourced, and waxed to make the speaker waterproof.

Leffers is guided by self-reliance and a soulful relationship with materials—and his tools. Down in his basement workshop, the 34-year-old creates items (including a hand-plow garden tool and bamboo ski poles) with his granddad’s hammer and an “ancestral anvil” that belonged to his wife’s great-great-grandfather, a blacksmith. Leffers is realistically good-humored about his aesthetic. “I like old-timey stuff,” he says, “and if I’m not careful, I’m going to run right into obscurity.” Paging Anderson’s prop master.