Record Player Evolution

Record Player Evolution

There is no doubt that record players have evolved, from being huge simple devices, to those which are portable and sophisticated. Edison and Berliner are considered the pioneers of record players, or in a general term, phonograph. It is from their humble inventions, that we are now able to enjoy the fruits of the magical record players.

It has taken several technological advancements over a number of years to reach this point. Below is a chronological line-up from 1874 up until the 21st century that shows how the record player has evolved. It has indeed taken ingenious leaps forwards to reach this far.


The record player is a device that can play sound by reading vibrations from a record disk. Thomas Edison invented this wonderful piece of technology. Unknown to him, this device would end up revolutionizing the face of the music world that we have come to know to date. Today, our home radios, our high-end iPods, and our fast-paced computers all started as medium-size boxes, where a needle moved across groves in tinfoil paper to create noise, which was amplified through a small speaker.


In 1887, the music world was treated to yet another invention, this time, the gramophone. It was designed and made by Emile Berliner, using Edison’s original player design. In fact, the gramophone was simply an upgrade of Edison’s record player with better features. One unique feature of the gramophones was that it played music and recordings, but did not use the foil to play. It was during this period that the vinyl concept was introduced. On its side was a crank designed to spin the vinyl, which in turn created the noise.

19th Century Vinyl

Vinyl records, created a huge uproar. Records were designed specifically for the gramophones. The record was a disk that was twice the size of a regular CD. It would then be placed on top of the gramophone, and a needle placed on top of the record. As the vinyl spins, the needle scratches on the surface and produces sound vibrations, which are later amplified through its speakers.

The Turntable

The turntable era was not much of a hit, but it was credited with bringing to limelight of the disc jockeys who we simply refer to as DJs. The turntables were the brainchild of one Daniel Leland Cooley in the 1930s.  The disc jockeys used the turntable to play a wide variety of songs at various events including parties, concerts and more.

As the use of turntables increased, DJs came up with and mastered the art of scratching which involves the moving of the vinyl back and forth. In the years to come, the turntable became a massive hit for many people, especially party lovers. The DJs took it to a whole new level, which led to the rise of arguably the best DJs of that time.

Transistor Radios

The invention of the transistor radio was huge especially in the mid-1900s. It completely changed the face of how people listened to music. Moving from a heavy non-portable system to pocket-friendly devices was an unprecedented change. This radio was pocket sized and very portable. The radio started with an AM channel-based tuner and offered listeners an opportunity to listen to their favorite jams played by disc jockeys. This was further made possible through radio towers.

Long-playing Records

Long-playing records were another type of record disk altogether, and allowed music lovers to have all songs on an album on just one disk. With long-playing records, the artists would record a whole album. After recording, music companies would later make many copies of that recording on long-playing records and then sell them to customers who later listened to the music via gramophones.

Compact Cassette-1960s

The compact cassette, was created by a Dutch group known as the Philips Company. It was more of a record player than it was a transistor radio except for the size. It was small and rectangular in size and shape, and had the capability of playing up to 60 minutes of music or recordings. Similar to a record disk, the compact cassette had to have its wheels spin in order for sound to be produced. They were played using cassette players.

iPod Era-2000s

The iPod was an instant hit. Apple come onto the scene and created one of the best devices ever seen before, which was an immediate hit for music lovers. It was similar to the cassette player, but it had an LCD screen that allowed one to see the music he or she was listening to. It had a USB port that allowed its users to be able to transfer music to and from the iPod. It was portable and pocket-sized. Apple would later develop the iPod Touch with touch screen capabilities.

Smartphone Era

In recent years, mobile companies have developed high-end smartphones that have the ability to play music of various formats including MP4 versions. The record players of these mobile phones have been well integrated and made user-friendly giving music lovers a whole new experience of listening to music alone at any given time and place using one’s earphones.


Technology, both analogue and digital, now makes it possible for us to be able to create a memorable musical experience that cannot be replicated through live performances. It has enabled us to be able to record musical events for later use, and also to be able to create it in a way that surpasses the true feel.

Edison and the like focused on creating record players that were capable of capturing enough information to make it recognizable.

However, their successors upgraded this as they sought to create captivating music that was devoid of noise and any distortion. This has given musicians, producers, and music composers full control of the music-making process and to determine the output.

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