Vinyl Sales Ran Circles Around CDs In 2022

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.

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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!

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A hand holding a paper cup pours orange resin into a mold. There are several different colors in a spiral inside a circular mold on a circular platform with holes around its perimeter sitting on a wooden table.

Reproducing Vinyl Records In Resin

While most are just plain, vinyl records can be found in a variety of colors, shapes, and some even glow in the dark. [Evan and Katelyn] decided to spruce up a plain old record by replicating it in bright, glow-in-the-dark resin.

By first making a silicone mold of the vinyl record and then pouring several different colors of resin into the resulting mold, [Evan and Katelyn] were able to make a groovy-looking record that still retained the texture necessary to transmit the original sounds of the record. The resulting piece has some static, but the music is still identifiable. That said, audiophiles would probably prefer to leave this up on the wall instead of in their phonograph.

Acrylic rings were laser cut and bolted together to build the form for the silicone mold with the original record placed at the bottom. To prevent bubbles, the silicone was degassed in a vacuum chamber before pouring over the record and the resin was cured in a pressure pot after pouring into the resulting mold.

If you’re interested in how records were originally made, check out this installment of Retrotechtacular. A more practical application of resin might be this technique to reproduce vintage plastic parts.

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Brass Plaque Honors Brother

Brass plaques are eye-catching because no one makes them on a whim. They are more costly than wood or plastic, and processing them is proportionally difficult. [Becky Stern] picked the medium to honor her brother, who enjoyed coffee, motorcycles, and making things by hand. She made some playing card-sized pieces to adorn his favorite brand of hot bean juice and a large one to hang at his memorial site.

The primary components are a vertical salt water bath, DC power supply, metal to etch, scrap steel approximately the same size, and a water agitator, which in this case is an air pump and diffuser stone. You could stir manually for two hours and binge your shows but trust us and take the easy route. The video doesn’t explicitly call for flexible wires, but [Becky] wisely selected some high-strand hook-up leads, which will cause fewer headaches as stiff copper has a mind of its own, and you don’t want the two sides colliding.

There are a couple of ways to transfer an insulating mask to metal, and we see the ole’ magazine paper method fail in the video, but cutting vinyl works a treat. You may prefer lasers or resin printers, and that’s all right too. Once your mask is sorted, connect the positive lead to the brass and the negative to your steel. Now, it’s into the agitated salt water bath, apply direct current, and allow electricity to immortalize your design.

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Is 3D Printing Up To A Turntable?

Thanks to a feature by Prusament┬ábecause it uses their filament, we’ve been interested to read about the SongBird turntable from the British outfit Frame Theory (Note: at time of writing, they have an expired certificate). It’s a commercial product with an interesting twist for the Hi-Fi business: buy the completed turntable or buy a kit of parts and print the rest yourself.

We’re always interested to see new things here at Hackaday but we’re not in the business of promoting commercial products without a tech angle. This turntable has us interested then not because it happens to be 3D printed but because it’s instantly raised our curiosity over how suitable 3D printing is as a medium for a high quality audio component. Without descending into audiophile silliness we cannot overstate the effect that rigidity and mass of turntable components has on its audio quality. Take a look at this one we featured in the past for an extreme example.

So looking more closely at the design, we find that the chassis is aluminium, which makes sense given its visibly thin construction. Close examination of the photos on their site also reveals the tonearm to be made of carbon fibre tube, so it’s clear that they’ve put some effort into making a better turntable rather than a novelty one. This does raise the question though: manufacturing practicalities aside could you 3D print the whole thing? We think that a 3D printed chassis could replace the aluminium one at the cost of much more bulk and loss of the svelte looks, but what about the tonearm? Would one of the carbon-fibre-infused filaments deliver enough stiffness? It would be particularly interesting we think, were someone to try.

Put Another Dime In The Jukebox

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.

Early Days

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.

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How To Make Laser-cut Decals On The Cheap

Want to make a sweet adhesive decal with a complex design and floating elements, but all you have is a laser cutter and some tape? Good news, because that’s all you need with this method of creating adhesive tape decals on a laser cutter demonstrated by the folks at [Lasers Over Los Angeles]. The overall technique is very similar to creating vinyl decals and using tape transfer to apply them, but is geared towards laser cutters and nice, cheap tape.

This method also makes applying to non-flat surfaces a breeze.

The way it works is this: paper-based tape (such as blue painter’s tape) is laid down in strips on the laser cutter’s honeycomb bed, forming a nice big rectangle big enough for the intended design. Then, the laser cutter cuts vector art into the tape, resulting in an adhesive decal ready to be stuck to some other surface. Transferring is done by using good quality clear packing tape to “pick up” the decal, then move it to where it needs to be.

To do this, one lays strips of packing tape onto the top of the design on the laser bed, then lifts the design up and away. Move the design to its destination (the clear packing tape helps in eyeballing the final position), press the decal onto the final surface, and carefully peel away the clear packing tape. This works because the packing tape sticks only weakly to the back of the painter’s tape; it’s a strong enough bond to hold the decal, but weak enough that the decal will stick to a surface even better.

It’s true that painter’s tape isn’t as durable as vinyl and the color selection is a bit limited, but design-wise one can go as big as the laser bed allows, and the price is certainly right. Plus it’s easily cut by even the most anemic of diode lasers.

Speaking of desktop vinyl cutters, they may have small working areas compared to most laser cutters, but they have some fantastic workshop applications. They can even do home PCB fabrication, by way of knocking out three essential pieces: the etching mask, solder mask, and solder stencil.