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Everything important about LP records

13.02.2024
7 min. read
Juraj Haruštiak
In the article, you will read about the history and birth of vinyl records, the care that they require, how to set up the turntable correctly and how to store your collection so that it will last for years. You will learn something about recording and mastering records and we will end with the biggest vinyl holiday – Record Store Day.
Everything important about LP records

But how did it all start? The birth and history of the LP record

Gramophone records were invented at the end of the 19th century by Emile Berliner. At that time, the plates were made of shellac, which is actually a natural resin. The plate had thicker grooves and revolved at 78 RPM, but only contained a maximum of 3 minutes of sound. In the 1930s, RCA Victor released the first full-length vinyl record. It was supposed to be commercially available, but unfortunately it did not end with great success. During the Second World War, the resources of shellac were very limited and therefore it was already massively pressed in vinyl. Still at 78 RPM.

The new records as we know them today, made of PVC (vinyl) and with a speed of 33 1/3 RPM, were brought to the market by Columbia Records who began selling them after the war, in 1948. The first record released in this way was The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto .

A year later, a format of record with a speed of 45 RPM was created. Interestingly the records at that time differed in colour according to the genre. Up to 7 colours were available.

Things that are good to know about LP's

Although streaming is the most common way to listen to music today, more and more people are returning to LPs. The pleasure of listening is enhanced by the ritual itself associated with the release of vinyls. Removing the record from its sleeve, cleaning it, lowering the needle, or turning the record after the side has finished.

Packaging sells and this is twice as true for the packaging of vinyls. They are often designed to perfection to attract collector's attention. In some you will find not only information about the artist and songs, but also the instruments that were used for the recording, studio equipment or a number of photos on multi-page booklets.

Your collection of long-play records

The first records in the beginner's collection do not have to be expensive at all. Just follow current trends, offers and especially your own taste. A passionate collector's record collection can either be based on the greatest possible genre diversity, or, it can be deeply immersed into a musical style, such as heavy metal, electro, classical, jazz or rock and roll.

You can search our huge offer of titles by artist and genre. Here, you will find classic releases, reissues, remastered versions, music lovers records, half speed editions and many more.
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Turntables

The proper audio collection undoubtedly includes a proper turntable. Quality, design models of turntables are like the jewel of every room. They can perfectly light up the space and attract attention. For audiophile pressings, a high-quality transfer case with a needle must always be used. It is said that it should cost at least as much as the turntable itself. This is its most important part, as it transmits sound directly from the groove of the disc.

Round black disc

Everyone imagines LP's as black and round, but they are also produced in other shapes and colour variations. They can also be hexagonal or have a photographic print etched directly onto the vinyl. Coloured LP records are mostly produced as limited editions and they are more collector's pieces, which are pressed only in small batches.

However, the black ones are still the best, and in addition, the higher the weight of the vinyl, the better. With 180-200 gram records, not only is the sound transmission better, but there is also a lower risk of corrugation of the plate due to higher temperatures during storage. However, with 180-200 gram LPs, you can also count on a higher price.
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General Care

Although the LP requires some care, if you follow some principles, the sound recording can last forever. This is where we can look at the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, which have had gold records on board since 1977 with a reference to extraterrestrial civilizations. Today the probes along with the records are already outside of our solar system.

Back to Earth. For cleaning and care, use suitable accessories with a turntable with good stylus and a properly adjusted arm. Care must be taken when handling the record. Under no circumstances should the part of the record where the grooves are located come into contact with the fingers. The grooves may become dirty and damage the needle during playback. When we place it on the platter, we hold it by the edges on opposite sides. We do not place the record on a spinning platter and never take it off whilst the platter is in motion.

Storage

LP's should be stored in a dry, cool place. It is very important that they are not stacked on top of each other. The weight of the records can cause the vinyl to deform and then the sound will never be the same as before. The best storage solutions for your collection are original stands or record covers.

Scratching the grooves themselves is a complete disaster for the record, so caution always comes first.

Special care for vinyls

The Record cleaning machine is a product designed for real music lovers, collectors or DJs who need to be sure that the record will always play without hesitation. Cleaning machines can be either ultrasonic for deep cleaning, or vacuum versions which suck up dust and dirt from the grooves. There are also cleaning machines in the form of a bath with a massage using brushes, making it a complete vinyl wellness.

Ordinary LP care aids are also suitable for daily use. There should be a cleaning cloth, brush and a non-alcoholic liquid – all of course, specially developed for this purpose.

Those who really like their records approach them with gloves. Literally.

Turntable care

Sometimes, even a new or cleaned record skips and the needle doesn't keep on track. In such cases, it is a good idea to check the turntable itself. The arm pressure may be misaligned and deep bass tones eject the needle from the groove. There are also a number of tools for setting up the turntable.

Thanks to the special weight, you can measure the pressure of the headshell, the spirit level checks whether the platter is perfectly straight and hence, whether the turntable is positioned correctly. The problem can occur even if the needle does not rest perpendicular to the plate. Therefore, there are also tools and templates for adjusting the arm angle that are easy to adjust.
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Speed

What exactly is RPM? Specific revolutions per minute. It is an indication of how many times the platter with the reconrd on rotates per minute.

We know three speeds: 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM and 78 RPM.

We rarely see 78 RPM LP's anymore. These were the first records, made of shellac as was mentioned earlier. The 33 1/3 speed is used by long-play records with a diameter of 12" and EP plates with a diameter of 10". Some others such as 7-inch vinyls, some maxisingles and EPs spin at 45 RPM. As well as some music lovers LPs.

You can change the rotation speed of the record on every single turntable.

Mastering

DMM (Direct Metal Mastering) – this technology is used to produce records using a steel disk with a layer of pure copper. The audio signal is written directly to the copper disk. The difference from conventional production is that this process is one-step - unlike the standard three-step. The result is a reduction in echo, rustle and noise.

Since the sale of Neumann to the German microphone manufacturer Sennheiser, new lathes are no longer produced and spare parts are not supplied. There are only 6 such devices in the world. The best example of DMM pressing can usually be found on the Teldec (Germany) or EMI (United Kingdom) labels from the early 1980s.

Half Speed Mastering – the process of cutting vinyl at half speed. The disc lathe and the main source are run at half speed, ie 16 2/3. They run together at the wrong speed – slowly.

The longer you spend cutting one groove, the more accurate the work. There is a noticeable difference between records that were created in real time and records that were created in double time.

Direct to Disc – before the arrival of tape recording, everything was recorded in a "direct to disc" way. It's a very challenging method because you have to record everything completely live, without any serious musical or technical errors. After uploading a song, there is no way to edit it. Nowadays, this technology is becoming popular again. Partly thanks to Jack White's Third Man Records. The whole alchemy is based on the fact that musicians have to get it right from the first note. Despite everything, sometimes mistakes can happens and maybe that's what adds a magical moment and authenticity to such a recording.

In general however, the mastering of the recording in the studio itself is done specifically for LPs, and is different from the final mastering for CD or other formats.

Record Store Day

LP lovers also have their day. Record Store Day is held annually in brick-and-mortar stores around the world. Shop owners often prepare an accompanying program. On this yearly special occasion, various limited editions of the albums of popular artists are released, which you will not be able to get holf of later. These are truly exceptional, limited pieces that no record collector will leave sitting in the store.
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Vinyl LP Records