DIY Turntable


I always enjoy hackers who build items that have been mass produced for years. Take Charles Altmann’s DIY Turntable. Audiophiles would have to pay an arm and a leg to get something this unique. The base and platter are made from stacks of plywood. The spindle is a Harley-Davidson Shovelhead intake valve and guide. The motor drive is actually a stepper motor. Precision speed control is provided by computer generated sine waves. His homebuilt tonearm was what got him interested in building the entire table.

[thanks bp]

34 thoughts on “DIY Turntable

  1. What blows me away about this project is that, though it appears kind of rough around the edges, there is actually an amazing degree of thought in it.

    Take, for example, the multiple layers of wood for superior dampening to a solid block. Consider the two block design for greater decoupling. Witness the clever placement of the feet for weight distribution and further vibration coupling.

    Plus the control system fascinates me. He doesn’t really elaborate on it but theoretically you could make the motor insanely accurate by using an ultra-low distortion DAC and amp pair. (Heck, when was the last time you upgraded a turntable with a better DAC!)

    All this in a turntable that can be put together out of cheap, somewhat easy to obtain parts… Schweet!

    Of course it would be a lot easier to build if you could find a premade platter that would fit.

    Anyway, it almost makes me want to get into vinyl… but I think I’m too much of a child of the 90s. sigh.

  2. Ha, I was just trying to play some vinyl on an old player of mine. Only it seems as though it is moving at 25 RPM rather than 33… Iggy Pop has never sounded sadder. I love the idea of using the audio out to control the motor, very professional hack.

  3. @ 7

    not because you are young that you can’t get into vinyl, I am 18 and I have a 600+ record collection, none of which was inherited or anything like that.

    But anyway back to this neat little project, I am concern about the wear caused to record… a bad calibration of the tone arm can cause permanent damage to the record, and a bad angle of the needle can shave the inside of the groove of the record…

  4. No, it’s not a joke. They were really selling lacquer you goop on your silicone chips to make them sound more “tubelike”.

    The freakin hilarious part is that gooping lacquer on chips probably overheats them (heat can’t get out) which I would think would shorten their lifespan.

    Here’s a site featuring more of Altmann’s products along with other junk marketed to audioidiots.

    $30,000 speaker cables anyone.

    Sorry, a bit off the subject today, but fun.

  5. Did I mention let’s hope something heavy falls on steve?
    if not, I did right there.

    this is incredibly clever and does show a lot of thought in it’s implementation.

  6. Oh, audiophiles, when will you cease to be enrage me?

    I just read the tonearm piece. It’s neat. But the best part is how he makes a tonearm out of scrap wood, cable ties and knitting needles and says it “sounds natural, probably because it’s made of wood.” [insert rolleyes emoticon]

    Then he takes this homemade crapfestival and puts an OMG SPECIAL AUDIOPHILE laquer on it and it sounds a lot better. You know what’d make it sound a lot better? Not making it out of scraps you found in the bottom of your junk drawer. Hell, even using plywood instead of just a piece of leftover pine moulding would help a lot, since it’s not going to be warping all over the place.

    It’s funny. I thought it was a super-neat project until he started getting all audiophiley near the end and then I got all disgusted. Arrgh.

  7. Josh,

    He’s also driving this mess using thread! No slippage there, no sir!

    But it sounds more natural ’cause wood is, err…, natural?

    I wonder if this whole thing is a hoax. Anyone: can you connect both coils of the stepper motor to a single speaker output? Do the coils magically separate the two phases of the signal?

  8. I will second #11 on the whole being a child of the 90s/having a whole bunch of records thing. plus shopping for records is way more fun than shopping for cds. anyone in the bay area, foothill college record swap on the 26th/knight sounds five for a dollar sale on the 27th!

    justasecond: most really expensive audiophile turntables are driven with rubber bands. it’s probably not all that different. only dj turntables are really direct drive. plus, i would assume that there is little slippage, as he was able to calibrate the turntable with a strobe light.

  9. Mike,
    But rubber bands have a frictional surface area and so can “stick” (not sure the proper term) and not slip. Thread, being round, has minimal surface area, so little friction and *large* potential for slippage. (Have you seen *anything* driven with a string as a belt?)

    Oh, and tension is completely non-reproducable.

  10. “We are not able to provide an accurate description why the “Tube-o-lator” stuff actually works.”

    “The mechanism behind the filtering abilities of this specifically designed lacquer is of electrical or electromechanical nature.”

    This guy realised how much audiophiles are clueless and willing to pay for all things labeled “high-end”.

    No performance measurements, no graphics, yet plenty of untested claims.

    The ridiculously priced cables take the cake tho.

  11. justasecond: agreed. my point was more that it wouldnt be that hard to replicate most high end turntables by using an industrial band. also, to adjust the tension correctly, he could create some sort of threaded rod assembly that held the two bases together.

    with that being said, some of this guys shit is ridiculous, tube goop included.

  12. I think adding a threaded rod would negate the point of having a seperate box for the motor, the vibration from the motor box would be transferred to the turntable box. the friction of the two seperate boxes against the surface they’re laying on should be high enough to keep them apart, since they weigh quite a bit.

  13. interesting idea, but as stated before there were some pretty dumb mistakes (I always thought germans were good at designing stuff ;-0) like the thread drive.. And using a $1200 dac and $1000 amp to drive a fricking stepper motor. holy crap!

    I think that a better hack would have been the motorcycle converted to run of biodiesel… But overall this was a pretty cool hack, I just wish it wasn’t so damn audiophiles

  14. patrick, the friction is fine for keeping the boxes apart, the only issue is that, when he moves the turntable, he has to properly realign them to get the tension in the thread correct. perhaps some type of removeable jig that would go between the two blocks to properly space them could be fashioned.

  15. Some of you guys are making some pretty unfair criticisms…

    First of all, the idea that vinyl ownership is outdated is only true if all you listen to are a few of the latest pop releases on CD. Great music is great music regardless -and great music can be found for next to nothing because idiots like you think it’s junk and throw it out/sell it! Vinyl addicts like me can build whole collections for next to nothing. And the satisfaction of owning and using vinyl, digging for old rarities, finding and loving stuff you’ve never heard of… I couldn’t do it with any other media. The work of people like Josh Davis simply would not be possible without the enormous caches of vinyl that exist practically untouched over the world… huge vaults of sounds waiting to be uncovered and rediscovered. The turntable is not the best way to listen to the latest chart releases. But that’s not why we own them.

    As for the audiophile thing… yes, a lot of ‘audiophile’ claims may well be nonsense, they may well be scientifically founded. More likely they are products of combinations off several higher order effects. Who cares. The whole point of audio engineering really is that listening to music is ENTIRELY SUBJECTIVE. In the same way as I do not see the same colour blue as you do, I also do not hear music in the same way you do… if a listener prefers a certain technique, for whatever reason, you cannot argue with this. It is an entirely personal thing.

    Elliot, keep up the great work mate you’re doing really damn well in spite of being so busy. I love reading hackaday although more and more I do wish I would just ignore the comments button…

    If you love music, the ability to play vinyl will make you a very happy person. If you love hacking, building a phonograph is a great project. I like

  16. liam, while i agree with you entirely, accusing people of leveling harsh criticisms, then refering to them as idiots because they threw away their records is probably not the right way to go about convincing people how awesome vinyl is. this is perhaps my biggest problem with the whole vinyl/audiophile scene. most people involved can’t wrap their heads around the fact that there are those out there for whom music does not play a huge role in their lives, and perhaps like disposable pop/aren’t willing to shell out crazy money for a nice stereo.

    To quote Nick Hornby “So, yes, it’s disposable, as if that makes any difference to anyone’s perceptions of the value of pop music. But then, shouldn’t we be sick of the Moonlight Sonata by now? Or CHristina’s World? Or The Importance of Being Earnest? They’re empty! Nothing left! We sucked ’em dry! That’s what gets me: The very people who are snotty about the disposability of pop will go over and over again to see Lady Bracknell say ‘A handbag?’ in a funny voice. The don’t think the joke’s exhausted itself?”. My point (and I think Nick Hornby’s point) being that, music is a personal thing. It’s ok to like obscure (which, for the record, dj shadow is not) music in the same way that it is perfectly ok to like mindless pop.

    Music is a personal thing, and if someone throws away their vinyl, there is nothing wrong with that. Who are you to judge what they do or do not like. It is perfectly possible to like music and not like vinyl. And the ability to play it will not necessarily make you a “happy person”.

  17. Liam,

    “The whole point of audio engineering really is that listening to music is ENTIRELY SUBJECTIVE.”

    People are paying $7000 for a power cord. $7000 for a “tweak” that they can’t identify in double-blind tests. This indicates that any improvement they think they’re hearing is entirely due to the placebo effect. They might as well give me the money and I’ll say a prayer for them and Almighty Odin will grant them a widened soundstage and a dynamic low end. The two are equivalent, and provably so. To deny that flies in the face of rationality.

    There’s audiophile stuff like nice turntables and good speakers (I have several of each) and then there’s audiophile stuff like $400 wax you put on your ICs (honestly, wtf), $80 magic covers you put on your CDs and $30k power cables. No one objects to the former.

  18. yea sorry guys but have been buzy but must admitt this hack is crap as for somthing heavy falling on me it already has but never mind u guys cheer me up so is it retro week or what lp record players come on we can do better than that just a matter of intrest going to upload some pics of my hacks and my family love this site . just had a right struggle with windows xp trieing to format a old tower got it in the end thoe LOTS OF LOVE STEVE THE TROLL PMSL

  19. mike, are you sure liam isn’t trying to alienate people? afterall, he’s just said that he builds his colection off the cretins throwing things away :)btw guys, note what happens when nobody gets drawn by steve: blissful silence

  20. The whole point of a good turntable design is that it is acoustically dead. Good turntables have all sorts of suspension besides disconnecting the motor, because speakers can feedback into anything from the platter to the tonearm. Making turntables out of wood guarantees that this won’t happen. Good tables are a mix of thick rubber and metal. Plus, what’s the point of making a record player if need an mp3/Cd player to run it’s motor? That’s like making a steam engine out of prius parts.

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