A gramophone, originally known as a phonograph, is a device for mechanical recording and sound reproduction. The gramophone and the shellac record were both invented by Emil Berliner (1851-1921). The carbon microphone, which he invented at the same time as Hughes and Edison, was the first important German-American innovation. In a profitable transaction in 1877, he sold his invention to Alexander G. Bell, who used it as a component of the Bell telephone. Berliner became financially independent as a consequence of the transaction. He was able to establish his research laboratory as a result.

Golden era, drop in popularity, and vynil record comeback

In the first decade of the 20th century, large horn gramophones were considered modern. Later, trends changed and the horns disappeared from the machines. Some gramophones were completely built into furniture such as cabinets, chests, or tables. Thanks to the portable suitcase gramophone that came along in the music-loving 1920s, it was possible to listen to music everywhere. Throughout the majority of the twentieth century, the disc gramophone record was the dominant audio recording medium.

Because of the popularity of cassette tapes, compact discs, and other digital recording formats in the 1980s, gramophone use on ordinary record players dropped dramatically.

Records, on the other hand, remain a preferred medium for some audiophiles, DJs, collectors, and turntablists (especially in hip hop and electronic dance music), and have had a comeback since the 2000s.

Construction and parts of the gramophone

A modern record player or turntable works essentially the same as Edison’s phonograph, with one key exception. The Edison machine was mechanical, relying on a massive horn to amplify sound waves during playback. On the other hand, modern record players use electromagnetic devices to transform sound vibrations from a spinning record into electrical signals, which then travel to an electronic amplifier. This in turn powers loudspeakers or headphones, increasing the volume significantly.

Thus, a modern record player combines mechanical and electromagnetic technology. A typical record player has a stylus, similar to the needle in Edison’s machine. It bumps up and down in the groove of a vinyl disc. The stylus is a tiny crystal of sapphire or diamond mounted at the very end of a lightweight metal bar. As the crystal vibrates in the groove, its microscopic bounces travel down the bar.

The stylus fits onto the end of an electromagnetic device called a cartridge, containing a piezoelectric crystal. The metal bar presses against the crystal. Each time it moves, it wobbles the crystal slightly, generating an electrical signal. These signals are fed out to the amplifier to make the sounds be heard through speakers or headphones. Not all record-player cartridges use a piezoelectric to convert sound vibrations to electrical signals. Some have tiny electrical coils and a magnet inside them. When the stylus moves, it pushes the magnet up and down past the coil, generating electrical signals in this way.