LP (Long Play) 12 inch record (1948 – )

The LP (Long Play) record is an audio format for phonograph records, introduced by Columbia Records in 1948 and still in use today.

LP records are made of vinyl (either virgin or recycled) and together with a playing speed of 33⅓ rpm (though some were 16⅔ rpm) and the use of microgrooves, allow for a playing time of around 45 minutes. Previously, 78 rpm records had a playing time of just around 3-4 minutes per side, so an ‘album’ of records was sold as a set, and this name continued to describe a collection of songs on a single disc.

Each side of an LP contains a single continuous groove, with an average length of 460 m.

LP records are generally 12 inches in diameter, but 10 inch LPs have also been produced at different times. The amount of vinyl in an LP is generally 130 g, but some records were produced with less (sometimes as little as 90 g). Modern high-fidelity LPs tend to use more, such as 180 g. Generally LPs are pressed on black vinyl, but coloured vinyl and picture discs (with a card sandwiched between two clear sides of vinyl) have been produced.

By as early as 1952, LPs represented 16.7% of unit sales, rising to 24.4% in 1958 (by then, most of the remainder was 45 rpm singles, 78 rpm only representing 2.1%).

Stereophonic sound was introduced in 1957, and quadraphonic records were sold in the 1970s for a time.

The LP had no serious competitors for long-playing recordings until the 1970s when the Compact Cassette improved in quality, and then in the 1980s with the introduction of the Compact Disc. LPs ceased to be a mainstream format in the early 1990s, but continue to be produced in small but increasing numbers.

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Preservation / Migration

Brown wax cylinder (late 1880s – 1906)

Brown wax phonograph cylinders were the first mass market cylinder format, and were introduced in the late 1880s.

Early brown wax cylinder recordings would commonly wear out after they were played a few dozen times. The buyer could then use a mechanism which left their surface shaved smooth so new recordings could be made on them. The ability to record as well as play back sound was an advantage over the cheaper disc record phonographs which began to be mass marketed at the end of the 1890s.

Over the years the type of wax used was improved and hardened so that cylinders could be played over 100 times.

Most of the commercial recordings made up to the mid-1890’s were recorded directly onto the cylinder, making each cylinder unique. The first duplicates were made by connecting a playing phonograph with a recording one by the use of a rubber tube. A more practical solution was found in pantographic duplication machines, which recorded a blank more directly from the original cylinder, allowing about 100 copies to be made from a single master cylinder.

In 1902 Edison Records launched a line of improved hard wax cylinders marketed as Edison Gold Moulded Records, replacing Edison brown wax cylinders. The last commercially recorded brown wax cylinders were likely made in Europe by small labels until around 1906.

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 1obsolescence 1Brown wax cylinders are very brittle and easily damaged by handling or playing. They may be suffering mould damage, or oxides or oils may have migrated to the surface, both of which will damage the playing surface.

For playback, an Automatic or Model B reproducer should be used on the phonograph. Specialist systems with lightweight pickups can be used for transcription.

10-inch LP (1948 – 1980s)

The 10-inch Long-Play (LP) record is a variation on the 12-inch LP and was introduced at the same time by Columbia Records in 1948.

The 10-inch LP provided around 14 minutes of playing time per side (compared to around 23 minutes on the 12-inch version) at 33⅓ rpm.

The 12-inch format was initially used for higher-priced classical recordings and Broadway shows, while popular music appeared on 10-inch records. By the mid-1950s, this changed and the 10-inch LP version lost out.

10-inch LPs would reappear as mini-albums in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the US and Australia as a marketing alternative.

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Highway Hi-Fi (1956 – 1959)

Highway Hi-Fi was a record player system for cars, introduced at a time when the only form of music available in cars was the radio (the 4-track (Stereo-Pak) tape cartridge was still six years away).

It was developed by Peter Goldmark, who had previously developed the long-playing record (LP) at Columbia, and used a 7-inch disc with a standard LP centre hole and heavier vinyl (135 grams when standard 7-inch singles normally used 70 grams). Highway Hi-Fi records played at 16⅔ RPM and could hold up to 45 minutes of music or an hour of speech per side, helped by very tight grooves, and smaller centre labels on some discs. To try to prevent skipping, an unusually high stylus pressure was used.

The players were produced by CBS Electronic and fitted to Chrysler cars in the US from the 1956 model year, while Columbia Special Products manufactured the records.

As early as 1957, Chrylser was beginning to pull support due to warranty claims as the system proved unreliable, and there was a limited number of titles available from Columbia’s back-catalogue.

RCA tried their hand with another car record player from 1960 to 1961. This version played standard 7-inch records but the high stylus pressure quickly caused wear.

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