Gramophone Vs Record Player (In-Depth Difference)

james williamson author James Williamson
  May 13th, 2024

Well, the gramophone is the evolved version of a phonograph, and record players are a further evolved version of the gramophone.

Although all these devices share a common goal i.e. track the record or cylinder grooves and convert the vibrations to the sound but the working concepts of all these devices are different from each other.

But unlike the phonograph, there is one common thing between the gramophone and the record player i.e. both use discs as a sound playback medium. The discs (known as records in the modern day) as a sound playback medium defeated the wax cylinders and since then, it has become one of the most popular sound recording mediums which indirectly increased the demand for gramophones in the 20th century.

And, that’s one of the main reasons why most people’s grandpas had this device at home. Even, my grandpa owned one of these legacy devices and he introduced the music to me through this device.

Well, growing up listening to music on the gramophone and seeing, high-end record players with modern technology launches in recent years mostly makes anyone curious to know the difference between a gramophone and a record player.

You must also have the curiosity that’s why you have landed on this article.

So, to help you understand the difference, we have drafted this article in which we have compared both devices according to their design, features, components, characteristics, etc., and shared all the in-depth insights.

Previously, we have compared gramophone vs phonograph and phonograph vs record player, and today, we are discussing the difference between a gramophone and a record player.

Gramophone Vs Record Player:

Gramophone Record Player
Definition The evolved version of the phonograph which can play discs with mechanical energy is known as the gramophone. A unit that consists of a turntable, phono preamp, amplifier, and speakers in a single unit is known as a record player.
Sound Recording & Playback Medium Shellac records Vinyl records & shellac records
Speed (RPM) Early discs have 60 to 130RPM speed but in the end, 78RPM is standardized Supports multiple speed: 33(1/3) RPM, 45RPM and 78RPM
Playback Time The early discs play for 2 minutes to 3(1/2) minutes. 5(1/3) minutes to 22 minutes per side
Works on Mechanical Energy Electricity
Sound Quality Good quality On a whole new level as compared to the gramophone.
Cartridge No cartridge Ceramic cartridge
Stylus Material Thorn, fiber, or steel Diamond
Phono Preamp/Amplifier No Yes
Speakers No Yes
Durability More durable Less durable
Cost Costly Cheaper

So, this is the brief difference between a gramophone and a record player.

Now, let’s talk about these devices separately and after that, we will share the in-depth difference between these units.

What is a Gramophone:


A gramophone is an improved version of the phonograph in which discs are used as a medium for sound storage and playback instead of wax cylinders.

In the 1880s, Alexander Graham Bell’s Volta Laboratory made several improvements to phonographs, like using wax-coated cardboard cylinders and cutting styli. But in the 1890s, Emile Berliner made a major advancement and introduced the flat discs on which the grooves are engraved from the side to the center, just like normal vinyl records in the current era.

The early discs were single-sided 7-inch with a speed of 70 RPM and a playback time of around 2 minutes, which is the same as wax cylinders, but at that moment, the phonograph had the upper hand because wax cylinders are reusable while discs are pre-recorded and can’t be reused.

In 1903, Victor introduced the 12-inch record that increased the playing time to three and a half minutes with 78 RPM speed.

However, Edison tried completing the disc by launching wax cylinders with 4-minute playback along with 4-minute compatible phonographs.

But, the disc had several advantages, i.e., the recording could be done on both sides, the master disk creation was easier as compared to the master cylinder, stamping the shellac material with the master stamper is a lot easier, and bulk manufacturing can be done smoothly, which was the major concern back then because, with the increasing demand, the artist needed to record their music multiple times to fulfill the demand.

These small advantages and advancements received positive feedback from users, which helped the gramophone disc win the commercial battle against wax cylinders in the 1910s.

After that, these discs became the most dominant commercial audio distribution format for the entire 20th century, and the decline of phonographs started.

With the advancement in technology, the companies kept improving the design, drive system, pickup system, stylus, sound equalization, and much more. With these continuous improvements, we have the record players and turntables on which we play our vinyl records today.

What is a Record Player:

Crosley CR8005F-TN Cruiser Plus

A record player is a single unit that consists of a turntable, phono preamp, amplifiers, and speakers. These units are further improved versions of the gramophone that have a different working concept.

Instead of using a horn as a sound output medium, record players use speakers. In this unit, the stylus runs on the grooves and fetches audio signals that get converted into electric signals. These electric signals are further amplified by phono preamp and amplifier to become audible on speakers.

Currently, the most popular record players are Crosley and Victrola.

Difference Between Gramophone And Record Player:

Now, we are covering every aspect mentioned in the comparison table in depth.

Sound Quality:

The sound quality of a gramophone shouldn’t be compared with a modern device. As you know, the technology has evolved a lot and nowadays, a good quality turntable or record player can easily beat gramophone in sound quality.

You can listen to the sound quality difference in the following video:



The gramophone can play shellac records only while the modern-day record players can play vinyl records as well as shellac records.

Power Source:

Like a Phonograph, a gramophone also works on mechanical energy, i.e., you need to wind it up using the hand crank until it is fully wounded and the disc will start spinning.

On the other hand, the record player works on electricity. You need to plug the adapter into the power outlet to play your vinyl records.

Playback Time:

Gramophone Playback Time:

The playback time of the discs manufactured at the beginning of the 20th century was 2 minutes but the playback time was extended to 3½ minutes with a 12-inch disc introduced by Victor in 1903. Since then the manufacturers kept making advancements in the disc’s size and soon after, a 10inch 78 rpm record whose, playback time was around 3 minutes on both sides.

Record Player Playback Time:

The record player offers different playback times depending on the size and speed of the vinyl record. You will understand this better with the information mentioned in the table following:

Record Size RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) Playback Time
16 inch 33(1/3) RPM 15 min/side
12 inch 33(1/3) RPM 22 min/side
45 RPM 15 min/side
78 RPM 4–5 min/side
10 inch 33(1/3) RPM 12–15 min/side
45 RPM 9–12 min/side
78 RPM 3 min/side
7 inch 33(1/3) RPM 7 min/side
45 RPM 5(1/3) min/side


The gramophone is more durable than a record player. As you already know, the gramophone was built with good quality material and thus, a gramophone manufactured at the beginning of the 20th century is still playable today. On the other hand, the record players are built with cheap quality materials and components.


The gramophones are costlier to buy and maintain as compared to record players. A working gramophone in good condition will cost $$$ along with shellac records but on the other hand, a record player is available in the market for under $80.



We have shared the in-depth difference between gramophone and record player in the simplest manner possible. If you still have questions about these devices then please 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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