14 Types of Vinyl Records: An Easy Guide to Sizes and Speeds

For music enthusiasts and collectors alike, vinyl records are more than just a format for listening to music. They are a tangible piece of history, a testament to the artistry and creativity of the artists who created them. While the popularity of vinyl records has waxed and waned over the years, their allure remains strong. 

One of the things that makes vinyl records so fascinating is the wide range of formats they come in. From the standard 12-inch LP to the rare and obscure, there is a type of vinyl record for every taste and budget. 

In this guide, we’ll explore some of the most popular and interesting types of vinyl records and what makes them unique. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting to explore the world of vinyl, there’s sure to be something here that piques your interest.

Types of Vinyl Records

The most known vinyl record types are 7-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch. These measurements refer to the diameter of the record itself. The larger the diameter, the more music can be stored on each side of the record.

RPM (revolutions per minute) is another factor that distinguishes vinyl record types, with the most common being 33 1/3 RPM and 45 RPM. The former is used for full-length albums while the latter is commonly used for singles or EPs.

Different types of vinyl records offer varying sound quality and playback time. For example, a 7-inch single typically offers better sound quality than a full-length album due to its wider grooves allowing for more detail in sound reproduction. A longer album may require multiple discs to accommodate all tracks.

1. LPs (Long Playing Albums)

Long Playing Albums, or LPs, are a revolutionary format for music that has played a crucial role in the evolution of the music industry.

These vinyl records can play longer than other album formats, providing listeners with extended play records and full-length albums in a single vinyl record. The standard size of an LP is 12 inches, but there are also 10-inch LPs and double LPs that contain more tracks or longer playing times.

2. Extended Play Vinyl Records (EP)

Extended Play (EP) vinyl records are a beloved format among music enthusiasts and collectors alike. These records usually contain more tracks than a single, but fewer tracks than a full-length album, making them a perfect medium for artists to experiment with new sounds and showcase new material.

EPs come in various sizes and formats:

  • 7-Inch Vinyl Records (45 RPM)
  • 10-Inch Vinyl Records
  • 12-Inch Vinyl Records

These different sizes provide more space for longer songs or additional tracks, allowing artists to explore their creativity fully. EPs can also come in various colors and even as double LPs, making them a popular choice for collectors and music enthusiasts who want to add something unique to their vinyl record collection.

3. Singles

Singles have been an integral part of the music industry for many decades. They are vinyl records that contain one song on each side, and they were the most popular format for popular music until the 1980s.

The most common size for singles is 7 inches, but there are also 10 inch singles and even 12 inch singles that can contain extended or remixed versions of the single song.

4. 12 Inch Records

The 12 inch record was introduced by Columbia Records in 1948 as a replacement for the 10 inch format that had been popular until then. They revolutionized the way music was consumed. 

With 12 inch LPs, artists had more space to work with and could create longer and more intricate pieces that would not fit on a single disc. This allowed them to experiment with different sounds and styles, leading to some of the most iconic albums in history.

The standard playback speed for 12 inch records is 33⅓ RPM. This slower speed allows for more accurate sound reproduction and better bass response. It also means that the grooves on the record are wider, which reduces surface noise and improves overall fidelity.

5. 10 Inch Records

10 inch records have a rich history, starting from their introduction in the 1940s. Initially designed to accommodate longer recordings than traditional 78 RPM records, which had limited playing time, these records have experienced waves of popularity over the years, transitioning from EPs and singles to becoming sought-after collector’s items.

6. 7 Inch Records

7 inch records were introduced in the late 1940s as a smaller and more affordable alternative to the larger 78s. These records offer several advantages, They typically have one song on each side, making them perfect for singles and hit songs. They play at 45 revolutions per minute (RPM), allowing for a quick and enjoyable listening experience.

7. 78 RPM Records

78 RPM records became increasingly popular in the early 1900s, and many companies began producing them. By the 1920s, they had become the standard for recording and playing back music. The format was popular until the late 1940s when the introduction of the long-playing record (LP) changed the music industry forever.

Characteristics of 78 RPM Records

  • Material: 78 RPM records were typically made of a brittle shellac material.
  • Size: The records were 10 inches in diameter.
  • Fragility: The shellac material was prone to cracking and breaking.
  • Duration: Due to wider grooves, they could only hold around three minutes of music per side.

8. 33 1/3 RPM Records

In 1948, Columbia Records introduced the 33 1/3 RPM record, a groundbreaking innovation that transformed the way people listened to music. This new format offered a significant leap forward in both playing time and sound quality, surpassing the limitations of the 78 RPM format that had dominated the music industry for decades.

Measuring 12 inches in diameter, 33 1/3 RPM records rotated at a slower speed, extending the playing time of each side from a mere 5-7 minutes to a remarkable 20-30 minutes. This revolutionary change enabled the creation of full-length albums, a concept previously unimaginable in the 78 RPM era.

The slower rotation speed also brought about substantial improvements in sound quality. The finer grooves etched onto the vinyl discs captured a wider range of audio frequencies, resulting in a richer, more nuanced listening experience. This was a stark contrast to the often tinny and distorted sound of 78 RPM records, which struggled to reproduce the full spectrum of musical expression.

9. 45 RPM Records

The 45 RPM record, introduced by RCA Victor in 1949, revolutionized the music industry. It quickly became the standard format for pop and rock music in the 1950s and 1960s and remained popular until the advent of cassette tapes and CDs in the 1980s.

45 RPM records were smaller and more portable than the 12-inch LP records, making them ideal for jukeboxes and portable turntables. They were also cheaper to produce, which made them more affordable for the general public. 45s also offered several advantages over LPs in terms of sound quality and durability.

10. Rare RPM (8 1/3 And 16 2/3) Records

Explore the captivating realm of 8 1/3 and 16 2/3 RPM vinyl treasures. These unique formats, primarily used for spoken-word recordings and educational resources, offer extended listening experiences, captivating storytelling, and a glimpse into the rich tapestry of vinyl history.

Uncover the iconic 1968 release of “The Beatles Story” on 8 1/3 RPM, or delve into rare recordings like “Miles Davis and the Jazz Giants” on 16 2/3 RPM. While these special formats may require specialized equipment, their historical significance and potential for valuable content make them irresistible to collectors. Embark on a quest to discover these hidden gems and expand your vinyl horizons.

11. The Flexi Disc

Flexi Discs – thin, flexible vinyl records that offer a unique and enduring musical experience. These cost-effective alternatives to traditional vinyl records have captivated music enthusiasts since the 1960s, initially used as promotional items in magazines, concerts, and even cereal boxes.

Their flexibility and durability make them easy to store and carry, while their rarity and potential for exclusive content attract collectors worldwide. Embrace the nostalgic charm of Flexi Discs and embark on a pocket-sized musical journey through time.

12. Dub Plates

Dub plates, one-of-a-kind vinyl records, are deeply rooted in reggae, dub, and sound system culture. These exclusive creations, crafted by skilled DJs and sound system operators, offer personalized tracks, remixed versions, and captivating effects.

While traditional dub plates boast superior sound quality, their delicate nature demands careful handling. Digital dub plates offer a more accessible and cost-effective alternative, preserving the exclusive nature of these creations while extending their lifespan.

Embrace the pulsating rhythm of dub plates, where exclusivity, creativity, and artistic expression reign supreme.

13. Colored Vinyl Records

Colored vinyl records offer a visually stunning and unique alternative to traditional black vinyl records. Available in a variety of colors and sizes, these eye-catching records often feature limited edition releases and add aesthetic value to any music collection. To ensure authenticity, collectors should consult reputable dealers and online resources. Embrace the vibrant sounds and unique aesthetics of colored vinyl records – a captivating addition to your music collection.

14. Unusual Shapes

Venture beyond the ordinary and explore the captivating world of unique vinyl record shapes and designs. From underground singles shaped like subway tokens to Poland-shaped records, there’s a vinyl gem for every collector. Picture discs, odd-sized records, and glitter records add a touch of artistry and creativity to your collection. Embrace the ingenuity of Soviet music enthusiasts who etched forbidden records onto x-ray plates, and discover a unique record format. These captivating sonic delights await your exploration.

Photo of author

Written By Kenneth Haney

I am Kenneth Haney, an unyielding audiophile and an ardent collector of vinyl records.My love affair with vinyl started at a young age of 15. As a teenager, I found myself enchanted by the distinct warmth and depth that vinyl brought to music. Unlike digital music, vinyl records carry a tangibility, a piece of history, an art that exists far beyond the confines of an MP3 file.

Leave a Comment