Laser Turntable

Friday, July 8, 2011

I really love analogue sound when listening to music.  Sure, digital music is very convenient and practical compared to current methods of storing analogue sound, and most music is just not worth listening to on a quality anything above that found in the typical portable player or car stereo.  But, for that music which you deem to be worthy of multiple listening, deep thought, and emotion it would seem analogue sound (that is, the sound which we hear with our own ears) would be most pleasing to listen to.

For many reasons records have great quality of sound; the little continuously swirling groove in the record is filled with bumps created by the vibrations of sound; not a computer's interpretation of sound into digital then reinterpreted back out into speakers.  Trying to convert a sound wave into a digital format has proved to be difficult since a sound is a resonation [sic] caused by a physical disturbance such as something hit.  That amount of information in that 'hit' is massive as a resonance can conceivably go on for ever such as, when a bell is rung, when does the ringing stop?  It seems to fade and fade into oblivion beyond the capability of human hearing.  Or do we still hear it, but merely do not recognize it due to other overlapping sounds such as the wind in the trees, the hum of the refrigerator, our own breathing, or heartbeat?  Why not cut out all of the sounds below and above the range of human hearing?  This has been done with digital music, but somehow people can tell something is different; something is missing.  Often people describe this missing 'something' to be a lack of warmth or purity, or dare I say, soul.

The little 'bumps' in a record's groove are little 'hits'.  Each bump is a wave, and when that wave is amplified and pushed out through speakers, the wave hits the air, unchanging from it's smaller form, only bigger now, then through the air and onto our ear drum; onto our body; resonating through our whole body and soul.

The digital representation of these waves are cut off at the top and bottom, thus the resonance is lost.  The wave will reach a certain peak, and that's it, it cannot continue further.

Well, this is the way I see it.  I see sound waves as I do any other form of energy, as a resonation that affects everything around it.  Yes, similar in mind to the so-called Butterfly Effect.

Unfortunately, using the traditional record player where a needle physically sits in the groove of the record getting 'hit' by the bumps as they pass-by underneath has some detractions in the form of physical wear, static electricity build-up, foreign particles in the groove, and so forth.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to encase a record in-between two pieces of glass or clear vinyl and read the bumps on the grooves with a laser instead, as is done with a laser disc (CD, DVD, etc.)?  Well, a small company in Japan decided to take that idea to its first step, that is, a record player that uses lasers rather than a needle to play the music.

The company is called Edison Laser Player, now shortened to ELP as their product is now called Edison Laser Turntable.

In the two-sided V-shaped groove of a record, there are two separate recordings, one on each side of the groove; one for the left channel and one for the right to create stereo sound.  Two lasers, one for each side of the groove are used to accomplish this same feat.

I couldn't help but note from the ELP company's website that, "1991 Sold the Laser Turntable to the first overseas customer, the Canadian Library."  Good on Canada!

Another problem found with traditional record players that is eliminated with this laser player is the needle picking up sounds from beyond the record, such as taps or bumps on the table, floor, and even sound coming from the speakers if they are nearby (essentially, feedback) - I have all of these problems plus static build up clicks and pops on dry summer days.  I remember reading the story of one person who was walking across the room when his footsteps were amplified by the turntable and such was the deep reverberation of the sound that it blew out his speakers.  Apparently, no more with the laser turntable.

Official Website:
Photos By: Kell
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