While the core concept dates back roughly 140 years, courtesy of Edison’s phonograph, the record as we know it has been around for a lesser period. Columbia Records released the first 12-inch LP in 1948. Many people still don’t know how a vinyl record works despite owning it for several years. If you want to know how this audio equipment can generate such a pure and clear sound, then the following information is for you.
This is the heart of vinyl, as it contains configurations for both left and right channels. A record’s groove is narrow, generally 0.04-0.08mm wide. There is a spiral on the groove which has audio information on it. The spiral is usually single and runs softly through the center of the record. The length of the spiral can be understood by the fact that if a 12-inch LP groove were unraveled, the spirals in it would stretch for over 500 meters.
The two sides of the groove are perpendicular to one another, with the tip of the angle facing down. As a result, each side of the groove has wiggles, left and right channel audio. Both these channels are also present in all modern audio devices, and it’s the one thing that balances the sound in a vinyl record.
The right channel signal is conveyed by the side closest to the outer border of the record. Because this information may be stored in a region as tiny as a micron, accessing and processing the audio information on this channel can be challenging. This is the prime reason vinyl records are sensitive, and any vibrations or other such issues can damage the quality of sound from a vinyl record.
The stylus tip is what produces the audio. The tip is also called a cartridge, whose primary function is to follow the spirals on a groove. The tip must be made of tough material for the cartridge to work perfectly. This is why the tip is usually made of a diamond. However, if you think the diamond is pure and can be used in jewelry, you might be disappointed. The tip has an industrial-grade diamond, mostly synthetically made to be used in heavy industries.
This diamond tip is usually shaped into a little point. However, it can be made in a variety of shapes. The tip runs over the grove’s spirals, which results in the audio output. The kind and degree of stylus movement are responsible for the varying frequencies, and loudness heard via the speakers.
Moving coil and moving magnet are the two types of cartridges. However, the principal is the same when it comes to their work. Both types move to produce a current, which is down to the magnetic fields.
However, to find differences in both types, you just have to look at their names. Moving coil cartridges generates electricity through coils while the magnet stays static. In the other types, the magnet moves to produce electricity, resulting in sound. For example, when the stylus tips move, so does the magnet in a moving magnet type.
The changing magnetic field induces current flow in the tiny neighboring coils, and that’s the signal which flows out the back of both the cartridges and then into your amplifier. Since most vinyl records have a built-in phono-stage instead of an independent amplifier, the current will flow through a line-level device.
The Phono Stage
You must now be wondering what a phono stage is and what this accessory’s purpose is. Because of the physical limitations of vinyl, the signal power must be altered before it can be registered: acoustic signals are reduced in amplitude while high frequencies are enhanced.
In the years gone by, the RIAA (Record Industry Association of America) developed the curve that governs this equalization. If you’ve ever plugged a turntable into such a line level, you’ll know that the music is relatively quiet – as well as light and very bright, with no discernable bass frequencies.
Each phono stage does have a constructed reverse response that enhances the bass and flattens the high to the exact degree necessary. As a result, the overall outcome should be a tonally consistent presentation.
The phono stage can also be used as an amplification device. Because cartridges outputs could be as weak as a tenth of a volt (CD output requires 2V), the signal must be considerably amplified before the amplifier’s line-level phase could take over.
There you go; this is the complete process of how a vinyl produces sound. As thought by many of us, the process is exceptionally clever and well-thought-out rather than sorcery as it might look. It’s the purest form of audio for audiophiles, and there is no denying this fact. However, they are a sensitive piece of audio; therefore, proper care and maintenance are necessary to enjoy the experience.
Remember the ingenuity at work the next time you delicately slip the tip of the stylus into the gap of an LP. But don’t dwell on that too long as there is, after all, a song to be heard and enjoyed.