Can You Play A CD On A Record Player featured image

You can’t play a CD or DVD on a record player, because the stylus of a record player needs analogously shaped audio in vinyl to track it for physical vibrations and audio playback. The data in CDs and DVDs is stored using pits representing digital audio data that needs optical reading.

In this article I’m explaining why CDs and DVDs can’t be played on record players. I’ll first discuss how these media store the audio. Then I’ll explain how a record player would attempts to play the recorded audio.


How Is Sound Stored On Vinyl

Vinyl stores audio data analogously. The vinyl material contains a physical representation of the record sound frequencies in the shape of groove.

Most vinyl records have two audio channels in this groove. The left channel is recorded on the inner wall of the groove and the left channel on the right. Stereo audio allows sounds to be distributed over 2 separate speakers, also known as panning.

Each side of the grood is angled at 45 degrees, creating the v-shape. Variations on each side are what’s representing sound waves. The sound shape is pressed into the vinyl material using a record press and the master disc.

vinyl groove representation
from thelastfactory.com

The master discs are stamps cut using the original master recordings. This process is called mastering, which comes after production and mixing. Master discs are creating using a cutting lathe, which rotates a metal disc and using the master recording cuts the correct shape into the disc.

Check this out if you want to know about how much vinyl records can hold. (opens in a new tab)


How Do Record Players Work

A record player will play vinyl in the following way:

  1. The record player spins the vinyl record on its turntable.
  2. The stylus or needle is placed in the groove of the rotating record. Check this out if you’re interested in different types for record player needles. (opens in a new tab)
  3. The groove shape in combination with movement vibrate the stylus.
  4. The vibrations move from the stylus through the cantilever into the cartridge.
  5. Here the movements or vibrations are converted into an electrical signal using electromagnetic induction. If you’re interested in this process check out this article (opens in a new tab).
  6. This electrical signal is amplified and ready to be used by speakers to playback the originally recorded audio.

How Do CDs Work

A CD is a variant of a laserdisc. Laserdiscs are a video format medium used for storing binary data. Later variants of laserdiscs are DVDs and BlueRays.

A CD is covered with a spiralling sequence of pits and lands. Pits are holes on the surface and lands are the areas between these holes. Each pit represents a 0 and each land a 1. Combining thousands of these 0s and 1s (also known as bits) can represent sound waves.

To read these pits and lands a laser is used. If the laser is over a landing it the laser will reflect into a detector. As the CD is spinning and pits and lands are alternating under the laser the bits are read using the detector. Now that the sound data has been digitalized it can be used by a computer.


Conclusion

Since the record player is looking for physical shape differences inside a groove to convert into vibrations to then be converted to an electrical signal it can’t read the bits stored using holes that are found on a CD or any other laserdisc. So playing a CD on a record player will only result in a damanged CD and stylus.

I hope that fully answered any questions you had. Check out my other educational articles here.

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