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Music-playing beer bottle inspired by Edison's cylinder phonograph


June 13, 2013

To promote its new record label, Beck's Brewery inscribed a simple beer bottle with music, which can be played like a 19th century phonograph cylinder

To promote its new record label, Beck's Brewery inscribed a simple beer bottle with music, which can be played like a 19th century phonograph cylinder

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In the 1870s, Heinrich Beck founded what would eventually become Beck's Brewery. At about the same time, Thomas Edison was hard at work on creating the first phonograph. It's a safe bet neither man thought the two products would ever merge, but when the New Zealand branch of Beck's wanted to promote a new record label project, the company turned to design agency, Shine Limited to do exactly that. The designers concocted the Edison bottle, a simple glass beer bottle inscribed with music that can be played like a 19th-century phonograph cylinder.

Shine's design team came up with the idea after noticing the similarity in size and shape between a Beck's beer bottle and an old cylinder record. The group decided to carve the new Arch Hill Recordings label's first single, Here She Comes by Ghost Wave, right onto the glass and enlisted the help of Gyro Constructivists for the actual manufacturing.

After recreating the tune on a few flat prototypes, the team's next step was to build a device that could cut those same grooves onto a glass cylinder. To get the proper alignment, the group outfitted a lathe with an arm taken from a computer hard drive, which would cut with smoother, more accurate movements. The designers also had to adjust some of the outlying frequencies in Ghost Wave's song to avoid any serious distortion. Luckily, the new track already included some rough sounds of its own, which translated well onto the glass.

Making the bottle-shaped record was a challenge in itself, but the next task was to reverse-engineer a music player for it. Essentially, the team had to reconstruct a cylinder phonograph with modern electronics and materials, which carried the added benefits of a cleaner sound and easier controls.

The Edison bottle was publicly unveiled in May at the Semi-Permanent design conference in Auckland, New Zealand. Except for a few pops and crackles, which is typical even on old vinyl records, the final sound quality came out quite well – certainly much better than other homemade records we've seen recently. Unfortunately, this appears to be just a one-off product, so you won't be able to convert your recyclables into a music collection anytime soon.

Check out the videos below to hear the completed Edison bottle and watch how it was created.

Source: Shine Ltd., Beck's NZ

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

Hey I play music very well with beer. In fact, I sound way better with it ;)


Hear the completed recording? Call me cynical ( many do) but I would like to hear the actual recording. Is it the few seconds at the beginning, the bit at the end, the background?


I think that the concept is a great idea- It would be a great way to make unique "limited" series of recordings and thus collectible bottles. Can th bottle be played both full of beer and empty? Does the fluid level impact the tone/quality of the music? I can see some kind of Steampunk type device that blends old world look with thoroughly modern acustics. I might be the only one that thinks this is a good idea, but I like it!


Actually, this bottle recording is not like a phonograph cylinder. The groove cut is clearly lateral or stereo while a cylinder record is has a vertical cut groove. It's really a nice project but this is a profound difference. I am quite surprised to see, that nobody is mentioning this.

Also, this is very close to what Flo Kaufmann did in 2007 with recordings on beer cans. There is an article at Phonograph Makers' Pages about this.


The RIAA just kicked down my door and took my beer!


Hey, ihateorange:

You can hear the full audio from the bottle playing back when it was launched live on stage at Semi Permanent a week or so ago.


Mathew Tizard

Now scale it up for fraternity keg parties and make a mint! It seems a lot of trouble when a CD player's works could be engineered to read a magnetic 'stripe' on the side of the bottle - could be embedded into the bottle surface for recording - so easily.

The Skud
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