Scratchy Brings Digital Clarity To The Vinyl World

If you walk the halls of audiophilia, you may be aware that there has been a huge amount of work put in to software designed to clean up older audio recordings without compromising the quality of the recording itself. Sometimes the results can be amazing, such as when a stereo image is created from parallel mono recordings made before stereo was even a glint in the eye of a 1930s EMI engineer.

Bob Widlar on analogue versus digital. Original: EDN
[Bob Widlar] on analogue versus digital. Original: EDN.
But what if you are at home, without the benefit of a state-of-the-art studio or high-end digital signal processing? How can you then have pop and crackle free sound from your hi-fi when you put on a piece of vinyl? [Paul Wallace] may just have the answer, he’s made a smartphone app called Scratchy which listens to the output of a turntable, identifies the track being played, and plays the appropriate MP3 file for a digital experience from vinyl. It uses the algorithm published by Shazam to recognize tunes. The software also has a learn mode during which it can be taught about new records in the collection. The app itself is written using the Xamarin framework and has its source code in his GitHup repository, so it’s possible it could be produced for other platforms as well as Android.

Now vinyl purists will be speechless with horror at this wanton desecration of their format while audiophiles will be fuming at the smeary-in-the-midrange MP3s, but we can see its appeal if your vinyl is on the grubby side. It’s fair to say though that the stereo here won’t be sporting it, you’ll tear our analogue signal path from our cold dead hands. Take a look for yourselves, he’s put up a video showing it in operation.

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Record Players Explained for the Streaming Generation

How do you consume your music, these days? Aside from on the radio, that is. Do you play MP3 or other files on your phone and computer, or perhaps do you stream from an online service? If you’re really at the cutting edge though you’ll do none of those things, because you’ll be playing it on vinyl.

The legendary Technics SL1200 direct-drive turntable, as used by countless DJs. Dydric [CC BY-SA 2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons.
The legendary Technics SL1200 direct-drive turntable, as used by countless DJs. Photo by Dydric CC-BY-SA 2.5
A few years ago reporting on a resurgence of sales of vinyl records was something you would never have expected to see, but consumer tastes are unpredictable. Our red-trousered and extravagantly bearded hipster friends have rediscovered the glories of the format, and as a result it’s popping up everywhere. For those of us who are old enough to have genuinely been into the format before it was cool again, the sight of Sergeant Pepper and Led Zeppelin II on 12″ at outrageous prices on a stand at the local supermarket is a source of amusement. It’s good to see your first love back in vogue again, but is it really the £20($25) per album kind of good?

With the turntable having disappeared as an integral part of the typical hi-fi setup the new vinyl enthusiast is faced with a poor choice of equipment. Often the best available without spending serious money at an audiophile store is a USB device with the cheapest possible manufacture, from which the playback will be mediocre at best. We’ve lost the body of collective knowledge about what makes a good turntable to almost thirty years of CDs and MP3s, so perhaps it’s time for a quick primer.

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Help Decipher the DEFCON Badge

The 23rd DEFCON — the Western Hemisphere’s largest hacker conference — doesn’t start until tomorrow but Thursday has become the de facto start for regulars. [Brian] and I rolled into town this afternoon and are working on gathering as much information as possible about the badge challenge.

This year the badge is a 7″ vinyl record. Traditionally the badge alternates years of electronic badges and ones that aren’t. Spend your weekend pulling your hair our trying to solve the puzzles. Check out all the pictures and information (updated as we gather it) and work together collaboratively for a solution by requesting to join the crew on the Badge Hacking page.

Hackaday Breakfast on Sunday

Iocn of Coffee CupIf you’re in town Sunday morning, come nurse your hangover with [Brian], [Eric], and me. We’re headed to Va Bene Caffè at 10:30am on 8/9/15. It’s just across the street in the Cosmopolitan. Request to join this event and I’ll send you a reminder so you don’t forget. You can also hit me up on Twitter for a reminder. See you then (and don’t forget to bring hardware to show off if you have some!).

PS- The Hackaday WiFi Hat is in play. Anyone have the chops to hack it this year?

Glowing Super Bowl helmets

glowing-football-helmets-adafruit

These geeky Superbowl decorations glow thanks to the EL panel hack which [Becky Stern] created. It’s almost impossible to make out in this image, but the EL panels have been applied to the surface of the helmet. On the San Francisco helmet you can just make out the black connector and cord at the bottom of the F.

El panels are a lot like EL wire (but they’re flat) in that the phosphors are excited when connected to a high voltage AC supply. You can cut the panels into shapes without a problem. The technique used here is to create a black vinyl mask to go over the top of the panel. This makes cutting the panel a lot easier.

The mask sticker is made on a vinyl cutter. [Becky] is a master at using the vector tool as you can see in the video after the break. She outlined each team logo with paths to create a file which the cutter can use. From there it took several tries to get the sticker just right as the curve of the helmet distorts the logos just a bit. Once it was dialed in she stuck the vinyl on the El panel and cut around the perimeter.

The Adafruit team sure loves to use electroluminescent accents.

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Ice record single needs six hours in the deep freeze before you can listen

ice-record

This delightful marketing ploy requires the listener to fabricate their own record out of ice. The band Shout Out Louds wanted to make a splash with their newest single. So they figured out how to make a playable record out of ice. The main problem with this is the grooves start to degrade immediately when the ice begins to melt. So they shipped a mold of the record and a bottle of water to a select few listeners (just ten in all). Hear the result in the video after the break.

Now if you want to make something like this for yourself we can help you out just a bit. The mold is made of silicone and it wasn’t so long ago that we saw a guide for those new to mold making. The raw material isn’t that hard to find either. The project above tried several different approaches and found the best results can be attained with plain old distilled water. No, the one hard part is figuring out how to make your own master. If you’ve got a way of doing this in the home lab, please tells us about it!

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Toner transfer for resist and silk screen using printable vinyl

This toner transfer method uses a different material than we normally see. The red sheet being peeled back isn’t toner transfer paper. It’s printable vinyl used for both the resist and the silk screen.

The application process is almost the same as any other toner transfer PCB fabrication material. The printable vinyl stick is first adhered to a piece of paper before feeding it through a laser printer. It is acceptable to clean the vinyl with alcohol before printing if you think there may be a finger print or other oil on its surface. After printing it is carefully aligned with the board and ironed on.

[Mincior Vicentiu] thinks there are a few big benefits to this material. It seems that as you heat the toner it expands and hardens, but the vinyl actually softens to make room for this. We can imagine that this helps alleviate the smudging that sometimes occurs when ironing toner that is simply printed on paper. The other advantage is that the vinyl peels off quite easily after ironing, where as you need to soak paper in water and carefully massage it off of the toner.

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

3D Printing Records

3D Printed Record

This is a working record created with a 3D printer. [Amanda] came up with a process that converts audio files into 3D models. These models can be printed and played on a standard record player.

The real work is done by a Processing sketch that creates a STL file. [Amanda] started off by trying to create a sine wave. She used this test to optimize the printing process. Then she used Python to extract audio data from WAV files and modified the processing script to process the data. After more tweaking, she was able to get a reasonable signal to noise ratio and minimize distortion.

The resulting records have a sample rate of 11 kHz and 5-6 bit resolution. The sound quality isn’t going to be the same as commercially pressed vinyl, but you can still make out the song.

Objet Connex 500 was used to print the records. This UV printer has a 600 dpi resolution, which is means it’s more accurate than extrusion printers. Your mileage may vary using different printers, but all of the Processing and Python code is available with the project write up.

After the break, watch [Amanda] spin some 3D printed records.

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