Gramophone vs Phonograph (In-Depth Difference)

james williamson author James Williamson
  May 22nd, 2024

Everyone knows that the gramophone is the evolved phonograph’s version but do you know the difference between a gramophone and a phonograph?

Many people often ask me to share a detailed comparison between these historic devices so here we are. In this article, we have compared these legendary devices according to their design, features, components, characteristics, etc., and shared in-depth insights.

So, let’s start.

Gramophone vs Phonograph:

Phonograph Gramophone
Definition The first sound recording and playback device that used Edison cylinders is known as a phonograph. An evolved version of the phonograph that uses flat discs to play sound using mechanical energy is known as a gramophone.
Sound Recording & Playback Medium Tin foil-wrapped metal cylinders, wax-coated cardboard tubes, and all-wax cylinders. Shellac records
Speed (RPM) About 120 RPM Early discs have 60 to 130RPM speed but in the end, 78RPM is standardized
Playback Time 2 minutes to 4 minutes The early discs play for 2 to 3(1/2) minutes each side but after some time, the playback time was increased to 4-5 minutes each side.
Works on Mechanical energy Mechanical energy
Re-usable Yes No
End users can record sound themselves and listen to recorded sound Yes No
Sound Quality Poor sound quality Better sound quality
Stylus There are 2 types of stylus: a cutting stylus is used while recording sound and a playback stylus is used while listening to the recorded sound. Only one stylus is used which is made from thorn, fiber, or steel.
Availability Rarer than gramophone Easily available as compared to phonograph
Cost More expensive Less expensive
Variants A 2-minute phonograph and a 4-minute phonograph. Portable models, table models, pedestal models, and external horn models.

So, this is the brief difference between a gramophone and a phonograph. Now, let’s learn more about these devices separately.

What is a Phonograph:

Phonograph Thomas Edison

A phonograph is the first device in mankind’s history that made sound recording and playback possible. It was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877 and it uses a wax cylinder for sound recording and playback.

You can learn more about phonograph in this article.

What is a Gramophone:


A gramophone is an evolved phonograph version in which flat shellac discs are used as a medium for sound storage and playback instead of wax cylinders. Emile Berliner invented it in the 1880s and a that time, they were also using wax cylinders but in the 1890s, Emile Berliner replaced the wax cylinders with flat discs (known as records in modern times). It became more popular among the public when the flat disc format won the commercial battle in the 1910s with wax cylinders.

You can learn more about gramophone in this article.

Now, let’s dig deeper and understand the in-depth difference between these two legendary devices.

Difference Between Gramophone and Phonograph:

Now, we are explaining the differences mentioned in the comparison table above.

Sound Quality:

In terms of sound quality, the gramophone is a lot better than a phonograph.

Both devices used different groove-tracking techniques. The phonograph tracks the grooves engraved on the cylinder vertically while the gramophone tracks the grooves engraved on the shellac record horizontally and the horizontal technique helps the stylus to track the grooves better which results in better sound quality. And, the diaphragm concept in the gramophone is better than the phonograph.

Playback time:

The playback time of the phonograph is a maximum of 4 minutes using the 4-minute cylinder and 4-minute compatible phonograph. On the other hand, the early discs of the gramophone had a playback time from 2 minutes to 3(1/2) minutes per side. Later, the playback time is increased to 4-5 minutes per side.

Playback Medium:

In phonographs, wax cylinders were used for recording and playback while in gramophone, the flat discs (known as records in modern times) were used for recording and playback.


The wax cylinders were re-usable, i.e., you could shave off the grooves from the cylinder and re-record anything on it again but on the flat discs, you couldn’t re-use it again.

Sound recording by end users:

The phonograph’s wax cylinders allowed the end users to shave off the existing records, record their stuff, and listen to it but you couldn’t do the same on the flat disc of the gramophone.


Both devices are durable and will last longer when you handle them correctly.


In terms of cost, it is quite rare to find a perfectly working phonograph that makes it more costlier than a gramophone which is more easily available.



We have shared in-depth insights and the difference between a phonograph and a gramophone. If you have any questions then you can comment below. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

james williamson
About Author: James Williamson

I have been a music enthusiast since childhood and I love talking about music bands, artists, vinyl, and music equipments. I have launched TurntableWave to help people avoid the mistakes that I had made while entering the vinyl world. In my free time, you will find me fishing or playing basketball.

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