What is a Record Player and How it Works

Even though most people stream their music online nowadays, many are still using vinyl record players to listen to their favorite tunes. You may have seen one of these in an old Hollywood movie or even in your grandparents’ house. Although record players may be less popular today, it’s still interesting to figure out what they really are and how they work. Read on to learn more about these antique music players, and how they have been modernized to keep up with the times! 


To put it simply, a record player is a music player that you can play records on. It is typically made up of 3 different parts: the Base, the Platter, and the Tonearm. The base is located at the bottom of a record player, and it is made of a wide array of materials ranging from different types of wood to plastic and comes in different shapes. It also includes the motor of the player which works using either a wheel, a direct-drive, or a belt system. The main function of the base is to make the record playing system function by rotating the platter on which the record itself is placed. 


The second component of the player is the platter. The platter is a very important part of the system as it is the place where the records are put on. The most crucial thing that the platter does is maintaining the speed and consistency of the vinyl records as they move. Typically, the heavier the weight of the platter is, the richer the sound that will emanate from the record player will be. 

The Tonearm and Cartridge 

Together with the cartridge, the tonearm is the third main component of the record player and is considered the most sophisticated part. It is very fragile so it should always be handled with care. The tonearm should be moveable and flexible but heavy enough to handle the motor. It is usually attached separately from the base to decrease the chances of having vibrations while playing. The cartridge or needle comprises a stylus, a few micrometers thick diamond piece, which is enclosed in a soft plastic that interacts with the grooves on the record. The cartridge moves either through a moving coil system or a moving magnet system. There is a wide variety of quality cartridges in the market now to choose from, just like Audio Technica cartridge.

Modern-Day Features

Although this wasn’t the case back in the day, modern-day record players are made up of advanced components that offer various functionalities. For example, there are features that can effectively convert the audio from a record to an MP3 format, which can be readily uploaded to smartphones and other electronic devices. The music aficionados at Top Record Players explain that these new technological features allow you to enjoy the unique vinyl sound no matter where you are by digitizing your record collection so you can listen on the go. Other advanced features include RCA outputs, which allow you to connect your record player to external speakers and blast that funky music!

Music Playing Mechanism

Record players are based on how the needle works as it causes friction against the grooves in vinyl records. The record is first spun around through a mechanical system, which was improved over time. The stylus will then interpret the grooves in the record and pick up the vibrations to move along the metal band located at the rear end of the tonearm. A coil located within the magnetic field will convert these vibrations into electrical signals, which are then transported through more wires to the amplifier. These signals are finally transformed back into sound waves through the speakers of the record system, blasting the music that is recorded in the vinyl records. 

Vinyl Records

Even though older disks were made of rubber rather than vinyl, that is no longer the case today. Nowadays, vinyl records are easier to mass-produce and are more durable than the rubber ones before. There are two sizes of vinyl records in the market with Long-Playing Records (LP’s) being about 12 inches in diameter and 45RPM discs which are 7 inches in diameter. LP’s typically spin at a speed of 33 revolutions per minute (RPM) and carry music lasting 40 to 60 minutes, with 20 to 30 minutes on each side. On the other hand, 45RPM disks spin records at speeds of 45 RPMs but can only carry singular tracks which are generally 3 to 4 minutes long.

What is a Record Player and How it Works

After years of being overlooked and discarded, many professional DJs nowadays have started using record players as the music they produce creates a better, more unique sound quality than most of the MP3 music players available today. Additionally, more and more people are now purchasing modern variations of record players to enjoy a more special listening experience. Either way, there’s no denying that these devices have paved the way for the modern music players we utilize today to emerge.

Written by George K.

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