Whatever happened to optical playback of vinyl?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Tim Bucknall, Aug 11, 2017.

  1. Tim Bucknall

    Tim Bucknall Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Dear group, i've only ever posted in music corner before so apologies if this post is in the wrong forum
    in the early 1990's UK TV's cheesy popular science show "Tommorows world" featured turntables that read vinyl with the ability to skip between tracks on one side like a cd player

    the lack of wear of precious vinyl seemed to offer great potential, yet none of these decks ever seemed to appear on the consumer market

    what happened, was it a massive con?
    did it have a huge flaw

    thanks in advance for your time
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  2. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

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  3. RhodesSupremacy

    RhodesSupremacy yeah, man

    There's a Japanese company that manufactures a Laser Turntable. It's prohibitively expensive and extremely sensitive to dusty records. From what I've read, the sound is love/hate as well.
  4. Grant

    Grant A Brady-Boomer Musical Free-Spirit

    This topic comes up for discussion every couple of years, or so.

    I think the reason this technology never caught on is that the lasers have a way of amplifying every little defect in the record. I'm sure some type of software NR implementation could take care of that, but then there is the price tag. There's really no point.
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  5. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    One is left to wonder why with the staggering advancement in image recognition and camera miniaturization no one has come with a device that simply take a picture of the record and render it's music
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  6. Tim Müller

    Tim Müller Forum Resident

    That's the reason why it's not really that practical for vinyl playback. From what I have read, a needle is able to push or brush a little dust away and tracks mostly only the groove modulation. While the optical tracking of the groove, is not able to do so, and tracks every little grain of dust, too.

    They need digital signal processing to reduce the clicks and crackels...

    But, there is new development, that is:
    Flat bed scanning of the whole record.
    And then, calculation of the sound from the image of the groove modulation.
    It is for archival or transcribing purposes only.

    Best regards
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
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  7. acdc7369

    acdc7369 Forum Resident

    Pittsburgh, PA
    That's basically a vinyl rip, and the people who listen to vinyl rips are a very niche market. The amount of r&d that would need to go into producing such a device would probably cost way more than the profit they'd make
  8. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Vallejo, CA
    The audio world has come up with some fantastic solutions for those who want to listen to music by way of a laser beam. They just don't involve LPs.
  9. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Washington, D.C.
    I heard the ELP table a couple of times at audio shows years ago. I cannot say how good they sound because the system it demonstrated with had pretty mediocre components, particularly given the price of the ELP table. The sound was okay, but, nothing special.

    The table comes with a vacuum record cleaning machine because of the issues discussed above. What was quite interesting about the demonstration I witnessed was the ability to play records with severe groove damage/wear from being played by a bad stylus. The focus of the laser can be raised and lowered to find a depth in the groove that has minimum damage; a badly damaged record can sound like it is a new record.
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  10. anorak2

    anorak2 Forum Resident

    Berlin, Germany
    You are confusing two things.

    One is programmmable turntables, who have the ability to recognize beginnings and ends of individual tracks according to the run-in grooves on a disc, and then be programmed to play them in an arbitrary order or skip foreward/back. Those were a fad in the 1980s and there are models by several companies. They were linear tracking turntables who come with a servo mechanism to move the tonearm anyway, but their pickup was a conventional needle and cartridge and they do wear the record.

    The other is turntables with a laser pickup instead of a needle, who indeed eliminate all wear. They exist, but there is only one maker:

    ELP Laser Turntable |
    They are very expensive, and not targeted at consumers but libraries, archives etc.
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  11. JBStephens

    JBStephens I don't "like", "share", "tweet", or CARE.

    South Mountain, NC
    A phongraph cartridge is a generator. The faster you turn a generator, the more voltage it puts out. Thus, they have a frequency rise of 6 dB/oct., which is compenstated for by the RIAA curve. The laser turntable is not a generator, so it has no frequency rise. Therefore applying the RIAA curve to a laser turnable will result in a very dry and lifeless sound, so it can't be used as a "normal" turntable. I'm sure the ELP folks figured that out. But it doesn need its own curve.
  12. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Surprise, AZ
    I remember when the 'future' of playback came into existence and laser was its name. I also remember reading reviews and I don't think I really ever read a very positive one especially when cost v sound quality was added into the mix. What might sound good as an idea isn't really all that practical in real life.
  13. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Surprise, AZ
    Why, when CDs are available? Your 'picture' of the LP will be done digitally and interpreted digitally so what's the point?
  14. Madness

    Madness Forum Resident

    Maryland, USA
    Isn't that digitizing the analog? Bad idea.
  15. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Vallejo, CA
    I can see it being of interest for archival purposes (IE, things where no master was available to make a CD with).

    But not much else.
  16. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Surprise, AZ
    That happens now when old shellac 33s are found and no master can be found which is quite common with Pre WWII recordings when the metal masters were melted down to make munitions. They digitally record it and use computers to make them listenable and/or search the country for the best possible source.
  17. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    I remember now a video article from Techmoan on YouTube about a record player that could skip tracks and play both sides of the record. It was the Sharp RP-117 and you can read the article or watch the video here

    BTW, his series about Retro Tech is a blast, highly recommended.
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  18. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Vallejo, CA
    Yep. This hypothetical product that doesn't exist would be another way of doing this, I suppose.

    (I'm trying my best to justify the existence of non-analog turntables, obviously its an uphill battle)
  19. costerdock

    costerdock Forum Resident

    Prescott, AZ, USA
    Yep - no lasers please - only physical diamond contact for me.
  20. Damien DiAngelo

    Damien DiAngelo Forum Resident

    Michigan, USA
    Isn't that Japanese laser turntable actually analog?
    I thought I read that here, but lord knows I (and whomever wrote it) could be wrong...
  21. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    I have a friend who has an ELP. For a road trip, he burned us all copies of a mix-CD sourced from 78's recorded off the laser TT. Back home under the headphones, it was one of those "they-canNOT-possibly-sound-that-damn-good!" moments for me.
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  22. RhodesSupremacy

    RhodesSupremacy yeah, man

    The Japanese laser turntable is 100% analog. Many people think laser = automagically digital, which is a bit baffling.
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  23. dmckean

    dmckean Forum Resident

    San Diego, CA, USA
    This actually already exists, but as far as I know it's only used on Shellac records and for archival purposes.
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  24. Ninja Bomber

    Ninja Bomber Forum Resident

    Same as how some people just can't seem to understand that the "d" in "class d" does not stand for "digital", I suppose.
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  25. buzzzx

    buzzzx Forum Resident

    Thanks for that post, I had a Sharp RP-117 but could never remember what it was called. I used it for awhile, when the novelty wore off I think I either sold it or it broke, can't remember. I do remember it didn't sound as good as my standard turntable, and playing either side and skipping tracks wasn't as fun or as useful as I thought it would be.

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