For those not in the know, this is a pretty good question. How does poking a needle onto a disc while it’s spinning create sound? It looks, and sounds very strange out of context.
We’re here to help you understand the science behind vinyl records!
If you take a look at any vinyl record, you’ll very quickly notice those grooves in the record. They ring around the entire disc, only barring the middle part with the hole and sticker. In light terms, these grooves are information in the likeness of the sound the record will be playing. Then using our record players, or turntables, the needle we place on the record will read the information within the grooves.
The turntable spins using an electric motor. There are variations of record players that operate slightly differently, but achieve the same result. Direct-drive turntables function by shifting gears to turn the table, whereas belt-drive turntables work by central axel and rubber belt to turn the table.
It is VERY important that record players are set to the correct speed of the record they are playing. Not only will it sound off if at the wrong speed, but it might damage the record beyond repair. Make absolutely sure you know what speed your record needs to be played at should you be intending to play it.
Speaking of record players, let’s talk a little more about the mechanics of those.
Record players use electromagnetic technology that change sound vibrations into electrical signals. Spinning a record creates the sound vibrations, which are then converted into electrical signals and sent to electronic amplifiers! The amps vibrate and finish the process by feeding the sound out into speakers so we can hear it.
A needle is used to play a record by reading its grooves, the same way a needle is used to create those very same grooves to begin with. Both left and right sides of the groove are channels of audio so we are able to hear back the record in stereo sound. The needle itself is made of industrial diamond. A hard and impure substance that has been molded into the sharp shape of a needle and attached to a small strip of flexible metal.
So in summary, the grooves you see on your records are the audio stored into them as specific information. That information is read by the needle of the record player, which processes it through a few different forms before feeding it into the speakers to create sound.
With the swift comeback of vinyl, it’s important to understand how to care for them as despite their high quality, they are still a fragile medium. You don’t have to know all the ins and outs of your record player, you just need to know how to adjust its speed to play your records right and prevent damaging them!