Zoom on a little-known instrument, the gramophone

Never heard of the gramophone? This ancient device for listening to music is an invention that followed the phonograph imagined by Thomas Edison. This process using mechanical sound reproduction techniques will itself be replaced by the electrophone, the vinyl turntable, the tape recorder and then the CD player. Come and discover the history and functioning of the gramophone, which has left its mark on the history of sound.

The history of the gramophone

As we can read on the europarchive site, it is necessary to go back to the origins of the gramophone before understanding how it works. This device was invented by the German Emile Berliner, and patented in 1887. The engineer began his experiments with engravings on glass plates of large diameter, then developed a process for engraving on a small zinc disc. The gramophone was born. Its commercialization led to the production of zinc discs of 12.7, 17.5, 25 and then 30 centimeters in diameter in 1903. The manufacture of gramophones stopped with the advent of LPs and 78 rpm records.

What is the difference with the phonograph?

Like the phonograph, the gramophone allows to record the sound. The main difference is in the recording medium, the phonograph using the cylinder while the gramophone works on the basis of a disc. The disc represents a real advance over the cylinder. It is indeed much easier to put it on the tray and much more practical to store, for a significant saving of space.

How does a gramophone work?

Three essential elements make up the gramophone: the turntable on which the disc is placed, the tubular arm composed of a reading head and a diaphragm, and the amplification device, often found in the form of a horn. Rotation and sound reproduction are mechanical. Rotation is achieved by means of a spring and the action of a crank. The reading is done thanks to the needle of the reading head following the grooves.

The evolution of the gramophone

The gramophone has been perfected over time and has therefore undergone several major transformations. In particular, the number of revolutions evolved considerably between 1904 and 1920, reaching 78 revolutions. As for the portable case or phono-case, it appeared with the First World War and experienced an important development in the 1930s. It offers an innovative acoustic amplification mode. At the end of the 1920s, the electric pickup truck invaded the market at the same time as the development of talking pictures. It offered a better sound quality and enabled bass reproduction. Very expensive, it was not available at an affordable price until the 1930s. In 1950, electrophones supplanted earlier technologies, thanks to microgrooves.

Today, you can see gramophones in many museums and exhibition halls.


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