Love low-fi? 3D-print your own vinyl records

They may be noisy, but Amanda Ghassaei's resin tracks bring back the joys of physical media.

Amanda Ghassaei

I can't bear to part with my record collection. It's got gems like Steely Dan's "The Royal Scam" that sound better on a turntable and amplifier than on MP3.

Maybe analog sound can feel better because we're analog creatures. Whatever the reason, vinyl's recent popularity has led to events like Record Store Day and DIY projects like Amanda Ghassaei's 3D-printed records.

An editorial staffer at Instructables.com, Ghassaei managed to lay down digital audio files on 3D-printed 33 rpm records that she played on a standard turntable.

The results, as heard in the video below, sound about as clear as phonograph cylinders from the 1880s. The audio output has a sampling rate of 11kHz and 5- to 6-bit resolution, but tunes like Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" are easily recognizable.

Ghassaei went to TechShop in San Francisco and created the records on a large-scale Objet Connex500 printer, which has a particularly high 600dpi X and Y resolution and a print layer accuracy of 16 microns.

It produced records with grooves that are wider and deeper than factory-made vinyls, so each side can only fit five or six minutes of sound. Check out a video of Ghassaei removing the white resin records from the printer, pizza-style, and scraping off the residue here.

She notes that her 3D-printed copy of Daft Punk's "Around the World" had such a heavy bass sound that it threw the needle off and forced her to revise the conversion algorithm. Meanwhile, you can download her other printed songs like New Order's "Blue Monday" here.

"The Objet still at least an order of magnitude or two away from the resolution of a real vinyl record," Ghassaei writes. "My hope with this project was that despite the lack of vinyl-quality precision, I would still be able to produce something recognizable by approximating the groove shape as accurately as possible with the tools I had."

Her homespun records are only prototypes and who knows how good they'll get. Could this lead to a DIY K-tel?


 

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