Using Lasers to Play Old-Fashioned Records

While audiophiles may appreciate such fine nuances, the laser-based record player has another big advantage over mechanical phonographs. Since there is no physical contact, ELP's player doesn't damage a record's groove.

"Our motto is, 'No Needle, No Wear,' " says Taruski. "That means you can play a rare, out-of-print album without worrying about devaluing its worth."

The Sticking Points

While the ELP Laser Turntable has remarkable digital technology, reviewers and audiophiles note that the light-based phonograph isn't perfect. In addition to its susceptibility to dust and dirt, for example, the lasers won't work on colored or translucent records.

But perhaps the most limiting factor is cost. ELP hasn't yet achieved mass production so each hand-crafted Laser Turntable boasts a price tag of over $10,000. That has limited sales to a few deep-pocketed music aficionados and professional organizations, such as music libraries with huge collections of rare albums.

Mass production could make the technology cheaper. But major manufacturers haven't yet licensed the technology, citing the lack of market interest and need for a product geared toward yesteryear's formats.

So for now, all those old disco albums buried in countless attics and basements worldwide are still safe from resurrection.

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