Cut Your Own Vinyl Records With This $1,100 Machine
The Phonocut is an at-home vinyl lathe, allowing anyone with a digital audio file and a dream to make a 10-inch record.
Better clear out several shelves of storage space, vinylheads, because your record collection is about to expand into infinity. Soon, you’ll be able to get absolutely anything on vinyl. Even better—you’ll be able to make it.
The Phonocut is an analog vinyl lathe, the first consumer device capable of making custom records immediately, right there in your home (assuming you’re willing to pay $1,100 for the privilege).
The device cuts 10-inch vinyl records, which can hold about 10 to 15 minutes of audio on each side. It’s a connected device; a companion app helps with formatting and song arrangement to better fit your music onto the two sides. But at its core, the Phonocut was designed for simplicity. All you have to do is plug in an audio cable, like from a headphone jack, and press Play.
“It has to be idiot-proof,” says Florian “Doc” Kaps, an Austrian analog enthusiast and Phonocut cofounder. “Even I myself should be in a position to cut the records.”
The machine works in real time. As the music plays, a diamond stylus etches the sound wave straight into the surface of the vinyl. Theoretically, you could put any audio you want on there—a custom playlist, your own embarrassing electronica experiments, whale sounds—whatever. After a half hour of playback, you have a physical saucer of sound ready to pick up, hold, and toss on a turntable.
Kaps, who has a fascination with the ways that analog technologies engage the senses, dreamed up the machine with his business partners.
“Digital has a big problem, you know—it’s not real,” Kaps says. “You can very easily access it, but you only can see it, or you can hear it. You never can lick it, you cannot smell it, and you can’t touch it. We human beings do have these five senses. And at the end of the day, we need all these five senses to fall in love, to feel happy, to build trust.”
The resurgence of vinyl records in the past decade has once again made the sonic frisbees a viable medium of music. Third Man Records, Jack White’s label, has been cutting live studio performances to acetate for years. Other small presses are popping up to fuel the demand for vinyl product from independent artists. But if the Phonocut can live up to the great expectations it’s setting for itself, it could usher in a whole new era of the vinyl experience.
“People love records, but they don’t know anything about how they are produced,” Kaps says. “We have to inspire them to think about it and raise their awareness for the possibilities of what they can do with it.”