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Music today benefits from a plethora of advanced digital recording, engineering, and editing technology that gives musicians the freedom to create any sort of track they want. It’s amazing what can be done at a computer through a DAW! What makes this even more mindblowing is that just 160 years ago we had no way of recording any sound at all. The music industry simply did not exist in the way it does in the modern age and it was impossible to buy recorded songs to play at home. All music was live! This also meant there was no way of recording speeches and other important events; only written records could be kept.

This only began to change in the late 19th century, as various inventors and scientists started building revolutionary technology that could record sound. The initial forays were primitive by today’s standards, with Edouard Leon Scott de Martinville introducing the phonoautograph in 1877, which could record soundwaves but not play them back.

This changed with Thomas Edison’s phonograph, which could store sound on hollow cylinders. It was only then that the potential for the modern music industry was clear. Edison initially believed that the best target market was business communication, but music and entertainment proved to be the real source of profits. From there, the gramophone introduced the more familiar disc format, and technology continued to progress at a startling rate with huge advances taking place in just a hundred years.

To see the full development of audio recording technology over the past century, take a look at the infographic designed by McGowan Transcriptions. It’ll tell you about all the different stages sound recording has gone through, from the acoustic era of the 1800s to today’s advanced digital recording and production technology.

history of audio recording infographic

Many thanks again to McGowan Transcriptions!