When you think about a vinyl record, you do not often think about the speed of the recording device used to create the vinyl record. Indeed, you look at the grooves to ensure there aren’t any dents or cracks and you work to ensure that you have everything set up in a way to produce the best sound. One way you can ensure that is the case it by work with Sound Stage Direct to get the best equipment and records to get the best sound. After all, a great record is only as good as the record player used to play the beautiful sounds! The key with the earliest records really lies in the recording speeds of the discs. The earliest recordings were produced in a wide variety of speeds, ranging from sixty rotations per minute (rpm’s) to 130. These discs also came in a number of different sizes. The standardization of disc sizes and therefore rotational speeds had a big impact on the recordings that came out of these discs. It was through these mediums that the vinyl records we know and love became so popular, as the size of the disc and the rotational speed had everything to do with the long term practicality of the vinyl record.
The earliest standardized rotational speed seemed to be set at about 70 rpm’s on a seven inch disc. Emile Berliner whose Gramophone brought records into a new place in musical history was selling these standardized discs and started with a a hand crank that was eventually replaced by a spring driven speed regulator. By the year 1925, the rotational speed became standardized at 78 rotations per minute for no apparent rhyme or reason other than, perhaps, an early device worked with this rotational speed and it thus became a standard measure. The changes between the rotational speeds in records seemed to vary only, then, by country based on the alternating current electricity supply that ran at 60 hertz versus 50 hertz.
The standardization of rotational speed in record players was created through speed regulators that were called “governors”, at least in the earliest gramophones. These governors were truly the key alternation in the gramophone model that took the gramophone from a toy and a curiosity to a viable product to be used for music recording. This change was huge for Berliner and his colleagues, and really set the stage for their continuing success in the record business.
Rotational speeds have also been important in the later developments of records. While the speed regulator and 78 rpm discs were good, the change to make LP records or longer playing records really changed the way music was consumed. These LPs sported a rotational speed of 33 and 1/3 rotations per minute on a 12 inch disc. Additionally, the technology that allowed for slower rpm’s and more music also gave birth to EP’s with one to three tracks on a smaller 7 inch disc at 45 rpm’s. Understanding the path that brought us to the current vinyl record is key to appreciating the technology at our backs and in the future of the discs.