History of the record player

Information sheets - History of the record player

From the gramophone to the record player

In the early years, there was no such thing as a record player: a wax cylinder was used to record sound onto a helical coil that tracked along its length.

In 1796, Antoine Favre, a clockmaker native from Geneva, invented the music box, operated by a musical comb.

In April 1877, Charles Cros developed a sound reproduction principle known as the 'Paleophone'. In a document he sent to the French Academy of Sciences, he suggested that sound vibrations could be recorded onto metal using a stylus attached to a vibrating membrane, then reproduced by sliding a stylus attached to a membrane along this groove. However, Charles Cros never got the chance to bring his idea to life and build a prototype because Thomas Edison filed a patent in 1878 in the USA. Edison conducted the first trials using tin foil, which were inconclusive. The Volta Laboratory Association, which consisted of Graham Bell, Chichester Bell and Charles Tainter, that later became the Volta GRAPHOPHONE, then Columbia, filed a sealed envelope containing the outcome of the first experiments on the PHONOGRAPH in 1880. The first wax-coated cardboard cylinder was developed by Charles Tainter in 1886. In 1887, following on from Tainter's work, Edison finalised the design of the phonograph fitted with an electric motor.


The first record player

The invention, which was groundbreaking at the time, is actually a very plain record player consisting of a wax-coated tin cylinder that rotates with a crank to record or reproduce the sound that was read using a steel needle. In the same year, German native Émile Berliner developed the first flat disc, called the Phonograph record. He founded the company GRAMOPHONE, which would later become the famous 'HIS MASTER’S VOICE'.

In 1896 in France, Émile Pathé was appointed manager of the phonograph division of the Pathé Frères company which was renamed Compagnie Générale des Phonographes in 1897. The transition from phonograph to record player was a long-winded process, which gradually developed along with the technical innovations of several companies (Philips, English NEOPHONE Co…), until the arrival of the record player in the 1920's.


Very high-tech record players

Record players have undergone many major changes since and are as efficient as ever! Although we have come a long way since the first gramophones, the basic technical principles of a record player have changed very little, as is the case for their components. They are chiefly mechanical, electrical and sometimes electronic. We won't advocate one specific technology, as all the elements that make it up are key for sound quality and are therefore an integral part of the end result.