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

The digitization of the music industry leveled the playing field for artists. An album can be written, recorded and released from a bedroom without an expensive recording studio or predatory record label. This DIY ethic isn’t new. Bands have been recording and releasing albums on their own or out of friendly record stores for decades.

Digitization has also created a glut of available music, which can make it difficult for new bands or artists to break through the noise. Plus, popular performers with record deals still get the particular lion’s share from the attention. I’m pretty sure every Beyonce release is now a national holiday. For every other artist, the resurgence associated with vinyl and cassette offers revived the ability to give or even sell something tangible to their fans – a physical keepsake that could offer a tighter emotional bond with the songs. While making copies of tapes has been an at-home pastime since the 1980s, vinyl has required a third party that specializes in cutting records. At least, until recently.

Teen Engineering’s $149 PO-08 Report Factory combines the nostalgia of a Fisher-Price turntable along with the utility of the machine that will can actually cut vinyl fabric. You’ll have to assemble it yourself plus master each song specifically for the device. Even after all that work, your music probably will sound like it’s being played through an AM radio. That might audio like a nightmare for some, yet is potentially wonderful 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 really a rebranding of magazine publisher Gakken’s “Easy Record Maker” — a record cutter/player designed by Yuri Suzuki. Adolescent Engineering worked with Suzuki for its version and even includes an interview with the designer in the supplied magazine/instruction booklet.

Though the turntable looks like the toy, Teenage Engineering tells you (again and again) that it’s not recommended for kids under the particular age of 12. It’s really built for “children” between the ages of 17 and 64 — for the type associated with person that has three bands, strong opinions about direct drive turntables, a very active Discogs account and a DIY attitude. Oh, and also the patience needed to fiddle with tiny parts with regard to hours to create a single, not-so-perfect mono copy of a song. Yes, it works, but it’s the lo-fi representation of a professionally created report; The Factory is an EZ bake oven for plastic.

Building the Record Factory takes about 60 to 90 minutes, and it helps give you the confidence to disassemble it when you realize that, say, you didn’t attach the cable for that needle securely. I had to do exactly that when there was no audio after I first put the device together – everything seemed to become working yet there was no actual sound.

Having to assemble the unit also lends insight into the particular Record Factory’s inner workings, which are quite clever. The cutting needle vibrates via a tiny speaker in order to engrave your audio onto one of Teen Engineering’s blank discs. A tiny gearing system moves the hook along and after three to four moments (depending on the recording speed), your song is inscribed onto the vinyl.

But everything leading up to that will be a series of adjustments. If you’re the particular type of person that requires a thing to “just work” without much tinkering, stay far away from the PO-08.

You begin with your original recording and at the end associated with the inscription, you get a mono representation. The particular single-channel audio is a technical limitation of the gadget. To make sure the particular audio going in is mono, the Record Manufacturing plant comes with a minijack cable that will takes the particular left plus right channels of your own stereo signal and merges them together. You also end up losing fidelity, which is another technical limitation. The top and low ends of the song can get muddy easily and too much bass really causes the cutter filling device to jump.

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

Roberto Baldwin / Engadget

You can try to fix this yourself, but it is smarter in order to use Adolescent Engineering’s online audio mastering tool. Just upload the particular file, wait a few minutes and the site spits out something that works better using the device. This process does result in the loss of all the intricate details of your song. The low finish becomes slightly muddy or disappears altogether while the particular high end loses its bite. Should you be looking for crisp, exact copies, skip the PO-08 entirely.

A whole 45 minutes after mastering your own audio, a person get to cut the record. In that time, you’ll be adjusting the pressure of the particular cutting arm, listening very carefully to the audio being sent in order to the product to make sure it isn’t really distorting and if it is, turning down the volume. Yet you can’t go too low, or the particular signal wont be strong enough in order to engrave. That means you have got to open up the equalizer and make adjustments (so many adjustments) until the audio sounds good (enough).

Now you’re ready to put it on wax (as they used to say in the particular olden days). Except before you create a record you can share, you need to cut sound onto a test vinyl. A person record 10 seconds, wash the disc with water to obtain all of the excess bits out there of the grooves, then switch the particular Record Manufacturer to play mode and listen to your masterpiece.

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

Roberto Baldwin / Engadget

The test record is not that a big deal until you realize that Teenage Engineering has sold out from the discs needed for the turntable and hasn’t shared information on when they’ll be back in stock. This makes testing all the more important.

The word associated with caution: the cutter slows down the particular turntable, so when played back again at regular speed it might sound a little higher pitched. Like low-level Chipmunks high. So make certain you drop your file into the relevant tools online to adjust your own song. Except it likely still needs work if you want the closest representation of your song available from the PO-80, which means you’ll have to, surprise, make a lot more adjustments. We conducted five test cuts before I was finally prepared to create my first at-home vinyl record of a song.

On top associated with everything, the particular turntable itself isn’t the great player, either. It sounds like you are listening in order to music from under the sea. It’s fun to create and play about the same device, but it’s best to take the disc to a proper turntable. On the Technics SL-1200 MK2, the mono audio with the particular high plus low-end cut-off sounded a bit far compared to the original and the fidelity is usually nowhere near the quality of professional vinyl in my collection. Yet, it’s exactly what I anticipated and I’m happy along with the end result.

The particular Record Stock lives or even dies by its owner’s expectations. There are two types of people in this world: those that lose their minds and persistence dealing with even the tiniest inconvenience and those that live for tinkering and experimenting.

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

Roberto Baldwin / Engadget

The second group are usually people like me, and are excited about the particular difference inside sounds among an at-home produced report, a cassette and the digital document. My band typically information on a digital eight-track yet I also use a cassette four-track from your late 80s. There’s some thing special regarding sending a fan the vinyl documenting that was produced in home. The PO-08 is for people that will find beauty within the inherent potential for errors in DO-IT-YOURSELF analog recordings.

The Report Factory will find the niche associated with users that happily spend hours creating the perfectly imperfect vinyl copy of their song. Unfortunately, if someone doesn’t already have a PO-08 turntable they will have in order to find one of these beauties on eBay or Craigslist. The power move is definitely to search for the Gaken branded version on auction web sites. Those turntables are much cheaper (under $100) than the Teenage Engineering edition.

Teenage Engineering told Engadget that this has no plans to produce more of the sold-out turntables which is a shame. Not every musician can afford to have hundreds of records produced by a third party. But , if they can find a Record Factory (they’re currently selling through $250 in order to $500) they can cut one-of-a-kind vinyl they could share with friends and fans while they wait around to make it big. As long as they are happy doing that will on the toy built for really patient songs nerds that are delighted trading fidelity for something real.

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