How Big Do You Like Your Platter, Sir?

Two projects have surfaced out of the homebrew scene recently, and whilst they come across as very different ideas they each share one thing in common: A love for the 12” platter.

The DIY scene’s like waiting for a bus… or some other equally terrible analogy. The small but vocal group of you that are just crying out for a digital turntable that can fit in perfectly with the rest of your high tech digital setup now have two new concepts to whet your appetites, the Scratch Decoder and the Tonspielzeug. Let’s take a look…


First up we have the Scratch Decoder by Norbert Feliu. Check it out: the video’s in Spanish, but you can still see what’s going on (and read a translated version of the proof of concept here).

Essentially an Arduino based receiver that interprets the CDX’s platter movements and uses them for its own benefit – namely to translate them into MIDI and send them to DJ software – this mod has the potential to be used with a huge variety of aging decks that lack the MIDI capabilities to play ball with modern DJ software. More than anything this is a proof of concept, as the somewhat ‘iffy’ performance indicates in the video, but it’s a start. It’s telling that the initial testing’s being done with a CDX, though, as it points fairly hard at the fact that there’s not a mass market 12” motorised MIDI controller to be seen.


The other project that’s caught our eye is the Tonspielzeug (translated into English, that’d be Tone Toy).

Conspicuous lack of vinyl indicates that this is indeed a controller, the most interesting feature of which is perhaps the transparent platter with markers visible underneath. What’s it for? Well, turntablists have long been familiar with the concept of TurnTable Notation (TTN). Simply put, it’s a method for transcribing scratching into ‘sheet music’, and it’s a concept that Tonspielzeug creator Alexander Sonnenfeld has taken and run with, creating a colour coded version using traditional musical notation and creating an entire system that revolves around the Tonspielzeug and its capabilities when it comes to adapting tones.


Okay, neither project is available for you to get your longing fingers on yet, or even necessarily at the stage where you’d want to. But maybe they’ve given you that inspiration you were waiting for to actually get out there and go to the mountain yourself. Scratch Decoder is, after all, an Arduino project, and the source code for what’s out so far is kindly shared on the project’s homepage. We always try and help, of course, so here are a few things that come to mind when it comes to learning about the ins and outs of controllers, encoders, and so on: Our guide to DIY control is a good place to get a primer on encoders, and our piece on the pros and cons of pure digital control vs DVS plays with the numbers. Our recent interview with Serato was really insightful when it came to the practicalities of platter control in a digital world, too.

A couple of points that were brought to our attention in the writing of this article made us want to ask some questions.

TurnTable Notation has been around for years, and whilst some turntablists don’t really care for it, some swear by it for learning new techniques and combos. Is a controllerism equivalent of TTN something that you’d find handy?


Finally… this lack of digital turntables. Is it the elephant in the room, or merely indicative of the fact that most of you just don’t see the point? We want to know!

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