Guitar Effect Built From An Old Record Player

With little more than a gutted record player, a light bulb, and the legendary 555 timer IC, [Jacob Ellzey] has constructed this very slick optical tremolo effect for his guitar. By modulating the volume of the input signal, the device creates the wavering effect demonstrated in the video after the break.

The key is a vinyl record with large tabs cut out of it. As the record spins, these voids alternately block and unblock a small incandescent bulb. A common GL5537 photoresistor, mounted on the arm that originally held the player’s needle, picks up the varying light levels and passes that on to the electronics underneath the deck. An important note here is that different spacing and sizing of the cutouts will change the sound produced by the effect. [Jacob] has already produced a few different designs and plans on experimenting with more now that the electronics are completed.

Under the hood there’s a voltage divider and low gain amplifier connected to the photoresistor, and also a 555 timer circuit that’s driving the incandescent bulb. Once he was done fiddling with them, the circuit was moved to a neat little protoboard. A pair of potentiometers mounted through the side of the record player allow for adjusting the depth of the effect itself, as well as the output volume. Naturally, there’s also an external foot pedal that allows keying the effect on and off without taking your hands from the guitar.

As is usually the case, everything was going well on this project until the final moments, when [Jacob] found that the circuit and bulb were both browning out when powered from the same transformer. As a quick fix, he gutted a Keurig and used its transformer to drive the light bulb by itself. With independent power supplies, he was ready to rock.

Of course this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a piece of consumer electronics modified into a guitar effect, but if you’re looking for something a bit more built for purpose, there’s plenty of high-tech options to keep you busy.

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Repairing A Desktop Jukebox

Although vinyl records have had a bit of resurgence, they are far away from their heyday. There was a time when 45 RPM singles were not just how you listened to music at home, but they also populated the jukeboxes you’d find in your local malt shop or anywhere else in public. [Fran] has an old 45 RPM “desktop jukebox” from RCA. It really isn’t a jukebox, but an automatic record changer dating from the 1950s. The problem is, the cartridge was toast. Replacing it wasn’t a big problem, even though replacing it with an exact duplicate wasn’t possible. But, of course, that was just the start.

You can see in the video below, that there were some weight problems with the cartridge, but the changer part would not work. She tears it down and makes some modifications. She even pulled out the schematic which had three tubes — one of which was just a rectifier.

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A Victrola For The 21st Century

We’ve lost something tangible in our listening to music, as we made the move from physical media through MP3 players to streaming services on our mobile devices. A 12″ vinyl disc may be slightly cumbersome, but there is an undeniable experience to pulling it from the sleeve and placing it on the turntable. Would you like to recreate that? [Castvee8] would, because he’s created a 21st-century version of a wind-up gramophone, complete with a turntable and horn.

Under the hood is an Arduino-controlled MP3 player, while on the surface is a 3D-printed turntable and horn. On the turntable is placed a CD, and a lead screw moves the horn across it during play to simulate the effect of a real turntable. An Arduino motor controller shield drives the turntable and lead screw, and at the end of each song, the horn is automatically returned to the start of the CD as if it were a record.

The effect is purely aesthetic but should make for an unusual talking point if nothing else. Surprisingly this project is not the first of its type, in the past, we’ve shown you another one that played a real CD in the place of the record on the turntable.

Wood Finish From Old Records

Next time you’re working on a project that needs a durable wood finish, don’t grab the polyurethane. Follow [Victor Ola’s] advice and raid your grandparent’s record cabinet for some old 78 records. Modern records are made from vinyl. The stiff, brittle old 78’s from the 1960’s and earlier were made from shellac. Shellac is a natural material secreted by the female lac bug. It can be thought of as a natural form of plastic and was used as such for years until man-made plastics became commodity items.

Older 78 RPM phonograph albums are usually made entirely from shellac. [Victor] started by taking a few old cracked records and pulverizing them with a hammer. The shellac crumbs were then poured into a mason jar along with some isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol dissolves the shellac, creating a thick goo. More alcohol will thin the slurry down to a paintable consistency. The mixture is then ready to be painted on any wood surface. Wiping off the excess will reveal the wood grain.

Shellac is normally amber in color. Records are black because carbon is added to the mix. This makes the shellac stain dark and makes it a flat finish. While it would be fine to leave it this way, [Victor] added a coat of lacquer over his shellac stain to achieve a glossy finish on his upcycled gramophone.

If you’re getting into woodworking, don’t worry – anyone can do it. Just make sure you have sharp tools.

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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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Adding Stereo VU Meters To A Turntable

A pleasing development for those with an interest in audio equipment from decades past has been the recent resurgence in popularity of vinyl records. Whether you cleave to the view that they possess better sound quality or you simply like the experience of a 12″ disk with full-size cover art and sleeve notes, you can now indulge yourself with good old-fashioned LPs being back on the shelves.

[Michael Duerinckx] is a fan of older trance records, and has an Ion Pure LP turntable which is fortunately for him not such an exclusive piece of audio equipment that it can’t be readily hacked. The hack he’s applied to it is a relatively simple one but nonetheless rather attractive, he’s added a set of LED VU meters in a ring round the edge of the platter.

Behind the LEDs is the trusty LM3915, an integrated circuit which will no doubt be familiar to any reader whose earlier life was spent among 1970s and 1980s audio gear. Internally it’s a stack of comparators and a resistor ladder, and it simply turns on the required number of outputs to match the level on its input. He’s put a pair of them on a little PCB with an associated PSU regulator, and mounted the LEDs in a row of holes drilled in the MDF base board of the turntable following the edge of the platter. Power and audio come from the turntable’s circuit board, which contains a preamplifier and the USB audio circuitry. A traditional turntable with a low-level output would not be able to drive an LM3915 directly.

This is a relatively straightforward project and the turntable itself isn’t necessarily the most accomplished on the market, but it’s very neatly executed and looks rather pretty.

Turntable projects are not as common as you’d expect here at Hackaday, but we’ve had a few. There was this concrete example for instance, and a very pretty one using layered plywood.

Courtesy of SoMakeIt, Southampton Makerspace.

Vintage Vinyl Laser-Etched On A Tortilla

[UpgradeTech] had a proof-of-concept itch they needed to scratch: making a playable record out of a tortilla using a laser cutter. The idea was spawned from the goofy “tortilla vinyl” YouTube video.

Uncooked flour tortillas were used. Corn tortillas were too lumpy while cooked tortillas shredded on the record player. To get the recording onto the tortilla, Audacity was used to modify a stereo WAV file. Using the RIAA equalization standard is a great choice here as it was originally adopted to prevent excess wear and tear on record grooves as the needle passed through. A Python script generated the files for the laser cutter, creating a text file with the sound data which was then processed into a vector PDF of the grooves. For each record it takes 30 minutes for the laser cutter to turn a simple flour tortilla into the musical variety.

Each tortilla can play 30-40 seconds of music at 45 or 78 RPM, but they start to warp once they dry out. Time to build a humidor around the record player! There is background noise that can make certain songs harder to hear, but there is unarguably audible music. There is plenty of room for optimizing the sound file, grooves, and cutting. We hope this project inspires others to make their own musical tortilla. Playing with your food has taken on a whole new meaning!

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