Understanding the Different Types of Vinyl Records Available

Vinyl records are timeless audio masterpieces that are becoming popular once again. These analog audio storage mediums reproduce rich and warm sounds, making listening of music a more enjoyable and rewarding experience than usual. What’s more, they come in all shapes and sizes and the choice will depend largely on your taste and preferences.

If you are shopping for one or a few records, having some knowledge about the different types of records available can enable you to make an informed buying decision. With that said, let’s try to understand these records as they come from manufacturers;

The Basic Types of Vinyl Records

There are four categories of vinyl records in the public domain today. These record categories are distinguished from each other by four primary factors, which are namely;

  • Volume e.g single records and album records.
  • Size i.e 7-inch diameter records and 12-inch diameter records.
  • The length of play that is long-playing (LP) records and extended play (EP) records.
  • Speed or rotations per minute(RPM) i.e 33 RPM, 45RPM and 78RPM.

1. Long-Playing Records vs Extended Play Records

A long-playing vinyl record comes with at least 23 minutes of music play on both sides, making a total of at least 46 minutes of m.p. Though this record carries several tracks on both sides, it does not qualify as an album because each side has less than 25 minutes of music play expected of a standard album.

An extended play vinyl record, on the other hand, offers fewer minutes of music play on both sides than its counterpart. This record contains a minimum of three tracks and a maximum of six tracks in total.

The difference between a long-playing record and an extended play record is that the former comes with more songs than the latter, even though none of the two qualifies as an album.

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2. Size

Size is a major factor when it comes to classifying or distinguishing vinyl records. As said earlier, these records come largely in two different sizes. Some have 7-inch diameters and others have 12-inch diameters. Notably, the records play at different speeds. For example, 12-inch records typically play at 33 RPM. 7-inch records, on the other hand, plays at 45 RPM. It’s worth noting that 12-inch records are mostly albums whereas 7-inch records are commonly singles.

A vinyl record playing on a vintage record player

Unfortunately, 7-inch records are more susceptible to what is known as “inner groove distortion” or “IGD”, which is the “shattering” noise the record may make towards the end of each side. That problem can be attributed to a limitation of the technology used in vinyl records.

3. Single and Albums

Besides size, vinyl records can be classified according to the volume where we have single records and albums. Single records have between a single track and five tracks on each side. What’s more, singles offer a minimum of 23 minutes and a maximum of 25 minutes of music play on each side. It is in this category where long play records and extended play records fall. On the other hand, albums have at least six songs on each side and they also offer at least 25 minutes of music play on each side.

4. The 3 Different Speed Options(RPM)

Lastly, vinyl records can be classified according to speed, which is typically expressed in rotations per minute(RPM). That said, these records come in three different speeds i.e. 33 ⅓ RPM, 45 RPM, and 78 RPM.

Don’t worry about 78 RPM vinyl records because they are so rare that you probably won’t deal with them. Instead, 33 ⅓ RPM and 45 RPM are the common options for standard vinyl records in the market. Most full-size(12-inch) records will be 33 ⅓ rotations per minute, though some records, especially maxi-singles and extended plays will be 45 RPM.

By the way, there is a reason why vinyl records come with varying speeds. And that reason is certainly not fanciness or anything of the sot. Instead, it is so that the listener can adjust their listening experience accordingly. Many audiophiles will want to change their record speeds from time to time to hear their music either faster or slower than normal. That will depend on their needs at a time.

If I had to choose between a 33 ⅓ RPM and 45 RPM records, I would go with the latter. That’s because 45s have a larger space into which recorded music can be pressed. Apart from that, these records have wider grooves than the former, giving them a truer sound reproduction and better tonal depth than 33 ⅓s. Plus, they are normally louder than 33’s for that reason and also the fact that the slower the rotation, the poorer the sound quality.

The Main Advantage of Vinyl Records

The primary advantage of vinyl records is the fact that they offer a fully lossless format. Because of that, you are sure to get a full-fidelity listening experience just like the artist intended to give you. And all you need to get that is a decent record player. It’s less technical than digital format.

Some Common Vinyl Records Issues

Everything has its advantages and disadvantages so are vinyl records. The first shortcoming of these analog records is the fact that they are pretty difficult to maintain. For example, touching them anywhere can wear them down after time because of the natural oils present on your fingers. You shouldn’t touch the records anywhere except the edges. Additionally, the records are very susceptible to dust. Yet keeping them dust-free can be an absolute challenge. Furthermore, the covers will rip if the disks are not handled with proper caution.

Another serious disadvantage of these records is that they can be pretty troublesome. For example, stopping the gramophone and forgetting to lift the needle can lead to an awful, screeching sound like no other.

Final Thoughts

Vinyl records offer great music sound quality that is rich and warm, making a person’s music listening experience as enjoyable and rewarding as no other. There are different types of records out there, classified according to various factors. Having some knowledge about them all can help you end up with the appropriate record when shopping for one.

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