Originally known as a phonograph before being called a gramophone, a record player is a device that is designed to reproduce sound that has been captured on a record. A record is used to capture sound vibration waveforms by etching into a plastic or vinyl disc the physical deviations as a sound wave changes. To play the sound back, a needle traces the waveforms and the sound is put through an amplifier, which was originally a simple horn.
The phonograph was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. Although other inventors had produced methods of recording sound, it wasn’t until the invention of Edison’s phonograph that the recorded sound could actually be played back. Although the device was functional, it was not very effective at playing back the sound in any of reasonable quality. Improvements to this early design were made by the Volta Laboratory, run by Alexander Graham Bell.
Bell’s laboratory created the gramophone, a device that used wax-coated cardboard cylinders that were etched with the sound waveform. The transition from cylinder to flat discs with a spiral groove was initiated by Emile Berliner, who coined the term gramophone for record disc players. The design has not changed much since this time, with although a number of technologies, particularly needles, have been vastly improved when compared to their earlier counterparts.
As the only method of playing music, records remained dominant for over a century, however this soon changed with the invention of cassette tapes and digital media. Cassettes quickly took over a large part of the market share due to their small size and ease of use. Digital media further took over the market and to this day remain the way that most music is listened to.
Despite the widespread adoption of digital media playback, a number of sound enthusiasts began to return to using records and turntables, particularly in the live music scene. Although some genres, such as classical, have listeners who have always preferred records, the hip-hop and electronic dance scene proved to be just as popular. This popularity has led many artists to release their albums and singles on vinyl as well as newer digital media, although this does come with an increase in cost.
The original method for amplifying the sound that was recorded onto a disc was a simple cone. Although this sufficed for a number of years, inventors continued to tinker before electromagnetic speakers were created, allowing for greater amplification of sound. Record players are still being manufactured today by a number of companies, helped by the proliferation of old records, along with new records being produced. It is also quite easy for anyone with a modest budget to begin collection records and playing them back at a reasonable price.