Gramophone Information

Updated November 21, 2016

Before 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, CDs and iPods, the gramophone was the primary device for recording and replaying sound and music. It battled with other types of devices such as phonographs, but would gather fame in the late 1800s and was used for nearly a century.


The gramophone, or "phonograph," was the first device for recording and replaying sound. Rival manufacturers used the two names for their own devices, even though they were practically the same. Phonograph is the British English term.

Gramophone Record

The gramophone plays a disc shaped analogue sound record that is vinyl and most commonly known as the phonograph record. It physically looks like a flat disc with an inscribed modulated spiral groove that starts near the periphery and ends around the centre of the disc.


Emile Berliner, a German immigrant who lived and worked in Washington D.C. during the 1800s, concluded his invention of the gramophone and records on November 8, 1887. He was also known as the first inventor to stop recording on cylinders and start recording on flat discs and records.

Gramophone Company

After his invention, Berliner founded the Gramophone Company to mass manufacture and sell his sound discs and gramophones. As a way to promote his gramophone system, he talked with popular artists at the time such as Enrico Caruso and Dame Nellie Melba about using the gramophone to record their music. Berliner also used Francis Barraud's painting of 'His Master's Voice' as The Gramophone Company's trademark in 1908.

Before the Gramophone

Prior to the Gramophone taking the reins of the recording and playback world of sound, the phonograph was the primary instrument of playing sound. It was the fourth device for recording and replaying sound and its term "sound writer" was the most commonly used term. Modern term usage for the phonograph are turntable, record player and record changer. F.B. Fenby was patented as the original author of the word "phonograph" when he gave a name to an unsuccessful device called the Electro-Magnetic Phonograph in 1863.

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