When old music and new tech combined, magic happens!

Learn how fun it can be to tinker with technology and find a way to make something work without having to buy new things. This time: Record Player

Most anyone who knows me understands that I am a very nostalgic person.  I like old things.  It can be anything old, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to the banister at Mt. Vernon with wood that many forefathers once touched.  There is something about tangible, physical items that can speak volumes.  Combine that with my love of music, and it's no wonder I'm a lover of vinyl records.

It's not the newly pressed vinyl I'm most fascinated with.  Of course, those have their place and if a favorite artist of mine releases a new album on vinyl, there is no doubt I'm going to get it.  Yet, there is something about the older records I like to get my hands on.  Getting the sense that something has been played and has a personal history amazed me.  I love the sound of the occasional pop as it plays through.  Through this, I also get to discover or rediscover older bands whose careers peaked in the 60s and 70s when vinyl was the only way to listen to their music.

Now, what does this have to do with tech?  As my wife and I's record collection has blown up, I realized so much of what I want to listen to was limited to a single turntable.  After all, the story of vinyl's demise in the late 1908s and 1990s was a result of the dawn of cassettes and the CD which offered mobility that was key for any consumer who loved to bring their music with them.  The evolution of the mp3 player and then streaming services made our music even more easily accessible from almost anywhere we are.

What about the money I spent on these vinyl records which I don't have a digital copy of?  What about hearing those pops and cracks and having to turn the vinyl disc to the other side?  It's an experience.  I can't truly have the best of both worlds, but I did want to at least hear the record through my entire house, and outside.

It wasn't in the budget to buy an elaborate system.  I do like music and vinyl records, but I wouldn't call myself an audiophile and money to upgrade the stereo just wasn't there.  What about using what I had?  Could I just use my existing turntable with only an audio out jack, my computer, and my smartphone over wifi?  Could I listen to a record playing on the living room turntable while I was outside mowing the lawn?  

Challenge accepted!

This isn't so much a how-to, but a story of how fun it can be to tinker with technology and find a way to make something work without having to buy all sorts of new equipment.

A little research into this project led me to needing to buy a BlueTooth turntable which could be connected to any BlueTooth speaker or BlueTooth ready device.  Again, I wasn't ready to spend that kind of money.  $300 just wasn't in the budget.  Money was going to have to be spent, but I was hoping at most I'd have to buy a cable which I would run from the turntable to the computer in my home office.  This could be done.

The first step was to buy 50 feet of 3.5 mm aux cable along with a splitter so that it would still feed into the living room speaker.  All of this for under $20.  Even if I stopped here, I just connected the turntable to my PC and could now listen to records while I did work or things on the computer.

Now, without BlueTooth, how could I get my computer to broadcast to other devices.  It turns out, all you need is good wifi and an app that will connect your phone and computer to receive the stream.  I use something called SoundWire Server.  You can install it on Windows, Linux Systems, and Rasberry Pi.  Here is the link for anyone interested in giving it a try.

I installed the app on my Windows PC.  The setup is relatively simple with only a few control settings to adjust.  I then installed the app on my Android phone.  There is some configuration involved. The app on my PC shows the IPS address of the SoundWire server I then had to enter that IP address on the Android app.  There are other settings one can adjust such as buffer size.  The higher the buffer, the longer the delay before the sound gets through the earphones connected to your phone.

Now, the test.  I brought out ELO's Out of the Blue.  Behold, I heard the sounds of the record traveling through my computer, over wifi, and through my phone.  A walk outside and with a strong wifi signal, it continued to play.  I mowed the first half of the lawn before it was time to turn over the recorded.  That's very much the point, for me at least.  I enjoy the gainable experience.  It was also time for a much-needed break.  I flipped it over and continued to listen to this 40-some-year-old record on my smartphone.

Again, this isn't for everyone, but I consider it more of an experiment.  If I could accomplish this with a PC and wifi, I wonder how devices like Alexa or Google Nest could help.  I'm going to find out.  I don't have Alexa, but I know someone at QuickFix who does.  We'll see if we can make it work in her home.  Stay tuned...

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