How do you take your music these days? For those in Camp Tangible, it seems our ranks are certainly growing, and in the analog direction. For the first time since 1987, vinyl record sales have outperformed CD sales in the US, according to a new report. The CD, which saved us all from the cassette, was a digital revolution in music. But for some, the love was lost somewhere among the ones and zeroes.
Those who prefer pure analog troughs of sound cut into wax have never given up on vinyl, and the real ones probably gobbled up a bunch of it in the 90s when everybody was CD-crazy. But mind you these aren’t used vinyl sales we’re talking about, which means that enough new vinyl has to have been readily available for purchase for quite some time now. Although it doesn’t really seem like that long, new vinyl’s been back for almost 20 years — and according to the report, 2022 was the 16th consecutive year of growth for record sales.
So Why Vinyl?
Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, but there was a time in my 1980s childhood when vinyl was all this scribe had to listen to. I have historically been a bit slow to adopt new music formats — I didn’t have a CD player until 1998, and it was given to me for my birthday. I was excited to get the thing, mind you, especially since it had 10 seconds of anti-skip protection (which of course was a huge concern with portable CD players).
But CDs are way different from records. Sure, they’re both round, but the similarities sort of end there. For one thing, the artwork is disappointingly small compared to vinyl. And the whole gatefold album cover thing isn’t really possible with a CD, unless you forego the jewel case and release it in a chintzy little cardboard jacket. But then people will have this one disc that’s four times thinner than the rest and it throws everything off in the collection.
Continue reading “Vinyl Sales Ran Circles Around CDs In 2022” →
[Victoria Shen] modifies glue-on nails to give her the ability to play vinyl records with her fingers. Details are light but from the many glamour pictures, it looks like she pushes record player needles through glue-on nails with thin pickup wire that then presumably goes to an audio jack for amplification.
[Victoria] experiments with novel musical tools for use in her art and performances. Be sure to check out the videos of the nails in action. The combination of “scratching” and ability to alter the speed of vinyl with the free fingers creates a weird and eerie experience.
Using her “Needle Nails”, [Victoria] has found she’s able to play multiple records simultaneously (Nitter). Thanks to the different diameters of 33, 78 and 45 vinyls, she’s able to stack them up while still keeping her fingers on them.
Glove like musical instruments are nothing new but the novel use of fashion, glamour and technology allow [Victoria Shen] the freedom to create something uniquely weird and cool, so much so that Beyonce used it in a video shoot for Vogue (Nitter).
Continue reading “The Sound Of Nails On Black Vinyl Records” →
We don’t always acknowledge it, but most people have an innate need for music. Think of all the technology that brings us music. For decades, most of the consumer radio spectrum carried music. We went from records, to tape in various forms, to CDs, to pure digital. There are entire satellites that carry — mostly — music. Piracy aside, people are willing to pay for music, too. While it isn’t very common to see “jukeboxes” these days, there was a time when they were staples at any bar or restaurant or even laundrymat you happened to be in. For the cost of a dime, you can hear the music and share it with everyone around you.
Even before we could record music, there was something like a jukebox. Coin-operated machines, as you’ll recall, are actually very old. Prior to the 1890s, you might find coin-op player pianos or music boxes. These machines actually played the music they were set up to play using a paper roll with holes in it or metal disks or cylinders.
That changed in 1890 when a pair of inventors connected a coin acceptor to an Edison phonograph. Patrons of San Francisco’s Palais Royale Saloon could put a hard-earned nickel in the slot and sound came out of four different tubes. Keep in mind there were no electronic amplifiers as we know them in 1890. Reportedly, the box earned $1,000 in six months.
Continue reading “Put Another Dime In The Jukebox” →
Digitally stored music is just data. But not long ago, music was analog and required machines with moving parts. If you have never owned a record player, you at least know what they look like, now that there’s a(nother) vinyl revival. What you may not be aware of is that the player’s stylus needs to be aligned. It makes sense, that hypersensitive needle can’t be expected to perform well if it’s tearing across a record like a drift racer.
There are professional tools for ensuring alignment, but it’s not something you’ll need each day. [Ali Naci Erdem] shows us his trick for combining a printable template with a mirror to get the same results without the professional tool costs. Instead of ordinary printer paper, he prints the template on a piece of clear plastic and lays it across a small mirror. These are both items which can be picked up at a hobby store, which is not something we can say about a record player mirror protractor.
We love music hacks like this informative introduction to circuit bending, the wonderful [Martin] from Wintergatan, or if you want to get weird, an organ made from Furbies.
In this 1942 tour of the RCA Victor plant in Camden, NJ, we see the complete record making process from the master cut production to the shipping of multiple 78RPM shellac pressings. The film centers around a recording of Strauss’ Blue Danube waltz as performed by the 1940s equivalent of studio musicians, the Victor Salon Orchestra.
The master record starts life as a thin layer of molten wax poured on to a hot circular plate in a dust-free room. Bubbles and impurities are blow torched out, and the wax is left to cool under a steel dome. This perfect disc is carefully passed to the recording studio through a special slot, where it is laid carefully beneath the cutting stylus.
Unlike today’s multi-track recording sessions, the master was cut from the performance of a complete band or orchestra all playing as they would in concert. The sound engineer was responsible for making fast changes on the fly to ensure sonic and groove width consistency.
After cutting, the delicate wax undergoes several phases of electrolysis that form the metal master. It is bombarded first with pure gold and then twice with copper sulfate to build a sturdy disc. The copper ionization process also ensures high fidelity in the final product.
Although mighty, this master won’t last long enough to make all the necessary pressings, so a mother matrix is made. This is a negative image of the master. The mother is formed by electrolytically bathing the master in nickel, and then adding a thin film of some indeterminate substance. Another copper bath, and mother emerges. As soon as possible, the master is separated and whisked away to the storage vault.
Since a positive image is needed for pressing, a stamping matrix is made. Mother gets a nickel bath for durability, and then a copper bath to form the stamping matrix. Many stampers are created so that several records can be pressed at once. These images get a chromium plating to help them last through many pressings.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Wax On, Wax Off: How Records Are Made” →
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.
A 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.
Continue reading “3D Printing Records” →