The phonograph is a device invented in 1877 for the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound. In its later forms it is also called a gramophone (as a trademark since 1887, as a generic name since c. 1900). The sound vibration waveforms are recorded as corresponding physical deviations of a spiral groove engraved, etched, incised, or impressed into the surface of a rotating cylinder or disc, called a "record". To recreate the sound, the surface is similarly rotated while a playback stylus traces the groove and is therefore vibrated by it, very faintly reproducing the recorded sound. In early acoustic phonographs, the stylus vibrated a diaphragm which produced sound waves which were coupled to the open air through a flaring horn, or directly to the listener's ears through stethoscope-type earphones. In later electric phonographs (also known as record players (since 1940s) or, most recently, turntables), the motions of the stylus are converted into an analogous electrical signal by a transducer, then converted back into sound by a loudspeaker.
The phonograph was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. While other inventors had produced devices that could record sounds, Edison's phonograph was the first to be able to reproduce the recorded sound. His phonograph originally recorded sound onto a tinfoil sheet wrapped around a rotating cylinder. A stylus responding to sound vibrations produced an up and down or hill-and-dale groove in the foil. Alexander Graham Bell's Volta Laboratory made several improvements in the 1880s, including the use of wax-coated cardboard cylinders, and a cutting stylus that moved from side to side in a "zig zag" groove around the record.
In the 1890s, Emile Berliner initiated the transition from phonograph cylinders to flat discs with a spiral groove running from the periphery to near the center. Later improvements through the years included modifications to the turntable and its drive system, the stylus or needle, and the sound and equalization systems.
The disc phonograph record was the dominant audio recording format throughout most of the 20th century. From the mid-1980s on, phonograph use on a standard record player declined sharply because of the rise of the cassette tape, compact disc and other digital recording formats. Records are still a favorite format for some audiophiles and DJs. Vinyl records are still used by some DJs and musicians in their concert performances. Musicians continue to release their recordings on vinyl records. The original recordings of musicians are sometimes re-issued on vinyl.
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