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Getting Groovy -- Playing Records without a Needle

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the no-skipping dept.

Music 43

WillOutPower writes "The New York Times is carrying a story of two physicists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory developing a method of recording sound from old records (remember spinning your platters on the hi-fi?) but not by playing them, instead taking a picture of them. Or more specifically the groove in the record. The Library of Congress is funding the research, which is in the nascent stages. Now maybe I can throw out that old Victrola in the attic and make room for my clunker i386 PC." We've mentioned this before.

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43 comments

Their website (4, Informative)

breon.halling (235909) | more than 9 years ago | (#9073469)

Your sig (1)

Tukla (5899) | more than 9 years ago | (#9083056)

Still think Halliburton is evil? Well then, I guess you hate soldiers' babies.

Yeah, that follows.

Listen to old warped records? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9093913)

Will finally be able to listen to my old warped records that bounce the tone arm of my turntable all over the place?

What's with all these reposts? (1)

sydbarrett74 (74307) | more than 9 years ago | (#9073470)

Is /. getting Alzheimer's?

Re:What's with all these reposts? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 9 years ago | (#9075414)

How do you get a 5-digit slashdot ID and now know about reposts around here?

=)

Re:What's with all these reposts? (2, Funny)

Tukla (5899) | more than 9 years ago | (#9083095)

We're old and have bad memories.

...

We're old and have bad memories.

...

We're old and have bad...something-or-others.

...

Who are you, and what do you want?

lasers (2, Insightful)

austad (22163) | more than 9 years ago | (#9073532)

Anyone ever seen that record player that uses a 3 beam laser to read your vinyl? Wouldn't it just be easier to map the surface of the record with something like this rather than taking a photo?

Re:lasers (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9074268)

Too right man! Taking a photo is hard, you have to line up the camera, keep it steady, press the button on the top. That's way harder than just getting a trio of lasers, building some funky electronics, and making a perfectly spinning turntable.

Re:lasers (1)

drxenos (573895) | more than 9 years ago | (#9075747)

Yeah, too bad the info is record on the *sides* of the groove, not the surface and not bottom. Just taking a picture does no good.

Another approach (3, Informative)

Anonymous Codger (96717) | more than 9 years ago | (#9073535)

This company [elpj.com] sells a laser turntable that plays your LPs by reading the grooves with a laser, ala CD. No contact, no wear and tear on the record. Big bucks, of course.

The technique described in the article goes farther, though, as it apparently allows recovery of sound from records, wax cylinders, and the like, even if broken.

Re:Another approach (3, Interesting)

caseih (160668) | more than 9 years ago | (#9073739)

Our university library looked into buying a couple of laser-turntables for the purpose of digitizing our vast LP collection. Turns out they are way too expensive to be reasonable right now, and also because they are so accurate they produce way too much noise (much more noise than a conventional needle). The computer scientist in me says that's okay because you can clean up the noise digitally, but in the end they chose to buy some really high-quality needle-tipped turntables.

Someday if we can get players for old LPs that don't use a needle (either laser or image scanner with a good noise-reduction system), I think there would actually be a consumer market for them. Many of us have stacks of old LPs that we would still play if we could (without damaging them further). Many LP recordings apparently having higher-quality sound than CDs (apparently that's not hard) and quadrophonic sound.

Re:Another approach (2, Interesting)

raoul endres (156335) | more than 9 years ago | (#9074073)

I have a number of songs on both vinyl and cd (being a part time dj and all).

The vinyl has so much more bass response, it blows any cd away. There's just something about analogue that digital can't quite reproduce. CD's tend to cutoff at about 20Hz, below which is all the stuff you 'feel' rather than hear.

Makes a big difference.

Improperly mastered or Improper equipment (3, Interesting)

GoRK (10018) | more than 9 years ago | (#9074466)

There are two big caveats here -- While there is a high end frequency cutoff for CDDA (about 22,050Hz), there technically is not a 'low end'. However, this is not to say that CD's do not have somewhat of a problem in the low, low end. In most cases, this is either the fault of the person doing the mastering not picking up on the lower end or the machine playing the cd not bothering to reproduce it (usually the latter).

It's very difficult to argue that buying newly released vinyl is in some way 'better' than buying a digital copy. Consider that even the new vinyl you buy was probably recorded and mastered digitally. Although this process was probably done with a higher resolution than CDDA gives you, it doesn't rule out other higher resolution digital formats (DAT, HDCD, DVD-Audio, etc.) being 'closer to the original' thn buying an analog reproduction. The analog record might still sound better than the CD to you simplay because you have better reproduction capabilities on your turntable than your cd player.

There is also the very valid argument that you can scratch with vinyl if this is your thing and any digital recreation of that process is pretty much crap.. But it isn't an argument you mentioned :)

Re:Another approach (2, Insightful)

glen604 (750214) | more than 9 years ago | (#9077084)

Actually.. Vinyl tends to be mastered with the dj in mind, so they boost the bass for club/large sound systems when it is made. It has nothing to do with whether the sound is analog or digital in origin.

as far as bass goes- very few speakers/subs in existence can produce sound accurately down below 20hz anyway. Most party sound systems are lucky if they hit 35hz-ish with any accuracy, and generally any attempts to produce sounds lower than this just makes the speakers distort. The bass you can feel is pretty much anything below 100hz.

and yes, I'm a dj as well (own about 1000 records), and while vinyl does sound different than cds, it doesn't have better bass just due to it's "analog nature"

Re:Another approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9082720)

Apparently you need to question the motives and mental sanity of "audiophiles" a little more.

Re:Another approach (1)

Tukla (5899) | more than 9 years ago | (#9083128)

for the purpose of digitizing our vast LP collection

Hmm. Is that legal?

Re:Another approach (1)

gmfink (700093) | more than 9 years ago | (#9075449)

The LOC was also the initial customer for that $100,000 machine. I can't recall if they funded the research for it, but they were definitely the target client.

but how does it compare to the technics 12s? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9073722)

can you scratch w/o skipping finally?

Not the 1st. Lasers have been used for years. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9073726)

ELP Laser Turntable

http://www.elpj.com/

Re:Not the 1st. Lasers have been used for years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9087759)

I'm scared to visit that link. If I click on it and a prog-rock version of "Pictures at an exhibition" booms out of my speakers you are going to have some explaining to do!

Difference? (4, Interesting)

Erasei (315737) | more than 9 years ago | (#9074610)

Can someone with clue explain to us lay-people how what the article describes is different from what this kid did 'in a couple of late nights'? His software scans the record in using a standard flatbed scanner. Is the new version being goverment funded supposed to able to 'rip' at a better quality, or what exactly is the deal with the government funding on this?

http://www.cs.huji.ac.il/~springer/ [huji.ac.il]

Re:Difference? (1)

alex.shultz (29853) | more than 9 years ago | (#9077321)

It seems like the process starts out with the goal to be much more than what Ofer did with his home scanner.

The scientists even attempt to apply some techniques they learned from other experiments to have the computer clean up the sound.

Looks like it could be very interesting to see how much of the recordings stored in the LOC can be restored.

Re:Difference? (2, Insightful)

shamino0 (551710) | more than 9 years ago | (#9078082)

Can someone with clue explain to us lay-people how what the article describes is different from what this kid did 'in a couple of late nights'? His software scans the record in using a standard flatbed scanner. Is the new version being goverment funded supposed to able to 'rip' at a better quality, or what exactly is the deal with the government funding on this?

I'm not exactly sure, but this paragraph from the NYT article implies quite a bit:

The team shoots thousands of precise sequential images of the groove and then stitches the images together, measuring the shape of each undulation and calculating the route a stylus would take along the path.

It seems to me that they are taking lots of close-up photos of the grooves. Probably from an oblique angle. This will let you make a 3-D contour map of the record. (Note the image on the NYT article).

When you have a 3-D map, you can decode the variations in the diagonal sides of the groove to extract the stereo audio content.

With a 2-D top-down image, such as what you get from a flatbed scanner, the only data you have is the floor of the groove. For stereo recordings (and probably modern mono ones as well), this contains little more than noise and aliassing.

Re:Difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9081394)

The difference is this one has been widely decried as a hoax. If you listen to the samples, the noise is far from random: it's been added in a sound editing program. This is a far from trivial process.

Not Only (1)

Kurayamino-X (557754) | more than 9 years ago | (#9074912)

has this BEEN DONE BEFORE
but it was done more then a few years ago, AND posted on /.
and the sound quality from the photo's sucks, but it's there. but why bother with crappy sound and scanning LP's when you can get a laser turntable?
which have been around for a lot longer then people like to think.

Re:Not Only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9075125)

I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure that was a hoax.

Re:Not Only (1)

Mongo222 (612547) | more than 9 years ago | (#9077132)

Yeah... go to google, type in "laser turntable".. There are 43,700 hits, and a whole page of ads selling them. The entry level ones are $99.

square pixels, curved tracks, aliasing? (1)

geoswan (316494) | more than 9 years ago | (#9075451)

Digital scanners scan images into square, or rectangular, pixels. So, wouldn't you get a more accurate scan of those portions of the recording where the general direction of the groove was tangent to, or normal to, the direction of the scan head?

We have all seen digital images, where some curved lines had a blobbly stair step effect. That is called aliasing. There are algorithms for anti-aliasing. But don't they lose precision?

Re:square pixels, curved tracks, aliasing? (1)

ckaminski (82854) | more than 9 years ago | (#9075942)

I thought that was moire, and anti-aliasing was taking sharp edges (whether stair-stepped or not) and make them less sharp so as to make them pleasing to the eye?

Re:square pixels, curved tracks, aliasing? (1)

geoswan (316494) | more than 9 years ago | (#9076874)

Sharp horizontal or vertical lines you probably want to leave as is.



Anti-aliasing involves adjusting the brightness of the pixels on a line with stair steps. So, instead of:

MMM
MMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMM
You would get something like.

MMMfo+-
MMMMMMMMMfo+-
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMfo+-
It will work best if you stand back from the monitor a few feet. This is called "ascii art". I wanted to put more lines in my examples, but it triggered slashdot's "lameness filter". Grrrr.

Re:square pixels, curved tracks, aliasing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9089330)

foo bear!-- test

Ahh but you can't scatch with a Photo (2, Funny)

szyzyg (7313) | more than 9 years ago | (#9075627)

Of course, that still won't affect 90% of mainstream hip-hop cause they've long since left the live DJ behind....

70's Aliens holding LPs and CDs up to their ears? (1)

bolix (201977) | more than 9 years ago | (#9078307)

Any1 else remember cheesy 70s SciFi with rubbermen holding an LP/Cassette up to their ears and pretending to hear the music. Adapted in the 80s to CDs but the same principal.

Maybe they had a scanning laser embedded in their skull transferring the sound directly to the inner ear through the bone.

Remember guys pressing their forearms to a book to read it?

Could happen. Wouldn't be the first time cheesy SciFi foretells the future.
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