Gramophone record
Overview
 
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record (in American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

), vinyl record (in reference to vinyl
Vinyl
A vinyl compound is any organic compound that contains a vinyl group ,which are derivatives of ethene, CH2=CH2, with one hydrogen atom replaced with some other group...

, the material most commonly used after about 1950), or colloquially, a record, is an analog
Analog signal
An analog or analogue signal is any continuous signal for which the time varying feature of the signal is a representation of some other time varying quantity, i.e., analogous to another time varying signal. It differs from a digital signal in terms of small fluctuations in the signal which are...

 sound
Sound
Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.-Propagation of...

 storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral
Spiral
In mathematics, a spiral is a curve which emanates from a central point, getting progressively farther away as it revolves around the point.-Spiral or helix:...

 groove. The groove usually starts near the periphery and ends near the center of the disc (the opposite of the spiral of pits in the CD medium, which starts near the centre and works outwards).
Encyclopedia
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record (in American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

), vinyl record (in reference to vinyl
Vinyl
A vinyl compound is any organic compound that contains a vinyl group ,which are derivatives of ethene, CH2=CH2, with one hydrogen atom replaced with some other group...

, the material most commonly used after about 1950), or colloquially, a record, is an analog
Analog signal
An analog or analogue signal is any continuous signal for which the time varying feature of the signal is a representation of some other time varying quantity, i.e., analogous to another time varying signal. It differs from a digital signal in terms of small fluctuations in the signal which are...

 sound
Sound
Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.-Propagation of...

 storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral
Spiral
In mathematics, a spiral is a curve which emanates from a central point, getting progressively farther away as it revolves around the point.-Spiral or helix:...

 groove. The groove usually starts near the periphery and ends near the center of the disc (the opposite of the spiral of pits in the CD medium, which starts near the centre and works outwards). Phonograph records are generally described by their diameter
Diameter
In geometry, a diameter of a circle is any straight line segment that passes through the center of the circle and whose endpoints are on the circle. The diameters are the longest chords of the circle...

 ("12-inch", "10-inch", "7-inch", etc.), the rotational speed
Rotational speed
Rotational speed tells how many complete rotations there are per time unit. It is therefore a cyclic frequency, measured in hertz in the SI System...

 at which they are played ("33⅓ r.p.m.
Revolutions per minute
Revolutions per minute is a measure of the frequency of a rotation. It annotates the number of full rotations completed in one minute around a fixed axis...

", "78", "45", etc.), their time capacity ("Long Playing"), their reproductive accuracy, or "fidelity
Fidelity
"Fidelity" is the quality of being faithful or loyal. Its original meaning regarded duty to a lord or a king, in a broader sense than the related concept of fealty. Both derive from the Latin word fidēlis, meaning "faithful or loyal"....

", or the number of channels of audio provided ("Mono
Monaural
Monaural or monophonic sound reproduction is single-channel. Typically there is only one microphone, one loudspeaker, or channels are fed from a common signal path...

", "Stereo
Stereophonic sound
The term Stereophonic, commonly called stereo, sound refers to any method of sound reproduction in which an attempt is made to create an illusion of directionality and audible perspective...

", "Quadraphonic", etc.).

Gramophone
Phonograph
The phonograph record player, or gramophone is a device introduced in 1877 that has had continued common use for reproducing sound recordings, although when first developed, the phonograph was used to both record and reproduce sounds...

 records were the primary medium used for music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

 reproduction for most of the 20th century, replacing the phonograph cylinder
Phonograph cylinder
Phonograph cylinders were the earliest commercial medium for recording and reproducing sound. Commonly known simply as "records" in their era of greatest popularity , these cylinder shaped objects had an audio recording engraved on the outside surface which could be reproduced when the cylinder was...

, with which it had co-existed, by the 1920s. By the late 1980s, digital media
Digital audio
Digital audio is sound reproduction using pulse-code modulation and digital signals. Digital audio systems include analog-to-digital conversion , digital-to-analog conversion , digital storage, processing and transmission components...

 had gained a larger market share, and the vinyl record left the mainstream in 1991. However, they continue to be manufactured and sold in the 21st century. The vinyl record regained popularity by 2008, with nearly 2.9 million units shipped that year, the most in any year since 1998 and the format has continued to slowly regain popularity. They are especially used by DJs and audiophile
Audiophile
An audiophile is a person who enjoys listening to recorded music, usually in a home. Some audiophiles are more interested in collecting and listening to music, while others are more interested in collecting and listening to audio components, whose "sound quality" they consider as important as the...

s for many types of music. As of 2011, vinyl records continue to be used for distribution of independent and alternative music artists. More mainstream pop music
Pop music
Pop music is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented toward a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.- Definitions :David Hatch and Stephen Millward define pop...

 releases tend to be mostly sold in compact disc or other digital formats, but have still been released in vinyl in certain instances.

Early history

The phonautograph
Phonautograph
The phonautograph is the earliest known device for recording sound. Previously, tracings had been obtained of the sound-producing vibratory motions of tuning forks and other objects by physical contact with them, but not of actual sound waves as they propagated through air or other media. Invented...

, patented by Léon Scott
Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville
Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville was a French printer and bookseller who lived in Paris. He invented the earliest known sound recording device, the phonautograph, which was patented in France on 25 March 1857....

 in 1857, used a vibrating diaphragm and stylus to graphically record sound waves as tracings on sheets of paper, purely for visual analysis and without any idea of playing them back. These tracings can now be scanned and digitally converted into audible sound. Phonautograms of singing and speech made by Scott in 1860 were played back as sound for the first time in 2008. Along with a tuning fork tone and unintelligible snippets recorded as early as 1857, these are the earliest known recordings of sound.

In 1877, Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. In addition, he created the world’s first industrial...

 invented the phonograph
Phonograph
The phonograph record player, or gramophone is a device introduced in 1877 that has had continued common use for reproducing sound recordings, although when first developed, the phonograph was used to both record and reproduce sounds...

. Unlike the phonautograph, it was capable of both recording and reproducing sound. Despite the similarity of name, there is no documentary evidence that Edison's phonograph was based on Scott's phonautograph. Edison first tried recording sound on a wax-impregnated paper tape, with the idea of creating a "telephone
Telephone
The telephone , colloquially referred to as a phone, is a telecommunications device that transmits and receives sounds, usually the human voice. Telephones are a point-to-point communication system whose most basic function is to allow two people separated by large distances to talk to each other...

 repeater" analogous to the "telegraph repeater" he had been working on. Although the visible results made him confident that sound could be physically recorded and reproduced, his notes do not indicate that he actually reproduced sound before his first experiment using tinfoil as a recording medium several months later. The tinfoil was wrapped around a grooved metal cylinder and a sound-vibrated stylus indented the tinfoil while the cylinder was rotated. The recording could be played back immediately. The Scientific American
Scientific American
Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics...

 article that introduced the tinfoil phonograph to the public mentioned Marey, Rosapelly and Barlow as well as Scott as creators of devices for recording but, importantly, not reproducing sound. Edison also invented variations of the phonograph that used tape and disc formats. Numerous applications for the phonograph were envisioned, but although it enjoyed a brief vogue as a startling novelty at public demonstrations, the tinfoil phonograph proved too crude to be put to any practical use. A decade later, Edison developed a greatly improved phonograph that employed a hollow wax cylinder instead of a foil sheet. This proved to be both a better-sounding and far more useful device. The wax phonograph cylinder
Phonograph cylinder
Phonograph cylinders were the earliest commercial medium for recording and reproducing sound. Commonly known simply as "records" in their era of greatest popularity , these cylinder shaped objects had an audio recording engraved on the outside surface which could be reproduced when the cylinder was...

 created the recorded sound market at the end of the 1880s and dominated it through the early years of the 20th century.

Lateral-cut disc records were developed in the US by Emile Berliner
Emile Berliner
Emile Berliner or Emil Berliner was a German-born American inventor. He is best known for developing the disc record gramophone...

, who named his system the "gramophone", distinguishing it from Edison's wax cylinder "phonograph" and Columbia's wax cylinder "graphophone". Berliner's earliest discs, first marketed in 1889 but only in Europe, were 5 inches in diameter and were played with a small hand-propelled machine. Both the records and the machine were adequate only for use as a toy or curiosity. In the US in 1894, under the Berliner Gramophone
Berliner Gramophone
Berliner Gramophone was an early record label, the first company to produce disc "gramophone records" .-History:...

 trademark, Berliner started marketing 7-inch gramophone records with somewhat more substantial entertainment value, along with somewhat more substantial gramophones to play them. Berliner's records had poor sound quality compared to wax cylinders, but his manufacturing associate Eldridge R. Johnson
Eldridge R. Johnson
Eldridge Reeves Johnson co-created the Victor Talking Machine Company alongside Emile Berliner, a United States corporation, and built it into the leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time.In...

 eventually improved them. Abandoning Berliner's "Gramophone" trademark for legal reasons, in 1901 Johnson's and Berliner's separate companies reorganized to form the Victor Talking Machine Company
Victor Talking Machine Company
The Victor Talking Machine Company was an American corporation, the leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time. It was headquartered in Camden, New Jersey....

, whose products would come to dominate the market for many years.

In 1901, 10-inch disc records were introduced, followed in 1903 by 12-inch records. These could play for more than three and four minutes respectively, while contemporary cylinders could only play for about two minutes. In an attempt to head off the disc advantage, Edison introduced the Amberol cylinder in 1909, with a maximum playing time of 4½ minutes (at 160 rpm), to be in turn superseded by the Blue Amberol Record
Blue Amberol Records
Blue Amberol Records was the trademarked name for cylinder recordings manufactured by the Edison company in the U.S. from 1912 to 1929. They were issued as a replacement to the 4 minute black wax Amberol cylinder introduced in 1908 which in turn replaced the 2 minute wax cylinders that Edison had...

 with a playing surface made of celluloid
Celluloid
Celluloid is the name of a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor, plus dyes and other agents. Generally regarded to be the first thermoplastic, it was first created as Parkesine in 1862 and as Xylonite in 1869, before being registered as Celluloid in 1870. Celluloid is...

, an early plastic which was far less fragile. Despite these improvements, during the 1910s discs decisively won this early format war, although Edison continued to produce new Blue Amberol cylinders for an ever-dwindling customer base until late in 1929. By 1919 the basic patents for the manufacture of lateral-cut disc records had expired, opening the field for countless companies to produce them. Analog disc records would dominate the home entertainment market until they were gradually supplanted by the digital compact disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

, introduced in 1983.

78 rpm disc developments

Early speeds

Early disc recordings were produced in a variety of speeds ranging from 60 to 130 rpm, and a variety of sizes. As early as 1894, Emile Berliner
Emile Berliner
Emile Berliner or Emil Berliner was a German-born American inventor. He is best known for developing the disc record gramophone...

's United States Gramophone Company
Gramophone Company
The Gramophone Company, based in the United Kingdom, was one of the early recording companies, and was the parent organization for the famous "His Master's Voice" label...

 was selling single-sided 7" discs with an advertised standard speed of "about 70 rpm".

One standard audio recording handbook describes speed regulators or "governor
Governor (device)
A governor, or speed limiter, is a device used to measure and regulate the speed of a machine, such as an engine. A classic example is the centrifugal governor, also known as the Watt or fly-ball governor, which uses a rotating assembly of weights mounted on arms to determine how fast the engine...

s" as being part of a wave of improvement introduced rapidly after 1897. A picture of a hand-cranked 1898 Berliner Gramophone shows a governor. It says that spring drives replaced hand drives. It notes that:

"The speed regulator was furnished with an indicator that showed the speed when the machine was running so that the records, on reproduction, could be revolved at exactly the same speed...The literature does not disclose why 78 rpm was chosen for the phonograph industry, apparently this just happened to be the speed created by one of the early machines and, for no other reason continued to be used."


By 1925, the speed of the record was becoming standardized at a nominal
Real versus nominal value
In economics, nominal value refers to a value expressed in money terms in a given year or series of years. By contrast, real value adjusts nominal value to remove effects of price changes over time...

 value of 78 revolutions per minute (rpm). However, the standard was to differ between countries with their alternating current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

 electricity supply running at 60 cycles per second (now Hertz) and the rest of the world. The actual 78 speed within 60-cycle countries was 78.26 rpm, being the speed of a 3600 rpm synchronous motor reduced by 46:1 gearing. Throughout other countries, 77.92 rpm was adopted being the speed of a 3000 rpm synchronous motor powered by a 50 Hz supply and reduced by 77:2 gearing.

Acoustic recording

Early recordings were made entirely acoustically, the sound being collected by a horn and piped to a diaphragm
Diaphragm (acoustics)
In the field of acoustics, a diaphragm is a transducer intended to faithfully inter-convert mechanical motion and sound. It is commonly constructed of a thin membrane or sheet of various materials. The varying air pressure of the sound waves imparts vibrations onto the diaphragm which can then be...

 which vibrated the cutting stylus. Sensitivity and frequency range were poor, and frequency response was very irregular, giving acoustic recordings an instantly recognizable tonal quality. A singer practically had to put his face in the recording horn. Lower orchestral instruments such as cello
Cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

s and double bass
Double bass
The double bass, also called the string bass, upright bass, standup bass or contrabass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2...

es were often doubled (or replaced) by louder wind instruments, such as tuba
Tuba
The tuba is the largest and lowest-pitched brass instrument. Sound is produced by vibrating or "buzzing" the lips into a large cupped mouthpiece. It is one of the most recent additions to the modern symphony orchestra, first appearing in the mid-19th century, when it largely replaced the...

s. Standard violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

s in orchestral ensembles were commonly replaced by Stroh violin
Stroh violin
Stroh violin, Strohviol, or Strohviol, is a trade name for a horn-violin, or violinophone—a violin that amplifies its sound through a metal resonator and metal horns rather than a wooden sound box as on a standard violin. The instrument is named after its designer, John Matthias Augustus Stroh, an...

s which became popular with recording studios.

Contrary to popular belief, if placed properly and prepared-for, drums could be effectively used and heard on even the earliest jazz and military band recordings. The loudest instruments stood the farthest away from the collecting horn. Lillian Hardin Armstrong, a member of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band that recorded at Gennett Records
Gennett Records
Gennett was a United States based record label which flourished in the 1920s.-Label history:Gennett records was founded in Richmond, Indiana by the Starr Piano Company, and released its first records in October 1917. The company took its name from its top managers: Harry, Fred and Clarence Gennett....

 in 1923, remembered that at first Oliver and his young second trumpet, Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

, stood next to each other and Oliver's horn couldn't be heard. "They put Louis about fifteen feet over in the corner, looking all sad."

"Electrical" recording

During the first half of the 1920s, engineers at Western Electric
Western Electric
Western Electric Company was an American electrical engineering company, the manufacturing arm of AT&T from 1881 to 1995. It was the scene of a number of technological innovations and also some seminal developments in industrial management...

, as well as independent inventors such as Orlando Marsh
Orlando R. Marsh
Orlando R. Marsh was an electrical engineer raised in Wilmette, Illinois. In early 1920s Chicago, Illinois he pioneered electrical recording of phonograph discs with microphones when acoustic recording with horns was commonplace...

, developed technology for capturing sound with a microphone, amplifying it with vacuum tube
Vacuum tube
In electronics, a vacuum tube, electron tube , or thermionic valve , reduced to simply "tube" or "valve" in everyday parlance, is a device that relies on the flow of electric current through a vacuum...

s, then using the amplified signal to drive an electromagnetic recording head. Western Electric's innovations resulted in a greatly expanded and more even frequency response, creating a dramatically fuller, clearer and more natural-sounding recording. Distant or feeble sounds that were impossible to record by the old method could now be captured. Volume was limited only by the groove spacing on the record and the limitations of the intended playback device. Victor and Columbia licensed the new system from Western Electric and began issuing electrically recorded discs in 1925.

Although the technology used vacuum tubes and today would be described as "electronic," at the time it was referred to as "electrical." A 1926 Wanamaker's ad in The New York Times offers records "by the latest Victor process of electrical recording." It was recognized as a breakthrough; in 1930, a Times music critic stated:
"...the time has come for serious musical criticism to take account of performances of great music reproduced by means of the records. To claim that the records have succeeded in exact and complete reproduction of all details of symphonic or operatic performances... would be extravagant. [But] the article of today is so far in advance of the old machines as hardly to admit classification under the same name. Electrical recording and reproduction have combined to retain vitality and color in recitals by proxy."


Electrical recording preceded electrical home reproduction because of the initial high cost of the electronics. In 1925, the Victor company introduced the groundbreaking Victor Orthophonic Victrola
Victor Orthophonic Victrola
The Victor Orthophonic Victrola first demonstrated publicly in 1925, was the first consumer phonograph designed specifically to play "electrically" recorded disks. The combination was recognized instantly as a major step forward in sound reproduction....

, an acoustical record player that was specifically designed to play electrically recorded discs, as part of a line that also included electrically reproducing "Electrolas." The acoustical Orthophonics ranged in price from US$95 to $300, depending on cabinetry; by comparison, the cheapest Electrola cost US$650, the price of a new Ford automobile in an era when clerical jobs paid about $20 a week.

The Orthophonic had an interior folded exponential horn, a sophisticated design informed by impedance-matching and transmission-line theory, and designed to provide a relatively flat frequency response. Its first public demonstration was front-page news in the New York Times, which reported that:
"The audience broke into applause... John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known particularly for American military and patriotic marches. Because of his mastery of march composition, he is known as "The March King" or the "American March King" due to his British counterpart Kenneth J....

 [said]: '[Gentlemen], that is a band. This is the first time I have ever heard music with any soul to it produced by a mechanical talking machine.' ... The new instrument is a feat of mathematics and physics. It is not the result of innumerable experiments, but was worked out on paper in advance of being built in the laboratory.... The new machine has a range of from 100 to 5,000 [cycles], or five and a half octaves.... The 'phonograph tone' is eliminated by the new recording and reproducing process."


Gradually, electrical reproduction entered the home. The spring motor was replaced by an electric motor. The old "sound box" with its needle-linked diaphragm was replaced by an electromagnetic "pickup" that converted the needle vibrations into an electrical signal. The "tone arm" now served to conduct a pair of wires, not sound waves, into the cabinet. The exponential horn was replaced by an amplifier and a loudspeaker.

78 rpm materials

The earliest disc records (1889-1894) were made of various materials including hard rubber
Rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

. Around 1895, a shellac-based compound was introduced and became standard. Exact formulas for this compound varied by manufacturer and over the course of time, but it was typically composed of about one-third shellac and about two-thirds "mineral filler", which meant finely pulverized rock, usually slate and limestone, with an admixture of cotton fibers to add tensile strength, carbon black for color (without this, it tended to be a "dirty" gray or brown color that most record companies considered unattractive), and a very small amount of a lubricant to facilitate mold release during manufacture. Some makers, notably Columbia Records, used a laminated construction with a core disc of coarser material or fiber. The production of shellac records continued until the end of the 78 rpm format (i.e., the late 1950s in most developed countries but well into the 1960s in some other places), but increasingly less abrasive formulations were used during its declining years and very late examples in truly like-new condition can be nearly as noiseless as vinyl.

Flexible or so-called "unbreakable" records made of unusual materials were introduced by a number of manufacturers at various times during the 78 rpm era. In the UK, Nicole records, made of celluloid
Celluloid
Celluloid is the name of a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor, plus dyes and other agents. Generally regarded to be the first thermoplastic, it was first created as Parkesine in 1862 and as Xylonite in 1869, before being registered as Celluloid in 1870. Celluloid is...

 or a similar substance coated onto a cardboard core disc, were produced for a few years beginning in 1904, but they suffered from an exceptionally high level of surface noise. In the US, Columbia Records introduced flexible, fiber-cored "Marconi Record" pressings in 1907, but the advantages and longevity of their relatively noiseless surfaces depended on the scrupulous use of special gold-plated Marconi Needles and the product was not a success. Thin, flexible plastic records such as the German Phonycord and the British Filmophone and Goodson records appeared around 1930 but also did not last long. The contemporary French Pathé Cellodiscs, made of a very thin black plastic which uncannily resembles the vinyl "sound sheet" magazine inserts of the 1965-1985 era, were similarly short-lived. In the US, Hit of the Week Records
Hit of the Week Records
Hit of the Week Records was a record label based in the United States of America in the early 1930s. Distinctively, "Hit of the Week"s were made not of shellac as was usual for gramophone record of the era, but of a patented blend of paper and resin called Durium...

, made of a transparent plastic called Durium coated on a heavy brown paper base, were introduced in early 1930. A new issue came out every week and they were available at newsstands like a weekly magazine. Although inexpensive and moderately popular at first, they soon fell victim to the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 and production ceased in the US in 1932. Related Durium records continued to be made somewhat later in the UK and elsewhere, and as remarkably late as 1950 in Italy, where the name "Durium" survived far into the LP
LP record
The LP, or long-playing microgroove record, is a format for phonograph records, an analog sound storage medium. Introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry...

 era as a trademark on ordinary vinyl records. Despite all these attempts at innovation, shellac compounds continued to be used for the overwhelming majority of commercial 78 rpm records during the life of the format.

In 1931, RCA Victor introduced their vinyl-based "Victrolac" compound as a material for some unusual-format and special-purpose records. By the end of the 1930s vinyl's advantages of light weight, relative unbreakability and low surface noise had made it the material of choice for prerecorded radio programming and a number of other uses. When it came to ordinary 78 rpm records, however, the much higher cost of the raw material, as well as its vulnerability to the heavy pickups and crudely mass-produced steel needles still commonly used in home record players, made its general substitution for shellac impractical at that time. During the Second World War, the US Armed Forces produced thousands of 12-inch 78 rpm V-Discs for use by the troops overseas, as well as 16-inch 33 1/3 rpm War Department radio transcriptions, all of which were made of vinyl. After the war, the wider use of vinyl became more practical as new record players with lightweight ceramic pickups and precision styli made of sapphire
Sapphire
Sapphire is a gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminium oxide , when it is a color other than red or dark pink; in which case the gem would instead be called a ruby, considered to be a different gemstone. Trace amounts of other elements such as iron, titanium, or chromium can give...

 or a very hard and durable osmium
Osmium
Osmium is a chemical element with the symbol Os and atomic number 76. Osmium is a hard, brittle, blue-gray or blue-blacktransition metal in the platinum family, and is the densest natural element. Osmium is twice as dense as lead. The density of osmium is , slightly greater than that of iridium,...

 alloy started to proliferate. Victor issued some classical music on transparent red vinyl "De Luxe" 78s at a de luxe price, and Decca introduced vinyl "Deccalite" 78s, but other labels confined their use of vinyl to the special thin vinyl DJ pressings of 78s commonly mailed to radio stations during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

78 rpm disc size

In the 1890s, the recording formats
Recording formats
A recording format is a format for encoding data for storage on a storage medium. The format can be container information such as sectors on a disk, or user/audience information such as analog stereo audio. Multiple levels of encoding may be achieved in one format...

 of the earliest (toy) discs were mainly 12.5 cm (nominally five inches) in diameter; by the mid-1890s, the discs were usually seven inches (nominally 17.5 cm) in diameter. By 1910 the 10-inch (25.4 cm) record was by far the most popular standard, holding about three minutes of music or entertainment
Entertainment
Entertainment consists of any activity which provides a diversion or permits people to amuse themselves in their leisure time. Entertainment is generally passive, such as watching opera or a movie. Active forms of amusement, such as sports, are more often considered to be recreation...

 on a side. From 1903 onwards, 12-inch records (30.5 cm) were also sold commercially, mostly of classical music or opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

tic selections, with four to five minutes of music per side. Victor, Brunswick and Columbia also issued 12" popular medleys, usually spotlighting a Broadway show score. However, other sizes did appear. Eight-inch discs with a 2 inches (50.8 mm) label became popular for about a decade in Britain, but they cannot be played in full on most modern record players because the tone arm cannot play far enough in toward the center without modification of the equipment.

78 rpm recording time

The playing time of a phonograph record depended on the turntable speed and the groove spacing. At the beginning of the 20th century, the early discs played for two minutes, the same as early cylinder records. The 12-inch disc, introduced by Victor in 1903, increased the playing time to three and a half minutes. Because a 10-inch 78 rpm record could hold about three minutes of sound per side and the 10-inch size was the standard size for popular music, almost all popular recordings were limited to around three minutes in length.

For example, when King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, including Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

 on his first recordings, recorded 13 sides at Gennett Records
Gennett Records
Gennett was a United States based record label which flourished in the 1920s.-Label history:Gennett records was founded in Richmond, Indiana by the Starr Piano Company, and released its first records in October 1917. The company took its name from its top managers: Harry, Fred and Clarence Gennett....

 in Richmond, Indiana, in 1923, one side was 2:09 and four sides were 2:52–2:59.

By 1938, when Milt Gabler
Milt Gabler
Milton Gabler was an American record producer, responsible for many innovations in the recording industry of the 20th century.-Early life:...

 started recording on January 17 for his new label, Commodore Records
Commodore Records
Commodore Records was a United States-based independent record label known for issuing many well regarded recordings of jazz and swing music....

, to allow longer continuous performances, he recorded some 12" records. Eddie Condon
Eddie Condon
Albert Edwin Condon , better known as Eddie Condon, was a jazz banjoist, guitarist, and bandleader. A leading figure in the so-called "Chicago school" of early Dixieland, he also played piano and sang on occasion....

 explained: "Gabler realized that a jam session needs room for development." The first two 12" recordings did not take advantage of the extra length: "Carnegie Drag" was 3:15; "Carnegie Jump", 2:41. But, at the second session, on April 30, the two 12" recordings were longer: "Embraceable You" was 4:05; "Serenade to a Shylock", 4:32.

Another way around the time limitation was to issue a selection on both sides of a single record. Vaudeville stars Gallagher and Shean
Gallagher and Shean
Gallagher & Shean was a highly successful double act on vaudeville and Broadway in the 1910s and 1920s, consisting of Edward Gallagher and Al Shean .-Career:...

, recorded "Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean", written by Irving and Jack Kaufman, as two-sides of a 10" 78 in 1922 for Cameo
Cameo Records
Cameo was a USA based budget record label, first flourishing in the 1920s, not connected with a later record label of the same name which was active in the 1950s and 1960s.The Cameo Record Company was based in Manhattan, New York...

.

An obvious workaround for longer recordings was to release a set of records. An early multi-record release was in 1903, when HMV
HMV
His Master's Voice is a trademark in the music business, and for many years was the name of a large record label. The name was coined in 1899 as the title of a painting of the dog Nipper listening to a wind-up gramophone...

 in England made the first complete recording of an opera, Verdi's Ernani
Ernani
Ernani is an operatic dramma lirico in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play Hernani by Victor Hugo. The first production took place at La Fenice Theatre, Venice on 9 March 1844...

, on 40 single-sided discs. In 1940, Commodore released Eddie Condon
Eddie Condon
Albert Edwin Condon , better known as Eddie Condon, was a jazz banjoist, guitarist, and bandleader. A leading figure in the so-called "Chicago school" of early Dixieland, he also played piano and sang on occasion....

 and his Band's recording of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find
A Good Man Is Hard To Find
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by American author Flannery O'Connor. The collection was first published in 1955...

" in four parts, issued on both sides of two 12" 78s.

This limitation on the duration of recordings persisted from 1910 until the invention of the LP record
LP record
The LP, or long-playing microgroove record, is a format for phonograph records, an analog sound storage medium. Introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry...

, in 1948.

In popular music, this time limitation of about 3:30 on a 10" 78 rpm record meant that singers usually did not release long pieces on record. One exception is Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

's recording of Rodgers
Richard Rodgers
Richard Charles Rodgers was an American composer of music for more than 900 songs and for 43 Broadway musicals. He also composed music for films and television. He is best known for his songwriting partnerships with the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II...

 and Hammerstein
Oscar Hammerstein II
Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II was an American librettist, theatrical producer, and theatre director of musicals for almost forty years. Hammerstein won eight Tony Awards and was twice awarded an Academy Award for "Best Original Song". Many of his songs are standard repertoire for...

's "Soliloquy
Soliloquy (song)
"Soliloquy" is a 1945 song composed by Richard Rodgers, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, written for their 1945 musical Carousel, where it was introduced by John Raitt....

", from Carousel
Carousel (musical)
Carousel is the second stage musical by the team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II . The work premiered in 1945 and was adapted from Ferenc Molnár's 1909 play Liliom, transplanting its Budapest setting to the Maine coastline...

, made on May 28, 1946. Because it ran 7:57, longer than both sides of a standard 78 rpm 10" record, it was released on Columbia
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

's Masterwork label (the classical division) as two sides of a 12" record.

In the 78 era, classical-music and spoken-word items generally were released on the longer 12" 78s, about 4–5 minutes per side. For example, on June 10, 1924, four months after the February 12 premier of Rhapsody in Blue
Rhapsody in Blue
Rhapsody in Blue is a musical composition by George Gershwin for solo piano and jazz band written in 1924, which combines elements of classical music with jazz-influenced effects....

, George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

 recorded it with Paul Whiteman
Paul Whiteman
Paul Samuel Whiteman was an American bandleader and orchestral director.Leader of the most popular dance bands in the United States during the 1920s, Whiteman's recordings were immensely successful, and press notices often referred to him as the "King of Jazz"...

 and His Orchestra. It was released on two sides of Victor 55225 and runs 8:59.

Record albums

Such 78 rpm records were usually sold separately, in brown paper or cardboard sleeves that were sometimes plain and sometimes printed to show the producer or the retailer's name. Generally the sleeves had a circular cut-out allowing the record label to be seen. Records could be laid on a shelf horizontally or stood upright on an edge, but because of their fragility, many broke in storage.

German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 record company Odeon
Odeon Records
Odeon Records was a record label founded in 1903 by Max Straus and Heinrich Zuntz of the International Talking Machine Company in Berlin, Germany. It was named after a famous theatre in Paris, whose classical dome appears on the Odeon record label....

 is often said to have pioneered the "album" in 1909 when it released the "Nutcracker Suite" by Tchaikovsky on 4 double-sided discs in a specially designed package. http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/recording/notes.html#cylinder (It is not indicated what size the records are.) However, Deutsche Grammophon
Deutsche Grammophon
Deutsche Grammophon is a German classical record label which was the foundation of the future corporation to be known as PolyGram. It is now part of Universal Music Group since its acquisition and absorption of PolyGram in 1999, and it is also UMG's oldest active label...

 had produced an album for its complete recording of the opera Carmen
Carmen
Carmen is a French opéra comique by Georges Bizet. The libretto is by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on the novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée, first published in 1845, itself possibly influenced by the narrative poem The Gypsies by Alexander Pushkin...

 in the previous year. The practice of issuing albums does not seem to have been widely taken up by other record companies for many years; however, HMV
HMV
His Master's Voice is a trademark in the music business, and for many years was the name of a large record label. The name was coined in 1899 as the title of a painting of the dog Nipper listening to a wind-up gramophone...

 provided an album, with a pictorial cover, for the 1917 recording of The Mikado
The Mikado
The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaborations...

 (Gilbert & Sullivan).

By about 1910A catalogue issued in 1911 by Barnes & Mullins, musical-instrument dealers of London, illustrates examples in both 10" and 12" sizes; one is shown containing two records issued by Gramophone & Typewriter Ltd no later than 1908, suggesting that the image is several years old. bound collections of empty sleeves with a paperboard
Paperboard
Paperboard is a thick paper based material. While there is no rigid differentiation between paper and paperboard, paperboard is generally thicker than paper. According to ISO standards, paperboard is a paper with a basis weight above 224 g/m2, but there are exceptions. Paperboard can be single...

 or leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

 cover, similar to a photograph album, were sold as "record albums" that customers could use to store their records (the term "record album" was printed on some covers). These albums came in both 10" and 12" sizes. The covers of these bound books were wider and taller than the records inside, allowing the record album to be placed on a shelf upright, like a book, suspending the fragile records above the shelf and protecting them.

Starting in the 1930s, record companies began issuing collections of 78 rpm records by one performer or of one type of music in specially assembled albums, typically with artwork on the front cover and liner notes on the back or inside cover. Most albums included 3 or 4 records, with 2 sides each, making 6 or 8 tunes
Musical composition
Musical composition can refer to an original piece of music, the structure of a musical piece, or the process of creating a new piece of music. People who practice composition are called composers.- Musical compositions :...

 per album. When the 12-inch vinyl LP era began in 1949, the single record often had the same or similar number of tunes as a typical album of 78s, and was still often referred to as an "album".

A small number of 78 RPM records have been released after the major labels ceased production, for collectable or nostalgia purposes. Underground comic cartoonist and 78 RPM record collector Robert Crumb
Robert Crumb
Robert Dennis Crumb —known as Robert Crumb and R. Crumb—is an American artist, illustrator, and musician recognized for the distinctive style of his drawings and his critical, satirical, subversive view of the American mainstream.Crumb was a founder of the underground comix movement and is regarded...

 released three discs with his Cheap Suit Serenaders
R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders
R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders are a string band playing songs from, and in the style of, the 1920s. Their three 33⅓ rpm albums, all recorded in the 1970s on the Blue Goose label, were titled R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders , R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders No. 2 , and R....

. More recently, The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band
The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band
The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band is a three-piece American country blues band from Brown County, Indiana. They play more than 250 dates per year at venues ranging from bars to festivals. To date, they have released seven albums, the most recent is Peyton on Patton a tribute to blues pioneer...

 has released their tribute to blues guitarist Charley Patton Peyton on Patton on both 12" LP and 10" 78 RPM. Both are accompanied with a link to a digital download of the music, acknowledging the probability that purchasers may be unable to play the vinyl recording.

New sizes and materials

Both the microgroove LP
LP record
The LP, or long-playing microgroove record, is a format for phonograph records, an analog sound storage medium. Introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry...

 33⅓ rpm record and the 45 rpm single records are made from vinyl plastic that is flexible and unbreakable in normal use. However, the vinyl records are easier to scratch or gouge, and much more prone to warping.

In 1931, RCA Victor
RCA Records
RCA Records is one of the flagship labels of Sony Music Entertainment. The RCA initials stand for Radio Corporation of America , which was the parent corporation from 1929 to 1985 and a partner from 1985 to 1986.RCA's Canadian unit is Sony's oldest label...

 (which evolved from the Johnson and Berliner's Victor Talking Machine Company) launched the first commercially available vinyl long-playing record, marketed as "Program Transcription" discs. These revolutionary discs were designed for playback at 33⅓ rpm and pressed on a 30 cm diameter flexible plastic disc, with a duration of about ten minutes playing time per side. In Roland Gelatt's book The Fabulous Phonograph, the author notes that RCA Victor's early introduction of a long-play disc was a commercial failure for several reasons including the lack of affordable, reliable consumer playback equipment and consumer wariness during the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. Because of financial hardships that plagued the recording industry during that period (and RCA's own parched revenues), Victor's "long playing" records were quietly discontinued by early 1933.

There was also a small batch of "longer playing" records issued in the very early 1930s: Columbia introduced 10" 'longer playing' records (18000-D series), as well as a series of double-grooved or longer playing 10" records on their Harmony, Clarion & Velvet Tone cheap labels. All of these were phased out in mid-1932.

However, vinyl's lower surface noise level than shellac
Shellac
Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug, on trees in the forests of India and Thailand. It is processed and sold as dry flakes , which are dissolved in ethyl alcohol to make liquid shellac, which is used as a brush-on colorant, food glaze and wood finish...

 was not forgotten, nor was its durability. In the late '30s, radio commercial
Radio commercial
Commercial radio stations make most of their revenue selling “airtime” to advertisers. Of total media expenditures, radio accounts for 6.9%. Radio advertisements or “spots” are available when a business or service provides valuable consideration, usually cash, in exchange for the station airing...

s and pre-recorded radio programs being sent to disc jockeys started being stamped in vinyl, so they would not break in the mail. In the mid-1940s, special DJ copies of records started being made of vinyl also, for the same reason. These were all 78 rpm. During and after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, when shellac supplies were extremely limited, some 78 rpm records were pressed in vinyl instead of shellac, particularly the six-minute 12-inch (30 cm) 78 rpm records produced by V-Disc
V-Disc
V-Disc was a morale-boosting initiative involving the production of several series of recordings during the World War II era by special arrangement between the United States government and various private U.S. record companies. The records were produced for the use of United States military...

 for distribution to US troops in World War II. In the '40s, radio transcriptions, which were usually on 16-inch records, but sometimes 12-inch, were always made of vinyl, but cut at 33⅓ rpm. Shorter transcriptions were often cut at 78 rpm.

Beginning in 1939, Dr. Peter Goldmark
Peter Carl Goldmark
Peter Carl Goldmark was a German-Hungarian engineer who, during his time with Columbia Records, was instrumental in developing the long-playing microgroove 33-1/3 rpm vinyl phonograph disc, the standard for incorporating multiple or lengthy recorded works on a single disc for two generations...

 and his staff at Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

 undertook efforts to address problems of recording and playing back narrow grooves and developing an inexpensive, reliable consumer playback system. The 12-inch (30 cm) Long Play (LP
LP record
The LP, or long-playing microgroove record, is a format for phonograph records, an analog sound storage medium. Introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry...

) 33⅓ rpm microgroove record album was introduced by the Columbia Record Company
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

 at a New York press conference on June 21, 1948.

Unwilling to accept and license Columbia's system, in February 1949 RCA Victor released the first 45 rpm single, 7 inches in diameter with a large center hole. The 45 rpm player included a changing mechanism that allowed multiple disks to be stacked, much as a conventional changer handled 78s. The short playing time of a single 45 rpm side meant that long works, such as symphonies, had to be released on multiple 45s (rather than a single LP), but RCA claimed that the new high-speed changer rendered side breaks so brief as to be inaudible or inconsequential. Early 45 rpm records were made from either vinyl or polystyrene
Polystyrene
Polystyrene ) also known as Thermocole, abbreviated following ISO Standard PS, is an aromatic polymer made from the monomer styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon that is manufactured from petroleum by the chemical industry...

. They had a playing time of eight minutes.

Another size and format was that of radio transcription discs beginning in the 1940s. These records were usually vinyl, 33 RPM, and 16 inches in diameter. No home record player could accommodate such large records, and they were used mainly by radio stations. They were on average 15 minutes per side and contained several songs or radio program material. These records became less common when tape recorders began being used for radio transcriptions around 1949.

On a small number of early phonograph systems and radio
Radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 transcription discs, as well as some entire albums, the direction of the groove is reversed, beginning near the center of the disc and leading to the outside. A small number of records (such as Jeff Mills
Jeff Mills
Jeff Mills is an American techno DJ and producer.-Career:Starting in the early 1980s, Mills, using the name "The Wizard", was a recurring guest DJ on "The Electrifying Mojo" radio show on WJLB...

' Apollo EP or the Hidden In Plainsight EP from Detroit's Underground Resistance
Underground Resistance
Underground Resistance is a musical collective from Detroit, Michigan, in the United States of America. They are the most militantly political example of modern Detroit Techno, with a grungy, four-track musical aesthetic and a strictly anti-mainstream business strategy...

) were manufactured with multiple separate grooves to differentiate the tracks (usually called 'NSC-X2').

Speeds

The earliest rotation speeds varied widely. Most records made in 1900–1925 were recorded at 74–82 revolutions per minute
Revolutions per minute
Revolutions per minute is a measure of the frequency of a rotation. It annotates the number of full rotations completed in one minute around a fixed axis...

 (rpm). Edison Disc Record
Edison Disc Record
The Edison Disc, also known as a Diamond Disc record, was a type of audio disc record marketed by Edison Records from 1912 to 1929. They were known as Diamond disc because the reproducer fitted to the matching Edison disc player was fitted with a diamond stylus...

s consistently ran at 80 rpm.

One early attempt at lengthening the playing time should be mentioned. At least one manufacturer in the early 1920s, World Records, produced records that played at a constant linear velocity
Constant linear velocity
In optical storage, constant linear velocity is a qualifier for the rated speed of an optical disc drive, and may also be applied to the writing speed of recordable discs. CLV implies that the angular velocity varies during an operation, as contrasted with CAV modes...

, controlled by Noel Pemberton Billing
Noel Pemberton Billing
Noel Pemberton Billing was an English aviator, inventor, publisher, and Member of Parliament. He founded the firm that became Supermarine and promoted air power, but he held a strong antipathy towards the Royal Aircraft Factory and its products...

's patented add-on governor device. As these were played from the outside to the inside, the rotational speed of the records increased as reproduction progressed. This action is similar (although in reverse) to that on the modern Compact Disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

 and the CLV version of its predecessor, the Philips
Philips
Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. , more commonly known as Philips, is a multinational Dutch electronics company....

 Laser Disc.

In 1925, 78.26 rpm was chosen as the standard because of the introduction of the electrically powered synchronous turntable motor. This motor ran at 3600 rpm, such that a 46:1 gear ratio
Gear ratio
The gear ratio of a gear train is the ratio of the angular velocity of the input gear to the angular velocity of the output gear, also known as the speed ratio of the gear train. The gear ratio can be computed directly from the numbers of teeth of the various gears that engage to form the gear...

 would produce 78.26 rpm. In parts of the world that used 50 Hz current, the standard was 77.92 rpm (3000 rpm with a 77:2 ratio), which was also the speed at which a strobe disc with 77 lines would "stand still" in 50 Hz light (92 lines for 60 Hz). After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 these records were retroactively known
Retronym
A retronym is a type of neologism that provides a new name for an object or concept to differentiate the original form or version of it from a more recent form or version. The original name is most often augmented with an adjective to account for later developments of the object or concept itself...

 as 78s, to distinguish them from other newer disc record formats. Earlier they were just called records, or when there was a need to distinguish them from cylinders
Phonograph cylinder
Phonograph cylinders were the earliest commercial medium for recording and reproducing sound. Commonly known simply as "records" in their era of greatest popularity , these cylinder shaped objects had an audio recording engraved on the outside surface which could be reproduced when the cylinder was...

, disc records.

After World War II, two new competing formats came on to the market and gradually replaced the standard "78": the 33⅓ rpm (often just referred to as the 33 rpm), and the 45 rpm (see above). The 33⅓ rpm LP (for "long play") format was developed by Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

 and marketed
Marketing
Marketing is the process used to determine what products or services may be of interest to customers, and the strategy to use in sales, communications and business development. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business developments...

 in 1948. RCA Victor
RCA
RCA Corporation, founded as the Radio Corporation of America, was an American electronics company in existence from 1919 to 1986. The RCA trademark is currently owned by the French conglomerate Technicolor SA through RCA Trademark Management S.A., a company owned by Technicolor...

 developed the 45 rpm format and marketed it in 1949, in response to Columbia. Both types of new disc used narrower grooves, intended to be played with smaller stylus—typically 0.001 inches (25 µm) wide, compared to 0.003 inches (76 µm) for a 78—so the new records were sometimes called Microgroove. In the mid-1950s all record companies agreed to a common recording standard called RIAA equalization
RIAA equalization
RIAA equalization is a specification for the correct recording of gramophone records, established by the Recording Industry Association of America...

. Prior to the establishment of the standard each company used its own preferred standard, requiring discriminating listeners to use pre-amplifiers with multiple selectable equalization curves.

While stroboscopic speed checkers can be used to correctly adjust a turntable speed to 45 rpm in the U.S. where the stroboscope disc is illuminated by a lamp run from a 60 Hz supply, most strobes are slightly inaccurate where there is a 50 Hz supply. Using a conventional single segment per pulse, the nearest that can be achieved is 45.112+ rpm, which requires a disc with 133 segments. The difference amounts to the record sounding sharp by about a twenty-fifth of a semitone, i.e., practically unnoticeable. To construct a 50 Hz stroboscope disc that appears stationary at exactly 45 rpm is possible, and would require 400 segments advancing by 3 segments on each pulse of light.

(Dividing the strobe frequency (100 Hz as the lamp lights every half-cycle) by the record speed in revolutions per second (0.75 rev/sec for a 45 rpm record) and stating the answer as an improper fraction gives the number of segments in the numerator and the number of segments advanced in the denominator. In the example above: 100 Hz x 4/3 = 400/3, 400 segments, advancing 3 segments on each pulse of light. Compare with 60 Hz: 120 Hz x 4/3 = 160 segments, 1 segment per pulse.)

A number of recordings were pressed at 16⅔ rpm (usually a 7-inch disc, visually identical to a 45 rpm single). Peter Goldmark, the man who developed the 33⅓ rpm record, developed the Highway Hi-Fi
Highway Hi-Fi
Highway Hi-Fi was a system of proprietary players and seven-inch phonograph records with standard LP center holes designed for use in automobiles...

 16⅔ rpm record to be played in Chrysler automobiles, but poor performance of the system and weak implementation by Chrysler and Columbia led to the demise of the 16⅔ rpm records. Subsequently, the 16⅔ rpm speed was used for radio transcription discs or narrated publications for the blind and visually impaired, and were never widely commercially available, although it was common to see new turntable models with a 16 rpm speed setting produced as late as the 1970s.
Seeburg Corporation
Seeburg Corporation
Seeburg was an American design and manufacturing company of automated musical equipment, such as orchestrions, jukeboxes, and vending equipment.- History :...

 introduced the Seeburg Background Music System
Seeburg 1000
The Seeburg 1000 Background Music System is a phonograph designed and built by the Seeburg Corporation to play background music from special 16 RPM vinyl records in offices, restaurants, retail businesses, factories and similar locations. It provided a service similar to that of Muzak.- Phonograph...

 in 1959, using a 16⅔ rpm 9-inch record with 2-inch center hole. Each record held 40 minutes of music per side, recorded at 420 grooves per inch.

The older 78 format continued to be mass produced alongside the newer formats until about 1960 in the U.S., and in a few countries, such as India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 (where some Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

 recordings were issued on 78), into the 1960s. For example, Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

' last reissue of Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

 songs on 78 rpm records was an album called "Young at Heart", issued November 1, 1954. As late as the 1970s, some children's records were released at the 78 rpm speed. In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, the 78 rpm single lasted longer than in the United States and the 45 rpm took longer to become popular. The 78 rpm was overtaken in popularity by the 45 rpm in the late 1950s, as teenagers became increasingly affluent.

Some of Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

's early singles on Sun Records may have sold more copies on 78 than on 45. This is assumed because the majority of those sales in 1954-55 were to the "hillbilly" market in the South and Southwestern US, where replacing the family 78 rpm player with a new 45 rpm player was a luxury few could afford at the time. By the end of 1957, RCA Victor announced that 78s accounted for less than 10% of Presley's singles sales, essentially announcing the death throes of the 78 rpm format. The last Presley single released on 78 in the US was RCA Victor 20-7410, "I Got Stung" / "One Night" (1958), while the last 78 in the UK was RCA 1194, "A Mess Of Blues" / "Girl Of My Best Friend" (1960).

The commercial rivalry between RCA Victor and Columbia Records led to RCA Victor's introduction of what it had intended to be a competing vinyl format, the 7-inch (175 mm) 45 rpm disc. For a two-year period from 1948 to 1950, record companies and consumers faced uncertainty over which of these formats would ultimately prevail in what was known as the "War of the Speeds". (See also format war
Format war
A format war describes competition between mutually incompatible proprietary formats that compete for the same market, typically for data storage devices and recording formats for electronic media. It is often characterized by political and financial influence on content publishers by the...

.) In 1949 Capitol and Decca adopted the new LP format and RCA gave in and issued its first LP in January 1950. The 45 rpm size was gaining in popularity, too, and Columbia issued its first 45s in February 1951. By 1954, 200 million 45s had been sold.

Eventually the 12-inch (300 mm) 33⅓ rpm LP prevailed as the predominant format for musical albums and 10" LPs were no longer issued. The last Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

 reissue of any Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

 songs on a 10" LP record was an album called "Hall of Fame", CL 2600, issued October 26, 1956, containing six songs, one each by Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett is an American singer of popular music, standards, show tunes, and jazz....

, Rosemary Clooney
Rosemary Clooney
Rosemary Clooney was an American singer and actress. She came to prominence in the early 1950s with the novelty hit "Come On-a My House" written by William Saroyan and his cousin Ross Bagdasarian , which was followed by other pop numbers such as "Botch-a-Me" Rosemary Clooney (May 23, 1928 –...

, Johnny Ray
Johnny Ray
John Cornelius Ray is a former second baseman in Major League Baseball who had a 10-year career from 1981 to 1990. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League and the California Angels of the American League...

, Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

, Doris Day
Doris Day
Doris Day is an American actress, singer and, since her retirement from show business, an animal rights activist. With an entertainment career that spanned through almost 50 years, Day started her career as a big band singer in 1939, but only began to be noticed after her first hit recording,...

, and Frankie Laine
Frankie Laine
Frankie Laine, born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio , was a successful American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spanned 75 years, from his first concerts in 1930 with a marathon dance company to his final performance of "That's My Desire" in 2005...

. The 10" LP however had a longer life in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, where important early British rock and roll
British rock and roll
British rock and roll, or sometimes British rock 'n' roll, is a style of popular music based on American rock and roll, which emerged in the late 1950s and was popular until the arrival of beat music in 1962. It has generally been considered inferior to the American version of the genre, and made...

 albums such as Lonnie Donegan
Lonnie Donegan
Anthony James "Lonnie" Donegan MBE was a skiffle musician, with more than 20 UK Top 30 hits to his name. He is known as the "King of Skiffle" and is often cited as a large influence on the generation of British musicians who became famous in the 1960s...

's Lonnie Donegan Showcase and Billy Fury
Billy Fury
Billy Fury, born Ronald William Wycherley , was an internationally successful English singer from the late-1950s to the mid-1960s, and remained an active songwriter until the 1980s. Rheumatic fever, which he first contracted as a child, damaged his heart and ultimately contributed to his death...

's The Sound of Fury were released in that form. The 7-inch (175 mm) 45 rpm disc or "single" established a significant niche for shorter duration discs, typically containing one item on each side. The 45 rpm discs typically emulated the playing time of the former 78 rpm discs, while the 12" LP discs provided up to one half hour of time per side. The amount of music per LP varied from label to label and possibly from performer to performer. Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

's "A Swinging Affair", a monaural album, contained 15 songs and ran 50 minutes. Other albums by other performers could run as little as 30 or 35 minutes. After the introduction of stereophonic recording, record times dropped because, presumably, the early stereo groove was wider than the monaural groove.

The 45 rpm discs also came in a variety known as extended play
Extended play
An EP is a musical recording which contains more music than a single, but is too short to qualify as a full album or LP. The term EP originally referred only to specific types of vinyl records other than 78 rpm standard play records and LP records, but it is now applied to mid-length Compact...

 (EP) which achieved up to 10–15 minutes play at the expense of attenuating (and possibly compressing) the sound to reduce the width required by the groove. EP discs were generally used to reissue LP albums on the smaller format for those people who had only 45 rpm players. LP albums could be purchased 1 EP at a time, with four items per EP, or in a boxed set with 3 EPs or 12 items. The large center hole on 45s allows for easier handling by jukebox
Jukebox
A jukebox is a partially automated music-playing device, usually a coin-operated machine, that will play a patron's selection from self-contained media...

 mechanisms. EPs were generally discontinued by the late 1950s as three- and four-speed record players replaced the individual 45 players. One indication of the decline of the 45 rpm EP is that the last Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

 reissue of Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

 songs on 45 rpm EP records, called "Frank Sinatra" (Columbia B-2641) was issued December 7, 1959. However, the EP lasted considerably longer in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, and was a popular format during the 1960s
1960s
The 1960s was the decade that started on January 1, 1960, and ended on December 31, 1969. It was the seventh decade of the 20th century.The 1960s term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends across the globe...

 for recordings by artists such as Serge Gainsbourg
Serge Gainsbourg
Serge Gainsbourg, born Lucien Ginsburg was a French singer-songwriter, actor and director. Gainsbourg's extremely varied musical style and individuality make him difficult to categorize...

 and the Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, 45 rpm-only players that lacked speakers and plugged into a jack on the back of a radio were widely available. Eventually, they were replaced by the three–speed record player.

From the mid-1950s through the 1960s, in the U.S. the common home "record player" or "stereo" (after the introduction of stereo recording) would typically have had these features: a three- or four-speed player (78, 45, 33⅓, and sometimes 16⅔ rpm); with changer, a tall spindle that would hold several records and automatically drop a new record on top of the previous one when it had finished playing, a combination cartridge with both 78 and microgroove styli and a way to flip between the two; and some kind of adapter for playing the 45s with their larger center hole. The adapter could be a small solid circle that fit onto the bottom of the spindle (meaning only one 45 could be played at a time) or a larger adaptor that fit over the entire spindle, permitting a stack of 45s to be played.

RCA 45s were also adapted to the smaller spindle of an LP player with a plastic snap-in insert known as a "spider
45 rpm adapter
A 45 rpm adapter is a small plastic or metal insert that goes in the middle of a 45-rpm record so it will play on a turntable...

". These inserts, commissioned by RCA president David Sarnoff
David Sarnoff
David Sarnoff was an American businessman and pioneer of American commercial radio and television. He founded the National Broadcasting Company and throughout most of his career he led the Radio Corporation of America in various capacities from shortly after its founding in 1919 until his...

 and invented by Thomas Hutchison, were prevalent starting in the 1960s, selling in the tens of millions per year during the 45 rpm heyday. In countries outside of the U.S., 45s often had the smaller album-sized holes, e.g., Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, or as in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, especially before the 1970s, the disc had a small hole within a circular central section held only by three or four "lands" so that it could be easily punched out if desired (typically for use in jukeboxes).

Sound enhancements

As the LP became established as the dominant size for longer recordings, several developments were made to enhance the sound.

High fidelity

The term "high fidelity" was first coined in the 1920s by some manufacturers of radio receivers and phonographs to differentiate their better-sounding products claimed as providing "perfect" sound reproduction. The term began to be used by some audio engineers and consumers through the 1930s and '40s. After 1949 a variety of improvements in recording and playback technologies, especially stereo recordings which became widely available in 1958, gave a boost to the "hi-fi" classification of products, leading to sales of individual components for the home such as amplifiers, loudspeakers, phonographs and tape players. High Fidelity and Audio
Audio (magazine)
Audio magazine was a periodical published from 1947 to 2000, and was America's longest-running audio magazine. Audio published reviews of audio products and audio technology as well as informational articles on topics such as acoustics, psychoacoustics and the art of listening...

 were two magazines that hi-fi consumers and engineers could read for reviews of playback equipment and recordings.

Stereophonic sound

Stereophonic sound recording, which attempts to provide a more natural listening experience by reproducing the spatial locations of sound sources in the horizontal plane, was the natural extension to monophonic recording, and attracted various alternative engineering attempts. The ultimately-dominant "45/45" stereophonic record system was invented by Alan Blumlein
Alan Blumlein
Alan Dower Blumlein was a British electronics engineer, notable for his many inventions in telecommunications, sound recording, stereo, television and radar...

 of EMI
EMI
The EMI Group, also known as EMI Music or simply EMI, is a multinational music company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the fourth-largest business group and family of record labels in the recording industry and one of the "big four" record companies. EMI Group also has a major...

 in 1931 and patented the same year. EMI cut the first stereo test discs using the system in 1933 (see "Bell Labs Stereo Experiments of 1933") although the system was not exploited commercially until much later.

In this system, each of two stereo channels is carried independently by a separate groove wall, each wall face moving at 45 degrees to the plane of the record surface (hence the system's name) in correspondence with the signal amplitude of that channel. By convention, the inner wall carries the left-hand channel and the outer wall carries the right-hand channel.
While the stylus only moves horizontally when reproducing a monophonic disk recording, on stereo records the stylus moves vertically as well as horizontally. During playback, the movement of a single stylus tracking the groove is sensed independently eg. by two coils, each mounted diagonally opposite the relevant groove wall.

The combined stylus motion can be represented in terms of the vector sum and difference of the two stereo channels. Vertical stylus motion then carries the L-R difference signal and horizontal stylus motion carries the L+R summed signal, the latter representing the monophonic component of the signal in exactly the same manner as a purely monophonic record.

The advantages of the 45/45 system as compared to alternative systems were:
  • complete compatibility with monophonic playback systems. A monophonic cartridge reproduces the monophonic component of a stereo record instead of only one of its channels. (However, many monophonic styli would damage a stereo groove, leading to the common recommendation never to use a mono cartridge on a stereo record.) Conversely, a stereo cartridge reproduces the lateral grooves of monophonic recording equally through both channels, rather than one channel,
  • equally-balanced reproduction, because each channel has equal fidelity (not the case e.g. with a higher-fidelity vertically-recorded channel and a lower-fidelity laterally-recorded channel),
  • higher fidelity in general, because the "difference" signal is usually of low amplitude and is thus less affected by the greater intrinsic distortion of hill-and-dale recording.


In 1957 the first commercial stereo
Stereophonic sound
The term Stereophonic, commonly called stereo, sound refers to any method of sound reproduction in which an attempt is made to create an illusion of directionality and audible perspective...

 two-channel records were issued on translucent blue vinyl by Bel Canto, the first of which was a multi-colored-vinyl sampler featuring "A Stereo Tour of Los Angeles" narrated by Jack Wagner on one side, and a collection of tracks from various Bel Canto albums on the back.

Following in 1958, more stereo LP releases were offered by Audio Fidelity
Audio Fidelity Records
Audio Fidelity Records, was a record company out of New York City, most active during the 1950s and 1960s. They are best known for having produced the first mass-produced American stereophonic long-playing record in November 1957 .-Background:Sidney Frey , founder and president of...

 in the USA and Pye
Pye Records
Pye Records was a British record label. In its first incarnation, perhaps Pye's best known artists were Lonnie Donegan , Petula Clark , The Searchers , The Kinks , Sandie Shaw and Brotherhood of Man...

 in Britain. However, it was not until the mid-to-late 1960's that the sales of stereophonic LPs overtook those of their monophonic equivalents, and became the dominant record type.

Other enhancements

Under the direction of recording engineer C. Robert Fine, Mercury Records
Mercury Records
Mercury Records is a record label operating as a standalone company in the UK and as part of the Island Def Jam Motown Music Group in the US; both are subsidiaries of Universal Music Group. There is also a Mercury Records in Australia, which is a local artist and repertoire division of Universal...

 initiated a minimalist single microphone monaural recording technique in 1951. The first record, a Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance of "Pictures at an Exhibition," conducted by Rafael Kubelik, was described as "being in the living presence of the orchestra" by The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

 music critic. The series of records was then named “Mercury Living Presence.” In 1955, Mercury began three-channel stereo recordings, still based on the principle of the single microphone. The center (single) microphone was of paramount importance, with the two side mics adding depth and space. Record masters were cut directly from a three-track to two-track mixdown console, with all editing of the master tapes done on the original three-tracks. In 1961, Mercury enhanced this technique with three-microphone stereo recordings using 35 mm magnetic film instead of half-inch tape for recording. The greater thickness and width of 35 mm magnetic film prevented tape layer print-through
Print-through
Print-through is a generally undesirable effect that arises in the use of magnetic tape for storing analogue information, in particular music....

 and pre-echo
Pre-echo
Pre-echo is a digital audio compression artifact where a sound is heard before it occurs . It is most noticeable in impulsive sounds from percussion instruments such as castanets or cymbals....

 and gained extended frequency range and transient response
Transient response
In electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, a transient response or natural response is the response of a system to a change from equilibrium. The transient response is not necessarily tied to "on/off" events but to any event that affects the equilibrium of the system...

. The Mercury Living Presence recordings were remastered to CD in the 1990s by the original producer, Wilma Cozart Fine, using the same method of 3-to-2 mix directly to the master recorder.

The development of quadraphonic records was announced in 1971. These recorded four separate sound signals. This was achieved on the two stereo channels by electronic matrixing, where the additional channels were combined into the main signal. When the records were played, phase-detection circuits in the amplifiers were able to decode the signals into four separate channels. There were two main systems of matrixed quadraphonic records produced, confusingly named SQ (by CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

) and QS (by Sansui). They proved commercially unsuccessful, but were an important precursor to later "surround sound
Surround sound
Surround sound encompasses a range of techniques such as for enriching the sound reproduction quality of an audio source with audio channels reproduced via additional, discrete speakers. Surround sound is characterized by a listener location or sweet spot where the audio effects work best, and...

" systems, as seen in SACD
Super Audio CD
Super Audio CD is a high-resolution, read-only optical disc for audio storage. Sony and Philips Electronics jointly developed the technology, and publicized it in 1999. It is designated as the Scarlet Book standard. Sony and Philips previously collaborated to define the Compact Disc standard...

 and home cinema
Home cinema
Home cinema, also commonly called home theater, are home entertainment set-ups that seek to reproduce a movie theater experience and mood with the help of video and audio equipment in a private home....

 today. A different format, CD-4 (not to be confused with compact disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

), by RCA, encoded rear channel information on an ultrasonic carrier, which required a special wideband cartridge to capture it on carefully calibrated pickup arm/turntable combinations. Typically the high-frequency information inscribed onto these LPs wore off after only a few playings, and CD-4 was even less successful than the two matrixed formats. (A further problem was that no cutting heads were available that could handle the HF information. That was remedied by cutting at 'half-speed.' Later, the special half-speed cutting heads and equalization techniques were employed to get a wider frequency response in stereo with reduced distortion and greater headroom.)

Through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, various methods to improve the dynamic range
Dynamic range
Dynamic range, abbreviated DR or DNR, is the ratio between the largest and smallest possible values of a changeable quantity, such as in sound and light. It is measured as a ratio, or as a base-10 or base-2 logarithmic value.-Dynamic range and human perception:The human senses of sight and...

 of mass produced records involved highly advanced disc cutting equipment. These techniques, marketed, to name two, as the CBS DisComputer
CBS Laboratories
CBS Laboratories or CBS Labs was the technology research and development organization of CBS...

 and Teldec Direct Metal Mastering, were used to reduce inner-groove distortion. RCA Victor introduced another system to reduce dynamic range and achieve a groove with less surface noise under the commercial name of Dynagroove
Dynagroove
Dynagroove is a recording process introduced in 1963 exclusive to RCA Victor that, for the first time, used computers to modify the audio signal fed to the recording stylus of a phonograph record to make the groove shape conform to the tracing requirements of the playback stylus...

. Two main elements were combined: another disk material with less surface noise in the groove and dynamic compression for masking background noise. Sometimes this was called "diaphragming" the source material and not favoured by some music lovers for its unnatural side effects. Both elements were reflected in the brandname of Dynagroove, described elsewhere in more detail. It also used the earlier advanced method of forward-looking control on groove spacing with respect to volume of sound and position on the disk. Lower recorded volume used closer spacing; higher recorded volume used wider spacing, especially with lower frequencies. Also, the higher track density at lower volumes enabled disk recordings to end farther away from the disk center than usual, helping to reduce endtrack distortion
Distortion
A distortion is the alteration of the original shape of an object, image, sound, waveform or other form of information or representation. Distortion is usually unwanted, and often many methods are employed to minimize it in practice...

 even further.

Also in the late 1970s, "direct-to-disc" records were produced, aimed at an audiophile niche market. These completely bypassed the use of magnetic tape in favor of a "purist" transcription directly to the master lacquer
Lacquer
In a general sense, lacquer is a somewhat imprecise term for a clear or coloured varnish that dries by solvent evaporation and often a curing process as well that produces a hard, durable finish, in any sheen level from ultra matte to high gloss and that can be further polished as required...

 disc. Also during this period, "half-speed mastered" and "original master" records were released, using expensive state-of-the-art technology. A further late 1970s development was the Disco Eye-Cued system used mainly on Motown 12-inch singles released between 1978 and 1980. The introduction, drum-breaks, or choruses of a track were indicated by widely separated grooves, giving a visual cue to DJs mixing the records. The appearance of these records is similar to an LP, but they only contain one track each side.

The mid-1970s saw the introduction of "dbx-encoded" records, again for the audiophile niche market. These were completely incompatible with standard record playback preamplifiers, relying on the dbx
Dbx (noise reduction)
dbx is a family of noise reduction systems developed by the company of the same name. The most common implementations are dbx Type I and dbx Type II for analog tape recording and, less commonly, vinyl LPs. A separate implementation, known as dbx-TV, is part of the MTS system used to provide stereo...

 compandor encoding/decoding scheme to greatly increase dynamic range (dbx encoded disks were recorded with the dynamic range compressed by a factor of two in dB: quiet sounds were meant to be played back at low gain and loud sounds were meant to be played back at high gain, via automatic gain control
Automatic gain control
Automatic gain control is an adaptive system found in many electronic devices. The average output signal level is fed back to adjust the gain to an appropriate level for a range of input signal levels...

 in the playback equipment; this reduced the effect of surface noise on quiet passages). A similar and very short-lived scheme involved using the CBS-developed "CX
CX (audio)
CX is a noise reduction system for recorded analog audio. It was developed by CBS Laboratories in the early 1980s, as a competitor to other noise reduction systems such as Dolby and dbx...

" noise reduction encoding/decoding scheme.

Laser turntable

ELPJ
ELPJ
ELPJ is a Japanese audio equipment company started by Sanju Chiba. They manufacture laser turntables.- External links :* * *...

, a Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese-based company, sells a laser turntable
Laser turntable
A laser turntable is a phonograph that uses laser beams as the pickup to play LP gramophone records instead of a stylus .-History:...

 that uses a laser
Laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

 to read vinyl discs optically, without physical contact. The laser turntable eliminates record wear and the possibility of accidental scratches, which degrade the sound, but its expense limits use primarily to digital archiving of analog records, and the laser does not recognize colored vinyl or picture disks. Various other laser-based turntables were tried during the 1990s, but while a laser reads the groove very accurately, since it does not touch the record, the dust that vinyl attracts due to static electric charge is not mechanically pushed out of the groove, worsening sound quality in casual use compared to conventional stylus playback.

In some ways similar to the laser turntable is the IRENE scanning machine for disc records, which images with microphotography in two dimensions, invented by a team of physicists at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories. IRENE will retrieve the information from a laterally modulated monaural grooved sound source without touching the media itself, but cannot read vertically modulated information. This excludes grooved recordings such as cylinders and some radio transcriptions which feature a hill-and-dale format of recording, and stereophonic or quadraphonic grooved recordings which utilize a combination of the two as well as supersonic encoding for quadraphonic.

An offshoot of IRENE, the Confocal Microscope Cylinder Project, can capture a high-resolution 3-D image of the surface, down to 200 µm. In order to convert to a digital sound file, this is then played by a version of the same 'virtual stylus' program developed by the research team in real-time, converted to digital and, if desired, processed through sound-restoration programs.

Formats

Types of records

As recording technology evolved, more specific terms for various types of phonograph records were used in order to describe some aspect of the record: either its correct rotational speed ("16⅔ rpm" (revolutions per minute
Revolutions per minute
Revolutions per minute is a measure of the frequency of a rotation. It annotates the number of full rotations completed in one minute around a fixed axis...

), "33⅓ rpm", "45 rpm", "78 rpm") or the material used (particularly "vinyl" to refer to records made of polyvinyl chloride
Polyvinyl chloride
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated PVC, is a thermoplastic polymer. It is a vinyl polymer constructed of repeating vinyl groups having one hydrogen replaced by chloride. Polyvinyl chloride is the third most widely produced plastic, after polyethylene and polypropylene. PVC is widely used in...

, or the earlier "shellac
Shellac
Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug, on trees in the forests of India and Thailand. It is processed and sold as dry flakes , which are dissolved in ethyl alcohol to make liquid shellac, which is used as a brush-on colorant, food glaze and wood finish...

 records" generally the main ingredient in 78s).
Other terms such as "Long Play" or LP and "Extended Play" or EP describe multi-track records that play much longer than the single-item-per-side records, which typically do not go much past 4 minutes per side. An LP can play for up to thirty minutes per side, though most played for about twenty-two minutes per side, bringing the total playing time of a typical LP recording to about forty-five minutes. Many pre-1952 LPs, however, played for about fifteen minutes per side. The 7" 45 rpm format normally contains one item per side but a 7" EP could achieve recording times of 10 to 15 minutes at the expense of attenuating and compressing the sound to reduce the width required by the groove. EP discs were generally used to make available tracks not on singles including tracks on LPs albums in a smaller, less expensive format for those who had only 45 rpm players. The large center hole on 7" 45 rpm records allows for easier handling by jukebox mechanisms. The term "album," originally used to mean a "book" with liner notes, holding several 78 rpm records each in its own "page" or sleeve, no longer has any relation to the physical format: a single LP record, or nowadays more typically a compact disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

.

The usual diameters of the holes are 5/16" or 7.94 mm and the larger hole on singles are 1.5", or 38.1 mm.

Sizes of records in the US
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the UK
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 are generally measured in inches, usually represented with a double prime
Prime (symbol)
The prime symbol , double prime symbol , and triple prime symbol , etc., are used to designate several different units, and for various other purposes in mathematics, the sciences and linguistics...

 symbol, e.g., 7" (7-inch) records, which are generally 45 rpm records. LPs were 10" records at first, but soon the 12" size became by far the most common, with 78s generally being 10", but also 12" and 7" and even smaller—the so called "little wonders".

Common formats

Diameter Revolutions per minute Time duration
12 in (30 cm) 33⅓ rpm 45 min Long play (LP)
45 rpm 12-inch single
12-inch single
The 12-inch single is a type of gramophone record that has wider groove spacing compared to other types of records. This allows for louder levels to be cut on the disc by the cutting engineer, which in turn gives a wider dynamic range, and thus better sound quality...

, Maxi Single, and Extended play
Extended play
An EP is a musical recording which contains more music than a single, but is too short to qualify as a full album or LP. The term EP originally referred only to specific types of vinyl records other than 78 rpm standard play records and LP records, but it is now applied to mid-length Compact...

 (EP)
10 in (25 cm) 33⅓ rpm Long play (LP)
78 rpm 3 minutes
7 in (17.5 cm) 45 rpm Single
Single (music)
In music, a single or record single is a type of release, typically a recording of fewer tracks than an LP or a CD. This can be released for sale to the public in a variety of different formats. In most cases, the single is a song that is released separately from an album, but it can still appear...

, and Extended play
Extended play
An EP is a musical recording which contains more music than a single, but is too short to qualify as a full album or LP. The term EP originally referred only to specific types of vinyl records other than 78 rpm standard play records and LP records, but it is now applied to mid-length Compact...

 (EP)
33⅓ rpm Often used for children's records in the 1960s and 1970s.

Notes:
  • Before the early 1950s the 33⅓ rpm LP was most commonly found in a 10-inch (25 cm) format. The 10-inch format disappeared from United States stores around 1950, but remained common in some markets until the mid-1960s. The 10-inch vinyl format was resurrected in the 1970s for marketing some popular recordings as collectible, and these are occasionally seen today.

Structure

The normal commercial disc is engraved with two sound-bearing concentric spiral grooves, one on each side, running from the outside edge towards the centre. The last part of the spiral meets an earlier part to form a circle
Circle
A circle is a simple shape of Euclidean geometry consisting of those points in a plane that are a given distance from a given point, the centre. The distance between any of the points and the centre is called the radius....

. The sound is encoded by fine variations in the edges of the groove that cause a stylus
Stylus
A stylus is a writing utensil, or a small tool for some other form of marking or shaping, for example in pottery. The word is also used for a computer accessory . It usually refers to a narrow elongated staff, similar to a modern ballpoint pen. Many styli are heavily curved to be held more easily...

 (needle) placed in it to vibrate at acoustic frequencies when the disc is rotated at the correct speed. Generally, the outer and inner parts of the groove bear no intended sound (an exception is Split Enz
Split Enz
Split Enz were a New Zealand band of the 1970s and early 1980s featuring Phil Judd and brothers Tim Finn and Neil Finn. They achieved chart success in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada during the early 1980s ‒ most notably with the single "I Got You", and built a cult following elsewhere...

's Mental Notes).

Increasingly from the early 1900s, and almost exclusively since the 1920s, both sides of the record have been used to carry the grooves. Occasional records have been issued since then with a recording on only one side. In the 1980s Columbia records briefly issued a series of less expensive one-sided 45 rpm singles.

The majority of non-78 rpm records are pressed on black vinyl. The colouring material used to blacken the transparent PVC
Polyvinyl chloride
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated PVC, is a thermoplastic polymer. It is a vinyl polymer constructed of repeating vinyl groups having one hydrogen replaced by chloride. Polyvinyl chloride is the third most widely produced plastic, after polyethylene and polypropylene. PVC is widely used in...

 plastic mix is carbon black
Carbon black
Carbon black is a material produced by the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products such as FCC tar, coal tar, ethylene cracking tar, and a small amount from vegetable oil. Carbon black is a form of amorphous carbon that has a high surface-area-to-volume ratio, although its...

, which increases the strength of the disc and makes it opaque. Polystyrene
Polystyrene
Polystyrene ) also known as Thermocole, abbreviated following ISO Standard PS, is an aromatic polymer made from the monomer styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon that is manufactured from petroleum by the chemical industry...

 is often used for 7-inch records.

Some records are pressed on coloured vinyl or with paper pictures embedded in them ("picture discs"). Certain 45 rpm RCA or RCA Victor "Red Seal" records
RCA Red Seal Records
RCA Red Seal Records is a classical music label and is now part of Sony Masterworks.The Red Seal label was begun in 1902 by the Gramophone Company in the United Kingdom and was quickly picked up by its United States affiliate, the Victor Talking Machine Company, and its president, Eldridge R. Johnson...

 used red translucent vinyl for extra "Red Seal" effect. During the 1980s there was a trend for releasing singles on coloured vinyl—sometimes with large inserts that could be used as posters. This trend has been revived recently with 7-inch singles.

Since its inception in 1948, vinyl record standards for the United States follow the guidelines of the Recording Industry Association of America
Recording Industry Association of America
The Recording Industry Association of America is a trade organization that represents the recording industry distributors in the United States...

 (RIAA). The inch dimensions are nominal, not precise diameters. The actual dimension of a 12-inch record is 302 mm (11.89 in), for a 10-inch it is 250 mm (9.84 in), and for a 7-inch it is 175 mm (6.89 in).

Records made in other countries are standardized by different organizations, but are very similar in size. The record diameters are typically nominally 300 mm, 250 mm and 175 mm.

There is an area about 6 mm (0.25 in) wide at the outer edge of the disk, called the lead-in, where the groove is widely spaced and silent. The stylus is lowered onto the lead-in, without damaging the recorded section of the groove.

Between tracks on the recorded section of an LP record there is usually a short gap of around 1 mm (0.04 in) where the groove is widely spaced. This space is clearly visible, making it easy to find a particular track.

Towards the centre, at the end of the groove, there is another wide-pitched section known as the lead-out. At the very end of this section the groove joins itself to form a complete circle, called the lock groove; when the stylus reaches this point, it circles repeatedly until lifted from the record. On some recordings (for example Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by the English rock band The Beatles, released on 1 June 1967 on the Parlophone label and produced by George Martin...

 by The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

, Super Trouper
Super Trouper (album)
Super Trouper is the seventh studio album by Swedish pop group ABBA, first released in 1980 .-Overview:Led by the international hit "The Winner Takes It All", Super Trouper was the group's sixth chart-topping album in the UK. It was also the best-selling album in Britain for 1980...

 by Abba
Abba
ABBA is the name of a former Swedish pop music group.Abba may also refer to:* ABBA , a self-titled album by the Swedish pop music group ABBA* "Abba ", a song by Christian pop and rock artist, Rebecca St...

 and Atom Heart Mother
Atom Heart Mother
Atom Heart Mother is the fifth studio album by English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, released in 1970 by Harvest and EMI Records in the United Kingdom and Harvest and Capitol in the United States. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London, England, and reached number one in the United...

 by Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive and psychedelic rock music. Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially...

), the sound continues on the lock groove, which gives a strange repeating effect. Automatic turntables rely on the position or angular velocity
Angular velocity
In physics, the angular velocity is a vector quantity which specifies the angular speed of an object and the axis about which the object is rotating. The SI unit of angular velocity is radians per second, although it may be measured in other units such as degrees per second, revolutions per...

 of the arm, as it reaches these more widely spaced grooves, to trigger a mechanism that lifts the arm off the record. Precisely because of this mechanism, most automatic turntables are incapable of playing any audio in the lock groove, since they will lift the arm before it reaches that groove.

The catalog number and stamper ID is written or stamped in the space between the groove in the lead-out on the master disc, resulting in visible recessed writing on the final version of a record. Sometimes the cutting engineer might add handwritten comments or their signature, if they are particularly pleased with the quality of the cut. These are generally referred to as "run-out etchings."

When auto-changing turntables
Record changer
A record changer or autochanger is a device that plays multiple gramophone records in sequence without user intervention. Record changers first appeared in the late 1920s, and were common until the 1980s.-History:...

 were commonplace, records were typically pressed with a raised (or ridged) outer edge and a raised label area, allowing records to be stacked onto each other without the delicate grooves coming into contact, reducing the risk of damage. Auto-changers included a mechanism to support a stack of several records above the turntable itself, dropping them one at a time onto the active turntable to be played in order. Many longer sound recordings, such as complete operas, were interleaved across several 10-inch or 12-inch discs for use with auto-changing mechanisms, so that the first disk of a three-disk recording would carry sides 1 and 6 of the program, while the second disk would carry sides 2 and 5, and the third, sides 3 and 4, allowing sides 1, 2, and 3 to be played automatically; then the whole stack reversed to play sides 4, 5, and 6.

Vinyl quality

The sound quality and durability of vinyl records is highly dependent on the quality of the vinyl
Vinyl
A vinyl compound is any organic compound that contains a vinyl group ,which are derivatives of ethene, CH2=CH2, with one hydrogen atom replaced with some other group...

. During the early 1970s, as a cost-cutting move towards use of lightweight, flexible vinyl pressings, much of the industry adopted a technique of reducing the thickness and quality of vinyl used in mass-market manufacturing, marketed by RCA Victor as the "Dynaflex" (125 g) process, considered inferior by most record collectors. Most vinyl records are pressed from a mix of 70% virgin and 30% recycled vinyl.

New "virgin" or "heavy/heavyweight" (180–220 g) vinyl is commonly used for modern "audiophile" vinyl releases in all genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

s. Many collectors prefer to have heavyweight vinyl albums, and they have been reported to have a better sound than normal vinyl as they have a higher tolerance against deformation caused by normal play. 180 g vinyl is more expensive to produce only because it uses more vinyl. Manufacturing processes are identical regardless of weight. In fact, pressing lightweight records requires more care.
An exception is the propensity of 200 g pressings to be slightly more prone to "non-fill", where the vinyl biscuit does not sufficiently fill a deep groove during pressing (percussion or vocal amplitude changes are the usual locations of these artifacts). This flaw causes a grinding or scratching sound at the non-fill point.

Since most vinyl records contain up to 30% recycled vinyl, impurities can accumulate in the record and cause even a brand-new record to have audio artifacts such as clicks and pops. Virgin vinyl means that the album is not from recycled plastic, and will theoretically be devoid of these impurities. In practice, this depends on the manufacturer's quality control
Quality control
Quality control, or QC for short, is a process by which entities review the quality of all factors involved in production. This approach places an emphasis on three aspects:...

.

The orange peel effect on vinyl records is caused by worn molds. Rather than having the proper mirror-like finish, the surface of the record will have a texture that looks like orange
Orange (fruit)
An orange—specifically, the sweet orange—is the citrus Citrus × sinensis and its fruit. It is the most commonly grown tree fruit in the world....

 peel
Peel (fruit)
Peel, also known as rind or skin, is the outer protective layer of a fruit or vegetable which could be peeled off. The rind is usually the botanical exocarp, but the term exocarp does also include the hard cases of nuts, which are not named peels since they are not peeled off by hand or peeler, but...

. This introduces noise into the record, particularly in the lower frequency range. With direct metal mastering
Direct metal mastering
The illustration shows not a pre-war Neumann but a post war type AM32 machine; the leadscrew drive ends in a "T" piece which would couple via a rubber disc to the associated pitch unit...

 (DMM) the master disc is cut on a copper-coated disc which can also have a minor "orange peel" effect on the disc itself. As this "orange peel" originates in the master rather than being introduced in the pressing stage, there is no ill-effect as there is no physical distortion of the groove.

Original master discs are created by lathe-cutting: a lathe
Lathe
A lathe is a machine tool which rotates the workpiece on its axis to perform various operations such as cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling, or deformation with tools that are applied to the workpiece to create an object which has symmetry about an axis of rotation.Lathes are used in woodturning,...

 is used to cut a microgroove into an aluminum disc coated with nitro-cellulose lacquer
Lacquer
In a general sense, lacquer is a somewhat imprecise term for a clear or coloured varnish that dries by solvent evaporation and often a curing process as well that produces a hard, durable finish, in any sheen level from ultra matte to high gloss and that can be further polished as required...

, which is then electroplated with nickel
Nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

; the nickel is then separated from the lacquer, destroying the lacquer impression. The "negative" nickel impression is known as a 'master' disc; it has a protrusion rather than a groove. The master disc is then electroplated with nickel to form a positive disc known as a 'mother'. Many mothers can be taken from a single master before the master deteriorates beyond use. The mothers are then nickel-plated to produce more negative discs known as 'stampers'. Again a single mother can be used to make many stampers before deteriorating beyond use. The stampers are then used to mold the final vinyl discs. In this way several million vinyl discs can be produced from a single lacquer original. When only a few discs are required, the first nickel negative grown from the lacquer original can be used as a stamper. Production by this latter process (known as the 'one-step-process') is limited to a few hundred vinyl discs; possibly more if the stamper holds out and the quality of the vinyl is high.

As in any analog
Analog signal
An analog or analogue signal is any continuous signal for which the time varying feature of the signal is a representation of some other time varying quantity, i.e., analogous to another time varying signal. It differs from a digital signal in terms of small fluctuations in the signal which are...

 copying
Copying
Copying is the duplication of information or an artifact based only on an instance of that information or artifact, and not using the process that originally generated it. With analog forms of information, copying is only possible to a limited degree of accuracy, which depends on the quality of the...

 process, each generation of copy is to some extent inferior and noisier than the previous generation, so there is some loss of quality in the progression from original to master to mother to stamper to vinyl disc.

Shellac

Shellac
Shellac
Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug, on trees in the forests of India and Thailand. It is processed and sold as dry flakes , which are dissolved in ethyl alcohol to make liquid shellac, which is used as a brush-on colorant, food glaze and wood finish...

 78s are brittle, and must be handled carefully. In the event of a 78 breaking, the pieces might remain loosely connected by the label and still be playable if the label holds them together, although there is a loud "pop" with each pass over the crack, and breaking of the stylus is likely.

Breakage was very common in the shellac era. In the 1934 John O'Hara
John O'Hara
John Henry O'Hara was an American writer. He initially became known for his short stories and later became a best-selling novelist whose works include Appointment in Samarra and BUtterfield 8. He was particularly known for an uncannily accurate ear for dialogue...

 novel, Appointment in Samarra
Appointment in Samarra
Appointment in Samarra, published in 1934, is the first novel by John O'Hara. It concerns the self-destruction of Julian English, once a member of the social elite of Gibbsville ....

, the protagonist "broke one of his most favorites, Whiteman
Paul Whiteman
Paul Samuel Whiteman was an American bandleader and orchestral director.Leader of the most popular dance bands in the United States during the 1920s, Whiteman's recordings were immensely successful, and press notices often referred to him as the "King of Jazz"...

's Lady of the Evening ... He wanted to cry but could not." A poignant moment in J. D. Salinger
J. D. Salinger
Jerome David Salinger was an American author, best known for his 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, as well as his reclusive nature. His last original published work was in 1965; he gave his last interview in 1980....

's 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger. Originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage confusion, angst, alienation, language, and rebellion. It has been translated into almost all of the world's major...

 occurs after the adolescent protagonist buys a record for his younger sister but drops it and "it broke into pieces ... I damn near cried, it made me feel so terrible." A sequence where a school teacher's collection of 78 rpm jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 records is smashed by a group of rebellious students is a key moment in the film Blackboard Jungle
Blackboard Jungle
Blackboard Jungle is a 1955 social commentary film about teachers in an inner-city school. It is based on the novel of the same name by Evan Hunter.-Plot:...

.

Another problem with shellac was that the size of the disks tended to be larger because it was limited to 80-100 groove walls per inch before the risk of groove collapse became too high, whereas vinyl could have up to 260 groove walls per inch.

By the time World War II began, major labels were experimenting with laminated records. As stated above, and in several record advertisements of the period ``the materials that make for a quiet surface (shellacque) are notoriously weak and brittle. Conversely the materials that make for a strong disc (cardboard and other fiber products) are not those known for allowing a quiet noise-free surface.

Vinyl

Vinyl records do not break easily, but the soft material is easily scratched. Vinyl readily acquires a static charge, attracting dust
Dust
Dust consists of particles in the atmosphere that arise from various sources such as soil dust lifted up by wind , volcanic eruptions, and pollution...

 that is difficult to remove completely. Dust and scratches cause audio clicks and pops. In extreme cases, they can cause the needle to skip
Skip (in record player)
A skip occurs when a phonograph , cassette tape or Compact Disc player malfunctions or is disturbed so as to play incorrectly, causing a break in sound or a jump to another part of the recording.-Vinyl gramophone records:...

 over a series of grooves, or worse yet, cause the needle to skip backwards, creating a "locked groove" that repeats over and over. Locked grooves are not uncommon and were even heard occasionally in radio broadcasts.

Vinyl records can be warped by heat
Heat
In physics and thermodynamics, heat is energy transferred from one body, region, or thermodynamic system to another due to thermal contact or thermal radiation when the systems are at different temperatures. It is often described as one of the fundamental processes of energy transfer between...

, improper storage, exposure to sunlight, or manufacturing defects such as excessively tight plastic shrinkwrap
Shrinkwrap
Shrink wrap, also shrinkwrap or shrink film, is a material made up of polymer plastic film. When heat is applied it shrinks tightly over whatever it is covering. Heat can be applied with a hand held heat gun or the product and film can pass through a heat tunnel on a conveyor.-Composition:The...

 on the album cover. A small degree of warp was common, and allowing for it was part of the art of turntable and tonearm design. "Wow
Wow (recording)
Wow is a relatively slow form of flutter which can affect both gramophone records and tape recorders. In the latter, the collective expression wow and flutter is commonly used.-Gramophone records:...

" (once-per-revolution pitch
Pitch (music)
Pitch is an auditory perceptual property that allows the ordering of sounds on a frequency-related scale.Pitches are compared as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies,...

 variation) could result from warp, or from a spindle hole that was not precisely centered. Standard practice for LPs, which were more expensive than singles, was to include the LP in a plastic lined inner cover. This, if placed within the outer cardboard cover so that the opening was entirely within the outer cover, was said to reduce ingress of dust onto the record surface. Singles, with rare exceptions, had simple paper covers with no inner cover.

There is controversy about the relative quality of CD sound and LP sound when the latter is heard under the very best conditions (see Analog vs. Digital sound argument
Analog sound vs. digital sound
This article compares the two ways in which sound is recorded and stored. Actual sound waves consist of continuous variations in air pressure. Representations of these signals can be recorded using either digital or analog techniques....

).

A further limitation of the record is that with a constant rotational speed, the quality of the sound may differ across the width of the record because the inner groove modulations are more compressed than those of the outer tracks. The result is that inner tracks have distortion that can be noticeable at higher recording levels.

7-inch singles were typically poorer quality for a variety of the reasons mentioned above, and in the 1970s the 12-inch single (sometimes referred to as a "doughnut"), manufactured at both 33⅓ and 45 rpm, became popular for DJ use and for fans and collectors.

Another problem arises because of the geometry of the tonearm. Master recordings are cut on a recording lathe where a sapphire stylus moves radially across the blank, suspended on a straight track and driven by a lead screw. Most turntables use a pivoting tonearm, introducing side forces and pitch and azimuth errors, and thus distortion in the playback signal. Various mechanisms were devised in attempts to compensate, with varying degrees of success. See more at phonograph.

Frequency response and noise

In 1925, electric recording extended the recorded frequency range from acoustic recording (168–2000 Hz) by 2½ octaves to 100–5000 Hz. Even so, these early electronically recorded records used the exponential-horn phonograph (see Orthophonic Victrola
Victor Talking Machine Company
The Victor Talking Machine Company was an American corporation, the leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time. It was headquartered in Camden, New Jersey....

) for reproduction.

The frequency response of vinyl records may be degraded by frequent playback if the cartridge is set to track too heavily, or the stylus is not compliant enough to track the high frequency grooves accurately, or the cartridge/tonearm is not properly aligned.

CD-4 LPs contain two sub-carriers, one in the left groove wall and one in the right groove wall. These sub-carriers use special FM-PM-SSBFM (Frequency Modulation-Phase Modulation-Single Sideband Frequency Modulation) and have signal frequencies that extend to 45 kHz. CD-4 sub-carriers could be played with any type stylus as long as the pickup cartridge had CD-4 frequency response. The recommended Stylus for CD-4 as well as regular stereo records was a line contact or Shibata type.

Gramophone sound includes rumble, which is low-frequency (below about 30 Hz) mechanical noise generated by the motor bearing
Bearing (mechanical)
A bearing is a device to allow constrained relative motion between two or more parts, typically rotation or linear movement. Bearings may be classified broadly according to the motions they allow and according to their principle of operation as well as by the directions of applied loads they can...

s and picked up by the stylus. Equipment of modest quality is relatively unaffected by these issues, as the amplifier and speaker will not reproduce such low frequencies, but high-fidelity turntable assemblies need careful design to minimize audible rumble.

Room vibrations will also be picked up if the connections from pedestal to turntable and from turntable to pickup arm are not well isolated.

Tonearm skating forces and other perturbations are also picked up by the stylus. This is a form of frequency multiplexing
Multiplexing
The multiplexed signal is transmitted over a communication channel, which may be a physical transmission medium. The multiplexing divides the capacity of the low-level communication channel into several higher-level logical channels, one for each message signal or data stream to be transferred...

 as the "control signal" (restoring force) used to keep the stylus in the groove is carried by the same mechanism as the sound itself. Subsonic frequencies below about 20 Hz in the audio signal are dominated by tracking effects, which is one form of unwanted rumble ("tracking noise") and merges with audible frequencies in the deep bass range up to about 100 Hz. High fidelity sound equipment can reproduce tracking noise and rumble. During a quiet passage, woofer
Woofer
Woofer is the term commonly used for a loudspeaker driver designed to produce low frequency sounds, typically from around 40 hertz up to about a kilohertz or higher. The name is from the onomatopoeic English word for a dog's bark, "woof"...

 speaker cones can sometimes be seen to vibrate with the subsonic tracking of the stylus, at frequencies as low as about 0.5 Hz (the frequency at which a 33⅓ rpm record turns on the turntable). Another reason for very low frequency material can be a warped disk: its undulations produce frequencies of only a few hertz and present day amplifiers have large power bandwidths. For this reason, many stereo receivers contained a switchable subsonic filter. Some subsonic content is directly out of phase in each channel. If played back on a mono subwoofer system, the noise will cancel, significantly reducing the amount of rumble that is reproduced.

At high audible frequencies, hiss
Electronic noise
Electronic noise is a random fluctuation in an electrical signal, a characteristic of all electronic circuits. Noise generated by electronic devices varies greatly, as it can be produced by several different effects...

 is generated as the stylus rubs against the vinyl, and from dirt and dust on the vinyl. This noise can be reduced somewhat by cleaning the record prior to playback.

Equalization

Due to recording mastering and manufacturing limitations, both high and low frequencies were removed from the first recorded signals by various formulae. With low frequencies, the stylus must swing a long way from side to side, requiring the groove to be wide, taking up more space and limiting the playing time of the record. At high frequencies noise is significant. These problems can be compensated for by using equalization to an agreed standard. This simply means reducing the amplitude at low-frequencies, thus reducing the groove width required, and increasing the amplitude at high frequencies. The playback equipment boosts bass and cuts treble in a complementary way. The result should be that the sound is perceived to be without change, thus more music will fit the record, and noise is reduced.

The agreed standard has been RIAA equalization
RIAA equalization
RIAA equalization is a specification for the correct recording of gramophone records, established by the Recording Industry Association of America...

 since 1952, implemented in 1955. Prior to that, especially from 1940, some 100 formulae were used by the record manufacturers.

In 1926 it was disclosed by Joseph P. Maxwell and Henry C. Harrison from Bell Telephone Laboratories that the recording pattern of the Western Electric (W. E.) "rubber line" magnetic disc cutter had a constant velocity characteristic. This meant that as frequency increased in the treble, recording amplitude decreased. Conversely, in the bass as frequency decreased, recording amplitude increased. Therefore, it was necessary to attenuate the bass frequencies below about 250 Hz, the bass turnover point, in the amplified microphone signal fed to the recording head. Otherwise, bass modulation became excessive and overcutting took place into the next record groove. When played back electrically with a magnetic pickup having a smooth response in the bass region, a complementary boost in amplitude at the bass turnover point was necessary. G. H. Miller in 1934 reported that when complementary boost at the turnover point was used in radio broadcasts of records, the reproduction was more realistic and many of the musical instruments stood out in their true form.

West in 1930 and later P. G. A. H. Voigt (1940) showed that the early Wente-style condenser microphones contributed to a 4 to 6 dB midrange brilliance or pre-emphasis in the recording chain. This meant that the electrical recording characteristics of W. E. licensees such as Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

 and Victor Talking Machine Company
Victor Talking Machine Company
The Victor Talking Machine Company was an American corporation, the leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time. It was headquartered in Camden, New Jersey....

 in the 1925 era had a higher amplitude in the midrange region. Brilliance such as this compensated for dullness in many early magnetic pickups having drooping midrange and treble response. As a result, this practice was the empirical beginning of using pre-emphasis above 1,000 Hz in 78 rpm and 33⅓ rpm records.

Over the years a variety of record equalization practices emerged and there was no industry standard. For example, in Europe recordings for years required playback with a bass turnover setting of 250–300 Hz and a treble rolloff
Roll-off
Roll-off is a term commonly used to describe the steepness of a transmission function with frequency, particularly in electrical network analysis, and most especially in connection with filter circuits in the transition between a passband and a stopband...

 at 10,000 Hz ranging from 0 to −5 dB or more. In the United States there were more varied practices and a tendency to use higher bass turnover frequencies such as 500 Hz as well as a greater treble rolloff like −8.5 dB and even more to record generally higher modulation levels on the record.

Evidence from the early technical literature concerning electrical recording suggests that it wasn't until the 1942–1949 period that there were serious efforts to standardize recording characteristics within an industry. Heretofore, electrical recording technology from company to company was considered a proprietary art all the way back to the 1925 W. E. licensed method used by Columbia and Victor. For example, what Brunswick-Balke-Collender (Brunswick Corporation
Brunswick Corporation
The Brunswick Corporation , formerly known as the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, is a United States-based corporation that has been involved in manufacturing a wide variety of products since 1845. Brunswick's global headquarters is in the northern Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois...

) did was different from the practices of Victor.

Broadcasters were faced with having to adapt daily to the varied recording characteristics of many sources: various makers of "home recordings" readily available to the public, European recordings, lateral cut transcriptions, and vertical cut transcriptions. Efforts were started in 1942 to standardize within the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), later known as the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (NARTB). The NAB, among other items, issued recording standards in 1949 for laterally and vertically cut records, principally transcriptions. A number of 78 rpm record producers as well as early LP makers also cut their records to the NAB/NARTB lateral standard.

The lateral cut NAB curve was remarkably similar to the NBC Orthacoustic curve which evolved from practices within the National Broadcasting Company since the mid-1930s. Empirically, and not by any formula, it was learned that the bass end of the audio spectrum below 100 Hz could be boosted somewhat to override system hum and turntable rumble noises. Likewise at the treble end beginning at 1,000 Hz, if audio frequencies were boosted by 16 dB at 10,000 Hz the delicate sibilant sounds of speech and high overtones of musical instruments could survive the noise level of cellulose acetate
Cellulose acetate
Cellulose acetate , first prepared in 1865, is the acetate ester of cellulose. Cellulose acetate is used as a film base in photography, as a component in some adhesives, and as a frame material for eyeglasses; it is also used as a synthetic fiber and in the manufacture of cigarette filters and...

, lacquer
Lacquer
In a general sense, lacquer is a somewhat imprecise term for a clear or coloured varnish that dries by solvent evaporation and often a curing process as well that produces a hard, durable finish, in any sheen level from ultra matte to high gloss and that can be further polished as required...

/aluminum, and vinyl disc media. When the record was played back using a complementary inverse curve, signal to noise ratio was improved and the programming sounded more life-like.

When the Columbia LP was released in June 1948, the developers subsequently published technical information about the 33⅓ rpm microgroove long playing record. Columbia disclosed a recording characteristic showing that it was like the NAB curve in the treble, but had more bass boost or pre-emphasis below 200 Hz. The authors disclosed electrical network characteristics for the Columbia LP curve. This was the first such curve based on formulae.

In 1951 at the beginning of the post-World War II high fidelity (hi-fi) popularity, the Audio Engineering Society (AES) developed a standard playback curve. This was intended for use by hi-fi amplifier manufacturers. If records were engineered to sound good on hi-fi amplifiers using the AES curve, this would be a worthy goal towards standardization. This curve was defined by the time constants of audio filters and had a bass turnover of 400 Hz and a 10,000 Hz rolloff of −12 dB.

RCA Victor and Columbia were in a "market war" concerning which recorded format was going to win: the Columbia LP versus the RCA Victor 45 rpm disc (released in February 1949). Besides also being a battle of disc size and record speed, there was a technical difference in the recording characteristics. RCA Victor was using "New Orthophonic" whereas Columbia was using the LP curve.

Ultimately, the New Orthophonic curve was disclosed in a publication by R. C. Moyer of RCA Victor in 1953. He traced RCA Victor characteristics back to the W. E. "rubber line" recorder in 1925 up to the early 1950s laying claim to long-held recording practices and reasons for major changes in the intervening years. The RCA Victor New Orthophonic curve was within the tolerances for the NAB/NARTB, Columbia LP, and AES curves. It eventually became the technical predecessor to the RIAA curve.

As the RIAA curve was essentially an American standard, it had little impact outside of the USA until the late 1970s when European recording labels began to adopt the RIAA equalization. It was even later when some Asian recording labels adopted the RIAA standard. In 1989, many Eastern European recording labels and Russian recording labels such as Melodiya were still using their own CCIR equalization. Hence the RIAA curve did not truly become a global standard until the late 1980s.

Further, even after officially agreeing to implement the RIAA equalization curve, many recording labels continued to use their own proprietary equalization even well into the 1970s. Columbia is one such prominent example in the USA, as are Decca, Teldec and Deutsche Grammophon in Europe.

Sound fidelity

Overall sound fidelity of records produced acoustically using horns instead of microphones had a distant, hollow tone quality. Some voices and instruments recorded better than others; Enrico Caruso, a famous tenor, was one popular recording artist of the acoustic era that was well matched to the recording horn. It has been asked, "Did Caruso make the phonograph or did the phonograph make Caruso?"

Delicate sounds and fine overtones were mostly lost because it took a lot of sound energy to vibrate the recording horn diaphragm and cutting mechanism. There were acoustic limitations due to mechanical resonances in both the recording and playback system. Some pictures of acoustic recording sessions show horns wrapped with tape to help mute these resonances. Even an acoustic recording played back electrically on modern equipment sounds like it was recorded through a horn, notwithstanding a reduction in distortion because of the modern playback. Towards the end of the acoustic era, there were many fine examples of recordings made with horns.

Electric recording which developed during the time that early radio was becoming popular (1925) benefited from the microphones and amplifiers used in radio studios. The early electric recordings were reminiscent tonally of acoustic recordings except there was more recorded bass and treble as well as delicate sounds and overtones cut on the records. This was in spite of some carbon microphones used which had resonances that colored the recorded tone.
The double button carbon microphone with stretched diaphragm was a marked improvement. Alternatively, the Wente style condenser microphone used with the Western Electric (W. E.) licensed recording method had a brilliant midrange and was prone to overloading from sibilants in speech, but it was generally better at picking up sounds more accurately than carbon microphones were.

It was not unusual, however, for electric recordings to be played back on acoustic phonographs. The Victor Orthophonic phonograph was a prime example where such playback was expected. In the Orthophonic, which benefited from telephone research, the mechanical pickup head was redesigned with lower resonance than the traditional mica type. Also, a folded horn with an exponential taper was constructed inside the cabinet to provide better impedance matching to the air. As a result, playback of an Orthophonic record sounded like it was coming from a radio.

Eventually, when it was more common for electric recordings to be played back electrically in the 1930s and '40s, the overall tone was much like listening to a radio of the era. Magnetic pickups became more common and were better designed as time went on to dampen spurious resonances. Crystal pickups were also introduced as lower cost alternatives. The dynamic or moving coil microphone was introduced around 1930 and the velocity or ribbon microphone in 1932. Both of these high quality microphones became widespread in motion picture, radio, recording, and public address applications.

Over time, fidelity, dynamic and noise levels improved to the point that it was harder to tell the difference between a live performance in the studio and the recorded version. This was especially true after the invention of the variable reluctance magnetic pickup cartridge by General Electric in the 1940s when high quality cuts were played on well-designed audio systems. The Capehart radio/phonographs of the era with large diameter electrodynamic loudspeakers, though not ideal, demonstrated this quite well with "home recordings" readily available in the music stores for the public to buy.

There were important quality advances in recordings specifically made for radio broadcast. In the early 1930s Bell Telephone Laboratories and Western Electric announced the total reinvention of disc recording: the Western Electric Wide Range System, "The New Voice of Action." The intent of the new W. E. system was to improve the overall quality of disc recording and playback. The recording speed was 33⅓ rpm, originally used in the Western Electric/ERPI movie audio disc system implemented in the early Warner Brothers' Vitaphone "talkies" of 1927.

The newly invented W. E. moving coil or dynamic microphone was part of the Wide Range System. It had a flatter audio response than the old style Wente condenser type and didn't require electronics installed in the microphone housing. Signals fed to the cutting head were pre-emphasized in the treble region to help override noise in playback. Groove cuts in the vertical plane were employed rather than the usual lateral cuts. The chief advantage claimed was more grooves per inch which could be crowded together resulting in longer playback time. Additionally, the problem of inner groove distortion which plagued lateral cuts could be avoided with the vertical cut system. Wax masters were made by flowing heated wax over a hot metal disc thus avoiding the microscopic irregularities of cast blocks of wax and the necessity of planing and polishing.

Vinyl pressings were made with stampers from master cuts that were electroplated in vacuo by means of gold sputtering. Audio response was claimed out to 8,000 Hz, later 13,000 Hz, using light weight pickups employing jeweled styli. Amplifiers and cutters both using negative feedback were employed thereby improving the range of frequencies cut and lowering distortion levels. Radio transcription producers such as World Broadcasting System and Associated Music Publishers (AMP) were the dominant licensees of the W. E. wide range system and towards the end of the 1930s were responsible for two-thirds of the total radio transcription business. These recordings use a bass turnover of 300 Hz and a 10,000 Hz rolloff of −8.5 dB.

Developmentally, much of the technology of the long playing record, successfully released by Columbia in 1948, came from wide range radio transcription practices. The use of vinyl pressings, increased length of programming, and general improvement in audio quality over 78 rpm records were the major selling points.

The complete technical disclosure of the Columbia LP by Peter C. Goldmark, Rene' Snepvangers and William S. Bachman in 1949 made it possible for a great variety of record companies to get into the business of making long playing records. The business grew quickly and interest spread in high fidelity sound and the do-it-yourself market for pickups, turntables, amplifier kits, loudspeaker enclosure plans, and AM/FM radio tuners. The LP record for longer works, 45 rpm for pop music, and FM radio became high fidelity program sources in demand. Radio listeners heard recordings broadcast and this in turn generated more record sales. The industry flourished.

Evolutionary steps

Technology used in making recordings also developed and prospered. There were ten major evolutionary steps that improved LP production and quality during a period of approximately forty years.
  1. Electrical transcriptions and 78s were first used as sources to master LP lacquer/aluminum cuts in 1948. This was before magnetic tape was commonly employed for mastering. Variable pitch groove spacing helped enable greater recorded dynamic levels. The heated stylus improved the cutting of high frequencies. Gold sputtering in vacuo became increasingly used to make high quality matrices from the cuts to stamp vinyl records.
  2. Decca in Britain employed high-quality wide range microphones (condensers) for the Full Frequency Range Recording (FFRR) system ca. 1949. Wax mastering was employed to produce Decca/London LPs. This created quite a bit of interest in the United States and raised overall quality expectations by customers for microgroove records.
  3. Tape recording with condenser microphones became a long used standard operating procedure in mastering lacquer/aluminum cuts. This improved the overall pickup of high quality sound and enabled tape editing. Over the years there were variations in the kinds of tape recorders used such as the width and number of tracks employed, including 35 mm magnetic film technology.
  4. Production of stereo tape masters and the stereo LP in 1958 were significant improvements in recording technology.
  5. Limitations in the disc cutting part of the process later generated the idea that half-speed mastering would improve quality (in which the source tape is played at half-speed and the lacquer/aluminum disc cut at 16⅔ rpm rather than 33⅓ rpm).
  6. Some 12 inch LPs were cut at 45 rpm claiming better quality sound, but this practice was short-lived.
  7. Efforts were made in the 1970s to record as many as four audio channels on an LP ("Quadraphonic
    Quadraphonic
    Quadraphonic sound – the most widely used early term for what is now called 4.0 surround sound – uses four channels in which speakers are positioned at the four corners of the listening space, reproducing signals that are independent of one another...

    ") by means of matrix and modulated carrier methods. This development was neither a widespread success nor long lasting.
  8. There were approaches to simplify the chain of equipment in the recording process and return to live recording directly to the disc master.
  9. Some records were produced employing noise reduction systems in the tape mastering as well as in the LP itself.
  10. As video recorders became perfected technically it became possible to modify them and use analog to digital converters (codecs) for digital sound recording. This enabled tape mastering with greater dynamic range, low noise and distortion, and freedom from drop outs as well as pre- and post-echo. The digital recording was played back providing a high quality analog signal to master the lacquer/aluminum cut.

Shortcomings

At the time of the introduction of the compact disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

 (CD) in the mid-1980s, the stereo LP pressed in vinyl was at the high point of its development. Still, it suffered from a variety of limitations:
  • The stereo image was not made up of fully discrete Left and Right channels; each channel's signal coming out of the magnetic cartridge contained approximately 20% of the signal from the other channel. The lack of pure channel separation made for a sense of diminished soundstage.
  • Thin, closely spaced spiral grooves that allowed for increased playing time on a 33⅓ rpm microgroove LP led to a tinny pre-echo warning of upcoming loud sounds. The cutting stylus unavoidably transferred some of the subsequent groove wall's impulse signal into the previous groove wall. It was discernible by some listeners throughout certain recordings but a quiet passage followed by a loud sound would allow anyone to hear a faint pre-echo of the loud sound occurring 1.8 seconds ahead of time. This problem could also appear as "post"-echo, with a tinny ghost of the sound arriving 1.8 seconds after its main impulse.
  • Fidelity steadily dropped as playback progressed; there was more vinyl per second available for fine reproduction of high frequencies at the large-diameter beginning of the groove than at the smaller-diameter end closest to the center. The beginning of the groove on an LP gave 510 mm of vinyl per second traveling past the stylus while the ending of the groove gave 200–210 mm of vinyl per second—less than half the linear resolution.
  • Factory problems involving incomplete hot vinyl flow within the stamper could fail to accurately recreate a small section of one side of the groove, a problem called non-fill. It usually appeared on the first item on a side if it was present at all. Non-fill made itself known as a tearing, grating or ripping sound.
  • Poor vinyl quality control could put bits of foreign material in the path of the stylus, creating a permanent 'pop' or 'tick'.
  • The user setting the stylus down in the middle of a recording could cut into the groove and create a permanent 'pop' or 'tick'.
  • Dust or foreign matter collected on the record, making for multiple 'pops' and 'ticks' if not carefully cleaned.
  • A static electric charge could build up on the surface of the spinning record and discharge into the stylus, making a loud 'pop'. In very dry climates, this could happen several times per minute. Subsequent plays of the same record would not have pops in the same places in the music as the static buildup wasn't tied to variations in the groove.
  • An off-center stamping applied a slow 0.56 Hz modulation to the playback, affecting pitch due to a greater amount of vinyl per second on one side of the record than the other. It also affected tonality because the stylus is pressed alternately into one groove wall and then the other, making the frequency response change in each channel. This problem is often called "wow", though turntable and motor problems can also cause pitch-only "wow".
  • Motor problems or belt slippage could cause momentary pitch changes. If these repeated regularly, they could be called "flutter"; if they happened slowly they could be called "wow".
  • Turntable surface slickness, or the slickness of a stack of LPs could allow the top record to slip, causing momentary lowering of pitch in the playback.
  • Tracking force of the stylus was not always the same from beginning to end of the groove. Stereo balance could shift as the recording progressed.
  • Outside electrical interference could be amplified by the magnetic cartridge. Common household wallplate SCR
    Silicon-controlled rectifier
    A silicon-controlled rectifier is a four-layer solid state device that controls current. The name "silicon controlled rectifier" or SCR is General Electric's trade name for a type of thyristor. The SCR was developed by a team of power engineers led by Gordon Hall and commercialized by Frank W...

     dimmers sharing AC lines could put noise into the playback, as could poorly shielded electronics and strong radio transmitters.
  • Loud sounds in the environment could be transmitted mechanically from the turntable's sympathetic vibration into the stylus. Heavy footfalls could bounce the needle out of the groove.
  • Heat could warp the disk, causing pitch and tone problems if minor; tracking problems if major. Badly warped records would be rendered unplayable.
  • Because of a slight slope in the lead-in groove, it was possible for the stylus to skip ahead several grooves when settling into position at the start of the recording.
  • The LP was delicate. Any accidental fumbling with the stylus or dropping of the record onto a sharp corner could scratch the record permanently, creating a series of 'ticks' and 'pops' heard at subsequent playback. Heavier accidents could cause the stylus to break through the groove wall as it was playing, creating a permanent skip that would cause the stylus to either skip ahead to the next groove or skip back to the previous groove. A skip going to the previous groove was called a broken record; the same section of 1.8 seconds of LP (1.3 if 45 rpm) music would repeat over and over until the stylus was lifted off the record. It is also possible to put a slight pressure on the headshell causing the stylus to go to the next groove, without having a playback break. This requires some skill, but is of great use when for instance digitizing a recording, as no information is skipped.

LP versus CD

Audiophile
Audiophile
An audiophile is a person who enjoys listening to recorded music, usually in a home. Some audiophiles are more interested in collecting and listening to music, while others are more interested in collecting and listening to audio components, whose "sound quality" they consider as important as the...

s have differed over the relative merits of the LP versus the CD since the digital disc was introduced. Vinyl records are still prized for their reproduction of analog recordings. The LP's drawbacks however, include surface noise, tracking error, pitch variations and greater sensitivity to handling. Early compact discs were thought to sound thin and edgy. In some cases, this was the result of record companies issuing CDs produced from master recordings that were compressed and equalized for LP. Early consumer compact disc players sometimes contained 14-bit digital-to-analog converters, instead of the correct 16-bit type, as a cost-cutting measure. Some players were only linear to 10 or 12 bits. Modern anti-aliasing filters and oversampling systems used in digital recordings have reduced problems observed with early CD players.

There is a theory that vinyl records can audibly represent higher frequencies than compact discs. According to Red Book specifications
Red Book (audio CD standard)
Red Book is the standard for audio CDs . It is named after one of the Rainbow Books, a series of books that contain the technical specifications for all CD and CD-ROM formats.The first edition of the Red Book was released in 1980 by Philips and Sony; it was adopted by the Digital Audio Disc...

, the compact disc has a frequency response of 2 Hz up to 22,050 Hz. Turntable rumble obscures the low-end limit of vinyl but the upper end has registered to 30 kHz and beyond. Carrier signals of Quad LPs popular in the 1970s were at 30 kHz so to be out of the range of human hearing. The average human auditory system is sensitive to frequencies from 20 Hz to a maximum of around 20,000 Hz. The upper and lower frequency limits of human hearing vary per person.

Preservation

Due to the nature of the medium, playback of "hard" records, e.g., LPs, causes gradual degradation of the recording. (This "gradual degradation" is more noticeable on some discs than others. In fact it is possible to have eighty- or even ninety-year-old records that sound as new as brand-new discs with pops and ticks. How the records are handled and the equipment on which they are played as well as the manufacturing process and quality of original vinyl have a considerable impact upon their wear.) CDs, however, can also have degradation due to "CD rot"
Disc rot
Disc rot is a phrase describing the tendency of CD or DVD or other optical disks to become unreadable due to physical or chemical deterioration...

 and other abnormalities. CDs' shelf life has been disputed as to whether it is to be the equivalent of vinyl- which actually can last for years of playback. CDs also can have shortcomings such as skips and clicks. On the other hand, a vinyl record will play under most any circumstance because it is an analog medium. The recordings are best preserved by transferring them onto more stable media and playing the records as rarely as possible. They need to be stored on edge, and do best under environmental conditions that most humans would find comfortable. The medium needs to be kept clean—but alcohol should only be used on PVC or optical media, not on 78s. The equipment for playback of certain formats (e.g. 16 and 78 rpm) is manufactured only in small quantities, leading to increased difficulty in finding equipment to play the recordings.

Where old disc recordings are considered to be of artistic or historic interest, record companies or archivists play back the disc on suitable equipment and record the result, typically onto a digital format which can be copied and converted without any further damage to the recording. For example, Nimbus Records
Nimbus Records
Nimbus Records is a British record company specializing in classical music recordings.Nimbus was founded in 1972 by the late bass singer Numa Labinsky and the brothers Michael and Gerald Reynolds and has traditionally been based at the Wyastone Leys mansion site, near Monmouth and the English/Welsh...

 uses a specially built horn record player to transfer 78s. Anyone can do this using a standard record player with a suitable pickup, a phono-preamp (pre-amplifier) and a typical personal computer. However, for accurate transfer, professional archivists carefully choose the correct stylus shape and diameter, tracking weight, equalisation curve and other playback parameters and use high-quality analogue-to-digital converters. Once a recording has been digitized, it can be manipulated with software to restore and, hopefully, improve the sound, for example by removing the result of scratches. It can also be easily converted to other digital formats such as DVD-A, CD and MP3
MP3
MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III, more commonly referred to as MP3, is a patented digital audio encoding format using a form of lossy data compression...

.

As an alternative to playback with a stylus, a recording can be read optically, processed with software that calculates the velocity that the stylus would be moving in the mapped grooves and converted to a digital recording
Digital recording
In digital recording, digital audio and digital video is directly recorded to a storage device as a stream of discrete numbers, representing the changes in air pressure for audio and chroma and luminance values for video through time, thus making an abstract template for the original sound or...

 format. This does no further damage to the disc and generally produces a better sound than normal playback. This technique also has the potential to allow for reconstruction of damaged or broken disks.

With regard to inner sleeves, plastic polyethylene is purported to be better than the common paper sleeve and less bulky than the poly-lined paper variety. Paper sleeves deteriorate over time, leave dusty fibers, and produce static that attract dust. 100% poly sleeves produce less static (thereby attracting less dust), are archival, and are thinner by nature so they minimize pressure on the LP jacket seams.

Current status

Groove recordings, first designed in the final quarter of the 19th century, held a predominant position for nearly a century—withstanding competition from reel-to-reel tape, the 8-track cartridge
8-track cartridge
Stereo 8, commonly known as the eight-track cartridge, eight-track tape, or simply eight-track, is a magnetic tape sound recording technology. It was popular in the United States from the mid-1960s through the late 1970s, but was relatively unknown in many European countries...

, and the compact cassette. However, in 1988, the compact disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

 surpassed the gramophone record in popularity. Vinyl records experienced a sudden decline in popularity between 1988 and 1991, when the major label distributors restricted their return policies, which retailers had been relying on to maintain and swap out stocks of relatively unpopular titles. First the distributors began charging retailers more for new product if they returned unsold vinyl, and then they stopped providing any credit at all for returns. Retailers, fearing they would be stuck with anything they ordered, only ordered proven, popular titles that they knew would sell, and devoted more shelf space to CDs and cassettes. Record companies also deleted many vinyl titles from production and distribution, further undermining the availability of the format and leading to the closure of pressing plants. This rapid decline in the availability of records accelerated the format's decline in popularity, and is seen by some as a deliberate ploy to make consumers switch to CDs, which were more profitable for the record companies.

In spite of their flaws, such as the lack of portability, records still have enthusiastic supporters. Vinyl records continue to be manufactured and sold today, especially by independent rock bands and labels, although record sales are considered to be a niche market
Niche market
A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focusing; therefore the market niche defines the specific product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that is intended to impact...

 composed of audiophile
Audiophile
An audiophile is a person who enjoys listening to recorded music, usually in a home. Some audiophiles are more interested in collecting and listening to music, while others are more interested in collecting and listening to audio components, whose "sound quality" they consider as important as the...

s, collectors
Collecting
The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. Some collectors are generalists, accumulating merchandise, or stamps from all countries of the world...

, and DJs. Old records and out of print recordings in particular are in much demand by collectors the world over. (See Record collecting
Record collecting
Record collecting is the hobby of collecting music. Although the main focus is on vinyl records, all formats of recorded music are collected.-History:Record collecting has been around probably nearly as long as recorded sound...

.) Many popular new albums are given releases on vinyl records and older albums are also given reissues as well, sometimes on audiophile grade vinyl with high quality sleeves.

In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, sales of new vinyl records (particularly 7 inch singles) have increased significantly in recent years, somewhat reversing the downward trend seen during the 1990s.

In the United States, annual vinyl sales increased by 85.8% between 2006 and 2007, and by 89% between 2007 and 2008.

Many electronic dance music
Electronic dance music
Electronic dance music is electronic music produced primarily for the purposes of use within a nightclub setting, or in an environment that is centered upon dance-based entertainment...

 and hip hop
Hip hop music
Hip hop music, also called hip-hop, rap music or hip-hop music, is a musical genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted...

 releases today are still preferred on vinyl, however digital copies are still widely available. This is because for disc jockey
Disc jockey
A disc jockey, also known as DJ, is a person who selects and plays recorded music for an audience. Originally, "disc" referred to phonograph records, not the later Compact Discs. Today, the term includes all forms of music playback, no matter the medium.There are several types of disc jockeys...

s ("DJs"), vinyl has an advantage over the CD: direct manipulation of the medium. DJ techniques such as slip-cueing
Slip-cueing
Slip-cueing is a turntable-based DJ technique that consists of holding a record still while the platter rotates underneath the slipmat and releasing it at the right moment. This way the record accelerates to the right speed almost immediately, without waiting for the heavy platter to start up...

, beatmatching
Beatmatching
Beatmatching is a disc jockey technique of pitch shifting or timestretching a track to match its tempo to that of the currently playing track e.g. the kicks and snares in two house records hit at the same time when both records are played simultaneously...

, and scratching
Scratching
Scratching is a DJ or turntablist technique used to produce distinctive sounds by moving a vinyl record back and forth on a turntable while optionally manipulating the crossfader on a DJ mixer. While scratching is most commonly associated with hip hop music, since the late 1980s, it has been used...

 originated on turntables. With CDs or compact audio cassettes one normally has only indirect manipulation options, e.g., the play, stop, and pause buttons. With a record one can place the stylus a few grooves farther in or out, accelerate or decelerate the turntable, or even reverse its direction, provided the stylus, record player, and record itself are built to withstand it. However, many CDJ
CDJ
CDJ is a term used to describe a line of CD players from Pioneer Electronics that allow analogue control of music from CDs, usually using an emulated vinyl control surface...

 and DJ advances, such as DJ software and time-encoded vinyl
Vinyl Emulation Software
Vinyl emulation software allows the user to physically manipulate the playback of digital audio files on a computer using the turntables as an interface, thus preserving the hands-on feel of deejaying with vinyl while allowing playback of audio recordings not available in phonograph form...

, now have these capabilities and more.

Vinyl is also becoming more and more popular in other musical genres such as hardcore punk
Hardcore punk
Hardcore punk is an underground music genre that originated in the late 1970s, following the mainstream success of punk rock. Hardcore is generally faster, thicker, and heavier than earlier punk rock. The origin of the term "hardcore punk" is uncertain. The Vancouver-based band D.O.A...

, alt-metal, or indie rock
Indie rock
Indie rock is a genre of alternative rock that originated in the United Kingdom and the United States in the 1980s. Indie rock is extremely diverse, with sub-genres that include lo-fi, post-rock, math rock, indie pop, dream pop, noise rock, space rock, sadcore, riot grrrl and emo, among others...

. Limited vinyl editions of new albums or EP
Extended play
An EP is a musical recording which contains more music than a single, but is too short to qualify as a full album or LP. The term EP originally referred only to specific types of vinyl records other than 78 rpm standard play records and LP records, but it is now applied to mid-length Compact...

s are prized by fans even though the music is not related in any way to DJing or audiophile
Audiophile
An audiophile is a person who enjoys listening to recorded music, usually in a home. Some audiophiles are more interested in collecting and listening to music, while others are more interested in collecting and listening to audio components, whose "sound quality" they consider as important as the...

s.

Figures released in the United States in early 2009 showed that sales of vinyl albums nearly doubled in 2008, with 1.88 million sold - up from just under 1 million in 2007. Sales have continued to rise in the 2010s, with around 2.8 million sold in 2010, which is the most sales since records began to be kept in 1991, when vinyl had been overshadowed by CDs and cassettes.

See also

  • LP album
    LP album
    The LP, or long-playing microgroove record, is a format for phonograph records, an analog sound storage medium. Introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry...

  • Unusual types of gramophone records
    Unusual types of gramophone records
    The overwhelming majority of records manufactured have been of certain sizes , playback speeds , and appearance...

  • Record Store Day
    Record Store Day
    Record Store Day is an internationally celebrated day observed the third Saturday of April each year. Its purpose, as conceived by independent record store employee Chris Brown, is to celebrate the art of music...

  • Sound recording and reproduction
    Sound recording and reproduction
    Sound recording and reproduction is an electrical or mechanical inscription and re-creation of sound waves, such as spoken voice, singing, instrumental music, or sound effects. The two main classes of sound recording technology are analog recording and digital recording...

  • Phonograph cylinder
    Phonograph cylinder
    Phonograph cylinders were the earliest commercial medium for recording and reproducing sound. Commonly known simply as "records" in their era of greatest popularity , these cylinder shaped objects had an audio recording engraved on the outside surface which could be reproduced when the cylinder was...


Further reading

  • From Tin Foil to Stereo—Evolution of the Phonograph by Oliver Read and Walter L. Welch
  • The Fabulous Phonograph by Roland Gelatt, published by Cassell & Company, 1954 rev. 1977 ISBN 0-304-29904-9
  • Where have all the good times gone?—the rise and fall of the record industry Louis Barfe.
  • Pressing the LP record by Ellingham, Niel, published at 1 Bruach Lane, PH16 5DG, Scotland.
  • Sound Recordings by Peter Copeland
    Peter Copeland
    Peter Michael Copeland was an English sound archivist.From an early age he had a deep interest in collecting old gramophone records and in sound recording. In 1961 he joined the BBC World Service as a Technical Operator in the Control Room at Bush House, doing recording operations on disk and tape...

     published 1991 by the British Library ISBN 0-7123-0225-5.
  • "A Record Changer And Record Of Complementary Design" by B. H. Carson, A. D. Burt, and H. I. Reiskind, RCA Review, June 1949
  • "Recording Technology History: notes revised July 6, 2005, by Steven Schoenherr", San Diego University
    University of San Diego
    The University of San Diego is a Roman Catholic university in San Diego, California. USD offers more than sixty bachelor's, master’s, and doctoral programs...

    (archived 2010)


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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