Custom vinyl maker displays wares at SXSW

Danielle Lopez

In the middle of South By Southwest Trade Show’s business suits, out-of-this-world technology and bundles of free swag, custom vinyl maker Wesley Wolfe blasted a classic ‘60s soul record.

Wolfe is the owner of Tangible Formats, a business in North Carolina that cuts custom vinyl records for people in need of small quantities. Wolfe, one of more than 250 exhibitors at this year’s trade show, was returning to the festival for the fourth time.

“Cutting” vinyl records means etching grooves onto the vinyl that, when spun and touched by the needle of a record player, emit sound. In order to “cut,” Wolfe uses a machine called the Vinyl Recorder T560.

“Take any audio source and power it to the cutter head which mechanically creates the sound wave into a physical Groove,” Wolfe said. “It’s magic.”

The recorder, Wolfe said, allows people to take any song and turn it into a one-of-a-kind vinyl record. Aside from creating customers’ online orders and selling the machine — which costs four thousand dollars — Wolfe attends special events to simultaneously DJ and cut vinyl for attendees.

The idea for Tangible Formats, Wolfe said, came from the creator of the Vinyl Recorder T560, a German engineer named Souri Automaten.

In the 1970s, Automaten ran a business placing vinyl jukeboxes in bars but, eventually, CD jukeboxes came out. Automaten responded by learning to cut vinyl and outfitted his jukeboxes with music others lacked.

“People wondered how he had all of this unavailable stuff in his jukeboxes,” Wolfe said. “A DJ asked [Automaten] to build him a machine and he did well and other DJs were cutting vinyls. He realized ‘wow, there’s a business here.”

Wolfe, whose favorite record is Your Blues by Destroyer, said the point of cutting custom vinyl records is to physically keep the music around.

“In life, everything’s subjective,” Wolfe said. “There’s still a market for [vinyl] so this machine helps keep it all alive.”