Phonograph record

A typical 12-inch LP record
Edison wax cylinder phonograph c. 1899
Emile Berliner with disc record gramophone
The RCA Victor Factory in Montreal on 1001, Lenoir Street in 2021
Hungarian Pathé record, 90 to 100 rpm
A multinational product: an operatic duet sung by Enrico Caruso and Antonio Scotti, recorded in the US in 1906 by the Victor Talking Machine Company, manufactured c. 1908 in Hanover, Germany, for the Gramophone Company, Victor's affiliate in England
An electronically recorded disc from Carl Lindström AG, Germany, c. 1930
Examples of Congolese 78 rpm records
A 10-inch Decelith blank for making an individually cut one-off recording. A German product introduced in 1937, these flexible all-plastic discs were a European alternative to rigid-based lacquer (acetate) discs.
A 12-inch LP being played. The stylus is in contact with the surface.
Grooves on a modern 33 rpm record
Uncommon Columbia 7-inch vinyl 33 1⁄3 rpm microgroove ZLP from 1948
Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler demonstrating the new RCA Victor 45 rpm player and record in February 1949
Edison Records Diamond Disc label, early 1920s. Edison Disc Records always ran at 80 rpm.
Columbia and RCA Victor's competition extended to equipment. Some turntables included spindle size adapters, but other turntables required snap-in inserts like this one to adapt Victor's larger 45 rpm spindle size to the smaller spindle size available on nearly all turntables. Shown is one popular design in use for many years.
1959 Seeburg 16 rpm record (label only)
45 rpm records, like this single from 1956, usually had a chosen A-side, for radio promotion as a possible hit, with a flip side or B-side by the same artist—though some had two A-sides.
Groove with sound only on left channel
The protective cover of the one-off Voyager Golden Record, containing symbolic information on how it is to be played on the top-left of the label
A standard wide-hole 7-inch vinyl record from 1978 on its sleeve
Example of 7″ EMI single with notched center hole.
Comparison of several forms of disk storage showing tracks (tracks not to scale); green denotes start and red denotes end.
 Some CD-R(W) and DVD-R(W)/DVD+R(W) recorders operate in ZCLV, CAA or CAV modes.
A macro photo of the innermost part of the groove of a vinyl record. Stored sound in the form of variations in the track is visible, as is dust on the record.
Magnified groove. Dust can be seen. Red lines mark one millimeter.
Electron micrograph of vinyl record grooves
A dusty/scratched vinyl record being played. The dust settles into the grooves.
Enrico Caruso with a phonograph c.1910s
Manufacturing vinyl records in 1959
A DJ mixing vinyl records with a DJ mixer at the Sundance Film Festival in 2003

Analog sound storage medium in the form of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove.

- Phonograph record

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Resin secreted by the female lac bug on trees in the forests of India and Thailand.

Some of the many different colors of shellac
Shellac in alcohol
Lac tubes created by Kerria lacca
Drawing of the insect Kerria lacca and its shellac tubes, by Harold Maxwell-Lefroy, 1909
A decorative medal made in France in the early 20th century moulded from shellac compound, the same used for phonograph records of the period
Blonde shellac flakes
Dewaxed Bona (L) and Waxy #1 Orange (R) shellac flakes. The latter—orange shellac—is the traditional shellac used for decades to finish wooden wall paneling, kitchen cabinets and tool handles.
Closeup of Waxy #1 Orange (L) and Dewaxed Bona (R) shellac flakes. The former—orange shellac—is the traditional shellac used for decades to finish wooden wall paneling and kitchen cabinets.
"Quick and dirty" example of a pine board coated with 1-5 coats of Dewaxed Dark shellac (a darker version of traditional orange shellac)

Phonograph and 78 rpm gramophone records were made of it until they were replaced by vinyl long-playing records from 1948 onwards.


Sound intended to be heard as if it were emanating from one position.

A diagram of monaural sound

In the mastering stage, particularly in the days of mono records, the one- or two-track mono master tape was then transferred to a one-track lathe used to produce a master disc intended to be used in the pressing of a monophonic record.


Quality of faithfulness or loyalty.

Palazzo Ducale in Venice: capital # 28 in the porch, featuring Virtues and vices - In fidelitate nulli gero (Fidelity)

For example, a worn gramophone record will have a lower fidelity than one in good condition, and a recording made by a low budget record company in the early 20th century is likely to have significantly less audio fidelity than a good modern recording.

Revolutions per minute

Number of turns in one minute.

Counterclockwise rotations about the center point where a complete rotation is equal to 1 turn.

On many kinds of disc recording media, the rotational speed of the medium under the read head is a standard given in rpm. Phonograph (gramophone) records, for example, typically rotate steadily at 16 2⁄3, 33 1⁄3, 45 or 78 rpm (0.28, 0.55, 0.75, or 1.3 Hz respectively).

Digital audio

Representation of sound recorded in, or converted into, digital form.

Audio levels display on a digital audio recorder (Zoom H4n)
A sound wave, in red, represented digitally, in blue (after sampling and 4-bit quantization).
The lifecycle of sound from its source, through an ADC, digital processing, a DAC, and finally as sound again.
Sony digital audio tape recorder PCM-7030
Focusrite USB Interfaces

Before digital audio, the music industry distributed and sold music by selling physical copies in the form of records and cassette tapes.

Quadraphonic sound

Now called 4.0 surround sound – uses four audio channels in which speakers are positioned at the four corners of a listening space.

A four channel quadraphonic diagram showing the usual placement of speakers around the listener.
Sansui QS sound decoder
An RCA Quadradisc record
A four-channel reel-to-reel tape unit from the 1970s, one of the few ways to achieve discrete four-channel sound at home
Ambisonic mixing equipment
Azimuth Co-ordinator used by Pink Floyd, made by Bernard Speight, 1969 (Victoria & Albert Museum, London)

The most popular medium used to market recordings to the public during the 1970s was the vinyl LP phonograph record.


Person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction.

Hi-fi speakers are a key component of quality audio reproduction.

Audiophiles play music from a variety of sources including phonograph records, compact discs (CDs), and digital audio files that are either uncompressed or are losslessly compressed, such as FLAC, DSD, Windows Media Audio 9 Lossless and Apple Lossless (ALAC), in contrast to lossy compression, such as in MP3 encoding.

Cassette tape

Analog magnetic tape recording format for audio recording and playback.

A TDK SA90 Type II Compact Cassette
A TDK SA90 Type II Compact Cassette
The Sony Walkman
Burmese music cassette tapes for sale, Yangon, Myanmar.
Visualization of the magnetic field on a stereo cassette containing a 1kHz audio tone.
Notches on the top surface of the Compact Cassette indicate its type. The rear-most cassette at the top of this picture, with only write-protect notches (here covered by write-protect tabs), is Type I, its tape consisting of iron oxide. The next cassette down, with additional notches adjacent to the write-protect tabs, is Type II, its tape consisting of chrome and cobalt. The bottom two cassettes, featuring the Type II notches plus an additional pair in the middle of the cassette, are Type IV (metal); note the removal of the tabs on the second of these, meaning the tape is write-protected. Type III was a combination of Types I and II but never gained the popularity of the other three types and was made obsolete by Type IV.
Maxell compact cassettes, C60 (90m) and C90 (135m).
A compact cassette with write-protect tab for Side 2 removed and then restored.
Maxell four-function leader.
Tape Guide via Security Mechanism (SM)
Tapematic 2002 audio cassette loaders, used to wind ("load") magnetic tape from tape reels ("pancakes") in the machine into empty cassette tape shells (known as C-0s or C-Zeros) The C-0s have just leader which is cut into two and the tape is attached to the leader, then wound
A typical portable desktop cassette recorder from RadioShack
Nakamichi RX-505 cassette deck; this one has an auto reverse feature that rotates the cassette, hence the bump in the middle.
Radio–cassette players of the design also called "ghetto-blasters" and "boomboxes"
A head cleaning cassette
A dual cassette-based Panasonic answering machine
A Magnavox dual deck recorder with high-speed dubbing. Doors are open showing capstans.
A C2N Datassette recorder for Commodore computers
German-made cassettes sold for computer data recording, mid 1980s
A streamer cassette for data storage, adapted from the audio Compact Cassette format
Size comparison of Elcaset (left) with standard Compact Cassette
A Compact Cassette and a Microcassette

The Compact Cassette went on to become a popular (and re-recordable) alternative to the 12-inch vinyl LP during the late 1970s.

Data storage

Recording of information (data) in a storage medium.

DNA and RNA can be considered as biological storage mediums.
Various electronic storage devices
Edison cylinder phonograph c. 1899. The phonograph cylinder is a storage medium. The phonograph may be considered a storage device especially as machines of this vintage were able to record on blank cylinders.
On a reel-to-reel tape recorder (Sony TC-630), the recorder is data storage equipment and the magnetic tape is a data storage medium.

Handwriting, phonographic recording, magnetic tape, and optical discs are all examples of storage media.


Curve which emanates from a point, moving farther away as it revolves around the point.

Cutaway of a nautilus shell showing the chambers arranged in an approximately logarithmic spiral
An Archimedean spiral (black), a helix (green), and a conic spiral (red)
Conic spiral with Archimedean spiral as floor plan
Bowl on stand, Vessel on stand, and Amphora. Eneolithic, the Cucuteni Culture, 4300-4000 BCE. Found in Scânteia, Iași, Romania. Collected by the Moldavia National Museum Complex
The Newgrange entrance slab
This Petroglyph with a spiral figure carved into it was made by the Hohokams, a Native American tribe over 1000 years ago.
Archimedean spiral
hyperbolic spiral
Fermat's spiral
logarithmic spiral
Cornu spiral
spiral of Theodorus
Fibonacci Spiral (golden spiral)
The involute of a circle (black) is not identical to the Archimedean spiral (red).
Spherical spiral
An artist's rendering of a spiral galaxy.
Sunflower head displaying florets in spirals of 34 and 55 around the outside.

The first definition describes a planar curve, that extends in both of the perpendicular directions within its plane; the groove on one side of a record closely approximates a plane spiral (and it is by the finite width and depth of the groove, but not by the wider spacing between than within tracks, that it falls short of being a perfect example); note that successive loops differ in diameter.