What Types of Vinyl Records are Available?

What Types of Vinyl Records are Available?

May 04, 2020 | How To

If you’re just getting into the world of vinyl, you might be confused about where to start. LP? EP? How many inches? Don’t worry. In this article, you’ll learn the basic categories of vinyl records. Soon, you’ll start sounding like a pro.

A Short Lesson in Record Vocabulary

Before we dive into the different types of vinyl records, let’s review a few key terms:

  • EP: Extended-play record.
  • LP: Long-play record.
  • RPM: Revolutions per minute, or the speed the record spins around. Most records play at either 33⅓, 45, or 78 revolutions per minute, with 33⅓ and 45 being the most common for new vinyl.
  • Single: A record usually containing two songs — one on each side.
  • X″: The record’s diameter in inches.

Long-Plays (LPs)

Long-playing records, known as “LPs,” were introduced by Columbia Records back in 1948 to compete with RCA’s existing 12 record. Before the LP, most records had minimal playback time and were quite brittle and fragile.

Initially, most LPs were vinyl and designed to play at 33⅓ rpm. A big step up from the pre-LP days, each side of the record can reproduce up to 26 minutes of sound.

While 33⅓ rpm LPs are still popular, the 45 rpm records have superior sound quality because they allow for a higher level of definition on the record’s surface. Plus, because they move faster than their 33⅓ rpm counterparts, the 45s allow the needle to pick up more vinyl in a shorter amount of time, resulting in higher-quality sound. In particular, 45s tend to reproduce higher frequencies better.

Extended Plays (EPs)

Extended-play records (“EPs”) are shorter records that usually contain between two and five songs — smaller than an LP but longer than a single. EPs can take any format, ranging from 7″ to 12″ records playing at either 33⅓ or 45 rpm.


Singles have the least amount of music, usually with one song on each side of the record. Early on, singles were popular because they were cheaper than long-play records. Today you might find singles in a few different forms.

Seven-Inch (7″) Singles

RCA initially released the 7″, 45 rpm singles back in 1949. While Columbia’s 12″ LP became standard for longer albums, RCA’s 7″ became the go-to format for singles.

Twelve-Inch (12″) Singles

The 12” single first came on the scene in the 1970s. These singles allowed for more dynamic volume throughout the record and a louder recording level. In the 1980s, 12” singles became popular tools for club DJs. The bigger singles were often perfect for extended club versions of dance music.

Three-Inch (3″) Singles

Originally released in the early 2000s by Japanese toy manufacturer, Bandai, this gimmicky format died as quickly as it appeared. Fast forward to 2019, Crosley and Record Store Day re-introduced this format along with a mini turntable that plays 3” records. In 2020, Crosley also released a mini version of their most popular record player, the Cruiser.

Flexi Discs

Flexi disks are records made out of thin, flexible vinyl, plastic, or coated paper. Decades ago, flexi disks were sold in vending machines and newsstands or were inserted as bonuses inside books and magazines. Flexi disks had shallow grooves and didn’t produce high-quality music — they were mostly used as a way of advertising new music. Flexi disks declined in popularity by the 1990s, when CDs and digital music started taking off. However, some record companies and independent artists are beginning to experiment with flexi disks as a marketing strategy.

Novelty Shapes, Sizes, and Colors

While audiophiles see vinyl as the holy grail of sound quality, others flock to records because they’re cool and unique. To stand out from the crowd, some musicians print records in orange, blue, pink, or other colors. Audio engineers generally agree that solid-colored records don’t have a noticeable effect on the record’s sound.

Some records even have images printed directly on the grooves. However, unlike with solid colors, most audio engineers agree that records with images suffer from poorer audio quality.

Other records have unusual shapes on the non-groove portion. The grooves determine the sound quality, so adding interesting shapes to the non-grooved section doesn’t affect your listening experience.

Find the Perfect Record Player for You

With vinyl in all shapes, sizes, and rpm, you have a wide selection to consider. If you’re looking for a record player to fit your needs, check out Crosley’s wide selection of high-quality turntables.

Jason Lee Menard
Jason Lee Menard

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