The introduction of radio broadcasting wrought massive changes in the record and phonograph industry. On the one hand, free broadcasts of live musical entertainment ate into sales of records and players. On the other, developments in microphones and vacuum tube amplifiers made it possible to record and reproduce louder and more lifelike sounds. While recording still depended on a vibrating stylus cutting a wax master, and replay depended on a moving diaphragm or cone generating sound waves, electronic components provided invaluable intermediary services in picking up and boosting the signal. The first electrically recorded disks were released to the public in 1925.
The first all-electric record players were introduced in 1926. By 1930, most such machines were radio-phonographs, in which the signal from an electromagnetic record pickup was fed through the radio's amplifier to the radio's speaker. During the 1930s, the recording industry was almost totally eclipsed by radio. Few people could afford to buy records during the Depression. One of the few sources of reliable sales was the jukebox, which became a popular fixture in bars and cafés.
After the Second World War, the record and phonograph industry was revived by renewed prosperity. Vinyl disks were introduced to replace fragile shellac records and new cutting techniques made it possible to squeeze more grooves onto a record. As a result, two new speeds came into existence beside the old 78 rpm: 33 1/3 for Columbia's long-playing (LP) records and 45 for RCA's small singles. Singles became the preferred record for jukeboxes and for sales to teenagers, who during the 1950s emerged as an influential market for popular music. Top 40 radio emerged as the primary means of promoting this music. Until the advent of "album-oriented rock" on FM radio in the late 1960s, the LP was aimed at older listeners of classical music, jazz and Broadway show tunes. Most record players available after 1950 were equipped for three or even four speeds.
The demographic division in record formats before 1970 was mirrored in the different markets for record players. At the low-priced end were small, monophonic players. The other two market segments were influenced by the emergence of "high fidelity" as a status symbol after the Second World War. Since the mid-1920s, audio engineers had gradually been increasing the frequency range and reducing the noise and distortion of recordings. In the 1950s, stereophonic techniques were introduced to add the illusion of depth and directionality to the sounds. The first stereo recordings were on tape, but in 1958, record companies began to issue stereo LPs. As the sonic information on records increased, the small but growing band of audiophiles became impatient with the much more limited capabilities of most record players. Many assembled their first hi-fi systems from components purchased through mail order or specialized electronics stores. Some were installed in custom-built wooden cabinets. For the large middle market of the 1950s and 1960s, Canadian manufacturers like Electrohome and Clairtone built large console models in a variety of styles, in which they installed less expensive stereo components.