Back in the day, listening to music wasn’t possible unless you had a band or someone playing it live for you. All the symphonies and the love songs had to be put down on paper and played live for audiences as there weren’t any recording technologies.

However, with the beginning of the industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century, new technologies were created and special devices were invented that would eventually become the pillars of widely-spread gizmos that everyone uses nowadays.

A similar phenomenon can also be noticed in the music industry, where more and more inventions finally made it possible for music to be recorded and played whenever wanted. Here is everything you need to know about how pick-up players evolved and opened the gates to modern music listening technologies.


Early Stages

The first device ever to record and play music was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison but the technology behind it wasn’t widely available until the beginning of the 20th century.

The magnetic cartridge or the so-called “pick up” represents a mechanical transducer used to play records on a turntable. The cartridge comes with a permanent or removable stylus which features a gemstone tip made of sapphire or diamond used to physically touch the record’s groove. The stylus is usually referred to as a needle, especially in the use of DJ jargon.

Unfortunately, the technology wasn’t very stable, and the needles required to be changed regularly. Surprisingly, even though the electrical phonograph pickup device suffered many changes in design and technology throughout the years, the disposable needles remained standard in the following versions of the product.


Ceramic vs. magnetic cartridges

At first, ceramic cartridges were the most popular ones used in compact record players mainly because they were robust, resistant to damage, and affordable. They remained the number one choice of manufacturers up until the 1950s when a new generation of magnetic cartridges appeared on the market.

Unlike the ones made of ceramic, magnetic cartridges provided superior recording quality and an overall clearer sound, which made the music listening experience more pleasant.

Another reason why magnetic cartridges increased in popularity in the 1950s and well after that is because they could also reduce record wear, allowing records to be played for longer before needing to be replaced.

The price of these cartridges continued to drop, making the technology more accessible and finally adopted by most of the audio systems developed in the following years. Ultimately, vinyls were replaced by cassettes listened on a cool boombox in the 1970s and by CDs in the 1990s and early 2000s.

As new technologies developed, listening to music has become an everyday activity that can be enjoyed anywhere you are, even while on the move.