Saturday, March 29, 2008

audio: record scanning not a fantasy

It turns out my armchair fantasy of digitizing my records by visual scanning rather than dragging a stylus through the groove has been done by researchers, including project IRENE, the visualaudio project, and other attempts. Carl Haber at IRENE in a long interesting presentation (80MB! PDF) says
We study the use of new, optical measuring and image processing methods to create a digital representation of the complete record surface, on the computer, and then “play” it with a virtual needle.
He points out in another paper that a 10" side becomes a 300 MB processed image scanned in 2D (so an LP might be a few GB), and, just as I perceived, that “[the process] can archive images for future re-analysis with new algorithms.” Awesome, ship it!

Alas, the sound-to-noise ratio is poor. It's a vital technique for non-destructive archiving of sounds from rotting wax cylinders, cracked shellac transcriptions, and broken 78s, but doesn't come close to top-notch vinyl playback. The Swiss visualaudio researchers comment
Reaching the same quality as with a good 33rpm record played on a modern turntable probably is probably utopic.
Oh noooes, say it ain't so.

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