Jukebox Anatomy

How Are Jukeboxes Made & Why Are They Still So Popular?

Music snob or not, let’s face it: there’s something about jukeboxes that inherently make music sound so much better, even with better and better advancements in sound technology over the decades. 

So why is it so? 

Throughout its heydays till now, jukeboxes have managed to keep their retro features both inside and out, with advancements in sound technology only making them sound better over time. According to Sound Leisure founder, Alan Black, there’s a reason why jukeboxes still retain that signature ‘bass and boom’ that is unable to be replicated by most conventional speakers. One of Black’s answers during an interview with CNN sheds some light on this question:

“Often teenagers are taken by the sound of a jukebox when they hear it. It’s a distinctive sound, unlike the very crisp one of modern hi-fi equipment. It’s more bass-y (…) We could make a jukebox that sounds crisp, but that would be out of character. We put a lot of effort into keeping that bass and boom.”—Alan Black, founder of Sound Leisure

However, it’s definitely something that’s easier said and done. Which begs the question: how exactly does one incorporate new technology while retaining what was considered a feature ‘flaw’ of jukeboxes that eventually became its most well-loved attribute?

 

To start, we need to look at the inside and see how they’re made.

Since we aren’t the jukebox crafters ourselves, our first step towards getting down to the answer is by looking toward the guidance of experts themselves. For this, we take a look at Sound Leisure’s own jukebox crafting process in their factory in Leeds.

Besides the care and attention to detail that is given to each individual jukebox, the jukebox’s iconic design that most of us are familiar with also plays an integral role in providing you with that immersive, signature audiophile experience. 

In this short video by the Science Channel, they take a look at the modern jukebox’s inner workings and how iconic brands like Sound Leisure and even Rock-Ola use classic methods and designs to retain and even enhance the jukebox’s signature traits when combined with modern technology to create today’s postmodern jukebox.

However, research has shown that it isn’t always about retaining what’s old and beloved. Technology has also allowed jukebox crafters to further refine jukeboxes for the modern-day consumer. Besides retaining its basic form to keep its trademark acoustics, there are also many other components in the modern jukebox that have been polished to create a more encapsulating experience for modern listeners. A great example of this can be seen with the recent patent approval of Black’s LP changer mechanism, featured and introduced in the Long Player Vinyl Jukebox:

You can spot the LP changer mechanism as the claw-like arms that ‘grab’ onto the edges of the vinyl record to place it onto the record player.

This straightforward and simple design helps you pick out the vinyl record of your choosing and place it on the spin table to be played and enjoyed. However, it is also considered an important design feature for the classic jukebox because many jukeboxes back then were required to store at least 50 records at one time. This wide selection range was a popular feature compared to normal vinyl record players as the musical variety gave diners and juke joints customers plenty of different options to choose from while simultaneously promoting up and coming artists during the era. Instead of having to listen to whatever was playing on the radio, people were now being given the power to choose what they wanted to hear. This was essentially the era of jukebox music! 

As many vinyl records back in the 80s and 90s only contained very few tracks, most changer mechanisms were streamlined. However, as vinyl records began undergoing their own changes to create better vinyl records from more inexpensive material, this also changed the capacity and size of vinyl records themselves. To date, there are at least eight major types of vinyl records, each with its own size and specifications that make standardising both personal and jukebox vinyl players difficult.

 

But before I digress…

All these details only touch the surface of what makes a jukebox so unique compared to any regular music player., In fact, jukeboxes are intricate machines that require skills and expertise to make. Did you know that both classic and postmodern jukeboxes are made up of at least 700 to 800 individual components, sometimes even more? Its complexity is why most jukebox crafters prefer to streamline the process in-house and do it by hand. All this, coupled with rigid quality inspections and vigorous testing prior to shipment, is why today’s jukeboxes can be considered a work of art right beside their classic counterpart. 

 

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