A gramophone, or a phonograph, is a device for playing back vinyl records. It consists of a clockwork motor and a large horn that functions as the speaker. Many people still use gramophones as their preferred sound playing device because they have many records and enjoy the sound gramophones produce.
Types of Gramophones
Although the basic structure of all gramophones is the same, there are several types that shoppers should be aware of before purchasing. The two main types are cylinder phonographs and gramophones. Cylinder phonographs consist of a drum that moves past a fixed sound box where a rising and falling needle traces the record. These devices were early models and gramophones soon became more popular because they were much easier to produce. Gramophones use a lateral tracking of the record and play discs, not cylinders.
The turntable is the rotating disc on the gramophone that spins the record around. A typical turntable for inexpensive gramophones contains a flanged steel stamping structure with a rubber disc on the top for record traction. Although such turntables are lightweight, they also provide low inertia and thus make any motor instabilities pronounced. Better quality, heavy aluminium cast turntables provide balanced inertia, minimise vibration, and maintain constant speed. Another difference between these types of turntables is their driving mechanism. The former use an idler wheel, while the latter have either a direct drive system or a belt.
The tonearm holds the pickup cartridge over the groove of the record, allowing the stylus to track the groove. The force the tonearm applies should strike a balance between good tracking and not wearing out the stylus. The best tonearms are relatively lightweight, stiff, and precise and provide low friction. Balsa wood, metal alloy, graphite, and carbon fibre are some of the common materials for tonearms. In terms of structure, they also divide into straight and S-type arms.
The cartridge attaches to the tonearm and is the piece between the tonearm and the stylus. Earlier, piezoelectric cartridges were robust and did not require much amplification but also created lots of distortion. Magnetic cartridges, with a moving magnet and moving coil, use electromagnetic induction. Piezoelectric cartridges are more common and robust, while magnetic cartridges yield higher fidelity sound. Audiophiles generally prefer strain-gauge cartridges that provide better audio quality, although they also need a special preamplifier.
The gramophone stylus, or needle, is the only part besides the turntable that comes into direct contact with the record. The best styli follow the contours of the record faithfully, deliver the vibration to the system, do not damage the disc, and are durable. Sapphire and diamond are resistant, but styli often feature steel, copper, or tungsten as the material.