Vinyl Record Terminology History LP, EP, 33’s 45’s and 78’s

To the vinyl record collector or music lover the terminology of music recordings can be confusing. What is an album, an LP or a EP and what about 45’s and 78’s. Well if you are new to vinyl record collecting or just want to know more about the trend back vinyl records I’ll try to summarize some terminology used by audiophiles and record collectors.

Also See: Recording Time LineRecord GlossaryAbbreviations Glossary

Record – Album – Vinyl ………. What’s the difference?

Hatboro Music Store - Joe Celano Owner
Hatboro Music Store – Joe Celano Owner

You  hear many people referring  to a record as a vinyl and more than one record as vinyls. Why is this? Back in the day we went to the record store and bought records. They were also called albums. Around 1983 CD’s (Compact Discs) made the scene and gradually replaced  the vinyl record as the favored way to record and listen to music. When CD’s came along they were sold in record stores. An artist would release an album on both vinyl and CD format. So a “record” would mean “Vinyl”, “Disc” would mean “CD” and “Album” could mean either “Record” or “CD”. Moving towards the 90’s the CD became format that most people were buying and gradually the record stores quit selling vinyl records all together. In the early 21st century people showed  a renewed interest vinyl records and at some point the term “vinyl or vinyls” became the popular description used for a classic vinyl record or album.

Lets First Focus on the Items most commonly found here at the record store.

Seventy-Eights, 78s 78’s: Any flat disc record, made between about 1898 and the late 1950s and playing at a speed around 78 revolutions per minute is called a “78” by collectors. 78s come in a variety of sizes, the most common being 10 and 12 inch diameter, and these were originally sold in either paper or card covers, generally with a circular cutout allowing the record label to be seen. Earliest speeds of rotation varied widely, but by 1910 most records were recorded at about 78 to 80 rpm. In 1925, 78.26 rpm was chosen as a standard for motorized phonographs. This term did not come into use until after World War II when a need developed to distinguish the 78 from other newer disc record formats. Earlier they were just called records.
The duration’s of 78 RPM recordings is about three to five minutes per side, depending on the disc size:
12″: four to five minutes
10″: three minutes
The older 78 format continued to be mass produced alongside the newer formats into the 1950’s, but had faded from the scene by 1955.

LP and EP Records: An LP, in music, is a long-playing vinyl record. Often, the term LP is used to refer to a 33 and one-third rpm microgroove vinyl record. EP refers to extended play vinyl records. Normally, an EP contains extra music after a single. This said, an EP album is still less than a full-length LP album.

Program Transcriptions 33 1/3 RPM albums. Single sided discs, production ended in 1933
RCA Victor L-16010

In 1931, RCA Victor launched the first commercially available vinyl long-playing record. These revolutionary discs were designed for playback at 33 1⁄3 rpm and pressed on a 30 cm diameter flexible plastic disc, with a duration of about ten minutes playing time per side. There was also a small batch of longer-playing records issued by Columbia and ARC all of these were phased out by mid-1932. Victor’s long-playing records were discontinued by early 1933. Early long-play records were a commercial failure for several reasons including the lack of affordable, reliable consumer playback equipment and consumer wariness during the Great Depression. It wasn’t till after World War II, two new competing formats entered the market, gradually replacing the standard 78 rpm: the 33 1⁄3 rpm often called (33s or LP’s), and the 45 rpm.

Thirty-Threes, 33s, 33’s, LP, LP’s: The 33 1⁄3 rpm LP (for “long-play”) format was developed by Columbia Records and marketed in June 1948.

Columbia 1-514 Benny Goodman And His Orchestra
Benny Goodman And His Orchestra ‎– Jersey Bounce on 7 Inch 33 1/3 RPM ZLP Single Mono Microgroove

The first LP release consisted of 85 12-inch classical music pieces. At the same time, Columbia introduced a vinyl 7-inch ​33 1⁄3 rpm microgroove single, calling it ZLP, but it was short-lived and is very rare today, because RCA Victor introduced a 45 rpm single a few months later, which became the standard. The vinyl record format characterized by a speed of 33 1⁄3 rpm, a 12- or 10-inch diameter, and use of the “microgroove” groove specification. Introduced by Columbia in 1948 was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry. Apart from a few relatively minor refinements and the important later addition of stereophonic sound, it has remained the standard format for vinyl albums.

Forty-Five, 45s, 45’s, Single, Singles and EP:

RCA Victor‎ 47-2953
Benny Goodman And His Orchestra ‎– Don’t Be That Way 7″, 45 RPM, Single

RCA Victor developed the 45 rpm format. The 45s released by RCA in March 1949 were in seven different colors of vinyl depending on the type of music recorded, blues, country, popular etc. The most common form of the vinyl single is the 45 or 7-inch. The names are derived from its play speed, 45 rpm, and the standard diameter, 7 inches. The 7-inch 45 rpm record was released as a smaller, more durable and higher-fidelity replacement for the 78 rpm shellac discs.

Columbia and RCA Victor each pursued their R&D secretly. Both types of new disc used narrower grooves, intended to be played with smaller stylus—typically 0.001 inches wide, compared to 0.003 inches for a 78. The new records were sometimes called Microgroove. In the mid-1950s all record companies agreed to a common frequency response standard called RIAA equalization. Prior to the establishment of the standard each company used its own preferred equalization, requiring discriminating listeners to use pre-amplifiers with selectable equalization curves.

That’s The Basics Of Vinyl Record Terminology We will be adding more in depth and detailed information on the history of recorded music and finer points of record collecting until then Enjoy Life!

Also See: Recording Time LineRecord GlossaryAbbreviations Glossary