Does Size Matter?

Does Size Matter?

This page has the following sub-sections:

  • What’s an album?
  • Ten inches
  • Twelves and Sevens
  • Sevens, eights, thirteen
  • Fives and sixes
  • The Twelve Inch Single
  • The size of CDs

For a decade, 78 rpm singles and 45 rpm singles co-existed:

Hound Dog 78 rpm copy

Elvis Presley: Hound Dog 1956 HMV 78 rpm, 10″ diameter, from the period when 45 and 78 rpm discs co-existed

Only Sixteen-Cooke copy

Only Sixteen: Sam Cooke, 1959 HMV 45 rpm 7″ diameter

Records soon established three basic sizes. 7 inches (7″), 10 inches (10″) and 12 inches (12″.)

Screenshot 2020-08-03 at 09.38.46

  • Shellac  78 rpm discs came mainly in 10″, with some at 12″
  • The first LPs were 12″ and 16″, but once microgroove was established, they settled at 12″ and 10″ playing at 33 1/3 rpm
  • Singles and EPs settled at 7″ playing at 45 rpm. EPs were developed just a few years later, enabling four tracks on a disc instead of two. In my youth club days, our local Eddie Cochran fan would reject the EPs and put on the singles instead. ‘They’re louder!’ he said. They were too. And if you got those budget cover version EPs with six tracks on a 7″ EP, they sounded pretty quiet.
  • As vinyl passed its heyday, the 12″  45 rpm single came into existence. The larger size and 45 rpm speed meant they were louder and had a greater dynamic range.

Twelve soon took over as the magic size for LPs.  The twelve inch LP had a major effect on popular music. It meant that 22 minutes a side was about the limit in length for full quality reproduction. It could be stretched to 24 minutes with care. In the last days of the LP’s dominance, TV advertised LPs by K-Tel and its competitors pushed thirty minutes a side onto LPs, with subsequent compression and lack of both volume and sound quality. 

playing times and sizes