The Different Sizes of Vinyl Throughout History

Vinyl has again become all the rage, but do you know anything about the history of vinyl? You may not realize these records have come in different sizes as technology evolved.

The History of Vinyl Records

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, which played early records. He had been working on a concept similar to the telephone, and he realized he could use parts of that technology to convey the sound differently, through a similar instrument. Edison designed the machine to playback what he said. The first recording on it was, famously, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Only experts could operate early phonographs, and it took a couple of decades and a great deal of marketing before they became commonplace within homes. The first 10-inch record came out in 1901, but it wasn’t until 1948 that the standard-sized vinyl record came out. In the post-war era, records finally caught on as young people looked for ways to enjoy themselves away from their parents and with a bit more independence.

The introduction of the compact disc in the 1980s seemed to spell the end for vinyl, but the format regained nostalgic popularity within a few years. While vinyl has a scratchier sound than CDs, some people prefer the old-time feel. Record labels have continued to produce vinyl to feed the interest in the format. Many collectors consider vinyl their favorite, offering a more authentic listening experience than the smoother yet colder digital type.

Different Sizes of Records

You can find three standard sizes of vinyl records:

  • 7 inches: The smaller the record, the less music it holds. The 7-inch is the tiniest record size, and is often the format for singles, as you can only fit about five minutes of playing time on either side. This is commonly referred to as a “45” referring to the fact that it is typically played at 45 revolutions per minute (rpm)
  • 10 inches: This is the least common type of record and better for shorter length albums. Most were pressed before the 1950s but you can still find some in pressing today. This size is typically played at the rare speed of 78 RPM.
  • 12 inches: The largest size of album has about 22 minutes of music on each size when cut at the normal speed for this size of 33 RPM. You can also find 10-inch records with a single song on them. This allows for much wider grooves that can hold more levels and many say a better sound quality.

The Most Popular Size of Vinyl

Full-sized vinyl records of 12 inches are the most common size you’ll find today, as they offer the most space for music. But all three sizes remain in circulation among collectors.

How Long Do Records Play?

The lifetime of your record depends on how many times you play it. The more it’s been listened to, the shorter it will last. Each time a record plays, it takes a bit off the lifespan. Giving your collection proper care can also extend its life. A record that’s cared for and played rarely can last for decades.

Add to Your Collection at Record Head

Do you have a vinyl record collection you want to expand? We sell collector vinyl editions that are in fantastic shape. Contact us to learn more about our vinyl offerings.

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