phonograph record

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phonograph record

[′fō·nə‚graf ‚rek·ərd]
(engineering acoustics)
A shellac-composition or vinyl-plastic disk, usually 7 or 12 inches (18 or 30 centimeters) in diameter, on which sounds have been recorded as modulations in grooves. Also known as disk; disk recording.

Phonograph Record


a disc of synthetic materials on whose surface there are grooves, arranged in a spiral, with a recording of sound that can be reproduced by phonographs, record players, and other devices made for this purpose. Phonograph records are produced by making the original recordings on magnetic tape, transferring them to lacquer discs by means of a recorder, and then using the discs to make metal masters of the matrices (by electroplating) to press the records from plastic.

Phonograph records may be either monophonic (with one sound channel on the groove) or stereophonic (twin-channel). Monophonic records may be standard (reproducing sound when the disc is turned at 78 rpm; the groove is 140 microns wide) or long-playing (45, 33⅓13;, and 16 rpm, with a 55-micron groove). Stereophonic records are all long-playing. The following types of phonograph records have been established by international standards for diameter: 17.5 cm (up to six minutes of sound per side), 25 cm (to 18 minutes), and 30 cm (to 28 minutes).

The prototype of the phonograph record is usually taken to be the wax cylinder that carried the sound for T. A. Edison’s phonograph, on which, in December 1877, the first record in the world was made. However, priority in discovery of the principle of the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound belongs to the French poet, musician, and scientist C. Cros (1842–88), who presented his work The Process of Recording and Reproducing Phenomena Perceived by Hearing to the French Academy on Apr. 3, 1877.

In 1888 the German engineer E. Berliner (1851–1929), who was working in the United States, proposed a zinc disc covered with a fine layer of wax to carry the sound and a gramophone to reproduce this sound from the disc. Berliner’s disc made it possible to make a metallic copy (a matrix for the mass production of phonograph records by stamping), at first using celluloid, ebonite, and rubber, and, later, shellac resins. The first phonograph record in the world, made by Berliner, is kept in the National Museum in Washington.

The first record factory in the world was opened at the end of the 19th century in Camden, N. J. (United States), marking the beginning of the largest record concern—RCA Victor. By the beginning of the 20th century the following companies were producing phonograph records and phonographs: in the United States, Columbia; in France, Pathé; in Great Britain, His Master’s Voice; and in Italy, La Voce del Padrone.

By the beginning of the 20th century there were about 3,000 record labels in the world with a total of more than 4 million copies (before 1903 these were only one-sided), containing primarily oratory and conversation, marches, waltzes, lyric songs, and romances. Because of technical imperfections in recording, instrumental music was a very minor part of the repertoire of phonograph records. In 1903 the first two-sided discs appeared (initially in the United States and Great Britain). In Paris in 1907, records of the outstanding singers F. Tamagno, E. Caruso, A. Patti, and others were solemnly placed in hermetically sealed galvanized boxes for preservation; it was decided that the boxes would be opened after 100 years. Phonograph records became widespread in many countries of the world. The speed of revolution of the disc was changed from 90–100 rpm to 76–80 rpm; in 1925, 78 rpm was adopted as standard.

A new stage in the history of phonograph records began in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, when the apparatus was invented for the electroacoustic recording and reproduction of sound, and polychlor vinyl was developed for manufacturing the records. This made is possible to improve significantly the quality of phonation of the recordings. There was also a qualitative change in the repertoire; recordings of classical works of symphony, chamber, and opera music now occupied a major place. At the end of the 1940’s (the US firm Columbia was the first, in 1948), long-playing phonograph records appeared (designed for electroacoustic reproduction by electric record players, electric phonographs, and radio-phonographs). This made it possible to expand considerably the range of recorded frequencies (50–16,000 hertz), preserve the tone quality completely, increase the dynamic range of the recording (to 50–57 decibels), reduce the noise level, and greatly extend the high quality playing life of the records. With the appearance of long-playing records, the production of conventional records was cut back, and at the end of the 1960’s their mass issue was discontinued.

The production of stereophonic records was begun in the United States in 1957 and 1958 (and later in other countries), making it possible to obtain nearly natural three-dimensional sound reproduction. At the end of the 1960’s records were being produced that could reproduce both monophonic and stereophonic recordings.

The first so-called flexible phonograph records were produced in France in 1962 for use as audio illustrations to various types of publications, which led to the appearance of talking books.

The first record factory in Russia was organized in 1901–02 in Riga by the English joint-stock company Grammophone. Among the first Russian artists to record on phonograph records were I. V. Tartakov, M. G. Savina, F. I. Chaliapin, A. D. Vial’tseva, and V. F. Komissarzhevskaia. The April Plant near Moscow (now the largest record-producing enterprise in the USSR) began producing records in 1910. There were six record factories in Russia by 1915, producing about 20 million records per year. In 1910–11 recordings were made of many outstanding writers, cultural figures, and artists. Special magazines, such as Grammofonnyi Mir (Record World; 1910–16) and Grammofonnaia Zhizn’ (Record Life; 1911–12), appeared at the beginning of the 20th century, as did the first record catalogs.

Phonograph record production was nationalized by a decree of the Council of People’s Commissars in 1919, and records were used for the first time as a means of mass political and cultural education. V. I. Lenin, M. I. Kalinin, and A. M. Kollontai were members of the editorial board of Soviet Record, a division of Tsentropechat’ (Central Agency of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee for the Distribution of Publications). About 40 titles with recordings of statements by outstanding figures in the Soviet government were published between 1919 and 1921. The first Soviet phonograph records recorded V.I. Lenin’s “Address to the Red Army,” “In Memory of Comrade Sverdlov, Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee,” and “The Third Communist International.”

During the 1920’s phonograph records were produced by the Music Trust of the Supreme Council on the National Economy. The Record Trust was created in 1933; the All-Union Recording House for Record Production was established in 1938 and the Ail-Union Recording Studio in 1957. The All-Union Phonograph Record Company, Melodiia, was organized in 1964.

Mass production of phonograph records in the USSR began in the 1930’s and 1940’s. (In 1940 more than 55 million phonograph records were turned out.) The production of long-playing records began in 1952, and the production of stereophonic records, in 1962; flexible records appeared in 1964. (The talking magazine Krugozor was first issued in 1965, and Kolobok in 1968.) The production of stereo/monophonic records was begun in 1969.

The Soviet record industry has made unique documentary, artistic, and educational recordings during its 50-year history. Series of phonograph records have been devoted to V. I. Lenin and his comrades and to prominent government and public figures of the Soviet state. Records have been made of the main works of domestic and foreign classical and contemporary music, anthologies of folk and contemporary music, anthologies of folk and Soviet music and song, many works of world dramaturgy, classic performances of the leading theaters of the country, collections of the performances of outstanding artists of the past and present (instrumentalists, vocalists, and masters of the theater and the written word), series of author’s readings by prominent Soviet writers, the best works of children’s literature and music, and record anthologies and other audio teaching aids for schools of general education, foreign language courses, and lectures for public universities.

The number of phonograph records produced in the USSR in 1970 reached 180 million. Soviet phonograph records are exported to more than 60 countries. In addition, several of the largest foreign companies produce records from Soviet recordings (for example, Le Chant du Monde and Pathé-Marconi in France, Victor in Japan, Capitol in the United States, Ariola in the Federal Republic of Germany, and EMJ in Great Britain). Summary record catalogs are published periodically in the USSR and other countries. In the USSR, summary catalogs have been published since 1947, and general catalogs have been published once every two or three years since 1954. (The first catalog of Soviet phonograph records was published in 1919.) Bulletins on new recordings are published each month, and material on new records is regularly published in the periodical press (for example, Muzykal’naia Zhizn’[Music Life], Sovetskaia Muzyka and Sovetskaia Kul’tura).

A number of countries have very rich record collections in record libraries and phonophile societies. In the USSR the Moscow division of the All-Union Society of Philatelists has had a phonophile section since 1966; such sections have also been established in Gorky, Kishinev, and elsewhere.

International contests for the best recordings for phonograph records are held regularly in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, and Spain. Performers of recorded works whose sales reach 1 million copies are awarded the prize of a “gold record.” Among the performers who have been awarded the highest prizes in such competitions are E. G. Gilel’s, D. F. Oistrakh, S. T. Rikhter, L. B. Kogan, M. L. Rostropovich, I. K. Arkhipova, G. P. Vishnevskaia, Z. A. Dolukhanova, D. M. Gnatiuk, L. G. Zykina, the USSR State Symphony Orchestra, the orchestras of the USSR Bolshoi Theater and All-Union Radio, and the Red Banner Ensemble of the Soviet Army. Soviet records have received worldwide recognition. Phonograph records made by leading Soviet audio directors V. A. Grosman, D. I. Gaklin, and I. P. Ve-printsev have been awarded the Grand Prix of the C. Cros French Academy of Phonograph Recording and other international prizes a number of times.


Volkov-Lannit, L. F. Iskusstvo zapechatlennogo zvuka: Ocherki poistorii grammofona. Moscow, 1964.
Khazandzhi, V. Proizvodstvo grammofonnykh plastinok. Moscow,1965.
Katalog dolgoigraiushchikh gramplastinok. Moscow, 1968.
Liubiteliam gramplastinki. (Issue 1, compiled by L. Grigor’ev and la. Platek; Moscow, 1971.)


phonograph record

An earlier term in the U.S. for an analog audio disc (a "vinyl record"). In other countries, the term was "gramophone record." See LP and turntable.
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launched Voyager 2, an unmanned spacecraft carrying a 12-inch copper phonograph record containing greetings in dozens of languages, samples of music and sounds of nature.
In 1977, copies of a golden phonograph record filled with sounds bearing witness to human civilization and Earth's flora and fauna were shot into space onboard both Voyager probes; they have been hurtling through space and time ever since.