Β 
For behind the scenes pictures, stories and special contests, follow us on Facebook!
Subscribe:

Wheels Of Light

ELP Laser Turntable (Image courtesy Audio Turntable Ltd.)By Andrew Liszewski

Let’s face it, vinyl is a lose-lose situation. Every time you listen to your favorite 78 not only are you wearing away the record itself, but also your expensive needles. As a result, every listening experience will never be as good as the previous, even for the most devoted analog fan.

The Audio Turntable LTD. ELP Laser Turntable addresses this issue, using modern audio technology to resolve the problem. The ELP LT essentially uses 5 separate lasers to scan, track and read the bumps and grooves on the record, so the only thing ever touching the vinyl is focused light.

Though tempting to anyone with a decent enough vinyl collection, the ELP Turntable’s price tag (3 versions ranging from $15,000 to $19,000) puts them more in the range of high-end production studios or government-funded audio archivists.

[ELP Laser Turntable] and [Audio Turntable LTD.]







.
  • Calvin =D

    ‘why not just buy a CD player’ mi friend said, i think if you need to make money, invent somthing useful. :/

  • OldDug

    Great idea! Hope the prices ease down someday, I would love to have this for my vinyl collection. As the article points out, I rarely play anything because of the lose of quality.

  • http://www.thebanclan.com Zybch

    Honestly, this is aimed at those same twits who actually think that $60,000 is a good price to pay for a good pair of speakers, when its debatable that they’d be able to tell the difference between those and a good quality $4000 pair.
    More money than sense, but hey, so long as there are those fools out around, there will be those who can make a living by capitalising on their stupidity.
    That having been said, I’d quite like one of these. Anyone got a spare $15,000 they can give me?

  • Geo

    You meant 33 1/3 rpm, not 78 rpm, yes?

  • dangerous

    old records were 78rpm – they were made of bakelite or something and you used a cactus needle. you still see them around in junk shops.

  • Pingback: Sacrosanct Security » Blog Archive » Using Laser To Read Vinyl()

  • http://marvngrad.com/ forgiste

    $4000 dollars for a pair of shoes! You’ve got to be kidding me. I love this idea, I just hate that every unit is custom made and therefore it’s effing expensive. Hell, I’ll make my own and sell it for an actual price, not 2.5 fortunes.

  • Matthew

    Hey, how much do you think the first CD player cost? All technology is expensive at fist, but demand and competition bring lower prices. What people don’t understand is that Analog, i.e. records, bring far far far superior sound quality. Just because it is a new technology doesn’t mean it is bettter. All that digital brings to the table it the ablility to cram a camra into a cell phone. Sadly now all new music is recorded digitaly and not on tape so it doesn’t matter if you like to listen to new music on vinal. Yes they still put out 12″. I’ll leave a quote to summarize, quality technology verses popular technology.

    Steve Jobs: We’re better than you are! We have better stuff.
    Bill Gates: You don’t get it, Steve. That doesn’t matter!

  • David Gunter

    “Honestly, this is aimed at those same twits who actually think that $60,000 is a good price to pay for a good pair of speakers…blah blah blah”

    Actually, I can think of many institutions with large collections of 78s, old aluminum platter recordings and such who would love to have this device for further preserving legacy recordings.

  • http://www.lemcast.lofl.net/ SulfurFury

    This is one of the best ideas for a record player EVER!!!!!! If you have the means, surely you should invest in this item. In fact, this idea has been around since 1989. However, the music industry decided to push Compact Discs at the time and completely forget about what made it big: vinyl records. So we have this time warp effect. Before vinyl records, there were only read/write Edison audio/data cylinders from the late 1800s. Those are worth BIG BUCKS now.

    A friend of mine bought two of these laser vinyl readers to archive his extensive vinyl collection. It is amazing how many vinyl records there are out there that do not have a tape source in existence anymore. The race is on to digitize everything, every recorded sound, before it is lost. The recording industry should have pushed this device in the 1980s first, along with MiniDisc if they wanted to have any control or even a natural transition. They screwed up and pushed Compact Disc. Lucky for us consumers it led to MP3s, Napster and so on.. but the effect was to leave laser vinyl readers and minidiscs expensive.

    If you do decide to buy this excellent (now niche?) device, be advised you may need to fill out forms with your government for importing a special laser. There are some restrictions on the importing of advanced laser technology housed inside the unit.

    It is a dream to play vinyl records like a compact disc. You will never go back to a scratchy needle.

  • Anonymous

    As much as this sounds like a useful idea, it’s actually somewhat pointless. Vinyl records are appreciated because they are a pure analog representation of the recorded sound. When a sound is digitized (i.e. recorded to CD) it is transformed from a continuous wave into many samples. If you prefer vinyl over CD, it is because you want music that hasn’t been sampled. When using this laser record player, you are simply creating samples from the record rather than from a CD. That makes this machine useless.

  • http://www.lemcast.lofl.net/ SulfurFury

    It’s not pointless at all, unless you limit what you want to see out of this thing. There are still many recordings unavailable in a digital format, including private and studio recordings that were never released to the public where only a few copies were ever made. So if no digital source exists, or if no tape source exists, the only source will be the vinyl record. You would then be the creator of the digital source.

    Your argument that it is transformed from a continuous wave into many samples therefore it is useless doesn’t hold up.

    When recording the audio to a digital medium, you have to remember that you will be pulling a lot more fidelity out of the recording than any record needle could have. From first-hand experience, the five lasers do a mind-blowing job of extracting the audio out of the vinyl grooves – almost too good of a job.

    If the vinyl disc is in any way scratched, the lasers will pick all of that up. Many of the vinyl discs that we’ve been recording are one-of-a-kind acetate discs. Acetates are non-commercial discs, made strictly for the artist to take home and listen to. They are fragile and were only meant to be played a few times, unlike commercial vinyl discs. Many contain unreleased mixes of songs and are therefore unique and valuable.

    The point is, for these types of discs, just playing them on this unit is the first step in restoring the recordings for us. They get cleaned up with professional audio software and the resulting improved fidelity is sometimes stunning.

    Now, if you bought this strictly to play vinyl discs for pleasure, you would want to make sure your vinyl discs are in pristine shape – with no dust particles or scratches on the surface.

    This requires a cleaning kit and special handling of the vinyl discs – holding the discs by the sides, using the paper sleeves and jacket covers, and using anti-static cloths, etc. to keep the vinyl discs clean. Same process one would do to preserve their vinyl discs utilizing the old fashioned needle readers.

    An audio sample is not always strictly digital. Analog recordings can also be considered samples, and there are many examples of this. The Mellotron was the first commercially available sampling machine, and it used analog tape.

    Also, just the fact that the fidelity of analog recordings, especially the earliest recordings, are so low, that you’re not going to get much more out of the recording besides distracting surface or ambient noise at some point. So correctly recording it in CD quality is sufficient enough to capture just about everything you’d want to hear out of it.

    Of course, the source vinyl disc is then cleaned and placed into proper storage. It is not destroyed. The digital copy is considered a copy.

    With the advent of Super Audio CD resolution (SACD), you can get a digital recording quality which is at least 1000 times the resolution of standard audio CD. It uses a process of recording called “direct stream digital” (DSD) for a continuous stream rather than Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) that you mention on old CDs, which is more like the sampling that you mention.

    So in closing, the advanced DSD method is used in this unit, not the familiar but surpassed PCM.

    Oh, I’d like to add a neat feature in the ELP model that you don’t get in old fashioned needle record players. The first thing the unit does is scans the entire disc, and you get a readout of all the tracks and the time of each track, just like on a compact disc. Then you can program the tracks to play in any sequence you want, and see how much time is left on each track of the record. Pretty neat stuff.

  • http://technaut.livejournal.com/2637.html Stirling Westrup

    I wrote about this product and possible business uses of it on my blog some time ago (http://technaut.livejournal.com/2637.html). The main use of this product would be to digitize old recordings for which there are no existing master copies, and to create higher-definition masters so that audiophile-quality (ie, much better than CD) quality digital archives can be created. Unfortunately, when doing research for that article, I found some companies are not happy with ELP (http://www.smartdev.com/LT/laserturntable.html).

  • TL-DR

    This is OLD news. I read about this and saw pictures years ago. Bow to my superiority.

  • Colin Hayes

    this thing has been around for YEARS… and still sounds like utter shit. The company’s policies are pure shit too, they will only sell directly to consumers (no going to a store to hear it) and if you want to evaluate it, it’ll cost you over $1000.

    records have to be beyond pristine to make this thing even generate sound relatively close to what it really sounds like, and if your records are pristine, then your needle is probably pristine and your whole setup is…. making wear extremely minimal. anyways with needles tracking at 1.5g or less, the wear is basically not even there. when they tracked at 6-8g a long time ago, yea, it happened, but it doesn’t really anymore.

  • Pingback: a modest construct » Blog Archive » Some things to read()

  • Pingback: Gadgetell - The Tech News, Reviews, and Interesting Things Blog » Optical turntable/record player/wheels of steel… whatever you prefer to call it()

  • Ed

    Can I just rent one? I have vinyl that can never be replaced. This way, I could transfer the music to a more lasting medium.

  • Ed Dames

    Who are these anti-vinyl ass holes???? Vinyl has a longer lifespan than cds. It is a superior archiving format. More power to whoever creates products for vinyl enthusiasts!…even if it is 15 grand.

  • ArlosGuitar

    If i was rich i would own this product. Along with everything I like on vinyl. Fact is, I’m not rich! As I understand the patent is about to expire. So give it another 5 – 10 years and maybe I will have something like this that has a Pioneer tag on it (or whatever floats your boat). I don’t have anything in my collection that i cannot get on cd. And also remember as time goes on less and less releases are becomming availiable on vinyl. It’s simply dead and that is a damn shame !!!

  • Pingback: Bob Hope()

  • Mark

    The story behind the rpms is actually kind of interesting. Short version is that 33 was chosen because it was 78 minus 45

    “Geo Says:
    You meant 33 1/3 rpm, not 78 rpm, yes?

    Posted 5:38 am on February 13th, 2006

    dangerous Says:
    old records were 78rpm – they were made of bakelite or something and you used a cactus needle. you still see them around in junk shops.

    Posted 6:26 am on February 13th, 2006”

  • Beez

    I don’t know how THIS particular device does it, but there’s no particular reason why a laser needle couldn’t be developed to read the waveforms on the vinyl and give true analog sound. If this one does it digitally, then I’d probably hold out for one that did it in an analog fashion – I can think of a couple of ways this could work, probably with some coupling of amplifiers and light sensitive diodes.

  • Mark Stevens

    Just thought I’d throw a recording musician’s view into this discussion. I like vinyl too, grew up with it, but it does have problems. I have to disagree with those who say that vinyl is the best representation of the master tape. The master tape itself is the clearest representation of what the artist and producer(s) and engineers intended, vinyl adds coloration, just as digitization does. That happens to be coloration that we’re all so used to that we hear it as “normal” or “good sounding”. It’s been my experience that audiophiles sometimes are listening for sonic details that the musicians and production team weren’t really reaching for, or didn’t achieve. I think some of you would be shocked to hear an actual 2-track master tape from an earlier era, as the engineers were in fact, in many cases, relying on vinyl’s surface noise to cover up things like tape hiss and tape edits. A lot of the coloration we like in vinyl comes from tubes, so if you really want to “warm up” a CD, run it through a tube pre-amp of some sort, you’ll start to hear what your’e used to again, without the crackles and other hassles.

  • Ward Duffield

    Hello

    I have a homemade 78-RPM record with a thin acetate or black plastic overlay on an aluminum platter. It was made during WWII, and obviously cannot be replaced.
    This surface is brittle and quite deteriorated. It would be impossible to play this record with a conventional phonograph needle.
    Are you aware of anyone who is offering transcription of 78s using a laser turntable?
    I think that would be the only way to recover the recording on this disc.
    Thanks
    ward

  • http://www.musicstack.com/ Gabrielle Myers

    Today, it’s down to $3000 as I read yahoo’s news about releasing of vinyls here http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080712/music_nm/vinyl_dc

  • ed6002

    A high quality manual turntable with a high quality arm (very good bearings and hardly any drag) with a high quality pickup will not lesson the quality of virgin vinyl. The recycled vinyl was not very good and did not hold up well. I engineered at various radio stations where records were handled every way but good and the sound held up for weeks of constant playing. The biggest problem is noise from mishandling. Reading the ad above the reference is made to 78, 78? well I guess your 78's might get worse with each play on your Victrola, better change that steel needle every time you play one πŸ™‚

  • ed6002

    A high quality manual turntable with a high quality arm (very good bearings and hardly any drag) with a high quality pickup will not lesson the quality of virgin vinyl. The recycled vinyl was not very good and did not hold up well. I engineered at various radio stations where records were handled every way but good and the sound held up for weeks of constant playing. The biggest problem is noise from mishandling. Reading the ad above the reference is made to 78, 78? well I guess your 78's might get worse with each play on your Victrola, better change that steel needle every time you play one πŸ™‚