How do we play 78s?

In course of writing – 30th October 2017.

Let’s pretend that hitherto, you had little or no knowledge of 78 rpm discs – but yesterday, you found a small pile of them at a car boot sale for very little cash, and bought them purely out of interest. Or perhaps your grandmother gave them to you instead of just throwing them away?

In any event, after looking at them all, you wondered what they actually sounded like. Indeed, you wondered what you would need in order to play them.

Well, the good news is that the Internet contains acres of advice & recommendations on how to do so. For instance, there is an excellent article on playing 78s by the distinguished sound engineer Roger Beardsley. This is to be found at:

By the way, the CLPGS is the British national society for gramophones, phonographs and the records played on them – if your interest in old 78 rpm discs is – or becomes – strong, you should almost certainly consider joining it! Details are on the site above, and you can easily join on-line & pay the modest subscription by PayPal.

Given the article above is very good, and written by an eminent professional, what more can be added here by me, merely an enthusiastic amateur?

Well, for one thing, Roger does not deal with the use of antique, spring-driven gramophones. This is because he is working on the basis of modern equipment to make the best quality (and least ‘invasive’) transcription of old records. For this purpose, the use of antique machines is deprecated for several valid reasons.

However, there are many people who do use original machines, and as they were manufactured in the hundreds of thousands, right up to the 1960s, there are always a good many for sale, e.g. on ebay.

So we will deal with these first.

Below is a link to a further page. It is from my old website and was written some years ago, when I dismantled & described an antique machine then in my possession. It will give you an idea of what is inside them, how they work, &c.

Inside a Gramophone of 1920.

That page was written some years ago, but it still serves as an introduction to the ‘innards’ of a vintage gramophone.

However, we happened to purchase another machine at auction in October 2017. We didn’t actually want a gramophone at that time, but it was so cheap at £20 that we could not resist getting it! So we have made  a video of giving it the ‘once over’, and this will show you more info. about a common type of gramophone. It’s a Columbia model 117a, the type called a ‘Table Grand’. The 117 was introduced

revise this….

in in the late 1920s and was still in the 1930 catalogue, as the 117a. It originally cost £6.50 in an oak cabinet. However, in 1930, average earning were around £2.50 a week. so a 117a would be a very major purchase for most people.




British disc records of the 'Acoustic' Era.