Teenage Engineering’s Record Factory is a DIY musician’s dream

The digitization of the music business leveled the taking part in subject for artists. An album might be written, recorded and launched from a bed room with out an costly recording studio or predatory report label. This DIY ethic isn’t new. Bands have been recording and releasing albums on their very own or out of pleasant report shops for many years.

Digitization has additionally created a glut of obtainable music, which may make it troublesome for brand spanking new bands or artists to interrupt by way of the noise. Plus, common artists with report offers nonetheless get the lion’s share of the eye. I’m fairly certain each Beyonce launch is now a nationwide vacation. For each different artist, the resurgence of vinyl and cassette has revived the power to provide or promote one thing tangible to their followers – a bodily memento that would provide a tighter emotional bond with the music. Whereas making copies of tapes has been an at-home pastime because the Nineteen Eighties, vinyl has required a 3rd social gathering that makes a speciality of reducing information. Not less than, till just lately.

Teenage Engineering’s $149 PO-08 Document Manufacturing unit combines the nostalgia of a Fisher-Worth turntable with the utility of a machine that may really minimize vinyl. You’ll should assemble it your self and grasp every tune particularly for the system. Even in any case that work, your music most likely will sound prefer it’s being performed by way of an AM radio. That may sound like a nightmare for some, but is doubtlessly fantastic for others.

A closeup shot of an orange turntable  with some dust in its center, and the words

Roberto Baldwin / Engadget

The PO-08 is a rebranding of journal writer Gakken’s “Straightforward Document Maker” — a report cutter/participant designed by Yuri Suzuki. Teenage Engineering labored with Suzuki for its model and even contains an interview with the designer within the provided journal/instruction booklet.

Although the turntable seems to be like a toy, Teenage Engineering tells you (repeatedly) that it’s not really helpful for youths underneath the age of 12. It’s actually constructed for “kids” between the ages of 17 and 64 — for the kind of person who has three bands, sturdy opinions about direct drive turntables, a really lively Discogs account and a DIY angle. Oh, and in addition the persistence wanted to fiddle with tiny elements for hours to create a single, not-so-perfect mono copy of a tune. Sure, it really works, but it surely’s a lo-fi illustration of a professionally created report; The Manufacturing unit is an EZ bake oven for vinyl.

Constructing the Document Manufacturing unit takes about 60 to 90 minutes, and it helps provide the confidence to disassemble it once you understand that, say, you didn’t connect the cable for the needle securely. I needed to do precisely that when there was no audio after I first put the system collectively – every thing appeared to be working however there was no precise sound.

Having to assemble the system additionally lends perception into the Document Manufacturing unit’s inside workings, that are fairly intelligent. The reducing needle vibrates by way of a tiny speaker to engrave your audio onto one in every of Teenage Engineering’s clean discs. A tiny gearing system strikes the needle alongside and after three to 4 minutes (relying on the recording velocity), your tune is inscribed onto the vinyl.

However every thing main as much as that may be a sequence of changes. When you’re the kind of person who requires a factor to “simply work” with out a lot tinkering, keep distant from the PO-08.

You start along with your unique recording and on the finish of the inscription, you get a mono illustration. The one-channel audio is a technical limitation of the system. To verify the audio moving into is mono, the Document Manufacturing unit comes with a minijack cable that takes the left and proper channels of your stereo sign and merges them collectively. You additionally find yourself dropping constancy, which is one other technical limitation. The highest and low ends of a tune can get muddy simply and an excessive amount of bass really causes the cutter needle to leap.

A turntable with an arm that ends in a cutter, touching a black disc.

Roberto Baldwin / Engadget

You’ll be able to attempt to repair this your self, but it surely’s smarter to make use of Teenage Engineering’s on-line audio mastering instrument. Simply add the file, wait a couple of minutes and the positioning spits out one thing that works higher with the system. This course of does outcome within the lack of all of the intricate particulars of your tune. The low finish turns into barely muddy or disappears altogether whereas the excessive finish loses its chunk. When you’re in search of crisp, precise copies, skip the PO-08 fully.

An entire 45 minutes after mastering your audio, you get to chop a report. In that point, you’ll be adjusting the stress of the reducing arm, listening very fastidiously to the audio being despatched to the system to ensure it’s not distorting and whether it is, turning down the amount. However you’ll be able to’t go too low, or the sign wont be sturdy sufficient to engrave. Which means you must open up the equalizer and make changes (so many changes) till the audio sounds good (sufficient).

Now you’re able to put it on wax (as they used to say within the olden days). Besides earlier than you create a report you’ll be able to share, it’s good to minimize audio onto a take a look at vinyl. You report 10 seconds, wash the disc with water to get all the surplus bits out of the grooves, then swap the Document Manufacturing unit to play mode and hearken to your masterpiece.

A close up of the cutting needle on the Teenage Engineering Record Factory.

Roberto Baldwin / Engadget

The take a look at report isn’t {that a} large deal till you understand that Teenage Engineering has offered out of the discs wanted for the turntable and hasn’t shared info on after they’ll be again in inventory. This makes testing all of the extra vital.

A phrase of warning: the cutter slows down the turntable, so when performed again at common velocity it would sound a little bit increased pitched. Like low-level Chipmunks excessive. So ensure you drop your file into the related instruments on-line to regulate your tune. Besides it probably nonetheless wants work if you need the closest illustration of your tune accessible from the PO-80, which suggests you’ll should, shock shock, make extra changes. I carried out 5 take a look at cuts earlier than I used to be lastly able to create my first at-home vinyl report of a tune.

On high of all that, the turntable itself isn’t an incredible participant, both. It sounds such as you’re listening to music from underneath the ocean. It’s enjoyable to create and play on the identical system, but it surely’s greatest to take the disc to a correct turntable. On my Technics SL-1200 MK2, the mono audio with the excessive and low-end cut-off sounded a bit distant in comparison with the unique and the constancy is nowhere close to the standard {of professional} vinyl in my assortment. But, it’s precisely what I anticipated and I’m proud of the top outcome.

The Document Manufacturing unit lives or dies by its proprietor’s expectations. There are two kinds of individuals on this world: those who lose their minds and persistence coping with even the tiniest inconvenience and those who reside for tinkering and experimenting.

A front view of the Teenage Engineering Record Factory PO-08.

Roberto Baldwin / Engadget

The second group are individuals like me, and are excited in regards to the distinction in sounds between an at-home produced report, a cassette and a digital file. My band sometimes information on a digital eight-track however I additionally use a cassette four-track from the late 80s. There’s one thing particular about sending a fan a vinyl recording that was produced at residence. The PO-08 is for those that discover magnificence within the inherent potential for errors in DIY analog recordings.

The Document Manufacturing unit will discover its area of interest of customers that fortunately spend hours creating the superbly imperfect vinyl copy of their tune. Sadly, if somebody doesn’t have already got a PO-08 turntable they should discover one in every of these beauties on eBay or Craigslist. The ability transfer is to seek for the Gaken branded model on eBay. These turntables are less expensive (underneath $100) than the Teenage Engineering model.

Teenage Engineering advised Engadget that it has no plans to supply extra of the sold-out turntables which is a disgrace. Not each musician can afford to have a whole bunch of information produced by a 3rd social gathering. However, if they’ll discover a Document Manufacturing unit (they’re at the moment promoting from $250 to $500) they’ll minimize one-of-a-kind vinyl they’ll share with buddies and followers whereas they wait to make it large. So long as they’re joyful doing that on a toy constructed for very affected person music nerds which are joyful buying and selling constancy for one thing actual.

All merchandise really helpful by Engadget are chosen by our editorial workforce, unbiased of our dad or mum firm. A few of our tales embrace affiliate hyperlinks. When you purchase one thing by way of one in every of these hyperlinks, we could earn an affiliate fee. All costs are right on the time of publishing.

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