Whether your choice of vinyl exists in the 200-gram form or as a tortilla, the magic that makes music play from an analog disc is one of the most impressive engineering feats ever conceived. But how exactly does a turntable convert those modulated spiral grooves into magic melodies?

As music writer Ned Lannaman once described, the way a turntable works isn’t just simple science – it opens the door to an entirely new dimension (and no, we haven’t been eating funny-tasting mushrooms):

“The needle (actually a microscopic and very sophisticated microphone) drags across a record’s infinitesimal grooves and incredible things begin to happen. The drums punch, the vocals breathe, the bass covers you like a blanket. It makes you start using vague, bullshitty descriptors like “warmth” and “presence.” The best analogy I can come up with is that listening to a good clean record is like looking at a painting in a museum versus referring to a reproduction—no matter how high quality—in a book.”

In this incredible video released by the Science Channel yesterday, we get a behind-the-scenes look at what makes those drums punch and vocals breathe:

YouTube video

Sadly, Record Store Day passed us last weekend, but few things beat a trip to the neighborhood shop any time of year.


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.