“Hey, uh, yeah, so . . . I made you something. No big deal. I was just kind of thinking of you last night, then that got me to thinking about these last 1.5 dates we’ve been on, and . . . look it’s really not a big thing, just some songs that kind of remind me of you or whatever.”*PULLS RECORD FULL OF ALANIS MORISSETTE HITS FROM BACKPACK*
This could be you. Though the young romantic lost the power to create mixtapes somewhere in early 1990s as CDs took over—then lost the power to create mix CDs somewhere in the mid-aughts as MP3s and streaming killed CDs—physical music is making a comeback with the resurgence of vinyl. Now there’s even a gadget that lets you make your own mix records. It’s called the Phonocut, and yes, it’s going to cost you. The device will sell for $1,100 when it’s released in December 2020. But think of all the money you’ll save on dinner and flowers.
The Phonocut’s interface is as simple as possible by design. You plug into the device via an audio cable, connecting it to a music source like your computer or your phone’s headphone jack (R.I.P.). Then you hit play, and the 18-pound vinyl lathe uses a diamond-tipped needle to cut 10-inch records in real time to the music. These records are small and are only able to hold about 15 minutes of music per side. So use some restraint on that slow jam playlist.
Technically speaking, there’s nothing all that complicated going on here. The Phonocut simply translates the analog vibrations of music into patterns on the vinyl.
But getting that process just right is hard, admit the creators, who have put four years into the development of the product thus far. The devil is in the details. The Phonocut’s lathe operates using a highly accurate electromagnetic suspension, and the speed of the turntable is constantly optimized with an algorithm. To avoid such complications, most modern records are made by stamping vinyl under high pressure, not etching it. That means records are mass produced by nature and out of reach for home enthusiasts to make in single batches on their own.
The idea of creating custom vinyl at home might sound too good to be true, but its founder, Flo Kaufmann, is a record specialist with over two decades in the business. He’s partnered with Florian “Doc” Kaps, who has already successfully brought back another analog technology thought lost to the ages—Polaroid film—with his Impossible Project. So if anyone can pull off the Phonocut, it’s probably this team.
The project has already blown through its fundraising goals on Kickstarter—and what do you know, they’re supposed to ship early units in time for Valentine’s Day.