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As easy as it is to listen to music via digital streaming platforms, nothing can quite mimic the tangible, immersive experience you get listening to a vinyl record on a record player. Maybe that’s why vinyl records have made a significant comeback in recent years, with vinyl record sales surpassing CD sales for the first time since the ‘80s.
If you’re looking to create and sell your own vinyl albums, here’s a guide to help you understand the different record sizes and weights — with a little history, to boot.
Vinyl origins and history
Vinyl records were born from an invention in the late 19th century by Emile Berliner, a German-born American inventor. Berliner’s invention revolutionized the way we listen to music by introducing a flat shellac disc that spun at 78 rpms and replaced the earlier cylinder recordings. In the mid-30s, vinyl records became the format of choice, gained popularity, and became the dominant medium for music playback.
With the rise of digital formats and compact discs in the late 20th century, vinyl records experienced a decline in popularity — though they never truly disappeared from the marketplace. To the amazement of industry experts, there has been a resurgence in vinyl’s popularity in recent years, with Gen Z listeners and collectors appreciating the unique sound and physicality of vinyl records.
Vinyl record sizes
Vinyl records come in various sizes, each serving a specific purpose and offering different playback characteristics. They make a difference if you’re thinking about launching an EP or album. The three most common sizes are 7-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch vinyl records.
- 7-inch vinyl. The 7-inch vinyl, also known as a single or a 45, is the smallest record size used for commercial releases. These records typically contain one track per side and are ideal for singles. The 7-inch vinyl is popular among collectors and DJs.
- 10-inch vinyl. The 10-inch vinyl record offers a larger playing surface compared to the 7-inch record. It provides more room for additional tracks and allows for better sound quality and louder volumes.
- 12-inch vinyl. The 12-inch vinyl record is the most common and widely used format for full-length albums. It offers ample space for full albums and is the preferred choice for listeners and record collectors who enjoy looking at the art and exploring the packaging of a vinyl album.
Vinyl records speeds
The different speeds at which a record spins affects the playing time as well as the audio quality. Although the original vinyl records spun at 78 revolutions per minute (RPM), most vinyl records today are produced at either 45 RPM or 33 1/3 RPM.
Let’s look at how these two speeds affect the sound and duration of vinyl records.
Generally speaking, the faster a record spins, the better the sound quality. This is due to two factors. First, faster record speed can produce more sound information in less time. This is especially noticeable in the higher frequencies. Second, faster-spinning records have less distortion. Because of this, audiophiles prefer the sound of 45 RPM records.
The faster a record spins, the less playtime it can hold. The chart below shows the average amount of playing time you can get from the three vinyl record sizes at 33 and 45 RPM.
|Record size||Minutes per side @ 33 1/3 RPM||Minutes per side @ 45 RPM|
Which speed is right for you?
Typically, 7-inch records are produced at 45 RPM, and 12-inch records are produced at 33 1/3, however, you can get any size record at whichever speed you want. In fact, the 12-inch single standard size, which spins at 45 RPM, is a very popular choice for DJs, thanks to its size and audio quality, and may be the perfect choice for your single or EP.
If you are making an album, a 12-inch vinyl record at 33 1/3 RPM seems like the most sensible choice. The post-punk band Public Image Ltd, however, opted to release their second album, Metal Box, on three 12-inch 45 RPM records, which gave their album a superior sound. So, if you are looking to make a statement, you may consider choosing an unusual combination of size and speed.
Vinyl records weight
There is a serious debate amongst audiophiles over whether the weight of a vinyl record affects its audio quality, with some contending that heavier records sound better and others saying that this is just a placebo effect.
Heavier vinyl records do offer a more durable product, and they are also more stable than lighter records, leading to less wear-and-tear on your stylus. Vinyl records can be manufactured in weights ranging from 40 grams to 180g. Disc Makers offers two choices for 12-inch records, 140g and 180g. Both weights will sound great and most listeners will not notice a difference in sound quality, but the heftier weight provides a higher perceived value.
What you should know before making a vinyl record
Before embarking on the journey of vinyl production, there are several important factors to consider.
- Allow time for pressing. Vinyl record production requires time and careful planning. The pressing plants that manufacture vinyl records often have limited capacity and high demand, leading to longer turnaround times. It is essential to factor in the production time for record companies when scheduling your album release to avoid unnecessary delays.
- High-quality cover art. Vinyl records provide a larger canvas for album artwork compared to digital formats. Take advantage of this opportunity to create visually stunning cover art that captures the essence of your music. Invest in professional graphic design services to ensure a visually appealing and high-quality album cover.
- Master your audio for vinyl. Vinyl records have unique audio characteristics that require careful mastering. Collaborate with an experienced audio engineer who specializes in vinyl mastering to ensure that your music translates well to the vinyl format. Proper mastering will optimize the sound quality and ensure the best possible playback experience for your listeners.
Produce high-quality vinyl records with Disc Makers
When it comes to vinyl production, Disc Makers has been a trusted name in the music industry since 1946, offering comprehensive vinyl record manufacturing services.
Of course, Disc Makers’ expertise extends beyond vinyl pressing. We offer graphic design, sound quality mastering, and CD packaging solutions to ensure a professional and polished final product. Go to www.discmakers.com and explore our products and services today.
Philip Kinsher is a writer, editor, and musician with a predilection for YA Sci-fi Fantasy books and rock and roll. And golf and pickleball.
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