Home /History / The History of the First Sound Recording

The History of the First Sound Recording

By Christian Roemer

Sound recording is everywhere these days. The very phones in our pockets can record basically anything at any time. Obviously, it didn’t always used to be this way. In fact, sound recording was actually invented after photography. Surprised? Me too.


The first sound recording happened around the mid 1800s. For reference, the first pictures were taken almost 50 years earlier. Apparently, figuring out how to capture sounds in the air is much more complicated than it seems. Even weirder, the first sounds that were recorded couldn’t even be played back.



The first ever sound recordings happened on a strange item called the Phonautograph. This odd device was invented by a French guy named Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville. The machine consisted of a long barrel with a needle that would vibrate and draw sound waves onto smoked paper or glass. It was used to measure sound waves for music. Since the needle could record sound frequencies, they used it to determine the pitches of musical notes.


One major problem with the Phonautograph is that, while it could technically record sound, it was only a line on a piece of paper or glass. That means you couldn’t actually listen to anything that was “recorded.”



About 25 years after the Phonautograph starting putting sound waves onto paper, a guy named Thomas Edison figured out that you could etch sound waves into a rotating disc and use a needle to play it back. Whether it was a Phonograph or a Grammophone, the idea was basically the same. Sound waves would go through a machine, and a needle would engrave the sound waves onto some sort of material. Instead of a piece of paper, the needle would dig into cylinder or disc. When a needle was run back over the grooves, it would recreate the sound which could be amplified by filtering it through a horn.


And that’s pretty much the same technology that we still use today with vinyl records. Hipsters should thank Edison every time they fire up their antique record cabinet!

Continue Reading
Pros And Cons Of Airbnb vs Hotel Stays
Pros And Cons Of Airbnb vs Hotel Stays
Glossary of Video Terms
Glossary of Video Terms
Top 10 Best Photo Gift Ideas for Friends
Top 10 Best Photo Gift Ideas for Friends
Our Favorite Throwback Products
Legacybox Media Conversion Kit. Shop Now>
Impossible Polaroid SX-70 Original Instant Film Camera
Victrola VBB-10-SLV Boombox with Cassette Player
Three Ways to Become the Family Hero
Digitally Preserve your Legacy. Shop Now>
Make a Highlight Reel
Enjoy a Trip Down Memory Lane
Three Ways to get Organized
Digitally Preserve your Legacy. Shop Now>
Repurpose Old Items
Condense the Clutter