Opinions are divided whether digital sound is the right way of listening to music, or whether analog record players produce a much more authentic sound experience.
This is largely personal preference but the fact is that vinyl record sales have increased radically in the last few years.
This is largely due to a sense of nostalgia from the millennial generation that has made vinyl relevant again. However, the vintage feel blended with modern technology record players appeals to many other generations.
If you still have a record player at home or you want to play some of your favorite songs as vinyls, you need to look out for the right size record and whether your turntable can play them.
In this article, we delve into a little history of the record player and we find out if you can play all sizes of records on your record player.
A Brief History Of Record Players
The record player was invented by non-famous electric inventor Thomas Edison. He created the very first phonograph, which used the energy from a hand crank to run a turntable platter.
This created the different revolutions per minute, and the average user turning the crank could produce up to 80 RPM.
The phonograph however only worked with vinyl cylinders which could store just five minutes of sound on one side.
A few years later, vinyl disks and the record player we know came onto the market. Vinyl disks can store much longer music pieces on each side, and you don’t need to manually work it anymore.
How Does A Vinyl Work With Your Record Player?
Record players take the vibrations from the grooves in the vinyl record and turn them into analog sound waves.
Without going into too much detail, analog transmitters produce a continuing signal that can vary with the needle pressure on the grooves.
The natural sound (so-called by some traditional audio lovers) of vinyl also shows how intact the grooves are.
While to some, the crackling of the record may impact the sound quality, hardened audiophiles can even tell from this sound how old the record is.
Different Vinyl Record Sizes
The history of music in the last hundred years has shaped not only the record player but also the different vinyl discs.
Today, there are several different sizes and types of vinyl records available. However, the main standard sizes in a record collection are 12-inch and 7-inch.
The inches refer to the diameter of the actual vinyl record. The record’s size usually also indicates the revolutions per minute (rpm).
This is how fast the vinyl record spins on the turntable platter. Generally, any record-size vinyl can be pressed to spin at any rpm.
The revolutions per minute also show how much music each side of the vinyl disc holds.
One of the largest vinyl record sizes available, 12″ vinyls can spin at 33rpm holding a maximum of 22 minutes of music.
The smaller of the standard sizes is 7″. This vinyl can hold up to 5 minutes of music and spins at 45 rpm.
You may still find some old 10″ vinyls in record stores but they are not as common anymore today. These vinyl records spin at 78 rpm holding a short 3 minutes of music.
What Is LP, EP, And SP On Vinyl Records?
When it comes to vinyl records, you will not only encounter the different record sizes and RPMs but also LP and EP.
LP simply stands for Long Play, and it’s a term used to describe a vinyl that holds a full-length album.
EP means Extended Play and these vinyls can only hold between 3 and 5 of sound recording. Most EPs are pressed on 12-inch records that spin at 45 rpm.
The Evolution Of Vinyl Record Sizes
Until the 1950s, you would commonly find 78 rpm records as they were the best speed for a record to spin. This was mainly due to the type of record players available then.
Record player manufacturers realized early on that the slower a record spin, the worse the audio sound. On the other hand, with a higher rpm, they were limited by the record’s grooves which meant less music on the record.
The 78 rpm record was available in a 10-inch size. This disc was made from brittle shellac, which meant they could easily break and scratch.
With new technology for record players and vinyls coming onto the market and the longer playing time of 33 rpm and 45 rpm records, the 10-inch 78 rpm records were slowly phased out over time.
Its place was taken by a 45 rpm record which was smaller and could fit much more music on. The quality of sound reproduction was very similar to the old 78 rpm discs.
Record Players Switching Between Record Sizes
Very early record players often could not switch between sizes but with the rapid change in record sizes available, record player manufacturers had to be more flexible.
The ever-increasing popularity of 12-inch and 7-inch records playing at 33 rpm and 45 rpm meant that record players had to cater for these sizes and speeds.
And this is what we find today with the different record players. They can switch commonly between these two different speeds and sizes.
It’s important to note that not all record players play these two record sizes. Check on the packaging and the record player what size and speed it can play, and your player has the ability to switch.
On some vintage record players, you may even find they can switch between four different speed settings. However, this is very rare today.
As most vinyls available today are 12″ or 7″ records, you are likely able to play either (or both) of these sizes with your record player.
If you inherited some old vinyls or you love collecting them in different sizes, you may want to look for an older player that can play some of the more unusual sizes.
You can sometimes find vintage record players in antique shops or even in vinyl record stores. Alternatively, the online vinyl community may be able to help.
Manual Or Automatic Record Players?
Generally, there are three different types of a record player. The audio quality and sound can vary whether you pick an automatic, manual, or semi-automatic machine.
These variations are mainly due to the way the needle is placed on and removed from the record.
With an automatic system, the needle is positioned and lifted at the simple push of a button.
With a manual record player, you need to lift the arm and carefully place it on the record yourself.
The semi-automatic turntable is a mix of automatic and manual systems. You will have to place the needle manually but it lifts off by itself once the record ends.
You will find that most mid to high-end turntables on the market today are manual. If you have a steady hand, that’s not an issue.
It’s still a good idea to be careful not to scratch the record. However, the placing technique isn’t very difficult so if you try it a few times, you are guaranteed to get the hang of it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Get your last-minute questions answered here!
Can You Play 78 Records On A Modern Turntable?
Check on your turntable or the packaging if your record player can play 78 rpm records. Today, most turntables only play 33 rpm and 45 rpm records.
There are a few ways to adjust your turntable to play 78 records. You can either get an adapter that is placed on top of the motor.
Usually, this requires you to open the turntable and attach it properly so it does need a little more care.
Alternatively, you can also change the belt of the turntable. While this sounds like a lot of hassle, it’s more convenient than adding an adapter as you don’t have to open up the plinth.
The belt is above it so you can reach it much easier and change it.
Do Vinyl Records Have To Be A Certain Size?
Not all record players can play certain vinyl record sizes. Most turntables play 12-inch and 7-inch discs, and you may be able to switch between the two.
10-inch records are much less common today and you may have to find a specific record player for these types of records.
Can You Play A 7 Vinyl On A 12 Player?
Yes, you can. 7-inch and 12-inch records are two of the most common record sizes, and turntable manufacturers have adapted so that you can even switch between the two sizes as well as standard speeds.
A few years back, turntables and vinyls seemed to be just an old-fashioned way of listening to music but they are making a big comeback at the moment.
2020 marked the first year in a while that vinyl records sales surpassed CD sales.
The rise in popularity for the classic, crackling sound of music is not just a memory for some of the older generations but slowly becomes a serious movement where radio stations even slot in some vinyl-only time.