Waxing Poetically – Vinyl Formats 101

Getting into the world of vinyl is exciting and something I recommend to every music lover. But some parts about it can be quite daunting. It’s easy to go into a record store and flip through the stacks and walk out with a purchase. But when you really want to get savvy and find some gems, there are a few things you should know about. And I’m here to help. Let’s break it down, shall we?

The 12″ LP
This is what you expect when you think of vinyl. It’s been the standard for some time now and I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon. You have a limit to the amount of music you can put on each side (as with all vinyl) but this gives you the most bang for your buck. 12″ refers to the diameter of the physical record. You can get various weights of it ranging now from 120 grams to 180 grams. The grams measurement does equal weight and there’s a lot of thought out there that 180 sounds the best. But I have to say, I’ve got old records mixed to 120 that sound absolutely fantastic. The judgement is in the ear of the listener.

 

The 7″ or aka 45
Very popular among DJs, these little gems are becoming more and more popular and are an easy way for people to get their music on wax without breaking the bank. A lot of artists do Split 7″s made popular during the punk era because it keeps the cost down even more. A Split 7″ means 2 bands share a 7″ diameter record and put a song of their’s on each side. Therefore they split the cost and people get to listen to a single of each group. Win/win for everyone involved.

 

 

The 10″
More of a lost art because of it’s tendency to be played at 78 rpm which a lot of newer turntables don’t support. But the 10″ can be played at 33 rpm or 78 rpm. And if I haven’t explained what rpm means yet, it’s revolutions per minute. You can throw in some exceptions where the 10″ format is still in use. I just saw Kid A in the record store on the 10″ format and it probably sounds damn good. I got burned on Record Store Day by buying the Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” 10″ only to learn it only could be played at 78 rpm. Which my turntable does not support. AWESOME.

Colored Vinyl
I’ll be the first to admit it. Orange, blue or purple vinyl spinning around the deck looks pretty damn sexy. But there’s a lot of talk out there about the loss in fidelity. I’m an amateur audiophile compared to some people I know. And trust me, even with my sexy listening setup, those rumors about loss in quality are pretty minimal. If I see a record getting pressed to a limited edition of baby blue wax I’ll go ahead and snag it. So go ahead, grab those colored vinyls. Some people may snuff at you about it, but you’ll still be in listening glory with your eye candy.

Double LPs
Some people feel the need to press 2 or 3 songs onto one side of a 12″ piece of wax. And while I’m the topic of wax, this was a chosen medium late in the record pressing years because of it’s durability. It scratches easier and is more likely to warp, but can last longer and hold up more than other forms of material records were pressed on going back decades. But back to the Double LP. Do I see the need for it? No. It’s a pain in the ass to flip the damn record after 2-3 songs. Is the quality better? Debatable again even with my keen ears. But they’re out there. Buy them if you can’t keep your ass on the couch for more than 6 minutes. I own plenty myself and it always bugs me.

 

Ok that’s all I’ve got for now. I could go on and on but I wanted to give an overview for everyone. You know what I think you should do? Get your ass out there and start picking up some vinyls!!

2 comments for “Waxing Poetically – Vinyl Formats 101

  1. Akash
    April 28, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    I’m very interested in the topic of your column, but from what I’ve read thus far, your post seem very entry level.. Something to be found from a quick google search or a brief conversation with a record store clerk. I know you’re only three post in and you’re I guess working towards a more complete guide, but tell me something I don’t know or give me insight on something that is argued in the vinyl community. ie. I’m always torn on why/method for cleaning my records. Anyways, please don’t take this comment negatively, I’m just trying to give you some feedback/tell you that your column topic is freaking awesome and has crazy potential. :)

  2. April 29, 2011 at 12:03 AM

    Thanks Akash for the feedback. I didn’t take a word of it negatively.
    Trust me, I’m just getting ramped up. This was the 101 class for people who are looking to get into the world of vinyl but don’t want to sound like idiots because they don’t know the basics.

    Trust me, more to come soon!

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