Vintage boombox with vertical turntable

Many of you were intrigued by the $50 Ion IT34 portable USB turntable/cassette deck that I posted about a couple weeks ago. If you don't care about USB and have $700 or so to spend on your mobile vinyl needs, might I suggest you seek out the legendary Sharp VZ-2000 boombox from 1982. It features a linear tracking vertical turntable that plays both sides of a record without having to flip it.


  1. Powerful processors, steppers, sensors, lasers, and controllers have gotten a lot cheaper. Systems that use a laser to read vinyl should now be within the range of DIY hobbyists. Maybe take a defunct example of one of these and turn it into a linear-tracking digital laser turntable? Ones that they sold in the last century could get 80db signal to noise ratios, which is phenomenal for a turntable. By buffering data, one could also get zero wow & flutter. 

    1.  Aren’t lazer optical turntables no longer ‘analog’ though? The lazer turns it into 1’s and 0’s right?

      1.  It doesn’t have to.  For example, Laserdiscs (the ancestor of DVDs, the size of vinyl records, but read with lasers) had analog video (and started out with analog audio, but eventually also supported digital audio.)

        Instead of just reading pits and bumps as zeroes and ones (it’s slightly more complicated than that, Manchester coding and all that) you can read the amount of light being reflected in a continuous domain.

        But, realistically, tracking the groove optically is a major headache (which is why the few optical tracking turntables still cost a fortune.)

        One alternative that’s way more feasible on a hobbyist’s budget uses a laser and a single optical fiber (as in fiber optics) that sits in the groove.  This (mostly) solves the tracking problem, and applies such a small amount of pressure that wear and tear of records almost disappears.  I remember seeing a couple videos about this on Youtube a couple years back.  One was a proposal to use this for archiving old and fragile records.  The technique also works well with old cylinders, with minimal changes.

  2. I am a proud owner of the followup model, the Sharp VZ-2500. Sharp owns the patent on this design to this day, and it is really quite clever. There are two needles installed on opposing sides, and there are two sensors installed to detect the width of the disc inserted. It has an automatic play mode whereby you select the starting side via a button on the console, the record spins up, and the needle for that side connects to the starting point automatically. After the side is finished, if you have selected continuous mode or A/B mode, the record now spins in reverse and the second needle on the opposing side plays the opposite side of the disc. It handles 7″ and 12″ discs quite well if they’ve been pressed alright, 10″es or other more exotic formats you need to go manual on.

    The thing eats 12 D batteries but can go a good 12 hours on relatively high volume. It can play music LOUD. The bass is a bit tinny but it’s still a good soundsystem. There is a mic input and you can record your freestyles to tape. I’ve had to replace the belt (rubber doesn’t stand several decades that well) ten years ago, and it’s probably up for a replacement again. Still handles like a champ.

    This is a great website to check out for more info on boomboxery:

    1. Sharp owns the patent on this design to this day

      Wait, what?  Surely it has expired by now?

      I’m also kind of curious as to how the system prevents the record from being damaged by sudden bumps.

      1. Mate, I don’t think you’re really meant to walk around with that thing while its running. Probably says as much in the manual somewhere.

  3. I remember wanting that boom box when it was released, though I couldn’t get my parents to buy it for me. I also remember learning that linear tracking turntables had a minor strangeness due to the fact that most records were cut with the assumption that the needle would be changing angle slightly as it went from the outside to the center of the record and linear tracking turntables didn’t account for the change.

    1. That’s a myth. As you can see here:

      a record cutting machine is itself a linear tracking device. What turntable manufacturers did do was bend their pivot tonearms to maximize the region of the record over which it tracked approximately linearly.

      A bigger issue with LPs is the fact that they turn at constant angular speed. This means that oscillations in the grooves become more and more compressed the closer you get to the center of the disc since the linear speed is less there, and that in turn makes it more difficult to preserve high frequency signals.

  4. I had a boom box with a turntable back in high school. Not exactly one of the most practical pieces of hardware I’ve ever owned. Completely failed to get me laid.

  5. I had the stand-alone version of that record player when I was a teenager. Damn, I feel old now.

  6. I own a Philips front slot-loading double-sided record player, designed rather like a 12″ floppy disk drive.  It has a spring-loaded arm and needle on the underside.  I suspect that might put slightly more wear on the B-side than on the A-side.

  7. I love that the thing is thick enough to mount the cassette deck horizontally on top.

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