Turntables, vinyl, and internet music players

Turntables, vinyl, and internet music players
Photo by Jakob Rosen / Unsplash

Back in 2019, I bought the first turntable I'd touched since the early 1980s as a kid. It was super fun at first, because it was analog and lacking all the features I'd had in MP3 players for the past two decades. You just put the needle down and consume a whole album without interruption. No more fast forwarding or repeating your favorite tracks. Also, my turntable didn't flip records automatically, so I'd frequently play them when having people over and have to hear the ta-dunk ta-dunk ta-dunk of the needle hitting the label over the noise of a crowd before I'd realize I needed to flip it.

I hooked this new turntable up to a Sonos Play 5 speaker, and at the time I was first getting into networked speakers and getting whole-house audio and was kind of bummed I couldn't get the vinyl to play in more places in my home (honestly, in the back of my mind I also wanted to fast forward some songs).

The spark of an idea

I got it in my head that maybe there was a way with a Raspberry Pi and a Raspberry Pi camera to have an object in your living room where you picked up an album cover you owned, pointed it at a camera, and that album would start streaming from Spotify onto your connected speakers. I even ran it past a few friends, who all had turntables and thought it was a good idea and they wanted one too and then I started thinking about how to possibly produce it commercially. With some quick back of the envelope calculations, I thought I could probably make a magic box that performed this task for about $100.

I was about a week down the rabbit hole of playing with ffmpeg and other image packages on Debian on a Raspberry Pi when while searching for similar code to build off of and then I found The Record Player on Glitch.

If you take a photo of an album cover with your phone then upload it to the site, it'll send the photo to the Google Image API, then play the album on Spotify on your connected speakers.

Damn! I wasted a week fiddling with hardware and code, and this thing was already built, free, and working perfectly for what I wanted.

I abandoned the idea pretty soon after, but last month when tech news sites published wrap-ups from the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas where all the latest tech is debuted, one product caught my eye: the Samsung Music Frame.

Like the Samsung Frame TV, which turns your TV into framed digital art when you're not watching TV, Samsung made a music player stuffed with hidden speakers behind the frame, and you can wall mount it or put it on a shelf, then place an album inside it, so it looks like framed art in your house. It's also an addressable speaker you can send audio from any source to, but now I wish there was a product that combined the two ideas.

Granted, I know this is a niche item for people that own actual vinyl records but also have wifi-connected speakers throughout their house, but my ultimate wish would be for something like the Samsung Music Frame to only start playing the albums you physically place into it.

Maybe someone at Samsung can take this idea and add it as an option on the Music Frame. It'd save me at least a few more weeks of tinkering and look better than anything I could ever produce.