First Phonographs and Graphophones, and then Gramophones

As the arcade phonograph business was growing in 1893, Edison was moving into the business of manufacturing records (either made in-house or sent to him by his regional phonograph operating companies), and he appeared to be planning to establish the phonograph as a home entertainment device.

However, his progress was slowed considerably by the numerous lawsuits filed against him by competing inventors.


Berliner Gramophone

In 1894 or 95, a German immigrant to the U.S. named Emile Berliner introduced a commercial version of the record player he had been developing since about 1887. The player used a disc instead of a cylinder (although Edison, Tainter, Cros, and others had anticipated the use of the disc). The record was made on a zinc disc coated with wax. Once a recording was carved into the wax, the disc was dipped in an acid solution, which ate away the disc under the groove and etched the recording into the surface of the zinc. Then, using an electroplating process, the zinc disc was turned into a stamper that could be used to produce the final recordings in large numbers by pressing the stamper into a ball of "Vulcanite" (hard rubber). He called it the "gramophone."

Beside the advantages of mass production, gramophone records could produce a higher volume than the phonograph or graphophone records of the day. That's because the volume of a record was directly related to how hard the tonearm was pressed into the groove--the harder you pressed, the more sound came out, but at some point the pressure damaged the recording. For a few years at least, before the phonograph was improved, the Berliner disc could produce a loud, room-filling sound. He set up a small recording studio in 1896 and by 1897 had developed an improved phonograph. The disc business was off and running.