Why not use a non-contact stylus on a turntable?

I read comments about static-free playback of LPs with some amount of satisfaction.

When CDs were introduced, I quit worrying about the mechanics and started enjoying the music. More so with computer audio.

However, lots of folks like vinyl .... apparently. ;<)

Why not take all the worry, wringing of hands, and frustration out of the equation by insisting on touch-free stylus technology?

What is the technology? Hell if I know! But if nerds can sample the bits on a CD, they can sure as heck track the grooves on an LP!

Not only track the grooves, but filter out the grunge!

Play your oldest vinyl in complete background silence!

Put technology to work on vinyl! You’ll breathe easier for it.

Kind regards,

Sure. I get it. CD looks good on paper, sounds like crap in reality. So let's think of a way to make LP look good on paper, sound like crap in reality. CD won't be so crappy compared to analog, and analog will be all modern and convenient. And crappy. Totally get it.

Nice try. And thanks. But no.
It's been done; the results were mixed. (I'm being kind.) Feel free to design something better.
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You can use the Sweet Vinyl Sugarcube. It works quite well notwithstanding it is a digital processor. It does have a analog override when you don't need it.
Now that that's settled can we get on to the serious question of magnetically levitating and driving the platter?
Your sugar cube is nothing but a digital filter. I thought you guys/gals wanted to eschew the binary domain?

I'm suggesting some basic improvement. Your existing stylus to audio technology is no more/no less than the original Edison concept. Logical, but not earth changing.

How about magnetically levitating the stylus?

How about levitating and lubricating the stylus via rare lubricating gas?

How about spherical resolution from the grooves, instaed of a 'pointy thing'?

Do y'all EVER think outside the box?

Two tin cans and a string. It's been around a while. Your stylus is the tin can. Get over it and make linear audio via LPs what it can be!

Or, acccept its mediocrity. Your problem, not mine.

Kind regards,


Okay Greg, outside the box. Tell us all about your rare lubricating gas.
The bummer about the "mediocrity" is that when it's good, it's better than "binary."
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Speaking of Edison, it would have at least been cool if the technology had retained the cylinder as the topology instead of a flat disk. Constant linear tracking velocity and no flipping.
Dear Folks,

Thank you for your thoughtful replies -- especially yours, Elizabeth.

By 'non-contact', I'm not implying a huge gulf between the transducer and the grooves. Quite the contrary, as tracking the extreme analog fluctuations in the vinyl implies a marriage of the closest sort.

BTW I'm thankful for those who keep the torch going for the traditional recording and playback processes.

I've read the forum for years. A thread on eliminating pops and clicks in vinyl playback took me back to my AR turntable with its joys, and its frustrations. Hence, my first post I can recall on this forum.

I am confident there is existing technology that could make your LP lives more enjoyable in terms of the playback static. Who will find and  develop it? Who will push for it? The answer is in the transducer.

All the best to you guys and gals! Have a great Easter weekend!


Greg, I think you levitated before posting.  You can come back down to earth now.  No free lunch, and no condescension needed.
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Thanks the nano bots was a great idea.

The first generation we built were designed to build the second generation. The second generation built the first generation of road work nanobots. The road workers run around gathering up any loose material they can find, dust, hair, cigarette butts, putting it all together in plastic bags along the side of the groove. This eliminated a lot of noise but we still had a problem with wear.

So we built a third generation. The surveying nanobots find the worn sections by detecting deviations in groove wall slope. So far so good. But then we had to figure out how to patch the potholes. We couldn't figure out a way of doing this without AI. So we used the cloud to connect all the nanobots into a super nanobot AI.

Unfortunately the solution the AI came up with involved fourteen nanobots standing around while one filled the pothole. The more things change....

It's not April 1st is it by any chance?
It would mean my time travel experiment was a success if so.......
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Novotechnik U.S., Inc. - Southborough, MA


Types of sensors include potentiometric & non-contacting position linear sensors.

Honeywell Sensing and Internet of Things - Fort Mill, SC


Features include immunity to electrical noise, infinite resolution and miniature design.

Micro-Epsilon - Locations

Manufacturer*, Custom Manufacturer

Manufacturer and custom manufacturer of sensors linear motion transducers. Various features include wear-free, compact sensor designs, permanent linear output signals, high resolutions and current or voltage outputs.

TT Electronics - Carrollton, TX


Manufacturer of linear displacement (LDT)/motion transducers including linear sensors. Hall effect and position sensors are available.

>>> There have to be at least 1000 US companies engaged in the business of linear displacement transducers. Yet, not one of you ’audiophiles’ will admit there is a way to improve your favorite pastime of playing vinyl.

I guess we get what we deserve.

Kind regards,

A product of any one of the companies you cite might well be used to create a novel type of phono cartridge but can you say how one would read the information in the grooves without contacting the surface? That’s the crux of your issue, is it not? The ELP laser turntable does work, but as you’ve been told, it has serious shortcomings. You act and sound as if there were some very obvious solutions to what you think is a problem. Enlighten us. Or go away.
Agree with Lewm

If you have a notion , instead of lambasting the forum and its members go right ahead and invest the time, money and effort required in this endeavor.

Then return with a product to show us all how it is done.

Sorry if that comes over as harsh but it is almost as if you blame the community at large for this.
By the time you look at this from a 21st century lens you may as well replace the lp with a modern analog signal storage medium.
Records are great. My audio life and business both are built around them. Much respect to the serious engineers that made them have such high sound quality potential against so many challenges. Nearly 100 years ago...
Reinvent the analog disk AND how it is played back.
I suspect not enough people care to make this feasible.

Yes, that sounds good. A non contact laser reading the vinyl and converting the sound into a digital format. All the goodness of analogue captured and preserved in digital. Err...hang on a moment, I forgot about the troublesome D word.

I think we're stuck with simply improving mechanical tracking as far as is possible. How about something like 1000 low temperature plays with minimal stylus and record wear? 
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"If you have a notion , instead of lambasting the forum and its members" 

Show me where I am 'lambasting' anyone? That's absurd.

"go right ahead and invest the time, money and effort required in this endeavor."

Why would I do that? I'm fine with the digital progress from my perspective.

The question, from the beginning, is why aren't you?

KInd regards,

On the question of lambasting at least, got to say, I agree. He's not lambasting. Lambasting, done right, calls for wit and intelligence. But just look what he wrote:
By 'non-contact', I'm not implying a huge gulf between the transducer and the grooves. Quite the contrary, as tracking the extreme analog fluctuations in the vinyl implies a marriage of the closest sort.

What he wants, in other words, is non-contact contact. He's not lambasting. He's incoherent.
Could it be the "why not?" of no contact is, from a noise perspective, that once you digitize, the pops and ticks can be removed with software. It can, and is, being done now with contact styli, an ADC and the same software that would be necessary with no contact. So not much  advantage noise-wise.
millercarbon have you checked out the bearing design of the more expensive Clearaudio turntables? 
Vinyl is the best material we know of for trench warfare but it is far from perfect. Basically it just wears out after 100 playings. That suits the bean counters just fine. In many respects CDs are even more fragile. Try cleaning one with brake cleaning fluid. When one starts skipping it is far more annoying than a stuck record. I is much easier to read the info on an album cover than on that little flap of paper designed to get torn when you pull it out of the crappy plastic case that cracks when you look at it. Most importantly there is no humanity in it. CDs are for robots. They can insert them right into their mouths. Don't even need ear buds. The belief ( marketing ) back in 1981 was that records would be gone in 10 years. I will bet anyone here dumb enough to bet someone who does not gamble that new records will be sold long after CDs are gone. Music to last a lifetime! My backside. At least you could hang yourself with Cassettes. 
This is a rather amusing thread - dear OP are the following not attempts to improve the transducer arts?

1. Laser turntable?
2. MC cartridges - with various materials in the body and stylus - including countless profiles;
2. Moving Iron cartridges  (variables as above)
3. Coming Magnet Cartridges - (same variables again)
4. Strain Gauge Cartidges
5. Optical cartridges
6. Condenser cartridges

The problem is one of the following:

1. Someone has already considered it - believe it or not the likes of John Carr at Lyra; Van Den Hul... are - believe it or not - pretty bloody intelligent too.
2. It takes megabucks and mega minds to do it (look at the DS optical cartridges - that are a spin off for a tech company that happens to have a vinyl nut working there)
3. the methods you suggest are likely to require digitisation somewhere along the line - it defeats the purpose of being analogue (my only reason for not getting a TACT amp that 'room corrects')


Good list -- thank you. I never claimed there have been no attempts at progression.

Yes, it will take dogged determination and some significant capital to improve/implement other transducers.

I agree -- must be linear translation with no AD conversion in the process.

But aren't we talking about the survival of vinyl technology in playback?

We are way into the law of diminishing returns on the traditional stylus. Will there be a future in vinyl unless we try a 'new mousetrap'?

Kind regards,


No. We're not talking about "survival".  The vinyl medium has a life of its own for many, many reasons, not all of them rational but most of them compelling to those of us who pursue the art, and so far sustaining.  Meantime, it seemed to me that you were asking for a way of reading the analog information encoded in a groove and transducing that mechanical information to an audio signal, without actually contacting the groove.  None of the advances in the art cited by Parotbee, except the laser turntable of which there is only one, have that goal in mind.  Nor did they get us anywhere nearer to it.  How do you get around the fact that nearly zero LPs are perfectly centered (this will throw off any noncontact reading device) and that all LPs will have some dirt particles or dust in the grooves?  These are problems that the developers of the ELP laser turntable have had to deal with.

But now I am not sure what you think we should want. (I won't say that you want it; you seem to be here to gloat.)  Most of us prefer analog to digital, but some use both media.  You can be forgiven for preferring digital, but beyond trolling, why are you here?  (As you can tell, I think there is no reason beyond trolling.)