Renaissance of the LP
Company founder Karl Wirth takes the record out of its cover, lovingly cleans the black disk and places it carefully on the record player. The tonearm descends slowly, its diamond tip sliding into the groove. The music that it produces is of a quality that is rarely heard today, as digital music has experienced a sharp rise since the introduction of the CD in the early 1980s, remaining popular to this day. However, a new trend is emerging among music listeners and audio professionals — the reemergence of vinyl.
Karl Wirth’s view on the digital versus analog debate is unequivocal: “The compressed recordings of digital media may have some advantages as a sound experience and for straightforward consumption. But if you want to listen to music as a connoisseur, paying attention to every sound, and if you’re looking for relaxation and a mellow way to wind down, then a classic record and high-end equipment is for you.”
Turning a passion into a career
Karl Wirth ended up producing record players by accident. He used to be a production manager in the automotive industry and built a record player for fun in the training workshop. When he then went to a high-end audio trade fair with an audio equipment dealer friend, taking along a prototype of the record player, he came back with 50 orders. “After that, there was no turning back. I promised the customers at the trade fair that I would deliver the devices,” says the company founder.
And so, in 1996, Karl Wirth turned his passion into a career. First, he made and installed the record players in the basement of his parents’ house, working with suppliers from his time in the automotive industry. Over time, more and more international high-end audio equipment dealers and the press started noticing his products — by 2002 he had become so successful that he needed to move into the company’s current building in Altdorf, Germany. Today, Wirth Tonmaschinenbau GmbH manufactures over 800 record players a year under its brand name Acoustic Solid. The range spans the entry-level model priced at just over €1,000 to top models with prices reaching €40,000 for unique, custom-made pieces.
Precise production of all components
“The structure of a record player is simple: it is made up of only a few components. The differences, even those in the sound quality, are down to the coordination of the various components, the materials and the high-precision manufacturing,” explains Karl Wirth. “Our shopfloor has a real net output ratio of more than 90%. This means we know the quality of each and every component and are extremely flexible.” This way of working facilitates innovation: the Acoustic Solid’s platter bearings, for example, which are manufactured with extreme precision and cast with a special sliding coating, are considered legendary among fans.
Karl Wirth has been using CNC turning and milling machines with Sinumerik 808D Advanced control systems for about seven years now. The latest investment on the shopfloor is an OPTImill F2 milling machine. In a small side room, the finished turntables and other components are polished to a high gloss. The standardized Sinumerik 808D Advanced control system on the turning and milling machines has many advantages, as Karl Wirth explains: “We mostly work with only one employee operating all the machines in our small production department. Instead of having to switch between the various control systems, our employee can work with a standard interface and call up stored programs. This speeds things up and reduces mistakes.”
»»Our manufacturing workshop has a real net output ratio of more than 90%«Karl Wirth, Wirth Tonmaschinenbau GmbH
Making the impossible possible
The milling machine also needs to cut threads for various components. However, the manufacturer quickly made it clear that this was not possible with the machine and without a position-controlled spindle. Independent Sinumerik trainer Hans-Peter Moser came to the rescue. “The training itself was perfect for us — on the shopfloor and always with a close link to our processes and products. However, another advantage was that the trainer was able to show us a workable way of thread-cutting on the Optimum machine that met our requirements. The only additional investment was a compensation chuck.”
With careful testing, (partial) assembly and packaging, a few steps are taken out of production. Wirth Tonmaschinenbau is more about workshop assembly and craftsmanship with attention to detail than industrial production. But it truly pushes the boundaries when it comes to distribution: almost half the products are sent to customers and partners abroad. Acoustic Solid record players are stunning in both their look and sound, and have fans on all continents — and that’s partly down to Sinumerik.
Sinumerik 808D Advanced – Technology in detail
- Panel-based compact CNC
- User-friendly entry-level solution for simple milling and turning applications
- Simple operation, commissioning and maintenance
- 8.4” color display
- Up to five axes/spindles
- Simatic S7-200 PLC programmable controller
- Standard data transfer via USB and Ethernet