The record player – first called the ‘Phonograph’ – was invented way back in 1877. It soon revolutionzed the way people listened to music. From being an activity that could only be enjoyed occasionally and live, music became a portable commodity. One could listen to one’s favorite song any time. Music, which had been inaccessible to the common public for the most part, was suddenly transformed. Even the humblest of peasant could now listen to the finest musicians.
The earliest record players were monstrous, low quality instruments, of course. These used cylinders instead of discs to record music and sound. It was only with the invention of the Gramophone in 1887 that the sound began to be recorded on the familiar shape known to us today – discs.
The functioning mechanism of a player is simple enough – it works by running the record player stylus over grooves in the disc. Various sounds are produced by variations in the size and shape of the grooves. The sound produced in the stylus is mechanically amplified to make it audible. This relatively simple mechanism has survived for over a century and is still the way all vinyl record players operate today.
It wasn’t until the WWII that players became household commodities. Along with their adoption by the masses, the record industry flourished. Some of the most famous names in music emerged during this time and changed the music scene forever.
Record players produce very high quality sound that audiophiles will insist is the most faithful reproduction of the actual sound, far outperforming modern mediums such as CDs or digital audio. Despite the high fidelity, record players started losing ground to eight tracks, audio cassettes and later, CDs after the 1970s. Today, they are all but extinct, and few companies even produce vinyl records. They remain confined to hobbyists, audiophiles, and for nostalgic purposes.
Nevertheless, the impact of these players has been immense on music, and indirectly, on pop culture. It brought music out from the performing hall into the living room and made it accessible to one and all. And yet, despite years of advancement in recording technology and modern mediums, it provides the highest quality of sound reproduction.