A brief history of sound recording

We look back on more than 100 years of sound reproduction

Published: June 16, 2020 at 12:06 pm

1877 Thomas Edison files a patent for his phonograph, a device that records sound using a stylus on a foil cylinder, which can then be replayed by turning a handle. In time, he replaces foil with wax.


1895 Emile Berliner introduces the gramophone. By recording sound onto a zinc template that can then be stamped onto hard rubber discs, the era of the mass produced record is introduced. Discs are played at around 70 revolutions per minute (rpm), and shellac soon replaces rubber.

1920s Pioneered by the Western Electronic Company, microphone-based electronic recording processes replace the old acoustic methods.

1931 Columbia creates the first 33rpm Long Playing (LP) record, while RCA Victor introduces the use of vinyl in the manufacture of discs.

1963 Philips introduces the compact audio tape.

1982 After six years in development, commercial CDs are launched, alongside Sony’s CDP-101 player.

1997 Audio Highway announces the first portable MP3 player, the Listen Up, onto which audio files can be downloaded from a personal computer.


2006 Free streaming platform Spotify was founded, and with it came a tranch of competitors, which caused major disruptions within the music industry and have transformed the way people listen to music.

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