Skip to main content
Select Source:

record player

record player or phonograph, device for reproducing sound that has been recorded as a spiral, undulating groove on a disk. This disk is known as a phonograph record, or simply a record (see sound recording). In using a record player, a record is placed on the player's motor-driven turntable, which rotates the record at a constant speed. A tone arm, containing a pickup at one end, is placed on the record. The tone arm touches the groove of the record with its stylus, or needle. As the record revolves, the variations in its groove cause the stylus to vibrate. The stylus is part of the pickup, a device that also contains a transducer to convert these mechanical vibrations into corresponding electrical signals. These signals are then increased in size by an amplifier. After leaving the amplifier, they are passed to a loudspeaker that converts them into sound.

Although sound waves had been recorded in the middle of the 19th cent., the first machine to reproduce recorded sound, the phonograph, was built by Thomas A. Edison in 1877. Edison's records were made of tinfoil, upon which a groove of unvarying lateral direction but varying depth was cut; later this method became known as "hill-and-dale" recording. In 1887, Emile Berliner invented the disk record (patented 1896), which has grooves of unvarying depth but of varying lateral direction. His method, called lateral recording, superseded the earlier method. Berliner also invented the matrix record, from which unlimited duplicate recordings could be pressed. Early turntables were operated by a spring-driven motor that required rewinding for each record played; later the use of an electric motor made rewinding unnecessary.

The quality of reproduction was greatly improved by high-fidelity amplification (popularly called hi-fi) and by complex speaker systems. From 1948 records were made to be played at slower speeds, thus lengthening the amount of material that could be recorded on a single disk; such long-playing discs were known as LPs. Stereophonic reproduction was achieved by adapting the phonograph to reproduce two channels of sound (see stereophonic sound). The first commercially available stereo recordings were produced in 1957. In addition to musical performances, records were often used to reproduce sound effects for radio and the theater, transcriptions of radio broadcasts, "talking books" for the blind, and lessons for language study. Most recording companies stopped producing phonograph records by the early 1990s in favor of cassette tapes and compact discs.

See B. Steffens, Phonograph: Sound on Disk (1992); E. L. Reiss, The Complete Talking Machine: A Collector's Guide to Antique Phonographs (1998); T. C. Fabrizio and G. F. Paul, Antique Phonographs: Gadgets, Gizmos, & Gimmicks (1999).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"record player." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Apr. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"record player." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/record-player

"record player." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/record-player

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

record player

rec·ord play·er • n. an apparatus for reproducing sound from phonograph records, comprising a turntable that spins the record at a constant speed and a stylus that slides along in the groove and picks up the sound, together with an amplifier and a loudspeaker.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"record player." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Apr. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"record player." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/record-player

"record player." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved April 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/record-player

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.