Discs versus cylinders

Discs versus cylinders as a record medium

Disc recording is inherently neither better nor worse than cylinder recording in potential audio fidelity.

Recordings made on a cylinder remain at a constant linear velocity for the entirety of the recording, while those made on a disc have a higher linear velocity at the outer portion of the groove compared to the inner portion.

Edison's patented recording method recorded with vertical modulations in a groove. Berliner utilized a laterally modulated groove.

Though Edison's recording technology was better than Berliner's, there were commercial advantages to a disc system:

The disc could be easily mass produced by molding and stamping, and required less storage space for a collection of recordings. The heavy cast-iron turntable acted as a flywheel and helped to maintain a consistent rotational velocity. The cylinder machine, lacking this greater rotational inertia, was susceptible to musical pitch fluctuations, and required more mechanical adjustment and maintenance to avoid this impairment. Berliner successfully argued that his technology was different enough from Edison's that he did not need to pay royalties on it, which reduced his business expenses.

Through experimentation, in 1892 Berliner began commercial production of his disc records, and "gramophones" or "talking-machines". His "gramophone record" was the first disc record to be offered to the public. They were five inches (12.7 cm) in diameter and recorded on one side only. Seven-inch (actual size: 17.5 cm) records followed in 1895. By 1901, ten-inch (actual size: 25.0 cm) records being sold by the Victor Talking Machine Company, and Berliner had sold his interests. By 1908, double sided disc recorded records became demanded by the public, and cylinders fell into disfavor. Edison felt the commercial pressure for disc records, and by 1912, though reluctant at first, his movement to disc records was in full swing.

From the mid-1890s until the early 1920s both phonograph cylinder and disc recordings and machines to play them on were widely mass marketed and sold. The disc system gradually became more popular due to its cheaper price and better marketing by disc record companies. Edison ceased cylinder manufacture in the fall of 1929, and the history of disc and cylinder rivalry was concluded.