New spin on an old romance: Latest Sonneteer creation lets you print your own records in your own home!
Latest stereolithography 3D printer technology lets music lovers to recreate their favourite LPs. The LP Creation Software available for free, but you still have to buy the music!
We are back to the old with the latest 3-D printing technology created by the amazing chaps at Sonneteer allowing you to produce your own records at home. You can 3D print anything from the Beatle’s 1st Album to your own version of “Now that’s what I called…” compilation LPs to your heart’s content.
Vinyl’s coming back, but not as we know it!
Sonneteer, writing on their website said: ‘We recently revisited our old record collection and sadly we have found that some of the older LPs were in a bit of a bad state! With LP’s there are no ways to repair them, and with so many of them being out of print there are no ways to replace them ether!… Or is there? We wondered. “We could use a laser cutting machine to…” but apart from Sonneteer’s (ever so slightly eccentric) co-founder Remo Casadei, who else would be dreaming of having such a machine in their own home? We then looked at some other manufacturing processes available and thought, why not just print it?
We had long considered using 3D printing technology in the past to create some of our products like the Bard Wireless audio system, whereby the technology requires the cases to be made in polymer to allow wireless transmission. However, all the earlier “3D” AM (Additive Manufacturing) machines weren’t actually true 3D, they were in fact 2-D printing machines, capable of printing one layer on top of another and the results were refined enough. So we set out in search of a better way to achieve the results we wanted.
Once formed, the second laser “cuts” the music “grooves” and you can then play it on your record player like a normal record – via the Sonneteer Sedley phono stage of course!
Insert: 3DDS in action (note twin laser tubes)
After spending several months discussing with 3-D printer makers around the world, we pinned down a two-tier process called “3-D-D Stereolithography”, or “Three-Double-D”. This new twin laser process would basically construct the main object body via the first guided laser beams to quickly solidify the liquid polymer into the basic shape (i.e. the record body), and then use the second ultra-fine laser beam to create the details (i.e. the sound tracks grooves) at a precision far greater than any gas-laser cutter can ever achieve. Also, as all the shaping and cutting are done at room temperature the final object will not suffer from temperature related distortion issues, and for the same reason, no annealing process is required to prevent future crazing either.
What about the software? Well, it is surprisingly simple as the open-sourced free software basically loads a music file just like any computer music player but with a difference: You also get a PRINT button! So now not only can you press PLAY to listen or preview your creation, you can also press PRINT which sends the file to the printer to, literally, print yourself a hard copy! The free to download software accepts most popular audio formats such as MP3, WMA etc., and the Pro version accepts high resolution formats such as WAV, DVD-A, DSD etc. Being open source means any developer can also incorporate their own ideas offering additional features for the future too!
One thing most curious, even though the files are digital, the output grooves are actually analogue as they are carved by a continuously moving single laser beam, and then mechanically low-pass filtered in the solidifying polymer. After hundreds of hours of listening by our panel of judges, they all agreed that the playback sounded distinctively analogue too!
So, are the printed records black in colour too? Sadly not yet as the highest resolution polymer currently comes only in indigo, but who says the technology will stop here? This is the only beginning and Sonneteer believe apart from printing black LPs, we will soon be printing picture discs too!
3DDs software in operation. You can set different LP thickness too… 180g Vinyl here we come!
We’d like to thank Remo Casadei, Technical Director and one of the Sonneteer founders for help with this article.
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“Tears on the sleeve of a man Don’t wanna be a boy today..” follows a signature Tori Amos Piano introduction, ‘Pretty Good Year’, starts the album off, stripped down to the bare beauty of Tori’s voice and piano. Our anticipation hangs off every lyric for the next as each note carries us like a mother dancing with her baby in arms. The song builds as strings, percussion and voices are layered on. Tori’s main vocal and Bösendorfer piano still seem raw yet beautiful amongst them as they close much as they began. Pretty good song.
Released in the same week as Sonneteer’s incorporation 21 years ago, Tori Amos’ second album, ‘Under The Pink’ has been one of our reference recordings. As we both come of age I thought I’d dust off my reviewer’s cap and give the album a critical airing. Though in fairness it is hard to be critical of a piece of work that has served us so well in our development over the last couple of decades.
My first experience of Tori Amos’ music was a few months pre my Bachelors finals in Electronics. Silent All These Years had finally charted properly in the UK and the radio stations were all over it like the next big thing. I think I heard the song twice and I set to Ourprice to buy the album. My Parents had bought me a proper separates (Philips)hifi CD player for my 21st Birthday and this was now the jewel in my collection. Hard to believe since Prince and Jimi Hendrix pretty much ruled my musical world at the time.
Not long after this my first amplifier was taking shape. One of our lecturers was an Audiophile and an audio designer himself so he needed no encouragement to let me go ahead and build an amplifier for my final year project. I’d already bought a nice pair of Tannoys, but my amp was an (actually very good) second hand Toshiba and I felt the system needed a tweak. I mostly used it for monitoring in my real hobby which was recording (my own and some of my friends’) music. None the less Tori’s first outing (under the Tori Amos brand) was to feature heavily in the midst of the fires and minor explosions which was the development of my first amplifier design. If CDs could wear then there would be little of ‘Little Earthquakes’ left by the years end, so you can imagine my anticipation levels for a second bewitchment.
A more dynamic number follow, ‘God’, is Tori out Kate Bushing Kate Bush. The piano is now an obvious percussive instrument. If a song is going to send a badly designed amplifier or CD player into a frenzied muddle it’s this one. To the generic this is madness, but seems totally right. Guitars shrieking like seagulls, a bass line that carries both melody and backbone, and layers of Tori voices prodding your senses throughout.This is wall of sound yet you can make out every little detail. God does she come through.
Perhaps my favourite Tori Amos tune follows. The third song on the album is, ‘Belles for her’. I remember my partner, Vicky and I going to see her live at the Albert Hall, long, long before we had children and we had time to do such things. A special upright piano was brought onto stage for this number. This is just Tori and the instrument. As the name suggests, the upright sounded like bells playing. As with a lot of Tori Amos productions, every thud of the pedals and stroke of keys is felt and heard through the recording. Each ‘bell’ rings like it’s in a cold hollow chamber. It is as haunting as it is beautiful. I could hear it a hundred times over and it would still tingle the bones from the inside, and out of control. I recall once at a HiFi show we played the track through our [Sonneteer] equipment to a room full of about 30 people and they were so captivated, barely a breath was heard throughout the whole five minutes and fifteen seconds of it. Anyone who has had the experience of these shows back in the day when they were very busy will appreciate the achievement. The timing of every breath and every strike of a key keeps you hanging and wanting. The beauty of the song is only matched by the drama of the performance.
The next two songs, ‘Past the Mission’ and ‘Baker Baker’ are Tori in coasting mode. They come at just the right time as the senses are in need a bit of rest. The calmer ‘Past the Mission’ with it’s playful verses and silky chorus will have you singing along unwittingly. This is as close as we get to a proper pop song as ‘Under the Pink’ takes us on musical journey that is far from dull. Voice and piano alone again, almost but not quite a lullaby, ‘Baker Baker’ slows us right down.
If sleep is where I am then ‘The Wrong Band’ and ‘The Waitress’ are smelling salts to the senses. The former is a playful and uplifting yet strangely melancholy. This is still Tori coasting but with aplomb. And if that didn’t wake you up then,what comes next is a true test of subsonic playback and the incitement to violence laws. Which is a perfect preamble to the most commercially known song on the album, ‘Cornflake Girl’. This happens to be my least favourite title on this long player and yet it is arguably the only complete song in the collection. If I only had one test song to play then ‘Cornflake’ would be it.It has it all. Tori vocals at their provocative best and a jamboree of melody and dynamics and in fairness a good song too.
If there at all was a dip in the early album then,’Icicle’, track nine is a true return to form. I often use the very first note of this song as a test signal on its own. It lingers momentarily, solitary yet fat with emotion, enough to fill a family of hearts. The melody plays out like a Nordic TV police drama which still makes sense without the subtitles. We are sort of kept in this mode all the way to the end of the album. The final three songs, ‘Cloud on my Tongue’, ‘Space Dog’ and ‘Yes Anastasia’ are melodically are episodes two, three and four. The pick of the three is probably ‘Space dog’ which always gives me a sense of being in a dingy on a smooth yet fast flowing river in a dream. Closing out the album is a drawn out affair that takes us to the soulful depths as well as the pitched heights of a Tori Amos rendition. As much as ‘Little Earth Quakes’ was an almost rude interruption but very pleasant exposure, ‘Under the Pink’ is a scalpel through the chest and a drill into the scull of the body of work that Tori Amos is yet to deliver. If Little Earth Quakes put her on the map, Under the Pink built the city. Every penny Tori earned after this is owed to this. Brilliant.
The year was 1994 and I was half way through my Masters degree when my HiFi crazy University friend Remo Casadei and I decided to start making amplifiers. I had also introduced him to Tori’s tunes and he too caught that flu.
To write this review I have been listening to her CD over and over in the past week and getting paragraphs written in between bouts of work at the bench in the workshop, studying circuits and sipping black coffee as well as at my office at home with the kids jumping around and on me. The systems I have used have comprised of a Sonneteer Alabaster amplifier, Byron CD player Mark Three and Jamo Concert 8 loudspeakers in the workshop and at home, a Mark One Sonneteer Campion, a Mark three Byron and a pair of Rogue 6 Penaudio loudspeakers.
First published in the Sonneteer Sound Magazine.
Haider Bahrani is the Managing Director and co founder at Sonneteer.
Hand made in Britain since 1994
“Right away I sensed there was something special happening.”
“probably the most musical gear I’ve had come through my music room in recent memory.”
“…stroke of genius”
“enjoying the music – as it should be!”
“The build, fit and finish is exceptional revealing layers of detail I’d not tuned into before.”
“absolutely musical and organic sounding. Pulls you into listening to and enjoying song after song, album after album.”
“I suddenly remembered I was supposed to be reviewing the amp rather than sitting there transfixed.”
And that’s just some of the good stuff from the reviewers.
Here are some words from our customers:
“This amp is beautiful to the eye and to the ear.” Mark Williams, Alabaster Owner Nov 2014
“Orton is still one of my reference amps and all old and present Penaudios has been designed by listening them through Orton!” Sami Penttila, Founder of Penaudio loudspeakers.
“I’m just enjoying the amp so much Haider, thanks again for designing/building such a beautiful sounding piece of art.” Rafe Arnott, Campion owner.
“I have had your excellent Alabaster giving me pleasure for more than ten years..” Richard Coe, end user, UK.
“I can’t tell you enough how proud I feel to have owned one of your first Campions for all this time.” Hallam Udel, UK and Japan End user.
“In the short time listening I am very impressed with the performance of the Alabaster and it seems to work very well with my Harbeths. “ Edward Laukys. Canada end user.
“The sheer musicality of the Sonneteer is incredibly impressive. It creates distinct instrument separation, 3D placement and ‘air’ around voices and instruments.” Raferx on the Steve Hoffman Music Forums.
and so on and on.
For a lot more please visit www.sonneteer.co.uk
Hand made in Britain since 1994.
We all live or die in business by our reputation. Here at Sonneteer we are certainly no different. We are human and will always have the odd off day. We all know the day when sleep didn’t visit us much the night before and breakfast was left behind as the kids chased us out of the door. So staring into a large cup of black coffee the best remedy is to dig out some of the responses and comments we have had over the years from our customers and the odd reviewer. The Sonneteer evangelists, as they may be called, always remind us why we really do all of the Sonneteer things we do. Here are a few typical recent examples:
“In this age of very dubious value, service and standards from big and impersonal retailers Sonneteer is a gem
emitting a much welcomed ray of sunshine. I am looking forward to adding more of your products to my system.”
Tony Melhuish, End user,Customer June 2011
“Your posting of December 9/10, 2010 in Ecoustics.com to Art shows you’re a great designer willing to come down to customer level, hold their hand and show them the way.”
Philippe Hing, End user,Customer June 2011
“I was lucky enough to hear some Sonneteer amps with my Harbeth C7 ES3’s a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been wanting to give a report since I was so impressed. There have been a few people recommending Sonneteer recently, and Adam Wyskonski has recommended the Orton with Harbeths in particular, so I was keen to hear it….. What I heard with the Orton, from the first moments really, was that it was extraordinarily clean and clear at the same time as it was expansive, dynamic and fast…. I would say this is the most impressive integrated amp I’ve heard up to this point; a really fine achievement made with great care.”
Pink Fish Media by an End User April 2011
“Orton is a very great amp. It has a very clear, transparency and refind sound like your description on the website. I am so surprised that the amp with only 33w can drive the speakers well in sensativity 85db. ”
Shih-Chang, End User November 2012
And of course there’s the press who have done their fair share of work to cheer us up on cloudy day:
“[On the Campion amplifier and Bronte CD player]..these machines are the objects of craftwork. Comparable to drinking single malt whisky, straight. You can enjoy the high quality sound without colouration. A person who like this is one who is a considerable lover of music and sound.” Translation. Audio Basic(Japan), Spring 2012.
“…The Morpheus Music Centre [from Sonneteer] will move you from the very first instant. This is not just a high technology laden piece of equipment, but clearly one created to bring music to life.”
Winson Ng, HiFi Review, August 2010
“…..Right away I sensed there was something special happening. While some of the preamplifiers I auditioned were (as Goldilocks would say) too hot or too cold, the Sedley was just right. It was quiet, had good sense of space, nice top end without hiss or excessive sizzle, and images were appropriately sized and didn’t sound congested or obviously colored in any way. Soundstage wasn’t too wide or too narrow and image location was excellent as evidenced by the track ”Home At Last.” This is the first preamp that I’ve had under review that I could honestly consider using for the long term. This is not to say it’s perfect and there is nothing better, but only that it doesn’t have any egregious flaws. I felt comfortable sitting and just listening (and without the feeling I was missing something or the music was being edited by the equipment).
…Tonally this preamp gets it right. I have to say that I had to be reminded I was working on a review and try to critically listen as I continually lapsed into just enjoying the music–as it should be! The other thing I noticed was that although the LP wasn’t in perfect shape the imperfections became less noticeable when the music was this engrossing.”
Brian Bloom(Yes the actor), Audiophile Audition, June 2009, USA
“…a digital amplifier of audiophile quality”
“…it’s reproduction [of music] demonstrates an incontestable transparency in the true spirit of digital
Translated from Diapason Magazine July-August 2009, France.
“…And if you’re feeling really flush, look around for Soneteer’s Bard system, a USB dongle that plugs into your
laptop and transmits to a receiver jacked into your stereo. The result is very high-quality sound that’s highly
recommended by audioheads. However, it does cost around £240″
Bobbie Johnson, The Guardian, Saturday 21 June 2008
“in fact, it comfortably compares with a variety of integrated amps and receivers in its price range.” [About theAmplifier that fits in the palm of your hand]
The Absolute Sound, December 2006
“Simple but highly effective …the quality is excellent “ ….“The Bard Audio system is recommended without
hesitation.”Gramophone June 2005
“Bard is a stroke of genius”
What Hi Fi? September 2005.
Now where are my chocolate biscuits?
Image courtesy of www.stockfreeimages.com
Magazine: The human ear is exceptionally sensitive and so responds to tiniest change in pressure in the airwaves. To give you an idea in numbers, the human ear threshold of hearing is less than one billionth of atmospheric pressure 1. Added to that the huge dynamic range we have it’s difficult to understand when some people say that they can’t hear the difference between one music system and another. Beyond the ear music is ‘listened to’ by our whole body. Deaf people have a more enhanced sense of this and often gain as much fulfilment out a piece of music as a person with the ability to hear. Albeit from a different perspective 2. I would expect that they too would notice the difference between the reproductions of different sound systems.
Recently, as we have been working on the Mark five CD players and the Mark Three Orton amplifier we have reawakened our awareness of the subtle sensitivity we have to tiny changes in sound. Because of this we find most of our work is done not behind the CAD 3 screen and not gazing at an Oscilloscope on the test bench, but on the sofa in the listening room with a clutch of CDs and with soldering iron and screw driver handy. Our abilities in audio electronics have to be at least matched with our mechanical engineering capabilities and knowledge of the dark arts. Though the latter can often be substituted with common sense. [Go to our magazine to read more]