Interesting facts about record players

A record player, is a device for the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound.

It is also known as a phonograph and a gramophone but mostly in the past.

In American English, “phonograph”, properly specific to machines made by Edison, was sometimes used in a generic sense as early as the 1890s to include cylinder-playing machines made by others.

In British English, “gramophone” may refer to any sound-reproducing machine using disc records, which were introduced and popularized in the UK by the Gramophone Company.

The term phonograph meaning “sound writing” was derived from the Greek words φωνήphonē meaning ‘sound’ or ‘voice’ and γραφήgraphē meaning ‘writing’. The similar related terms gramophone -from the Greek γράμμαgramma meaning ‘letter’ and φωνήphōnē meaning ‘voice’ – and graphophone have similar root meanings.

The sound vibration waveforms are recorded as corresponding physical deviations of a spiral groove engraved, etched, incised, or impressed into the surface of a rotating cylinder or disc, called a “record”. To recreate the sound, the surface is similarly rotated while a playback stylus traces the groove and is therefore vibrated by it, very faintly reproducing the recorded sound. In early acoustic phonographs, the stylus vibrated a diaphragm which produced sound waves which were coupled to the open air through a flaring horn, or directly to the listener’s ears through stethoscope-type earphones.

The record was the dominant audio recording format throughout most of the 20th century. In the 1980s, phonograph use on a standard record player declined sharply due to the rise of the cassette tape, compact disc, and other digital recording formats. However, records are still a favorite format for some audiophiles, DJs, collectors, and turntablists (particularly in hip hop and electronic dance music), and have undergone a revival since the 2000s.

The phonograph was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. The phonograph was developed as a result of Thomas Edison’s work on two other inventions, the telegraph and the telephone.

“Mary had a little lamb” were the first words that Edison recorded on the phonograph and he was amazed when he heard the machine play them back to him. In 1878, Edison established the Edison Speaking Phonograph Company to sell the new machine.

Alexander Graham Bell’s Volta Laboratory made several improvements in the 1880s and introduced the graphophone, including the use of wax-coated cardboard cylinders and a cutting stylus that moved from side to side in a zigzag groove around the record.

In the 1890s, Emile Berliner initiated the transition from phonograph cylinders to flat discs with a spiral groove running from the periphery to near the center, coining the term gramophone for disc record players,
which is predominantly used in many languages.

The first record player released to the masses in 1895. This gramophone record player was quite popular until the rise of radio. Though radio didn’t kill the record player, it certainly stole the spotlight for a while.

In the 1930s, wind-up players were being replaced by their electric-powered successors, and after the increasing popularity of bulky turntable systems with built-in amplification and speakers, came the rise of the dedicated hi-fi record player.

Record players sold well in the 30s and 40s but didn’t quite hit a mainstream tipping point until a couple decades later.

Record players became extremely popular in the 60s and 70s when Dual released the first turntables to provide stereo playback. High-fidelity sound reproduction hit the scene and motivated countless people to add a record player to their home. The automatic high-fidelity turntable was an immediate hit in the early 60s. This was the golden age of record players. It was during this era that Electrohome released its famous space-aged Apollo Record Player along side their classic wooden stereo consoles.

Later improvements through the years included modifications to the turntable and its drive system, the stylus or needle, and the sound and equalization systems.

Turntable, in sound reproduction, rotating platform that carries a phonograph record. Turntables commonly revolve at 16 2/3, 33 1/3, 45, or 78 revolutions per minute – many record players have gearing that allows the user to choose among these speeds. For best sound reproduction, constant turning speed is crucial – transcription turntables used by radio stations are weighted to minimize speed variations and are driven by synchronous motors. Though several different types of driving mechanism were tried in early phonographs, the electric motor, cushion-mounted to minimize vibration, became the most widely employed.

When used in conjunction with a mixer as part of a DJ setup, turntables are often colloquially called “decks”.

At the London Science Museum, a Technics SL-1210 is on display as one of the pieces of technology that have “shaped the world we live in”.

Calling records “vinyl” is much like calling a fence “wood” or a surfboard “fiberglass.” Vinyl is the material the record is made of. And before vinyl was shellac and before shellac were gigantic cylinders made of zinc and glass. But that was way back in 1887.

Reeling back to “what is vinyl,” vinyl is a synthetic plastic called polyvinyl chloride. It is made from ethylene (crude oil) and chlorine, and its creation was part of the plastics boom in the early 1900s. Material scientists were constantly innovating with these synthetic polymers that seemed to outperform wood, stone, leather, ceramic, metal, and glass in various respects.

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