Optical Retrieval from "Touchy-Feely" Vinyl

The tactile response of a stylus tip to the terrain of vinyl walls has an analogue cousin in the movie industry – the split solar cell reader of the two squiggly lines in soundtracks. In fact, the compound etching of both linear and stratified information in a vinyl groove when viewed in its microscopy is a haunting blend of today’s linear analogue soundtrack (Dolby SVA) and the old striated Academy soundtrack standard of the late ‘20s and early ‘30s (still playable on today’s projectors).

The rub, of course, is that one was meant to be felt and the other seen by their respective sensors. This may or may not pose a performance ceiling to the recent entry of laser transcriptors that have to rely on reflective interpretation of opaque vinyl wall terrain as opposed to the more definitive reading obtained through the transparency of film stock.
But if there were to be any feasible pathway for good optical retrieval of record tracks, it would almost certainly have to incorporate fiber optics in tonearms and cartridges.

These latter day cartridges would incorporate banks of micro emitters and receptors along each side of their styli tips to transcribe the three dimensional terrain and, while we are at it, do a bit of error checking. The light would be sourced and received in an exciter supply unit “below deck”. Processing of the light signal could be greatly enhanced by digital at its best – Boolean number crunching and error checking. This kind of processing occurs with every digital movie soundtrack we currently hear to counteract film-scuffing wear. Although in our case, this processing would only define what is true groove information and rule out scratches, dust and silverfish droppings, then pass along (with no frequency response penalty) the filtered light to a split solar cell. Finally, the analogue signal passes through RIAA compensation (I’d add ffrr) and on to our favorite amp.

Immediately, two of vinyl’s arch weaknesses would fall. Channel separation would be as good as that of the lathe’s because light doesn’t emit collateral transmissions. In addition, end of record distortion whose chief cause is etched information congestion due to the reduced cutting/sampling speed (under 10 ips as compared to over 18 ips in a record’s outer grooves) could well be interpreted better from reading styli straddling wall tops than tracking styli riding out the storm.

Lastly, while most would certainly pass on John Dolby’s frequency robbing Noise Reductions, his brilliant work in eking out of four distinct channels from two optical signal tracks in SVA stereo is something to consider, especially in new pressings. Since there are no attacking helicopters from the rear in the music I listen to, I’d dispense with the surrounds. But offer me a distinct, non-summing, center channel for my LP system, and I might give it a good listen.

To be sure, this is all pipe dreaming – an escapist distraction as shadows grow across the economic lawn. Real efforts at extraction and retrieval will more likely be applied - not to the 30% of untapped musicality in records, but to the 30% remaining crude under Western Pennsylvania.
Where have YOU been for the last 15 years? Ever hear of the ELP laser turntable?
Gosh Steve,
Judging from the three hits on google this laser table brought up, I must have somehow missed all the buzz.
You underestimate the buzz created by your invention. I Google'd "ELP + turntable" and got 28,000 hits.
You should get more hits than that. I think Arthur Salvatore has mentioned it more than that on his (controversial) audio website. Plus all of the buzz on the ELP from recent "shows."

You can read Arthur's opinions, but the executive summary seems to be although optical pickup for vinyl is a neat idea, the problem with it in practice, for at least the ELP laser turntable, is it is _**VERY**_ susceptible to surface noise. Better buy that ca.$2k Loricraft or Keith Monks record cleaner if you get one. Plus it doesn't seem to be able to read translucent or clear vinyl, which is about 10% of my collection. :-/

My mistake: I google ELPS Laser Turntable.
For that pricetag today ($15G) - couldn't we get error check processing and lose the surface noise?
After a brief look into this ELP vinyl player, it occurs to me that we’re coming from two different realms of audio. You’re a “product” man, while this thread was an attempt to examine concepts. This expensive CD player for vinyl is really not what I was envisioning – and even if it were, should we say that it’s overall failure to plumb the depths of optical retrieval is the final judgment of such science? To some extent, we’re all slaves to the producers of audio equipment, but to imply that a single piece of equipment has “been there – done that” and thereby is the definitive final statement on such concepts is too confining for me.
I’m fortunate to work in an industry that has plenty of money to drop into R&D for sound. Even though a lot of it is geared toward digital films, they have to maintain backward compatibility in analogue for the smaller houses. If sharing the latest in photo/solar cell error checking is silly or naive in its conceptual application to analogue, I’ll take my raps for that. But if it’s concepts as defined by equipment you’re looking for, this is the wrong thread.
Why not synchronize tachyon pulses and create an anti-time vortex? Knock yourself out.
The soundtrack of a laserdisc was originally an analog, optical signal. It always struck me that it had the potential to be a very high-fidelity sound-only medium, if commercially unfeasible.

Any comments on this?

Optically read information in frequency modulation continues to return the best analogue playback in AV, all while sharing territory with video frames and multiple digital formats. I’m not sure if this space were to be opened up for “audio only” playback under the existing format (Pioneer still markets VDPs in Japan), whether there would be fidelity gains. But your question opens up the idea that an uncompressed analogue album could be reduced to cd size media.
Confusing the issue further in videodiscs were the CEDs (Capacitance Electronic Discs). These were grooved videodiscs brought out by RCA in the early 80s for a five-year run under the name SelectaVison. Retrieved AV analogue from a stylus.
It makes sense to me, although I'm no scientist. But the thing I can't fathom is how fiber optical pickups could compensate for the need to read different groove depths to avoid wear...