I’ve Got Two Turntables And A Laser Engraver

Digital media provides us with a lot of advantages. For something like recording and playing back music, digital copies don’t degrade, they can have arbitrarily high quality, and they can be played in a number of different ways including through digital streaming services. That being said, a number of people don’t feel like the digital experience is as faithful to the original sound as it could be and opt for analog methods instead. Creating analog copies of music is a much tougher matter though, as [Marco] demonstrates by using a laser engraver to produce vinyl records.

[Marco] started this month-long project by assembling and calibrating the laser engraver. It has fine enough resolution to encode analog data onto a piece of vinyl, but he had to create the software. The first step was to generate the audio sample, then process it through a filter to remove some of the unwanted frequencies. From there, the waveform gets made into a spiral, accounting for the changing speed of the needle on the record as it moves to the center. Then the data is finally ready to be sent to the laser engraver.

[Marco] did practice a few times using wood with excellent success before moving on to vinyl, and after some calibration of the laser engraver he has a nearly flawless 45 rpm record ready to hit the turntable. It’s an excellent watch if not for anything than seeing a working wood record. We’ve actually seen a similar project before (without the wood prototyping), and one to play records from an image, but it’s been quite a while.

Thanks to [ZioTibia81] for the tip!

29 thoughts on “I’ve Got Two Turntables And A Laser Engraver

  1. “a number of people don’t feel like the digital experience is as faithful to the original sound as it could be and opt for analog methods instead”

    But this analog record was made from a *digital* audio file.

    1. Maybe they meant the whole experience? Like, holistic-whole? There’s something much more elemental about albums as opposed to tracks, and listening to something like Metallica’s black album, or Pink Floyd’s The Wall, they’re kind of just… better… with full attention.

      At least, that’s my experience, but then again, I just *like* records. They’re neat.

    2. They are referring to the typical compressed digital audio file such as MP3 that indeed does degrade sound. WMV and other lossless audio files lose very little, if any of the experience.

      1. WMV is a Microsoft Video file format. WMA is Windows Media Audio, and it’s lossy compressed. If you want lossless compressed audio there’s FLAC, Free Lossless Audio Codec.

        1. You’re absolutely right. I meant to type WMA and that was wrong as well (though there was a lossless version of WMA). I should have said WAV as that’s what I was actually thinking. So much for typing without thinking.

        2. WMA has a lossless codec amongst all the lossy ones. I used it exclusively for putting my music onto my Zune back in the day. I would have used FLAC if the Zune supported it. Eventually I used FLAC on a Rock Boxed iPod classic.

  2. “Digital copies don’t degrade…”
    Bit rot.
    And what about Digital storage media that you can’t access because there isn’t a physically working player?
    Think about the now-obsolete nonstandard tape drives and floppy discs (although these may predate Digital music files, I’m not sure about what formats were released when…)

    1. Digital copies don’t degrade meaning if you create a digital copy onto the same or another medium the act of copying doesn’t degrade the audio as it’s a 1:1 copy of the original unlike analog where each generation of copying down the line “drops” a bit of the information. This has nothing to do with the expected lifetime of the specific medium used itself, just looking at the act of duplication. But you are right that bitrot is absolutely a concern but since you can create perfect copies you can avoid that by just routinely rebacking up the data onto another newer medium.

    1. Maker’s Muse did a video on the dangers of cheap laser cutters and what materials are safe to use. https://youtu.be/-9hIXT8DMUU

      PVC is a no no, it makes hydrogen chloride when burnt. I hope my record collect never catches fire!

      Did Marco use vinyl or was it acrylic? I thought he mentioned acrylic, and I don’t speak Italian? Sorry if I’ve got the language wrong. The final product looked like a vinyl record and sounded quite good!

  3. For one that sounded horrible. Maybe it was the fact he was also using a garbage turntable with a totally lousy stylus. And, “Real” Vinyl records recorded from purely analog sources, mastered on analog tape and produced well, can easily blow away their digital and harsh counterparts with lifelike sound and depth. Digital is always converted to analog in different ways and as such is just a cheap reproduction of the real thing.

    1. You are smoking some potent stuff if you believe that the lousy channel separation and monophonic sub 200 hz recording on an LP could blow away a lossless high quality recording. Even a 16 bit flac is better than the best LP ever made.

  4. Sorry to start a small horror story here:

    In 2018, German artist Basse Stittgen has, for an artist-in-residence project at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, captured the sound of a cow’ s heartbeat on a record, made of dried cow’s blood. The blood, from a very surprised local slaughterhouse, was dried in an oven and pressed into a disc the size of an LP record (though thicker, if I remember well about 1 cm.). The heartbeat sound was digitalised and then lasered onto the disk with a CO2 laser at the local FabLab. The record was played at various presentations.

    I was the person doing the lasering. The smell was, well, unique. Never again.

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