This has long been a goal for us and so many DJs, producers, MCs and bands that we know... cutting your own record at home... without ten grands worth of lathe equipment and a permanent cutting station to house it! Well with the resurgence of vinyl and the burgeoning DJ consumer market in general, this year has seen a few attempts to give us that capability.
First up, a year ago a bunch of already seasoned kickstarter entrepreneurs floated PHONOCUT a project that allows you to cut direct to 10 inch vinyl blanks (9 minutes per side) with high end stereo audio quality, representative of a standard pressing. The prototype, videos, audio clips and weight behind this team are truly impressive. The machine takes audio in through standard connection (which could be direct from your phone or a live mic) and passes it through an analogue EQ path to ensure a good cut to vinyl (tailing of high end frequencies and so on). The lathe cuts your audio in real time while you dust away the excess vinyl.. all in a single unit the size of a turntable.
This is really the stuff of dreams for bands and producers wanting to cut small limited runs of high quality material to sell at shows. But dreams don't come for free, and it comes with an equivalent price tag - to satisfy your vinyl pressing ambitions you need to shell out 3k Euros. Not too far off some pricey synthesizers or audio gear but an investment nonetheless. From the audio samples recorded it sounds like it can reproduce low end sub bass pretty well.. so here at SHSC we are very excited about it! The phonocut is still in production and first completed products have not yet been sent out to customers but time will tell if this becomes as ubiquitous as a good CD burner in the early 2000s.
Fast forward to mid 2020, and we have a surprise pip to the post from another project 5 years in the making. Jeff Mills in collaboration with design house Yuri Suzuki took their design for an instant record cutting machine to Japanese publishers Gakken and we now have the Gakken Toy Record Maker. Now this is clearly labelled as a toy, cuts 5 inch vinyl (4 minutes max per side), and will add noise to the pressing so doesn't encroach on the same market as the phonocut. For DJs and artists however, this unit being priced at 135 quid could be a very accessible way to create some interesting limited run releases. Certainly for the turntablist market this offers a very cheap entry into cutting your own scratch vinyl (where sometimes extra noise in the grooves can be additionally artistic and expressive).
The machine operates in a similar way to the phonocut with standard connection in and direct cutting to blank discs but you have to build and assemble the Gakken first. Similarly from various audio clips and tutorial videos you can find on YouTube, there appears to be a lot of trial and error, with manual eq and volume adjustment etc to retrieve a usable cut. It sure looks a load of fun either way!!
At SHSC we think both of these options are exciting and hopefully the beginnings of a market for consumer priced accessible vinyl cutting machines. There's so much to be said for the digital revolution in bringing music to the masses immediately, but there's something primal about seeing sound waves physically stamped or etched into a disc that cant be matched in any other way. Vinyl is often a final validation of an artists work, there's no going back to alter it now... its etched in wax.
You can pre order a PHONOCUT HERE
You can purchase a Gakken at Edinburgh's very own Richie Ruftone Turntabletrainingwax store HERE