Media – On this page you will find sound and video – related to the history of sound recording and turntables



The First Sound Recording – 1860 – Édouard Léon-Scott de Martinville

“Did you know there are audio recordings that predate Thomas Edison’s phonograph by almost 20 years? The phonautogram was invented by a Frenchman named Éduoard Léon-Scott and patented in 1857, translating sound waves (shakily) onto sheets of paper. But for the last century, no one had been able to decode the information on Léon-Scott’s sheets and listen, until First Sounds figured it out.”

“Audio historian Patrick Feaster, archeophonist David Giovannoni, and physicist Carl Haber were part of the team that restored and preserved the recording, which was made by a quill attached to a vibrating membrane.”

Listen to the story as presented by Studio 360.




Alexander Graham Bell 1881 recording on Edison phonograph

Optical scanning is a process to restore historic sound recordings, non-invasively. The technology used here was developed mainly by a collaboration of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Library of Congress.

The Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History (SI NMAH) Volta Laboratory collection consists of early experimental sound recordings (1881-1886) created by Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Sumner Tainter, Chichester A. Bell, and associates. In collaboration with the Smithsonian some of these recordings are being restored and presented to the public.
More information at:

Notes from P.Feaster discography:
• Date: Final recording made September 1881. Machine was in use for similar experiments throughout the preceding summer.
• Format: Edison phonograph with widened groove filled with wax and cut with a vertical recording.
• Inscription (in ink, on attached card): The following words and sounds are recorded upon the cylinder of this Graphophone: “T-r-r—T-r-r—There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamed of in our philosophy—T-r-r—I am a Graphophone and my mother was a Phonograph.
• Documentation: THN leading up to 3:44 Notes accompanying Volta Laboratory sealed package of October 1881.

Read about the recording:

Smithsonian Magazine

New York Times

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


Learn more about First Sounds and Scott de Martinville’s pioneering sound recordings

Gearwire asked David Giovannoni about First Sounds between sessions at the fall 2009 Audio Engineering Society convention in New York.

It’s common knowledge that he invented the phonograph, thereby laying the foundation for the modern recording industry as we know it, but he wasn’t the first to create recordings of audio. David Giovannoni is a member of the FirstSounds collaborative, an archiving endeavor that specializes in finding, logging, and sharing pre-phonograph recordings of audio.

We caught up with David at the 127th AES convention in New York, where he told us about recordings made in France in the 1850’s using “smoked paper.” The French were way ahead of the Beatles on that one.



Coming soon (please send links of your favourite audio and video clips!)


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