How Does a Victrola Portable Crank Phonograph Work?


The Victrola was a crank-powered phonograph that produced sound solely through acoustic means. The Camden, NJ-based Victor Talking Machine Company, founded in 1901, manufactured Victrolas.

Drive Mechanism

  • Rotating the hand crank of a Victrola portable crank phonograph loads an internal spring with potential energy. As the spring tension releases, it powers a motor that drives the turntable. The drive mechanism uses a simple governor to ensure that the turntable rotates at a constant speed of 78 RPM, or revolutions per minute, significantly faster than the later standards of 33 1/3 RPM for long-playing records and 45 RPM for singles.

Tone Arm

  • The tone arm consists of a stylus, or phonograph needle, connected to a hollow tube containing a flexible diaphragm. As the turntable rotates, the stylus tracks through a lateral-cut groove in the record. The variations in the groove vibrate the stylus, and a lever connected to the stylus transfers those vibrations to the diaphragm.


  • Early Victrola soundbox designs used the now-iconic external horn to magnify vibrations from the diaphragm into audible sound. Eventually, Victor replaced the external horn with an internal horn hidden beneath the turntable. This revised, compact design was easier to store and allowed users to adjust the output volume by opening or closing doors in front of the horn's mouth.

Related Searches


  • Photo Credit old gramophone b/w image by Digital_Zombie from
Promoted By Zergnet



You May Also Like

  • How to Repair a Victrola

    The Victrola phonograph, manufactured by the Victor Talking Machine company during the first two decades of the twentieth century, remains one of...

  • How to Use a Phonograph

    Those who enjoyed music before the 1980s likely have fond memories of listening to vinyl on phonographs. During the 1980s, music recording...

  • How to Make a Crosley Phonograph Turntable Turn

    Phonograph turntables were the precursor to the record player and operate the same way: the turntable on the player supports and spins...

  • How to Play Vinyl Records

    If you are familiar with how to use a record player, playing your vinyl records will be simple. With the invention of...

  • Victrolas That Are Worth Money

    The Victor Talking Machine Company made the first Victrola phonographs in 1906. Companies like Edison and Pathe also made many phonographs during...

Related Searches

Check It Out

Geek Vs Geek: Robot battles, hoverboard drag race, and more

Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!