Edison Triumph Phonograph Sound recording and playback device

Nat. Phonograph Co., West Orange, 1895

© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek


Thomas A. Edison successfully manages to record sound waves on wax cylinders. However, the procedure is unsuitable for commercial marketing purposes, as each cylinder has to be recorded individually.

In 1878, Thomas A. Edison manages to record sound mechanically. His phonograph is based on the observation that a membrane begins to vibrate when exposed to sound waves. If a needle is connected to the membrane, the vibrations can be carved onto a rotating zinc foil as an audio track. If the process is turned around and the needle moves across the audio track, the recorded sounds are made audible again. Using wax cylinders, the sound quality can be significantly improved. Edison follows through on this idea and introduces a number of clockwork drive devices to the market from 1888 onwards. They make it easy to record sound for private or social purposes. However, mass production of pre-recorded cylinders – music recording, for example – remains difficult. In order to produce 500 cylinders, the same recording must be made simultaneously one hundred times over with five phonographs. This gives rise to the occupation of phonograph singer, who needs to have an exceedingly powerful voice.

Inv.Nr. 17575

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