Around the Plynth, Vol. 2: Welcome to the Monkey House

Welcome one and all to Around the Plynth, my monthly-ish update on Plynth progress. If you’re curious, you can read last month’s update here.

Lot going on this month, so let's get started!

Side A: Product

Track 1: Plynth Survey

I’ve got some big decisions to make on the future of Plynth, and I need your help! I’m looking for music lovers who could provide feedback and potentially serve as beta testers. If you’re interested in being a beta tester or in building your own Plynth at home, please fill out this short survey. Thank you!

Track 2: Software Development

Since the last update, I’ve spent most of my “creator” time on increasing the accuracy and performance of Plynth and researching integration options with music streaming services. Right now, it uses Spotify, but I’m looking at a few others (Roon, anyone?) I’ve also been working to get it to play on smart speakers/devices that use Spotify Connect.

Another big focus is improving the accuracy of the album identification. I’ve experimented with a few different methods, but I think I’ve found the one that is the most accurate and scalable, which is important if Plynth is going to be more than a one-off project. More on that later!

Track 3: DIY Guide

I still really want to publish a DIY guide on making your own Plynth out of a Raspberry Pi. The first version of this will probably focus on how to get some of the basic functionality, with future versions explaining how to add more features. If that’s something you’re interested in, there’s a few questions about what people would like to see in the survey!

Track 4: FirstHand

Related to this, a few weeks ago had the opportunity demo Plynth for some of the students over at FirstHand, a STEM after school/summer program for middle school and high school students here in Philly. As always, I forgot to take photos, but it was a lot of fun and a great bunch of kids! It was also really interesting speaking with kids who have never played music from a physical media before–most of them only know streaming music. Crazy how much music has changed just in my own lifetime.

Side B: Business

Track 5: Plynth in the News (and on Reddit!)

Just as a way to gauge interest in this project, I shared a demo video of my Plynth prototype  (playing Tom Petty’s Damn the Torpedoes–RIP) in Reddit r/vinyl and r/raspberry pi. There was a lot more enthusiasm than I expected! Most of you reading this are probably here as a result of that post, so thanks for following along! The video got picked up on the Raspberry Pi blog, Vinyl of the Day, Hackaday, Hackster.io, and a few others. Thanks for all the support!

Track 6: Website

If you started following in the past week or two, then this isn’t really an update, but anyone for anyone who’s been following since the last update: I made some changes to the website. Let me know what you think! I was looking for a way to explain Plynth as quickly and clearly as possible. Always open to suggestions.

Plynth Demo.png

Made this handy new infographic on how to use Plynth.

Track 7: Market Research

Another reason for that survey is to learn a little more about who might be interested in Plynth. Some new ideas came out of the Reddit discussion:

  • Record stores, to make it easier for shoppers to listen to the music

  • HiFi stereo owners, some of whom already use barcode scanners

  • Vinyl owners who’d like to keep their records in mint condition

  • Parents who’d like a new way to play vinyls with their kids

The survey gets at this, but if you have any other ideas about people I should talk to or applications to think about, please let me know.

Track 8: Community

One of my big focuses for the next few months is to spend time looking for folks who find Plynth interesting and exciting (like you guys!) I’m very interested in doing a crowdfunding campaign at some point, but may do a limited run of a few dozen Plynths first, just to get some feedback and see if people actually enjoy using them.

In that vein, I got some great advice from the CEO of EAOS, who successfully crowdfunded the SlimBuds motorcycle headphones (thanks Alp!); one of the founders of the super cool (and unfortunately shuttered) social music app Cymbal (thanks Charlie!); and the founder of Wolf Audio, who gave me some great input on the HiFi market (thanks Joe!). Really appreciate all the advice!

Bonus Tracks

It was an interesting month for music, tech and music tech. Pitchfork asked where the money will go in the music industry. Apple announced it was shutting down iTunes. Spotify is testing a music streaming device for cars and released an app that “mimics the experience of listening to the radio”–aka Pandora. Genius caught Google stealing its lyrics with the tricky use of apostrophes. And just yesterday, Raspberry Pi unveiled the new Raspberry Pi 4–which looks pretty dope. Exciting stuff!

Semi-related to all this: if there are any makers in the Philly area interested in participating in this year’s Philly Maker Faire in October, let me know! Signups just opened up last week and I’m handling outreach and coordination of makers. I plan to get a booth for Plynth as well. Hope to see you there!

That’s all for now! As always, you can follow on Facebook,Instagram, and Twitter for (somewhat) more frequent updates. And again, please take the survey if you’re interested in the future of Plynth. Thanks for all the support, and catch you on the flip side.

Jono Matusky