The company assembles its line of affordably priced turntables in Massachusetts.
Saturday is a special day for Boston area friends and business partners Ben Carter,Robert Hertig,and Peter Maltzan.
These three music lovers,who formed a friendship in high school,will join like-minded music aficionados of all genres by celebratingRecord Store Day,held at independent music retailers across America. It is their day to play in the vinyl record marketplace again.
The trio will spend the rest of the year runningU-Turn Audio,building turntables at their factory in Woburn,Mass.
You may have thought vinyl records were something your parents and grandparents had stored away in the basement or garage,relics held on to as only reminders of their youth.
But the vinyl record business is very much alive and kicking out the jams. U-Turn Audio is taking advantage of the record resurgence by producing custom-built turntables to assure listeners they still can get that analog sound.
"There's definitely been a kind of a comeback in vinyl records since 2010,"Carter said."The three of us have been listening to vinyl records since we were 14 or 15 years old,so it wasn't new to us.We were kind of ahead of the curve or behind the curve,depending on how you want to look at it.""
U-Turn Audio began shipping its turntables to customers in 2013 after a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign raised more than $230,000 to produce 1,000 turntables.The initial goal was to raise $60,000,so when the extra financing came in,the three were off and running.
They successfully filled the Kickstarter order and U-Turn Audio has seen year-over-year growth since.
"Last year we shipped about 16,000 turntables,so that was our best year yet,"Carter said."It's not going to be 1970 again where everyone is buying records,and everyone is waiting for that new album to be released on vinyl. But I think the past 10 years shows us there is a healthy,growing demand for it.A lot people want to supplement their digital music by listening to vinyl and they need turntables to do that,so I think it's going to be around for a while.""
U-Turn isn't the only American-made company in the vinyl game. Shinola makesturntables,although they are priced much higher than U-Turn's line.Meanwhile,companies like Furnace Record Pressing manufacture vinyl albums domestically;we chatted with them forThe Manufacturing Report podcasta little while back.
The comeback of vinyl is centered around the sound quality of the music.Most of what we listen to today is in a digital format that has created easy listening options by streaming or downloading to your electronic equipment,including computers and smart phones.
Vinyl records produce an old-fashioned quality analog sound that many audiophiles swear by.
"It means a lot for us to not only assemble the turntables here in America but to assemble them a town over from where we grew up and lived the early part of our lives.Hopefully we are doing a positive thing for the community.""Ben Carter,U-Turn Audio
The smooth analog signal matches the recorded sound wave better than the steps of a digital recording.However,analog imprinted recordings can have tiny imperfections that cause cracking and popping noises.
"Digital can be as good as analog but in practice,digital usually is not going to sound as good because the files are compressed.But analog also takes discipline,"Carter said."Your records aren't going to sound good if you don't take good care of them,if you don't clean them,if you don't clean the needle and you don't invest in good equipment.""
And the lack of that reasonably priced,quality equipment is what led the three Lexington,Mass.,natives to create U-Turn Audio.
"We just had trouble finding a turntable we liked,"Carter said."There was the kind of low-quality stuff from overseas and then the high-end really expensive stuff.We just wanted something that sounded good and didn't cost a ton of money.
"Rob is an engineer and he's been building audio equipment most of his life,and he started designing this turntable,and that's how we got started.""
U-Turn Audio currently has 20 employees,most of whom are assembly technicians who build the products in one of the two buildings that houses U-Turn Audio operations.
"Really it's not a lot of turntable,"Carter said."It's basically only the music making components of the turntable.It's not automatic and doesn't have a lot of other features other turntables have because we wanted to put all the resources into the drive system,into the tone arm and the things that actually make music.By doing that,we could bring back a high-quality sound reproduction to an affordable price point.""
U-Turn Audio offers a product called the Orbit custom that let's you choose every part on the turntable and they build it to your specifications.
"That's one of the cool things about the turntable is there is a version that costs $180 for the beginner and there is a version that costs $600 that is more suited for an audiophile type,and it's all done with basically the same design.It's just that we use different components,different platters and different cartridges,"Carter said.
Every Orbit is built by hand.The machined metal parts,the base of the turntable,the injection molding come from local American suppliers,but occasionally a part will be imported because of its lack of availability in the United States.
U-Turn Audio offers two models of its Orbit turntables in select retail outlets,but 80 percent of its business is through its website.Their products are sold only in the United States and Canada.
"We are definitely proud to build our products here in the U.S."Carter said."We believe assembling them here in the U.S.is important to make sure they meet our expectations and our customer's expectations when it comes to quality.We've always believed that and always plan to keep the assembly right here.
"It means a lot for us to not only assemble the turntables here in America but to assemble them a town over from where we grew up and lived the early part of our lives.Hopefully we are doing a positive thing for the community.""