Turntable History For Audiophiles

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Although we live in the age of MP3s, iTunes Store, and digital DJ systems, yet the supposedly outdated turntables bravely hold their position among DJs and music lovers. Be it for playing regular records or as a controller via timecode for digital vinyl systems (DVS). The fact is that they are still present and will not disappear from the clubs in the foreseeable future, no matter whos music is playing.

But how do these supposedly so simple machines actually work?

The fact that turntables are more than a “heap” of composite components, becomes clear at the latest when it comes to technical problems. Turntables are ingeniously designed devices that have been constantly evolving since their invention in 1887. You can look up turntable reviews for serious music lovers here. Anyone who has ever dealt with the functioning of these devices, the so many technical problems are spared. It’s also easier to tweak the sound of your set-up by knowing which screws to turn. So follow us into the world of turntables!

Emil Berliner and Thomas Alva Edison
Emil Berliner, who filed the corresponding patent in 1887, is considered the inventor of the record. The then innovation, the gramophone, was able to record sound events via a bell on a flat, wax-coated zinc disc. In this process, first, each record had to be made individually. Later, it was decided to replace the zinc disks with pure wax disks. By an electrolysis process, a so-called “mother” was then made from it. This served as a die for pressing shellac plates. That pre-production process is used in a similar form even today.

Ten years before Emil Berliner, ie in 1877, the American inventor Thomas Alva Edison had filed his patent for the phonograph (in Greek for “sonic or tone recorder”). Here, the sound was recorded not on a disc, but on zinc-coated rollers. Both inventions competed with each other, but Emil Berliner’s gramophone prevailed in the new market. However, the phonograph is still considered a forerunner of the gramophone and thus of the turntable, as we know it today. Both the amplification of the sound via horn and the drive (usually via spring mechanisms) were carried out purely mechanically in the first gramophones.

The early records
… were made in contrast to today not from vinyl, but from shellac. Therefore, these are still called shellac records today. Not only are they heavier than vinyl records, but they are also much more fragile. Shellac plates are 10 and 12 inches in size and run at a speed of 78 RPM (Rounds per Minute). You can hear on these plates a mono signal, which was recorded in the page writing process (more on that later). Shellac plates were manufactured from 1895 to 1957. At the beginning of the twenties, the first gramophones with electric drive and pickup came on the market.

The introduction of the vinyl record in the early fifties brought a quantum leap in sound quality. In addition, the 33 or 45 RPM lower playback speeds enabled longer recordings, in the old shellac records, the play length was limited to about four minutes. With the introduction of the hi-fi standard and the filler typing process in the 60s, the sound quality of the record improved once again significantly. From 1920 to 1960, it was, as a commercial record, unique. This was first broken by the Compact Cassette (CC) and the mid-eighties by the still ubiquitous Medium Compact Disc (CD).

Although the market share of turntables has been low since the 1990s, it has been rising again for several years. This is especially for music lovers and hi-fi enthusiasts who prefer the sound of vinyl records to MP3s and audio CDs. Of course, you should not forget the guild of DJs in this context. Here, the turntable is often used because of the feel and direct contact with the sound carrier. For others, the look of a classic DJ workstation with turntables & mixers has simply more sex appeal than controllers or CD drives. In addition, devices like the Technics’ the 1200s have long enjoyed cult status in the club scene.

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