What is a vinyl record player?

By Eli Miller, University of Brighton Student Volunteer

What is a vinyl record player? Well, it’s an electromagnetic devices which we listen to music on. Let’s face it: technology has turned music and listening to sound into more of a utility than an art. This has a lot to do with the amount and ease of access through sites like YouTube and Spotify. Recently, however, vinyl has made a major comeback. But, how do record players work?

The Building Blocks of Vinyl

Every record player has three main parts:

  1. Needle
  2. Cartridge
  3. Tonearm
close of of a vinyl record player. focus on cartridge
Close up image of a vinyl cartridge. (Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash)

Modern records are made of polyvinyl chloride (Vinyl), a type of plastic. They have very small grooves stamped into them which then creates sound waves. The right and left channel of these grooves cause the needle to vibrate. These vibrations then move their way up to the cantilever (which sits inside the cartridge). The cantilever is attached to the needle and a magnet which sends a small electrical signal to the channels. The magnet moves constantly between two coils that generates a signal that moves into the tonearm and then through amplifiers.

Why Have They Become So Popular Again?

Vinyl made its debut comeback in 2008 and is even more popular today. Reasons for this could be the improvement in sound quality; modern vinyl record players sound much better compared to the 1960s. There is also an aesthetical element to vinyl, which digital music lacks. Record sleeves are part of the artistic process in making music. All artwork is carefully selected, which digital music doesn’t appreciate as much. Compare downloading a song on a computer to being in a store and having an incredible image catch your eye! On top of that, who doesn’t want a funky coloured record? Just look at the image below:

Orange coloured vinyl (Photo by Travis Yewell on Unsplash)

Nostalgia is another key reason for vinyl’s popularity. Those who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s miss this way of listening to music; so it brings back memories! People have been listening to MP3s for more than a decade but the sound a vinyl produces is much different to digital music, especially through on old record player.

Digital music will never die but it seems to be the same with vinyl records. They are an incredible mark in the history of sound that keeps coming back to play.

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