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Music history the use of the phonograph in american homes

The evolution of the turntable 1877 - 2017 Dance music wouldn't exist without it Words: Thomas H Green Design: Another inventor, the German-American Emile Berliner patented the Gramophone, which used zinc discs to capture recordings.

Proto-records, in other words. Zinc was soon replaced by a rubber-based compound called vulcanite, which in turn was replaced at the dawn of the 20th century with shellac, derived from the secreted resin of an Asian beetle.

Shellac discs remained the primary format for music until the 1940s.

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The early stars of recorded music were opera singers such as Nellie Melba and Enrico Caruso. Discs and cylinders were in competition as music formats, but demand for the latter now died off.

Records were easier to produce, handle and store. Wind-up record-players were slowly being replaced by their electricity-powered equivalents. Instead of spring-wound mechanics, these used fly-wheel friction discs, as in car clutch systems, to keep record speeds even. The radio boom of the 1920s hits the record market hard.

Edison’s Top Ten Uses for the Phonograph

Combination home systems started to become more popular, including inbuilt amplification, speaker units and, of course, radio. The record industry and, consequently the record-player were in dire straits. The Great Depression all but wiped out sales of both. It was the direst crisis ever to hit recorded music, bigger even than the impact of digitized, non-physical music at the start of the 21st century.

In 1934 RCA Victor started selling the Duo Jr, the first component turntable, which was plugged into a radio speaker, however, it was jukeboxes that kept the industry alive during these fallow years.

The Phonograph

Technological innovations during World War II led to a leap forward. Alongside this he introduced the lightweight tone arm and sapphire needle to turntables. The result of his labours, the 33. Both became standard speeds and sizes, for albums and singles, respectively, but three speed record-players including the 78 RPM option remained popular for a couple more decades, as did mechanized systems that changed records automatically on long central stacking spindles.

  • You shouted a short message into the piece on one side of the cylinder while you turned the handle;
  • The phonograph changed everything;
  • Combination home systems started to become more popular, including inbuilt amplification, speaker units and, of course, radio;
  • At this time the idler-drive, a motor-driven rubber wheel system, was the most popular in-built method for propelling turntables, but this was soon replaced by the more popular belt-drive.

Stereo sounds systems started to appear via Pye in the UK, wherein the stylus moved not just horizontally across the record but vertically, to add another sonic dimension, feeding alternate signals to the left and right channels.

At this time the idler-drive, a motor-driven rubber wheel system, was the most popular in-built method for propelling turntables, but this was soon replaced by the more popular belt-drive.

The Dual 1009, with record-changer, was a popular choice, but audiophiles increasingly disdained record stacking, as vinyl could easily be damaged. Technics decks were tough, powerfully-motored and had accurate timing gauges. They were an improvement on the original 1200s, built to absorb more bounce, with a faster start-up speed and a pitch control fader. For the next quarter century, despite the appearance of many turntables that boasted advances in one area or another, Technics were the industry standard.

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In terms of home use, the turntable now faded as CDs rose to become the dominant music medium. However, in clubland vinyl was alive and well.

The evolution of the turntable 1877 - 2017

Brands such as Stanton, Gemini, Numark and Ortofon, some of whom had been around for a lifetime, suddenly found their wares in great demand. Pioneer, on the other hand, were experimenting with CD turntables that aimed to replicate the experience of hands-on vinyl manipulation. Companies such as Numark, Vestax and Gemini put out competitive turntables but Technics still dominated the market.

Some DJs, notably techno heavyweights Carl Cox and Jeff Mills, found the usual two turntable set-up restrictive and expanded it to three. The early years of the 21st century saw interest in turntables drastically slump. With the rise of digital music files, the vinyl market rapidly died off.

Even the mighty Technics 1200s and 1210s went under the axe, their production ceasing in 2010.

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CD decks were in a better position to adapt. Alongside these developments a new type of turntable started to appear, one whose sole purpose was to process vinyl to digital formats, turning music into data. The honeymoon with virtual formats proved temporary. This, in turn led to the current Serato DJ package which can be used with decks of not.

Meanwhile a plethora of cutting edge turntable technology now caters to both DJs and home-listeners. What goes around comes around. And goes around and around and around at 33. Thomas H Green is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Mixmag.