Getting into the world of vinyl is a big step to jump into, considering all the information that one would have to be familiar with when making the choice to get in on this hobby. To fully maximize one's immersion into this type of pastime, learning the different categories, tips, and methods pertaining to the hobby are important aspects that will really help anyone out in ensuring that your record collection will be able to last quite the lifetime.
With our Vinyl 101 series, our team at Acetate Music aims to educate newcomers and novice collectors all about vinyl, starting off with an entry that asks us one of the most essential questions––which is what exactly are the types of vinyl?
Vinyl Records come in different shapes and sizes, with these sizes depending on the amount of music that is being stored within the record. Most full-length albums and EPs are usually pressed in the standard 12" size, while both the 10" and 7" records accommodate shorter length EPs and singles into the disc. Longer full-length albums are further divided into a set of two 12" discs, which is a choice usually made by the mastering engineer in order to sufficiently divide the contents of the album without compromising the sound quality of the music.
It's also worth noting that in some occasions, certain 7" records have a larger spindle hole within the center. This would require the use of a 45 RPM adapter to be fit within the spindle hole, in order to be placed properly onto most turntable setups. The larger spindle hole found in these types of 7" record were made to accommodate jukebox use during the decades of the 70's-90's. Talk about vintage!
2. Record Speeds
Aside from the different sizes, records have different record speeds as well. One would notice the tag of either 33 1/3 RPM or 45 RPM on the labels of their records, and these are what correspond to their optimal record speeds on which they should be played at. There's nothing too bad with playing them at the wrong speeds, but if it's too slow or too fast, your music will either sound like an Alvin & the Chipmunks title or become a very low ghoul-like voice that's unrecognizable.
For 33 RPM records, the records cut at these speeds allow for more information to be stored within the record. The standard running time of music for 33 RPM records per side falls within the range of 20-25 minutes of data that can be stored within the disc. This record speed is also what is most common amongst modern pressings today, as they can be classified as the more common and standard cut for records in the present.
On the other hand, 45 RPM records are not as common as the latter, often being found in specialty pressings. Most vinyl enthusiasts would agree that 45 RPM records sound the best––as the music on vinyl often sounds better when cut at higher speeds. Records cut at 45 RPM often sound more detailed, without any noise or distortion affecting playback. However, these are mostly common in audiophile pressings in more limited quantities.
3. Mono vs. Stereo
When purchasing vintage records, sometimes one would notice a label that classifies the album as a stereo recording, while others would have one that is labeled as mono. Throughout the years, the evolution from the mono to the stereo format has become somewhat of a gradual evolution with regards to sound recordings but many of us would wonder what the actual differences are.
To lay out the facts, mono pressings usually have their music to be "centered", with the musical output released being the same in both the left and right speakers. It makes for a uniform listening experience which has been mastered from tapes that have largely been untouched for nearly 50 years. The resulting mono pressings often get to sound as good, or even better, than the original releases.
With stereo pressings, these are considered to be more ambient and dynamic than their mono counterparts. Most stereo recordings try to recapture the experience of what it's like to listen to music in real time, with the resulting music sounding wider, more detailed, and more realistic. Stereo tracks drive different audio signals through the left and right speakers, making for a more accurate representation of how live music is perceived by listeners. Majority if not all of modern records are pressed in the stereo format considering how the stereo format offers more possibilities in the recording and production of music today.
However, it's difficult to tell define what would sound better amongst the two formats, as it really depends on the preference of the listener.
4. Record Weights
Vinyl records also have different amounts of weight, with some of these types offering a better listening experience than others. From the variations of record weights found in vinyl, some of them would be very thin and almost limp, while others could be very thick and steady in it's shape. Some of the more popular weight classes that can be found in our vinyl records would be the 120g, 140g, 180g and 200g pressings.
Majority of the standard pressings for several titles are often pressed on 120 gram vinyl. This type of weight for a record is often cheaper to produce, and can be developed in much larger batches within a short amount of time. The 140 Gram weight class is definitely thicker than the former, with most of them retaining their flat shape and sturdy build without any warping.
However, the weight classes that are often put to a premium would be those in the 180-220 gram records. Majority of audiophiles would prefer to go for the 180g & 200g heavyweight vinyl pressings as they are less prone to warp, distortion, and are often made from virgin PVC material.
5. Different Colorways
Aside from the standard black colorway, many collectors love chasing after the different variant colorways of a record. The past few years have shown a surge in artists & factories churning out a variety of color releases for a certain album, which has caused quite the delay in pressing plants all around the world due to the lack of color pellets necessary. In most instances, the release of colored vinyls attain a higher value after a certain period of time––yet there's also been contention on whether or not colored vinyls are inferior to the standard black ones in terms of sound quality.
Make sure to check out our other entry detailing the different types of colorways, and the evaluation of whether or not they truly affect sound quality after all here.
When getting deeper into your collecting habits, taking note of the things mentioned above will become common knowledge to any vinyl aficionado. No two records turn out exactly the same, which is definitely something that makes the hobby one that is truly special and unique to any record collector. Thanks for tuning in our Vinyl 101 entry!