Vintage Audio Guides

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Vintage Record Players

The first phonograph was invented by Thomas Edison in the 1870s, and it was improved upon by Alexander Graham Bell under the Volta group in the 1880s. After World War II, the introduction of stereo sound, amplifiers, and loudspeakers made record players more appealing and accessible to people for use in their homes and were common among people who already had a radio. Portable record players made before the 1970s are typically described as equipment that is vintage, and they may produce monochrome or stereo sound effects when playing records.

What technology is available in vintage turntables?
  • Speed governors: Record players use speed governors in order to control the rotational speed of the vinyl record on the turntable. This helps to ensure that the turntable does not go too fast or slow down.
  • Belt drives: Players with belt drives reduce low-frequency rumbles from the movement of the motor rotating the record on the player. The rubberized belt is made of elastomers, which act to absorb noise from the record player before it can reach the stylus.
  • Direct drives: Portable record players have direct drives that move the plate on which the record sits. The platter of the player functions as the motor armature, providing a flat-and-rotating but stable surface for the record. It uses a micro-controller that was first introduced into record-player technology in 1969.
What are the features of vintage turntables?
  • Aluminum castings: Aluminum castings on the classic record player minimize vibration at the stylus. This reduces unwanted low-frequency noise so that a classic song sounds like it does on the radio. Players with aluminum castings are not as portable because of the weight of the metal.
  • Arm counterweights: Arm counterweights on the record player reduce oscillation of the arm and stylus. It also minimizes variations in the angle of insertion of the stylus when the vinyl record is being rotated by the turntable.
  • Elliptical stylus: Older record players may have a spherical or elliptical stylus. The stylus is what fits into the groove on the vinyl album when it is played. An elliptical shape is able to fit easily into the V-shaped grooves and pick up on the full range of sounds.
What kinds of records work on vintage turntables?

A portable record player may be able to play vinyl in the 45 or 33-1/3 formats. Some portable record players need to have a different stylus attached in order to play more than one type of vinyl. If the retro turntable was made before 1948, it may be able to play the shellac discs that were common in the 1920s and 1930s. These retro discs were discontinued after World War II because the shellac was imported from Asia. A turntable that is portable may also be able to play the audio on a laser disc. These retro discs were designed for use in portable players with HDMI hookups to a television. The audio is transmitted through the turntable, and the visual information is sent into the television.

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