All About Antique Music Boxes, Musical Powder Boxes & Reuge Music Boxes (2023)

As antique and vintage music boxes are very popular and becoming increasingly collectable we wanted to create this guide detailing some of the most popular music boxes you're likely to encounter.

In this post we'll also aim toprovideuseful information about their origins and how to keep them playing well, why they stop playing and how you can prevent this.

The most famous musical movements are the Reuge brand. They are crafted in Switzerland. The Stratton brand of musical powder boxes are fitted with Reuge musical movements.

The most coveted music boxes are those that feature singing birds. Boîte à oiseau chanteur are usually ornately decorated and just below an oval lid is an exquisitely beautiful automaton singing bird which is activated when the lever is triggered.

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© Reuge

A brief history of Reuge:

Reuge was established in 1865 by Charles Reuge. The firm is widely considered to be the world leader in the manufacture of traditionally made luxury music boxes. Their limited editions dedicated to great composers and ornate boxes which feature signing bird automatons are known throughout the world. In 1886 Albert Reuge (Charles’ son) opened a music box workshop in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland. Charles' grandson, Guido, followed in his footsteps and guided the company for more than sixty years. Reuge expanded rapidly due to the great demand for their superbly crafted music boxes.Reuge is known as a pioneer of the mechanical music industry and became the first factory to acquire other competitors, as the demand for their music boxes was so high.

Guido Reuge, was fascinated by the mechanical singing birds. The firms singing bird boxes are legendary. The company motto is The Art of Mechanical Music.

It may seem a little strange when we think of what makes the 1960s famous, that Reuge decided to concentrate on reviving the singing bird music boxes. They took over the manufacture and marketing of mechanical singing birds of the Parisian company Bontems in 1960 and also Eschle in 1977. Not only this but they developed many new tunes to keep one step ahead of their rivals.

In 1988 Guido decided to sell the company, as he had no direct descendants. A group of Swiss investors purchased the firm. Further expansion followed and in 2001 Reuge purchased the company who had been its main supplier of wooden boxes. This ensured that the whole manufacturing process was now 'in house'. Today Reuge is the largest employer in Sainte-Croix.

A simple Reuge music box takes about three months to produce. Obviously, the more ornamental and complex designs take much longer to manufacture and adorn.

The artisans employed by this firm transform the score into a tune. They are experts in both musical and technological matters.

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© Reuge

A machine drills tiny holes in the cylinder. Next pinning (see above) takes place….. needle-thin steel wire is inserted into each hole. It is then cut to form a pin.

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© Reuge

These techniques were pioneered by Reuge. The next process is known as hardening. The comb is heated to nearly 800°C - it is plunged into a bath of warm oil. The comb’s extreme hardness is then refined and managed by tempering. It has to be durable and not brittle - rigid and not too flexible. All these stages ensure the incomparable sound quality which has made this brand sought-after all over the world.

Lead is then poured under the comb teeth for the bass notes. This technique makes sure that the notes are clear. The lead is sawn by hand to create the teeth. Then the music box is tuned. Each tooth has to be filed to make the correct note.

Musical movements are assembled by hand. The cylinder, spring-housing, speed governor, trigger and tune indicator are assembled together on the base-plate. Then fixing the comb is the final and most difficult operation. It requires a craftsman who can create the perfect sound using his experience and musical talent.

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© Reuge

Today the firm goes from strength to strength. It is highly regarded and innovative. For example, the futuristic The Music Machine 3 – was created in partnership with watch atelier MB&F.

It plays the theme tunes from Star Wars, Mission Impossible and James Bond.

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© Reuge

The Reuge Watch measures 2 1/2" (6 cm). The image shows this delightful creation on the original stand with the winding key. An animated scene shows a ladypumping water from a well for a horse. The horse is drinking, and the man astride the horse is trying to keep hold of a newly caught falcon that is trying to fly free. The watch contains 2 mechanisms: a mechanical watch movement and a tiny 17-note musical movement. An alarm is incorporated to start the music at a certain time.

The pastoral scene was designed by the enameller Carlo Poluzzi after a painting by Lancret, and the design on the rear was inspired by a Moreau engraving. There is a Breguet-style ratchet winding key in the form of a lyre.


The Stratton Brand & Reuge:

In the 1940s allied troops purchased music boxes in Europe to take home as tokens of love. The music boxes fitted with Swiss musical movements were so enchanting and reliable that musical boxes from Switzerland were very much in demand. This trend did not go unnoticed by the makers of the Stratton brand who were known as Jarrett, Rainsford & Laughton Ltd., until 1958 when the firm was renamed Laughton & Sons Ltd. This company became regular customers of Reuge and Thorens, purchasing their high quality musical movements for their beautiful enamel ‘‘Musicas’ which became known as ‘Musical’ in 1964.

Reuge musical movements were considered superior and more reliable than their rivals. The company also had a larger repertoire of tunes. Only the best would do for the Stratton brand. Seventy years later the Stratton 'Musica' and 'Musical' powder boxes are still playing reliably well and looking splendid.

The most coveted of the Stratton musical powder boxes are those adorned with ballet scenes which were often taken from Stirling Henry Nahum's photographs. He was also known as Sterling Henry Nahum. He used the name Baron to sign his photographs, as this was his professional name. His most notable work was as a society and court photographer in the United Kingdom. He had a special interest in photographing ballet dancers.

1957 was the first known year of availability for the Stratton 'Musica'. The series was part of the luxury range of Stratton vanities. The body of the powder box resembles the 'Empress' and the 'Grosvenor'. All ‘Musica’ and the later model ‘Musical’ powder boxes are considered uncommon to rare, depending on the lid decoration.

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The image above shows an unused Lucite Stratton 'Musica' which has all theoriginal accessories - presentation box, pouch, box sticker, instruction leaflet, puff and sifter. The lid is a beautiful design of musical notes with facet cut rhinestones set atop Lucite.

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All musical boxes are different. Some may require three full turns in a clockwise direction to play the whole tune. Others may only allow two quarter turns before you feel as though the winding key is becoming a little resistant. Always cease winding if you feel any resistance. We become familiar with our adorable little music boxes. While they live with us they will be played once a month and oiled if necessary. When we have found a new home for one of them we make sure to ship the piece with its own winding instructions so that the new owner will know how to wind the music box.

Here are some tips for keeping your musical powder box in good working order:

  • 1. It is important not to over-wind your musical powder box.
  • 2. Turn the winding key in an anti-clockwise direction.
  • 3. Always let your music box play the tune fully.
  • 4. Do not store the vintage music box with the tune still to play.It is bad for the mechanism.
  • 5. Never ship the music box still with the tune to play, as the recipient may well turn the keyon receiving the musical box not knowing that the sender left it fully wound. This is why many are over-wound.
  • 6. Face powder may clog the musical movement and prevent it from playing. The powder should be removed and the movement oiled. This will often restore the movement to playing mode again.
  • 7. Let your music boxes play at least once a month.
  • 8. Many of the Stratton 'Musicas' have a press stud to close the pouch. It is not a good idea to push on the metal press stud to close it when there is an enamel lid below the press stud. Later on Laughton & Sons Ltd. introduced Velcro tapes to replace the press studs.

How to play your musical powder box:

  • 1. Lift up the stopper to see if the music box is wound. This is so important, as if you wind an already wound music box you might over wind it and break it.The stopper is a tiny button which will stop the music from playing.It is located in the inner case near to the winding key.
  • 2. If the music does not play, gingerly test the winding key. Is it stiff? If it is not stiff and there isn't any resistance, turn the winding key one full turn if this is possible and let the music play.
  • 3. If the winding key is stiff do not force it. The mechanism may be jammed by powder. Inspect the mechanism, brush away all the powder and spray the mechanism with WD40. Then try lifting the stopper again.
  • 4. On closing the powder box the lid will push the stopper down which will stop the music from playing.
  • 5. Sometimes musical powder boxes need a slight jolt before playing if after following the above steps it does not play, ping open the inner lid & the music may start. If this is the case the music box probably needs some lubrication with WD40.

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Kigu Ltd. were the only specialist maker of vanities who crafted music boxes entirely from sterling silver. These exquisite creations were limited editions at the time of their launch. In the twenty-first century they are extremely rare. The Kigu music box shown above is sterling silver throughout, except for the musical movement and the mirror. This vanity was assayed in London in 1959.

The exterior lid was described by Kigu Ltd. as follows: -

The shimmer of silver in flawless satin finish presents the right background for the glittering bright design of flowers and butterfly. This musical compact is a treasure to be coveted by all lovers of beautiful things.

Kigu Ltd. also made musical powder boxes from brass.

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An adorable working 1950s KiguMinuettemusic box which is fitted with a lovely Perspex (Lucite) shamrock decoration. The original pouch, puff and sifter are present.

The inner case is signedKIGUand alsoMinuette.The base is also signedKIGU MADE IN ENGLAND REG.DES.The base has a lovely scalloped design. The whole musical powder box is protected by the Kigujeweller's gilt finish which will prevent tarnishing and so this vanity will not require any cleaning. The catches and hinges work perfectly. Measures 8.5 cm long. Weighs 129 grams.

Kigu Ltd. describe this lovely vanity as:

Musical Compacts "Minuette" Series

fitted with excellent Swiss movement

Great variety of tunes

73-763 Musical "Minuette" compact with coloured Perspex insert

in gilt E.T. (engine turned) pattern

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Thorens, Schuco, A.S. Brown (Mascot) & Kigu:

Most of the specialist vanities manufacturers launched ranges of musical powder boxes. As long as they have not been over-wound or clogged with face powder they play as reliably today as they did back in the day.

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The image above shows an adorable Mascot musical handbag shaped powder compact which was crafted in the 1950s by A. S. Brown & Co (Manufacturing) Ltd. The puff is signedMascot A S B.The exterior case has a delightful engine turned design. The ornate gilded handle is functional. Push it back slightly to access the interior case.

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The inner lid is signedMascot A S Bwithin an oblong cartouche. The left hand side is decorated with a musical score.The original mirror sticker is in place. It reads -THORENS Swiss Movement Blue Danube Waltz.

A.S. Brown, owner of the Mascot brand, manufactured music boxes in the shape of handbags, as well as those in the normal rectangular shapes. They are fitted with Thorens Swiss musical movements, as are those of Kigu Ltd.The history of Thorens music boxes began c.1883 when Hermann Thorens began to make musical movements in Sainte Croix, Switzerland. Eventually, the firm would go on to supply complete music boxes to Silverite, Anri and Fred Zimbalist.Compact collectors will be familiar with the Schuco brand.

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Thorens supplied musical movements for the Schuco Radio Car 4012.Flick the radio switch and the music plays after the car has been wound using the key which is signed 'Schuco'.

A brief history of Sankyo:

NIDEC SANKYO has dominated Japan's history of musical movement production for more than half a century.In the far east the Japanese firm was busy perfecting its musical movements in the 1940s. Today we can hear them play in our mid-century Clover brand music boxes.

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© Sankyo

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© Sankyo

In 1946 Sankyo Seiki was established in Suwa. The firm is now known as the Nidec Sankyo Corporation. Within two years the first sets of music boxes were being produced as experiments to test their durability. The first six sets unfortunately had 'teeth' that broke. There were other musical movements that were more durable but the sound quality was not good enough. By the end of 1948 Sankyo were pleased enough with their products to fulfil an order for 500 music boxes. At one time Sankyo is said to have produced 90% of musical boxes in the world.

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© Sankyo

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© Sankyo

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© Sankyo

American brands such as Volupte also made splendid music boxes.

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More musical powder boxes.


The link below will take you to an illustrated timeline for Reuge music boxes:


What are the oldest music boxes? ›

The first music box is believed to have been invented in Switzerland in the 1770s by placing small musical movements into watch cases. These were cylinder style music boxes that used a small tuned-steel comb that played pins set in a cylinder.

How do you date a music box? ›

Weiner, the method of winding is a clue to the date of a music box: if a key is used, the piece was made between 1840 and 1850; if an outside crank, between 1865 and 1870, and if a ratchet, after 1870.

What is an antique music box called? ›

The popular device best known today as a "music box" developed from musical snuff boxes of the 18th century and were originally called carillons à musique (French for "chimes of music").

How old is the oldest music box? ›

The music box was probably invented about 1770 in Switzerland. The earliest music boxes were small enough to be enclosed in a pocket watch, but they were gradually built in larger sizes and housed in rectangular wooden boxes.

How many years do music boxes last? ›

The more we maintain the music box, the better. It will make the music box last for up to 10 years and can be collected as a valuable collectible. which the longer it takes, the rarer Because according to the music box era, the production style of the music box is constantly changing.

What do music boxes symbolize? ›

Music boxes are always associated with nostalgia. They usually generate this feeling because they were presents from a loved one that's not here anymore, or they remind you of a very special time of your life that you wish to live again.

What does a box with a number mean in music? ›

It's just showing the clef or key signature change. The measure before ends at the line before the treble clef and you continue straight into the bar with the repeat sign.

How do antique music boxes work? ›

A music box works by rotating a metal cylinder with protruding pins that pluck the individual prongs of a steel comb. The sounds that resonate from the vibrating prongs are the notes we hear—lower notes from longer prongs and higher notes from shorter ones.

What year was the music box made? ›

The music box, the first successful device that could play a musical tune, was probably invented in Switzerland around 1770. Early music boxes were designed to play music using flat metal prongs that were plucked by a revolving metal cylinder.

Why are music boxes so expensive? ›

Why are some boxes so expensive? We have music boxes that range from $30 - $10,000. After a few hundred dollars, the price tends to increase as you incorporate a greater number of musical note movements. The bigger the mechanical movement inside the box, the more expensive the final product.

What are the bumps on a music box called? ›

The cylinder is the cylindrical piece of metal that has the music printed on it in small, readable bumps. The cylinder turns when it is powered, and is the piece that produces the music. Comb. The comb is a metal piece that goes beneath the cylinder to help read and produce the music.

What is a Tennessee music box? ›

The Tennessee music box, or box dulcimer, is one of the most enigmatic musical instruments ever discovered. Little is known about its origins, but it is an ingenious folk instrument made of materials at hand in the counties of southwest and south middle Tennessee.

What is another name for a music box? ›

On this page you'll find 4 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to music box, such as: jukebox, musical box, orchestrina, and orchestrion.

What is the oldest musical system? ›

India has one of the oldest musical traditions in the world—references to Indian classical music (marga) are found in the Vedas, ancient Hindu scriptures.

Why do music boxes stop working? ›

The extensive use of a music box and winding the main spring excessively will lead it to fail. This failure is caused because the music box mechanism gets jammed, and then, you are no longer able to enjoy its beautiful tunes. However, the music box that you have loved and cherished over the years can still be salvaged.

Can old music boxes be repaired? ›

Cases can be repaired by any competent local woodworker. Because your music box is at heart a fine musical instrument, the integrity of the case is directly related to the volume.

Are music boxes a good gift? ›

They're Practical. Aside from being a stunning, sentimental gift, they're also quite practical. They help to keep your recipient's jewelry neat, organized and safely contained in a box that's fit for any valuable items, trinkets or keepsakes.

What are the benefits of music boxes? ›

  • Music appreciation and readiness for formal music training.
  • Creativity and imagination.
  • Fine and gross motor skills.
  • Rhythmic skills.
  • Confidence and self-esteem.

What does F mean in music? ›

f. forte (loud) ff. fortissimo (very loud)

What does B mean in music? ›

Flat is the opposite of sharp, which is a raising of pitch. In musical notation, flat means "lower in pitch by one semitone (half step)", notated using the symbol ♭ which is derived from a stylised lowercase 'b'.

What are the 7 musical notes? ›

There are 7 musical notes, which are the first seven letters of the alphabet. Each musical note is assigned the name of A, B, C, D, E, F, or G.

What happens when the music box runs out? ›

The Music Box is a vital in-game mechanic of Five Nights at Freddy's 2 responsible for keeping The Puppet at bay. It can be found in the Prize Corner on CAM 11. As the night progresses, the Music Box winds down. If the player does not wind it back up in time, The Puppet activates and will proceed to kill the player.

How do you lubricate a music box? ›

After safely taking the mechanical instrument out of the music box, gently use the aerosol cleaner to push dust and dirt off the instrument. Get regular oil lubricant and gently lubricate all gears of the movement. Do not lubricate the cylinder or comb of the movement, only the gears and the fly wheel.

How many music boxes are there? ›

There are currently 87 / 42 / 34 different Music Boxes available.
Music Boxes.
Research1 required
4 more rows

What is a fun fact about the music box? ›

In 1949 Bell Labs constructed three music boxes to demostrate the capabilities of the newly invented transistor. The “music box”, was technically named the “Transistor Oscillator-Amplifier Box”. Each box used two point-contact transistors.

Do music boxes have batteries? ›

The Music Box requires 4 AA batteries (Not included Alkaline batteries must be used (e.g. Duracell or Energizer Brands). Do not use rechargeable batteries because they supply a lower voltage and the unit may not perform as well. Never mix old and new batteries together or different brands or types together. 2.

What are the characteristics of a music box? ›

A music box is a mechanical musical instrument that is sounded when tuned metal prongs, or teeth, mounted in a line on a flat comb are made to vibrate by contact with a revolving cylinder or disk that is driven by a clockwork mechanism.

What country is famous for music boxes? ›

Building on the tradition of superior watchmaking skills, Switzerland is also famous for their intricately made music boxes. The first music box factories were opened in Switzerland in the early 19th century and at one time the industry surpassed that of watchmaking.

What is the price of music box? ›

Brown Wooden Music Box (Sunshine), For Gift at Rs 190/piece in Delhi | ID: 22609587155.

How much does Musicbox cost? ›

A curated selection of international and American films, television, documentaries, and genre movies for $4.99/mo or $49.99/yr with the first 7 days free.

Can I put my own song in a music box? ›

It is a common dream of people around the world to create a custom-made music box of their own desirable music. This,however, is indeed rare and frankly hard since producing a music box of one song requires a special mold and forming specifically for each song.

What is a kalimba box? ›

The kalimba is an African percussion instrument, based on the more archaic mbira. The kalimba is constructed from a hollow wooden box attached to metal tines. There is a hole in the top of the box in order to allow sound reverberation.

What is a double comb music box? ›

The combs are tuned slightly off from each other, yielding a rich, deep ethereal sound. Some people call this double comb, double strike.

What is the largest music box? ›

The Müpa Budapest Sound Machine, the world's largest music box.

What is a Polyphon music box? ›

A Polyphon music box is a wooden box that plays small interchangeable metal discs. Polyphon Musikwerke invented the device in 1870 and began producing them for sale in 1897 in Leipzig, Germany. Find a variety of Polyphon music boxes on 1stDibs.

What is Jacobs music box? ›

The music box is an object used by Jacob Seed to make the Deputy have a fit a psychotic rage. It is unobtainable in Far Cry 5. It plays the song "Only You" (The Platters). Members of the Resistence are aware of its existence - you can find a crude sketch of the music box pinned to a board in Dutch's bunker.

What is a piece of music called? ›

Definitions of piece of music. a musical work that has been created. synonyms: composition, musical composition, opus, piece.

What is a music holder called? ›

A music stand is a pedestal or elevated rack designed to hold sheets of music in position for reading.

What is the name for a collection of music? ›

Repertoire.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster,

What are the spinning music boxes called? ›

Cylinder Music Boxes

These pieces were a common sight in residences in the 19th century and are still iconic in the present day. In these models, a programmed melody—chosen at the time of manufacture—plays out of the box through the precise mechanical movement of a rotating cylinder.

How many notes can a music box play at once? ›

On simple boxes, you only have 15 notes to work with (two octaves on a C major scale). There's also a physical constraint where you can't play repeating 8th or 16th notes for a given pitch. But despite these constraints (or maybe because of them?), you can make lovely, enchanting music.

How many notes does a music box have? ›

Paper roll music boxes come in 3 types: 15 tones, 20 tones and 30 tones. The 15 tones and 20 tones only have whole notes, like the white keys of a piano. The 30 tone music boxes are chromatic, which means they also have some of the black piano key notes.

What is the oldest song known to man? ›

The Hurrian Hymn was discovered in the 1950s on a clay tablet inscribed with Cuneiform text. It's the oldest surviving melody and is over 3,400 years old. The hymn was discovered on a clay tablet in Ugarit, now part of modern-day Syria, and is dedicated the Hurrians' goddess of the orchards Nikkal.

What is the oldest song ever recorded? ›

1888: 'The Lost Chord'

This is the earliest recording of music known to exist. In 1888 a recording of Arthur Sullivan's song 'The Lost Chord' was etched onto a phonograph cylinder.

What's the most popular song in the world? ›

According to Guinness World Records, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (1942) as performed by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single worldwide, with estimated sales of over 50 million copies.

What is the oldest music system? ›

1857, Phonautograph

The earliest device that could record sound was the phonautograph, invented by Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville in 1857.

What year was the first music box made? ›

The music box, the first successful device that could play a musical tune, was probably invented in Switzerland around 1770. Early music boxes were designed to play music using flat metal prongs that were plucked by a revolving metal cylinder.

What are the oldest music sheets? ›

Hymn To Nikkal

The first known form of musical notation is a stone tablet found in Ugarit, an ancient city in the north of Syria, dating back to around 1400BC. The song itself, the Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal (Goddess of Orchards), is the earliest known musical score in the history of any significant size.

What was the first music storage device? ›

The phonograph was invented to record and play back songs, voice messages, or anything your heart desired. The first phonograph was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. 10 years after the invention of the phonograph came the gramophone. It was the first device that was able to play songs recorded on records.

What is the oldest music in America? ›

ountry music is America's oldest musical genre and is arguably its most diverse. Its roots lie in such disparate elements as English folk balladry, Mississippi Delta blues, Irish fiddle tunes, French/Cajun music, Vaudeville, Southern gospel, Mexican conjunto, German polkas and Victorian pop songs.

What is the oldest of all musical instruments? ›

The oldest musical instrument in the world (60,000 years) The oldest musical instrument in the world, a 60,000-year-old Neanderthal flute is a treasure of global significance. It was discovered in Divje babe cave near Cerkno and has been declared by experts to have been made by Neanderthals.

What was the old music system called? ›

A phonograph, in its later forms also called a gramophone (as a trademark since 1887, as a generic name in the UK since 1910) or since the 1940s called a record player, or more recently a turntable, is a device for the mechanical and analogue recording and reproduction of sound.

What is the first song ever? ›

Hurrian Hymn No. 6” is considered the world's earliest melody, but the oldest musical composition to have survived in its entirety is a first century A.D. Greek tune known as the “Seikilos Epitaph.” The song was found engraved on an ancient marble column used to mark a woman's gravesite in Turkey.

What is the oldest band with all the original members? ›

1: The Blind Boys Of Alabama

Most of the original members of this classic gospel group are deceased, but surviving original Jimmy Carter, who gives his age as “a few years past 50,” has been performing with The Blind Boys Of Alabama since 1939.

What is the oldest music disc? ›

1888: 'The Lost Chord'

This is the earliest recording of music known to exist. In 1888 a recording of Arthur Sullivan's song 'The Lost Chord' was etched onto a phonograph cylinder.

What is the oldest music player? ›

The first music-playing device able to both record and play back music was the phonograph. The old-time music player - AKA the phonograph - was created by Thomas Edison in July 1877 and captured sounds and engraved the movements into tinfoil cylinders.

What is the old CD player called? ›

The Sony CDP-101, released in 1982, was the world's first commercially released compact disc player.


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