Phonograph cylinder recording of Siamese Thai musicians visiting Berlin, Germany in Problems playing this file? On April 30, , French poet, humorous writer and inventor Charles Cros submitted a sealed envelope containing a letter to the Academy of Sciences in Paris fully explaining his proposed method, called the paleophone. Though no trace of a working paleophone was ever found, Cros is remembered as the earliest inventor of a sound recording and reproduction machine.
The first practical sound recording and reproduction device was the mechanical phonograph cylinder , invented by Thomas Edison in and patented in The development of mass-production techniques enabled cylinder recordings to become a major new consumer item in industrial countries and the cylinder was the main consumer format from the late s until around Recording of Bell's voice on a wax disc in , identified in [more details] Emile Berliner with disc record gramophone The next major technical development was the invention of the gramophone disc , generally credited to Emile Berliner and commercially introduced in the United States in , though others had demonstrated similar disk apparatus earlier, most notably Alexander Graham Bell in Sales of the gramophone record overtook the cylinder ca.
Edison, who was the main producer of cylinders, created the Edison Disc Record in an attempt to regain his market. In various permutations, the audio disc format became the primary medium for consumer sound recordings until the end of the 20th century, and the double-sided 78 rpm shellac disc was the standard consumer music format from the early s to the late s.
Although there was no universally accepted speed, and various companies offered discs that played at several different speeds, the major recording companies eventually settled on a de facto industry standard of nominally 78 revolutions per minute, though the actual speed differed between America and the rest of the world. The specified speed was The difference in speeds was due to the difference in the cycle frequencies of the AC electricity that powered the stroboscopes used to calibrate recording lathes and turntables.
Discs were made of shellac or similar brittle plastic-like materials, played with needles made from a variety of materials including mild steel, thorn, and even sapphire. Discs had a distinctly limited playing life that varied depending on how they were produced.
Earlier, purely acoustic methods of recording had limited sensitivity and frequency range. Mid-frequency range notes could be recorded, but very low and very high frequencies could not. Instruments such as the violin were difficult to transfer to disc. One technique to deal with this involved using a Stroh violin to which was fitted a conical horn connected to a diaphragm that vibrated due to the violin bridge.
The horn was no longer needed once electrical recording was developed. The short-playing but convenient 7-inch 45 rpm microgroove vinyl single was introduced by RCA Victor in In the US and most developed countries, the two new vinyl formats completely replaced 78 rpm shellac discs by the end of the s, but in some corners of the world, the "78" lingered on far into the s. Vinyl was much more expensive than shellac, one of the several factors that made its use for 78 rpm records very unusual, but with a long-playing disc the added cost was acceptable and the compact "45" format required very little material.
Vinyl offered improved performance, both in stamping and in playback. If played with a good diamond stylus mounted in a lightweight pickup on a well-adjusted tonearm, it was long-lasting. If protected from dust, scuffs and scratches there was very little noise. Vinyl records were, over-optimistically, advertised as "unbreakable". They were not, but they were much less fragile than shellac, which had itself once been touted as "unbreakable" compared to wax cylinders.
Electrical recording[ edit ] RCA, a classic ribbon microphone introduced in Similar units were widely used for recording and broadcasting in the s and are occasionally still used today.
Between the invention of the phonograph in and the first commercial digital recordings in the early s, arguably the most important milestone in the history of sound recording was the introduction of what was then called electrical recording, in which a microphone was used to convert the sound into an electrical signal that was amplified and used to actuate the recording stylus.
This innovation eliminated the "horn sound" resonances characteristic of the acoustical process, produced clearer and more full-bodied recordings by greatly extending the useful range of audio frequencies, and allowed previously unrecordable distant and feeble sounds to be captured. Sound recording began as a purely mechanical process. Except for a few crude telephone-based recording devices with no means of amplification, such as the Telegraphone ,  it remained so until the s when several radio-related developments in electronics converged to revolutionize the recording process.
These included improved microphones and auxiliary devices such as electronic filters, all dependent on electronic amplification to be of practical use in recording. In , Lee De Forest invented the Audion triode vacuum tube, an electronic valve that could amplify weak electrical signals. By , it was in use in long-distance telephone circuits that made conversations between New York and San Francisco practical. Refined versions of this tube were the basis of all electronic sound systems until the commercial introduction of the first transistor -based audio devices in the mids.
During World War I, engineers in the United States and Great Britain worked on ways to record and reproduce, among other things, the sound of a German U-boat for training purposes.
Acoustical recording methods of the time could not reproduce the sounds accurately. The earliest results were not promising. The first electrical recording issued to the public, with little fanfare, was of November 11, funeral services for The Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey , London. The recording engineers used microphones of the type used in contemporary telephones.
Four were discreetly set up in the abbey and wired to recording equipment in a vehicle outside. Although electronic amplification was used, the audio was weak and unclear. The procedure did, however, produce a recording that would otherwise not have been possible in those circumstances. For several years, this little-noted disc remained the only issued electrical recording. Several record companies and independent inventors, notably Orlando Marsh , experimented with equipment and techniques for electrical recording in the early s.
Marsh's electrically recorded Autograph Records were already being sold to the public in , a year before the first such offerings from the major record companies, but their overall sound quality was too low to demonstrate any obvious advantage over traditional acoustical methods. Marsh's microphone technique was idiosyncratic and his work had little if any impact on the systems being developed by others.
They had the best microphone, a condenser type developed there in and greatly improved in ,  and the best amplifiers and test equipment. They had already patented an electromechanical recorder in , and in the early s, they decided to intensively apply their hardware and expertise to developing two state-of-the-art systems for electronically recording and reproducing sound: Their engineers pioneered the use of mechanical analogs of electrical circuits and developed a superior "rubber line" recorder for cutting the groove into the wax master in the disc recording system.
Both soon licensed the system and both made their earliest published electrical recordings in February , but neither actually released them until several months later. To avoid making their existing catalogs instantly obsolete, the two long-time archrivals agreed privately not to publicize the new process until November , by which time enough electrically recorded repertory would be available to meet the anticipated demand.
During the next few years, the lesser record companies licensed or developed other electrical recording systems. By only the budget label Harmony was still issuing new recordings made by the old acoustical process. Comparison of some surviving Western Electric test recordings with early commercial releases indicates that the record companies "dumbed down" the frequency range of the system so the recordings would not overwhelm non-electronic playback equipment, which reproduced very low frequencies as an unpleasant rattle and rapidly wore out discs with strongly recorded high frequencies.
The amplitude variations comprising the signal were used to modulate a light source which was imaged onto the moving film through a narrow slit, allowing the signal to be photographed as variations in the density or width of a "sound track".
The projector used a steady light and a photoelectric cell to convert these variations back into an electrical signal, which was amplified and sent to loudspeakers behind the screen.
Ironically, the introduction of " talkies " was spearheaded by The Jazz Singer , which used the Vitaphone sound-on-disc system rather than an optical soundtrack. Optical sound became the standard motion picture audio system throughout the world and remains so for theatrical release prints despite attempts in the s to substitute magnetic soundtracks.
Currently, all release prints on 35 mm film include an analog optical soundtrack, usually stereo with Dolby SR noise reduction. This period also saw several other historic developments including the introduction of the first practical magnetic sound recording system, the magnetic wire recorder , which was based on the work of Danish inventor Valdemar Poulsen.
Magnetic wire recorders were effective, but the sound quality was poor, so between the wars, they were primarily used for voice recording and marketed as business dictating machines. In , a German engineer, Dr.
Kurt Stille, developed the Poulsen wire recorder as a dictating machine. The following year, Ludwig Blattner began work that eventually produced the Blattnerphone,  enhancing it to use steel tape instead of wire. The BBC started using Blattnerphones in to record radio programmes. Because of the high recording speeds required, they used enormous reels about one metre in diameter, and the thin tape frequently broke, sending jagged lengths of razor steel flying around the studio.
Magnetic tape sound recording Magnetic audio tapes: Magnetic tape recording uses an amplified electrical audio signal to generate analogous variations of the magnetic field produced by a tape head , which impresses corresponding variations of magnetization on the moving tape.
In playback mode, the signal path is reversed, the tape head acting as a miniature electric generator as the varyingly magnetized tape passes over it. Acetate has fairly low tensile strength and if very thin it will snap easily, so it was in turn eventually superseded by polyester.
This technology, the basis for almost all commercial recording from the s to the s, was developed in the s by German audio engineers who also rediscovered the principle of AC biasing first used in the s for wire recorders , which dramatically improved the frequency response of tape recordings.
Mullin with backing from Bing Crosby Enterprises. Mullin's pioneering recorders were modifications of captured German recorders. In the late s, the Ampex company produced the first tape recorders commercially available in the US. A typical Compact Cassette Magnetic tape brought about sweeping changes in both radio and the recording industry. Sound could be recorded, erased and re-recorded on the same tape many times, sounds could be duplicated from tape to tape with only minor loss of quality, and recordings could now be very precisely edited by physically cutting the tape and rejoining it.
Within a few years of the introduction of the first commercial tape recorder—the Ampex model, launched in —American musician-inventor Les Paul had invented the first multitrack tape recorder , ushering in another technical revolution in the recording industry. The ease and accuracy of tape editing, as compared to the cumbersome disc-to-disc editing procedures previously in some limited use, together with tape's consistently high audio quality finally convinced radio networks to routinely prerecord their entertainment programming, most of which had formerly been broadcast live.
Also, for the first time, broadcasters, regulators and other interested parties were able to undertake comprehensive audio logging of each day's radio broadcasts. Innovations like multitracking and tape echo allowed radio programs and advertisements to be produced to a high level of complexity and sophistication. The combined impact with innovations such as the endless loop broadcast cartridge led to significant changes in the pacing and production style of radio program content and advertising.
Stereo and hi-fi[ edit ] See also: Stereophonic sound and High fidelity In , it was noted during experiments in transmitting sound from the Paris Opera that it was possible to follow the movement of singers on the stage if earpieces connected to different microphones were held to the two ears. In , Alan Blumlein , a British electronics engineer working for EMI , designed a way to make the sound of an actor in a film follow his movement across the screen.
In December , he submitted a patent including the idea, and in this became UK patent number , In the s, experiments with magnetic tape enabled the development of the first practical commercial sound systems that could record and reproduce high-fidelity stereophonic sound.
The experiments with stereo during the s and s were hampered by problems with synchronization. A major breakthrough in practical stereo sound was made by Bell Laboratories , who in demonstrated a practical system of two-channel stereo, using dual optical sound tracks on film. Major movie studios quickly developed three-track and four-track sound systems, and the first stereo sound recording for a commercial film was made by Judy Garland for the MGM movie Listen, Darling in The first commercially released movie with a stereo soundtrack was Walt Disney's Fantasia , released in The release of Fantasia used the " Fantasound " sound system.
This system used a separate film for the sound, synchronized with the film carrying the picture. The sound film had four double-width optical soundtracks, three for left, center, and right audio—and a fourth as a "control" track with three recorded tones that controlled the playback volume of the three audio channels. Because of the complex equipment this system required, Disney exhibited the movie as a roadshow, and only in the United States.
German audio engineers working on magnetic tape developed stereo recording by , even though a 2-track push-pull monaural technique existed in