Similarities and Differences Between an MP3 Player and Record Player


MP3 players and record players are two very different devices for listening to music. While their goals are the same and both must be connected to another device for signal transmission, the devices have tremendous differences in their media types and size. MP3 players take advantage of the small data size of the MP3 file format, and are built to carry thousands of songs for maximum portability. Record players, on the other hand, play large analog records. They were not manufactured to be portable devices.

Nature of Sound Storage

  • One of the most notable differences between MP3 players and record players is the way in which sound is stored on each medium. In an MP3 player, songs are stored in its internal memory. These songs are purely digital files. The MP3 format involves a certain amount of compression and data loss. Record players, on the other hand, function by rotating a record underneath a needle. When the needle moves over a groove, it vibrates according to the indentations within the groove. Hence, the sound storage involved in records is purely analog.

Size and Portability

  • One of the reasons for the popularity of MP3 players and the MP3 format is portability. MP3 players are small, as are MP3 files. The physical size of MP3 players allows them to fit in your pocket and travel anywhere. Furthermore, the compression of MP3s results in a smaller file size. This allows more MP3s to be stored on a player than WAV files, for example. Record players, on the other hand, must be at least as big as a record. Hence, they are not as portable. They can't be used for personal listening during travel. Furthermore, they require individual records to produce sound.


  • MP3 players output a line level signal. This is a strong audio signal that does not require further amplification. Most record players, on the other hand, use a phono level signal. This is a lower volume signal that requires some other sort of amplification. Certain receiver units have special phono inputs, which will amplify the signal from a record player so that it equals line level. If your receiver does not have phono inputs or if you are not using a receiver in conjunction with your record player, you will need to use a preamp in order to boost the signal.


  • One of the similarities between MP3 players and record players is their use in conjunction with home stereos. Both devices typically feature output jacks for connection to an external stereo system. However, these jacks are typically of different types. On MP3 players, this tends to be a 3.5-mm headphone jack. Some record players can also have 3.5-mm jacks. However, the more common output jacks on record players are RCA jacks.

Computer Connection

  • All MP3 players can be connected to a computer through a USB jack. This supplies the player with power and allows for data transfer. Similarly, some newer turntables feature USB connectivity. These turntables feature a built-in preamp and an analog-to-digital converter. When processed through these modules, sound can be sent from the turntable to the computer through a USB cable. This is especially useful for digitizing your record collection.

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