A local engineering grad wants you to be an audiophile, too.
After graduating from Northeastern last May with an engineering degree, Bob Hertig figured out how he can use his MacGuyver-like skills to make being an audiophile more accessible to the masses. He’d built his own tube amp in college on a whim, which got him considering a whole record player to go along with it.
“That’s when the idea of the low-cost, entry-level [record player] came,” he said. “And I was delivering pizzas at the time, and I was saving all my tips. I had like $500, in this bottle, of my tips.
And I decided to buy a lathe, which is this machine that helps you machine things. [Laughs.] Yeah. So I bought that so I could build a turntable that summer.”
He built the first prototype using computer-imaging and 3D printing (first through his father’s medical device company, then through a Kickstarter that offered tabletop 3D printers), recognizing an important opportunity in the process: “I’d read online a bunch of reviews, just did some market research, and tons of people were like,
‘Why can’t they just build [players] for cheap, that aren’t just plastic, USB ones?’”
Hertig’s 3D printing process is relatively new to the engineering field, born from the DIY ethos that drives his company: by doing something yourself in small batches, you can perfect a design without paying thousands in manufacturing. Though time-consuming, he can make a high volume of turntables for cheaper than normal. Better design, higher sound quality, cheaper cost. Plus, with a minimalistic look and customized plate artwork by Boston artist Abby Kaiser, the Orbit even looks pretty.
When the Orbit’s Kickstarter page opened, the original pledge goal was $60,000 in six weeks. By the time it closed last week (with a boost from its designation as a “Kickstart Staff Pick”),
pledging had quadrupled to nearly $240,000.
When I asked him if he was nervous about his product’s overwhelming success, he shrugged. “Honestly, [sixty grand] was the absolute, minimum-minimum we could do our project with,” he said. “So deep down, I was hoping for 100 grand or whatever. We’re in the range of my highest expectations.”
While there will be a long road of assembly ahead of this accidental manufacturer, he may help people who previously couldn’t afford it to gain a more active music-listening experience: “Music is becoming more and more in the cloud, with Spotify and Grooveshark, whatever. So people don’t even have iTunes anymore, where they had their whole albums. There’s an urge to connect with your music, wanting to own it, wanting it to be there at all times. Not just having to search for it.
I think [vinyl's popularity] is a backlash against that…It makes listening active instead of passive.”