Types of Vinyl Records: Sizes, Dimensions and Materials

Learn more about the different types of records and their use.

Updated October 2022

different sizes of colored album records

For music enthusiasts, there is nothing quite like the experience of listening to vinyl records. Vinyl records offer a warm, rich sound that digital formats simply can't replicate. And while many people think of vinyl as a thing of the past, it is seeing a resurgence in popularity.

 

If you're new to vinyl collecting, or if you're just looking to learn more about the different types of vinyl records, then this blog post is for you. We will take a look at the three vinyl record dimensions – speed, weight, and size – and we will also explore the various materials used to make them. So without further ado, let's get started!

 

How are vinyl records made and what is pressing

Record pressing is a process of manufacturing vinyl records from a master recording. The first step in creating a vinyl record is to create the negative image of the sound waveforms onto an acetate disc, also known as a lacquer. Imagine a disc just covered in nail polish. Once the lacquer has cooled and hardened, it is ready to be cut.

 

The cutting process involves using a lathe to engrave the sound waveforms onto a blank disc, called a stamper. The stamper is then used to press the grooves into the soft vinyl compound. After pressing, the records are cooled and trimmed before being packaged for sale!

vinyl manufacturing and pressing

Types of records

There are many different types of vinyl records, each with its dimensions, speeds and materials. In this blog post, we will discuss the four main types of vinyl records: Long-Playing Vinyl Records (L.P.), Extended Play Vinyl Records (E.P.), Flexi Disks, and Colored Vinyl Records.

 

  • Long-Playing Vinyl Records, or L.P.s, are the most common type of vinyl records. They are made of polystyrene and were introduced in the 1950s. L.P.s typically measure 12 inches in diameter and can spin at up to 33 revolutions per minute (rpm).

 

  • Extended Play Vinyl Records, or E.P.s, are similar to L.P.s but are smaller in size. They usually measure seven or ten inches in diameter and can spin at up to 45 rpm. EPs were introduced in the 1930s and became popular in the 1940s due to their lower price point and portability compared to LPs.

 

  • Flexi disks are thin, flexible discs that were often given away free with magazines in the 1970s and 1980s. They are made of polystyrene or acetate and are pressed with a lower quality than traditional vinyl records. As a result, they are more prone to wear and tear and do not last as long.

 

  • Colored vinyl records were introduced in 1952 by RCA Victor. They were made by adding dye to the vinyl compound during the pressing process. The goal was to have different colors for different genres. The first colored vinyl records were red for classical music, but soon other colors such as blue (semi-classical and instrumental), green (country), and yellow (children(were introduced. Today, there are many different colors of vinyl records available!

Vinyl Record Size and Dimensions

There is a wide range of vinyl record sizes The most common sizes for vinyl records are:

  • LP (Long Play): 12 inches in diameter

  • EP (Extended Play): seven or ten inches in diameter

  • Flexi disk: Thin, flexible disc often given away free with magazines

  • Colored vinyl: Can be any size but is most commonly found in LP form

 

Covers for records should be larger than the discs themselves. For example, 12'' records typically have covers that are slightly bigger at 12.375 inches square. This is to allow for easy removal of the disc from the cover.

 

Vinyl Record Speeds

Vinyl records can have up to three different speeds: 33, 45, and 78 rotations per minute (rpm). The speed at which a record spins in a turntable is determined by the rpm. The most common speeds are 33 and 45 rpm.

 

78 rpm vinyl records were once the standard but are now mostly found in thrift stores and garage sales. They are less common because they require a special stylus to play them properly. Most modern turntables cannot accommodate 78 rpm records.

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How materials impact record durability

Shellac was the most common material used to make 78-rpm records. In the second half of the 20th century, most records were made of flexible PVC compounds. From around 1951 until 1991, the main material for vinyl records was polystyrene (a.k.a. styrene). Some ultra-light records from the 1970s and 1980s also had less vinyl due to the oil embargo. In addition to those primary materials, records typically include heat stabilizers, lubricants, plasticizers, and colorants.

 

Depending on the base material and the combination of supporting materials, some records can be more or less fragile. Records tend to warp over time with high temperatures and pressure. The more high-grade vinyl is used in the record, the more malleable they are. This means that they tend to warp more often but are also easier to fix using a flattener machine such as The Vinyl Flat. Some colored vinyl may flatten faster than traditional black vinyl. The safest approach to flattening colored records is to use decreased initial heating cycle times.

 

Typically, shellac records and styrene records are more durable and will not warp easily. If you have a warped shellac record we recommend proceeding with extra caution, applying ultra-conservative short heating cycles. It is tempting to raise the temperature and increase the heating cycle right away, but please - resist.

 

Mobile Fidelity One-Step (MOFI) recordings should flatten like normal vinyl L.P.s because the One-Step process simply eliminates two of the molds that are normally used to stamp the record. And, since a One-Step recording doesn't necessarily contain more or less vinyl than traditional recordings, no special techniques are needed.

That concludes our blog post on vinyl record sizes, dimensions, speeds and materials! We hope you found this information helpful and informative. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us! Happy listening!