Soundmirror tape (also known as ‘magic ribbon tape’) was a magnetic tape format for use on the Soundmirror tape recorder made by Thermionic Products in the United Kingdom. What was unusual about it was that was made of paper with an oxide coating rather than the standard plastic tape.
Thermionic introduced the Soundmirror tape recorder in late-1948 under licence from the Brush Development Company in the US, after introducing the Recordon dictation disc (also made of paper) earlier in the year. The Soundmirror machine became the first domestic tape recorder on the UK market.
While the Recordon disc was aimed at the dictation market, the Soundmirror format was aimed at longer duration recording such as concerts, meetings and lectures. The tape ran at 7.5 inches per second on a maximum reel size of 7-inches, so allowing up to around 30 minutes of recording.
Production of the Soundmirror continued until 1954 by which time acetate (and later polyester) had become the standard magnetic tape base material.
The Little LP (also known as a Jukebox EP) was a 7-inch vinyl record with up to three songs on each side, that played at 33 ⅓ rpm in stereo, and had a small centre hole. They were first introduced by Cadence Records in late 1961, though the Cadence version was in mono and was not designed for jukeboxes.
The Little LP was not successful in the retail market, but it was picked up by Seeburg for use in their new jukebox, introduced in September 1962. The Seeburg version of the Little LP was in stereo, came with title strips, and had a colour cover for display in the jukebox. A number of record companies signed up, mostly easy listening and classical labels, and by 1963 there were 233 titles available with over 1,000 by 1966. Little LPs were also made for other jukebox manufacturers such as Wurlitzer and ATI.
Little LPs were essentially cut-down versions of the full 12-inch LP, and shared the same artwork. Record companies saw the potential of promoting the full LP version by having a selection of tracks available to hear, and the cover on display, in places where adult listeners gathered.
However by 1969, output of Little LPs had dropped sharply. A couple of small manufacturers revived the format in the early 1970s, but only a few titles per year were released in the period 1970-1975. Seeburg introduced new jukeboxes that didn’t play Little LPs in 1971, and the introduction of quadraphonic Little LPs didn’t make any difference as there were very few quadraphonic jukeboxes to play them on.
There were no new titles on the Little LP format for jukeboxes in 1976, but a few Little LPs have been released for the retail market as specialty items since then.
White label vinyl records are generally 12-inch LPs, or 7-inch singles and come with a plain centre label (usually white) and are in plain packaging. The centre label might have handwritten details of the artist and title, or may be rubber stamped, or have a sticker applied.
Some white label records are test pressings made by the pressing plant, usually in quantities of 5 or less, and then listened to to check the sound quality before pressing larger runs.
Some white label records are produced for promotional purposes, including advance copies sent to retailers or to DJs. Sometimes white labels are used to conceal artist identities, so the record is listened to without prejudice. Dance music producers might produce white label copies to play in dance clubs to gauge crowd response.
Other white label records are unofficial or partially unofficial releases, for example if a remix was made without the consent of the artist or label.
Generally, white label records are not distributed to the general public.
The 7-inch EP (for Extended Play) was a format introduced in 1952 by RCA Victor, just a few years after the introduction of the 7-inch single format in 1949. It sat between the 7-inch single and the 12-inch Long Play (LP) record, and like the 7-inch single it span at 45 rpm so could be played on any photograph with a 45 rpm setting.
By using narrower grooves, it was possible to squeeze 7½ minutes of playing time on each side at the expense of volume, allowing more than one song on each side (generally EPs have between three and six tracks). Like LPs, EPs did not necessarily have ‘title’ tracks, and could have different names to the songs on them (for example the 1963 Beatles EP simply called ‘The Beatles’ Hits’). They were also packaged more like an LP with a cardboard picture sleeve, whereas 7-inch singles until the 1970s generally had paper sleeves with just the record label on them.
Whilst less common in the US, the 7-inch EP was widely sold in the UK and some other European countries, and between 1960 and 1967 they were popular enough for Record Retailer magazine in the UK to compile a separate EP chart. They were a good way for artists to produce something more substantial than a single between LP releases.
They declined in popularity after the 1960s, and faced competition from formats such as 10-inch and 12-inch singles or EPs (which could allow for more sound volume with wider grooves), as well as Cassette and CD singles or EPs. However, small numbers of 7-inch EPs are still released.
In 1954, Seeburg introduced their Background Music Library, using 45rpm 7-inch mono phonograph discs.
Seeburg had previously introduced in 1952 a Library Unit for home or commercial use that could house 100 standard 7-inch singles. The Library Units were different to jukeboxes as they were not coin-operated, the mechanism was not on show, and individual songs could not be randomly selected. Instead, the unit could be programmed to skip certain sides, or skip a record altogether as the mechanism played from beginning to end all the A sides, and then all the B sides as the mechanism travels back. The order of songs was determined by the order the records are placed in the machine.
The Background Music Library used the same machines with the main difference being that the records were EPs (Extended Play) and had two or more songs on each side. Sets of records were rented from Seeburg, and every 30 days a number of the discs were changed.
When the Library Unit was loaded with Background Music Library discs from Seeburg, it could provide up to 8 hours of continuous play, before starting over again.
In 1959, Seeburg introduced the Background Music System, an incompatible system using 9-inch mono phonograph discs with a 2-inch centre hole, playing at 16⅔ rpm.
Kiddyphone was a recording label that produced small diameter (either 5½, 6 or 7-inch) 78rpm records aimed at children during the 1920s.
The Kiddyphone label was based in the UK, and was owned by The Crystalate Gramophone Record Manufacturing Company Ltd. who also owned Imperial records. Hence, some releases on Kiddyphone are simply edited versions of Imperial recordings.
Kiddyphone phonographs were very small tinplate devices, wound with a key. Sound quality was very poor.
Phonograph records with etchings on one side have existed since the early 1900s, and etched centre labels were used from the very start of phonograph record production.
Laser-etching is different as it’s possible to etch a pattern onto the playable surface of a vinyl record without any discernible difference to the sound quality.
The first vinyl record to employ laser-etching was the 1980 12-inch LP ‘True Colours’ by Split Enz. The logo from the album cover, as well as other shapes, were etched into the vinyl in a manner that if hit by a light reflected polychromatic colours.
Although the technique has been employed on a few other releases, most etchings on vinyl are done on the non-playable side.
Shaped vinyl phonograph records were usually based on 7-inch singles, and were most popular in the 1980s
They normally consist of a grooved centre, usually the same size as a standard 7-inch single, but with a large non-grooved outer rim that can be cut in various shapes without affecting the grooved area. The shaped vinyl often came in the form of a picture disc, something that was heavily promoted by UK record companies in the mid-1980s.
In some cases, the grooved area was smaller than on a standard 7-inch single, which meant the record would not play on automatic or semi-automatic turntables.
The 7-inch 45 rpm vinyl record was a phonograph disc format introduced by RCA Victor in 1949, to compete with Columbia’s 33⅓ rpm 10-inch and 12-inch long-playing records.
Like the 33⅓ rpm record, the 7-inch 45 rpm record used microgrooves, allowing a similar playing time to the 10-inch 78 rpm records it partly replaced.
RCA initially used eight different colours of vinyl to indicate the genre of the music, with popular releases on black vinyl, children’s records on yellow vinyl and classical music on red vinyl for example. This didn’t continue as coloured vinyl was more expensive to produce, although coloured vinyl is still used for some special editions by different record companies.
Until 1950, a ‘War of the Speeds’ took place, and consumers were unsure which of the two new formats would prevail. In the end, the 12-inch long-play (LP) record became the predominant format for music albums, while the 7-inch 45 rpm become predominant format for singles, with a song on each side.
The 7-inch 45 rpm format was also used for the Extended Play (EP) record from 1952, which achieved up to 7½ minutes of playing time per side at the expense of lower volume by reducing the width of the grooves. These generally contained between three and six songs.
Outside of the US, 7-inch singles generally had small centre holes, like an LP, but a central section could be punched out (such as for use in jukeboxes). Inserts or adaptors were available to allow the use of 7-inch singles with a larger centre hole to be used in standard record players. Many record players of the 1950s and 60s had a tall centre spindle that allowed records to be stacked, to play a number of 7-inch singles in sequence.
In the UK, sales of the new 7-inch single format surpassed those of the 78 rpm record by 1958. By the 1980s however, 7-inch vinyl records were competing with cassette singles, CD singles, and later with downloads, and by 2012 accounted for around 0.1% of all single sales, although this still represented sales of around 96,000 copies.