In this article, we take a look at the history of the record player and when the record player was invented. Additionally, we explore how they work and show some of the vinyl players currently available on the market. You don’t want to miss out!
Over the last few years, there has been a huge resurgence in the demand for Vinyl records. Especially LPs or Long Play records. Of course, these are no use unless you have a record or vinyl player to play them on.
In the past, CDs, cassettes, tape machines, and record players were the primary means of listening to recorded music.
These would range from cheap mass sale players to very expensive hi-fi units only purchased by the dedicated vinyl listener. Often accompanied by a large investment in the listening area too. Such as mounting loudspeakers on spikes and sound insulation of the walls and ceilings.
But, these extremes are not required to set out in the wonderful World of listening to records on a record player! So let’s make a start and look at record players in some depth.
A record player is an electro-mechanical device for retrieving sound from a pre-recorded vinyl record. By means of a vibrating stylus, traveling within a groove in the record spinning underneath it.
The record player may include an amplifier, speakers, or both. Sometimes they come as just a stand-alone device requiring an external amplifier and speakers, to which it must be connected.
The record player in its most basic form, before the invention of electronic amplifiers and loudspeakers, was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877. At which time it was known as a Phonograph.
The first Phonographs were cylinders with indentations in foil. Later replaced by the much more durable and easily reproduced flat vinyl record.
These machines played the size of vinyl records you will be used to seeing today, which we now call an LP.
Record players were responsible for the huge expansion of the music industry and the formation of many bands and orchestras. They enabled for the first time the relatively cheap distribution of high-quality recordings of their music. Making the music industry, other than live performance, a viable career for a musician.
The record player also permitted listening for the masses. Radio had been the only way this had happened until the onset of record players.
No longer was music the domain of the rich or concert goers. Music could be enjoyed by the entire family in the luxury of the home, as and when you wanted to hear it.
To get the best out of your purchase, you will need to know how to use a record player and understand how it works.
A record, the vinyl, is placed into a turntable. This is just a plate attached to a motor either directly, by means of a band or a roller or gear mechanism.
The motor allows the record to spin at fairly constant speeds of 33 1/3 rpm (revolutions per minute) for an album LP, or 45rpm for the smaller 7-inch single records.
Older records around the 1920s were played at 78rpm and some players still have this speed option. The stylus, or needle, mounted on the end of a balanced arm is placed either by hand or automatically into the groove in the record. This groove was produced in a factory and is one long groove running from the outside to the middle of the record.
The groove is pitted, having peaks and troughs that correspond to the music recorded. It is a mechanical representation of the original music. As the record spins these undulations cause the stylus to vibrate. These vibrations are converted to electrical energy. Which in turn is amplified and sent to a loudspeaker for mono reproduction, or two speakers for stereo.
The vibrations will then be heard as the amplified music of the original recording.
To keep a record player working consistently well, care is needed.
Below are some tips to help keep your record player in good condition.
Record players tend to attract dust so need regular dusting, including the case. If dust settles on the record itself it will cause a crackling sound when the record is played, distracting from the enjoyment and clarity of reproduction.
Records need to be dusted lightly to remove any traces of dust before placing them on the turntable. Another important factor to remember is to only play the record at the speed it was designed to be played at. Failure to do so will damage not only the record but also the stylus.
Remember fingerprints also cause problems. These can be avoided by handling records only at their edges, do not place fingers on the groove area.
If you have accidental finger marks on the vinyl, carefully wipe these off with a soft, lint-free cloth and record cleaning fluid or water. Make sure the record is dry before use.
Records should be stored vertically and not stacked on top of each other. Otherwise, they will distort and the music will not reproduce well at all.
When placing the stylus manually on a record, take extreme care not to scratch the surface of the record. This is easily done and in most cases will make the track that is scratched unuseable.
The singularly most important, easily replaceable part of the record player that must be regularly changed to maintain the quality of the sound reproduction is the stylus.
These are relatively cheap, but due to the mechanism of the rubbing of the stylus in the groove of the record, they do wear out.
A stylus might be made from diamond, artificial jewels, glass, metal, or in much cheaper machines hard plastic. The quality of sound reproduction being best with diamond and reducing respectively to the worst in plastic.
The vinyl player, if separate from the speakers, should be placed at a distance from the speakers to avoid mainly vibrational interference. Jumping off the record as vibrations from loud music can cause the stylus to jump too.
The record player itself needs to be as level as it can be. Often a spirit level is either part of the player itself in high end models to allow levelling or one will need to be used to ensure this.
The only other maintainable part of the record player is normally the balanced arm holding the stylus on its end.
A regular check should be made to determine that the stylus is not rubbing too heavily on the record. Weights or a screw mechanism is often found to enable the balance to be adjusted.
One some machines the tracking can also be adjusted to make sure the arm and stylus travel properly across the record with the correct tension.
Now that we have got the basic maintenance out of the way, let’s have a look at what is available in the current market!
Here are some of our favourites.
A typical cheap record player this is an entry level Bush record player, coming in at a mere £29.99.
This truly is portable as it folds into a mini briefcase size for transport. It also has its own included amplifier and speakers.
The mechanics and sound quality are perhaps not optimal in this unit. However, they are adequate as a starting point for those on a limited budget.
As with all small loudspeaker audio units, this player lacks bass response, sounding somewhat thin and tinny. Nevertheless, it’s a great record player for a beginner.
Just a step up in terms of finish, style and sound reproduction is the Crosley record player.
This series of vinyl players look very similar to the Bush but comes in a far greater variety of different colours. Including a lovely sand velvet on the Crosley Cruiser model at just £80 or $69.95.
A more retro looking vintage record player comes in the form of the Dansette record player.
This is slightly larger and boxier in shape than the Bush or Crosley Cruiser models. It also comes with legs to raise it to waist height making it more of a feature item than portable.
These are to be found as reproductions of the Dansette player from the late 50s to early 60s. Or if you are lucky, originals.
Sound quality will be better than the cheaper Bush or Crosley players.
A more significant step up in both build quality and features comes with the Steepletone record player.
At around £113 upwards, these record players also include radio and are more an item of furniture. They also come with external speakers for far greater sound quality.
It cannot be underestimated the difference external, large diameter speakers make to the quality of sound reproduction.
How about a quick look at the top end of record players, coming in at a staggering £105,000 is the OneDof One Degree.
This is not even the most expensive record player available, but if you have money to spare this one looks amazing.
It has no frills. Just the bare essentials but these are of the best possible quality and calibrated to perfection. Designed by NASA space engineers, it is Gold plated.
As you pay more, you will get a non-portable player, with a more powerful amplifier. Enabling you to play louder music at higher quality and through larger high fidelity external speakers.
It is worth bearing in mind that smaller portable players can never match the sound quality or greater mechanical quality of these higher-priced models.
Most record players come equipped with USB or AUX connections and Bluetooth, to enable you to play music through the amplifier from your other audio devices.
So, if you are new to records and vinyl players, before you invest heavily, a really good record player to try would be the Bush Classic Retro or the similar but slightly more expensive SOLO GPO record player.
Later, as your love of vinyl and your record collection grows, you may want to consider upgrading. At which point visit a specialist and hear the sound quality before you buy, as you might be making a considerable investment.
You now know all about vinyl players and how they work. Opening up a new world of excitement and nostalgia that is vinyl.
Ask your parents to see if they have any records in storage from their youth. Become part of the ever-expanding reinvigoration of the record industry!
Many new artists are releasing on vinyl as well as CD and cassette now. Often, as in the past an LP will have a beautiful cover photo or album artwork, and information inside the record cover or on the cover back adding extra interest to you as the listener.
Look after your record player and get many hours of new listening fun, extend your musical experience with the clarity and warmth of the sound of vinyl.
We hope that you enjoyed this article! Let us know if we mentioned your favourite or if you think we missed any out in the comment section below! We want to hear your thoughts! Also, don’t forget to share this article across your socials and tag us @musicgateway – we love interacting with you all!