Tom Vek's unique Sleevenote hi-res music player celebrates album art

Tom Vek's Sleevenote
(Image credit: Tom Vek (via Indiegogo))

When American biographer and artist Henry Miller said, "An artist is always alone – if he is an artist. No, what the artist needs is loneliness", British cult indie-rocker Tom Vek hadn't yet been born. 

Put this truth to one side, however, and Miller could well have been speaking about Vek, whose creativity has clearly flourished during lockdown. As well as releasing his first album in six years, New Symbols, Vek has recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to release a whole new category of electronic device – a uniquely square hi-res music player called Sleevenote.

Its USP: bringing the full album-as-a-package experience to a portable music player courtesy of square-screen-hogging album art visuals. With a 1:1 retina touchscreen display that's bigger than a CD and nearly the size of a 7in record, the device is practically all screen. It also has dedicated playback buttons across the top to keep controls and interfaces away from the artwork, too. 

Sleevenote has actually been nearly 10 years in the making, since Vek's 2011 album, Leisure Seizure. It dawned on him that not everyone buying that album was going to see the graphics he'd spent so long finessing. Speaking to Engadget, Vek said “I’d been resistant to the iPod because it wasn’t a good replacement for the visual side of CDs.” 

Sleevenote is more than just a portable music player, then; it's the database of artwork that powers it. Tom Vek and developer Chris Hipgrave have built a platform for designers, labels and superfans to submit art for everyone to enjoy. The database already holds over 1000 albums, and they say more are being continually added. 

As well as being a standalone hi-res music vault for the music files you own (your WAVs and your FLACs and so on), Sleevenote will support music from streaming services Apple Music and Spotify, with more planned to be added.

Vek's crowdfunding campaign needs pledges to total £497,734 (approx $660,000) in order to meet its goal. Basically, he needs to sell at least 1000 of these units, which means that each unit costs – brace yourselves – £533 ($707). That's not exactly budget-friendly, but it is certainly unique in the portable music player realm.

If funded and produced, Sleevenote looks to be a music player of high-end calibre, with a Wolfson Class W headphone amplifier, Cirrus HQ DAC, "all-day battery" and 256GB storage. There's wi-fi and Bluetooth to boot, with the latter allowing users to connect their Bluetooth headphones or speakers to the device. There's a 3.5mm output too. 

Pledge now, and you can expect to receive yours in October 2021. That's next year's Christmas present sorted for the audiophile in your life, anyway... 


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Becky has been a full-time staff writer at What Hi-Fi? since March 2019. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, she freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 20-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance is of course tethered to a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo, This is Cabaret and The Stage. When not writing, she dances, spins in the air, drinks coffee, watches football or surfs in Cornwall with her other half – a football writer whose talent knows no bounds.