More than a digitally perfect CD, and way more than a compressed audio file downloaded to a portable device, a vinyl record is a record, if you will, of an artist or genre at a particular moment in time. From the pantheon of 1950s jazz to the Psych records of the 1960s, vinyl records in their original jackets deliver sound as well as sensibility. No wonder contemporary artists like Pearl Jam and Radiohead insist on releasing their new work in a variety of media, with vinyl at the top of the list.

Vinyl records were not the first form of analog sound recordings. Cylinders came first, invented by Thomas Edison in 1877. Edison did a great many things right, but his phonograph cylinders were bulky and expensive to produce, so in 1887, Emile Berliner invented a gramophone that could play flat discs. By 1929, the cylinder was dead.

The earliest records were not even made of vinyl. Some were fashioned of hard rubber but most were pressed out of shellac, which was a mixture of resin and fiber (cotton was commonly used). Shellac records had their drawbacks (they were so brittle that if you dropped one it was likely to crack or shatter), but the format lasted until about 1950 when vinyl finally took over.

The first vinyl records had actually been manufactured by RCA many years before, in 1930. Those discs were 12 inches in diameter and meant to be played at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, or RPM. Although vinyl records generated a lot less playback noise than shellac, the Great Depression was no time to be introducing a new entertainment product with limited manufacturer support, so vinyl didn’t catch on then.

In 1948, Columbia introduced its trademarked 12-inch, 33 1/3 LP (for Long Play). RCA countered with a 7-inch, 45 RPM EP (for Extended Play) disc. For two years, consumers faced a format choice that caused phonograph manufacturers to equip their devices with both 45 and 33 1/3 playback speeds (many companies also added 78 since that format was still quite popular). As we now know, vinyl 33 1/3 LPs prevailed, while smaller, 7-inch vinyl 45s were used for singles.

Vinyl records had numerous advantages over shellac, with durability and sound quality being the top two. But vinyl was hardly a perfect medium. The discs warped when subjected to high temperatures or improper storage, and they tended to acquiring a static charge, which meant they attracted a lot of dust. You could wipe the dust off the disc, but you had to be careful because the discs were very easy to scratch. In most cases, this use caused hiss; in some cases, a record’s groove would be so damaged that the needle would keep skipping back, providing the source for the phrase "broken record."

So why collect imperfect vinyl records when CDs offer the same music but without the background noise caused by a needle moving through vinyl grooves? Many people believe the sam...

DJs like vinyl, too, because it gives them more control over the music they are playing than if they were spinning CDs—it’s like the difference between driving an automatic versus a car with a 5-speed manual transmission.

Beyond these differences, there is the fun of collecting itself. In some cases, as with early pressing of the second and third Grateful Dead albums, the vinyl versions are the only way to hear what those records sounded like before they were digitally remastered.

Album art is another reason to collect vinyl. For the Rolling Stones’s "Sticky Fingers," artist Andy Warhol created a cover that featured an actual working zipper; some years later, artist Robert Rauschenberg designed a clear plastic cover for the Talking Heads’s "Speaking in Tongues." The Who’s "Tommy" came with a booklet filled with art and lyrics, and if you want a copy of The Beatles’s infamous "butcher" version of "Yesterday and Today," you’ve got to go back to the original vinyl.

Also collectible are the 45s. Motown 45s features artists from Michael Jackson to Stevie Wonder, and few logos in popular music are as iconic as the crowing rooster on the yellow Sun Records label, especially if the name of the recording artist at the bottom of that label is a guy named Elvis Presley. Finally, thanks to their retro-looking labels, 78 records are appealing, regardless of who was recorded.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas pays homage to international female opera singers of the LP era. Chronicling more than 800 singers, the… [read review or visit site]

317X

317X

Despite its mysterious title, 317X is plain and simple—an online gallery of vintage LPs, with a 1950s vintage fee… [read review or visit site]

Mybeatles.net

Mybeatles.net

Jesse Barron's collection of Beatles 45s, picture sleeves, magazines, books, and memorabilia. Browse singles and al… [read review or visit site]

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

This great site, from the Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors, offers detailed background information an… [read review or visit site]

The Remington Site

The Remington Site

Since 1999, the Remington Site has offered classical music collectors a glimpse into Remington Records, an independ… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Soul/funk Lp The Cult - The Mail Must Go Through Starburst Nm Orig VegasRare Afro Funk Lp Rob - Make It Fast Make It Slow Essiebons Ghana Original ExRare Funk/soul Lp Mighty Ryeders Help Us Spread The Message Sun-glo Orig Dj WlPretty Things S.f. Sorrow Very Rare 1g/1g Uk 1968 Ultimate 1st Stereo Press Lp.The Rolling Stones Let It Bleed Very Rare Boxed Uk 1970 Mono Lp - Complete Ex++Approximately 22,000 45 Rpm Phonograph RecordsSoul/funk Lp Jujus - Alchemy Of The Blues - Sarah Webster Fabio Folkways Nm OrigAfro Jazz/latin Lp Har-you Percussion Group On Oro 5 Original! Ex To Nm RareDavid Bowie - S/t - Uk 1st Mono Press 1967 Deram Debut Lp *near Mint* VinylRare Soul/funk Lp The Montgomery Movement/montgomery Express Folkways Nm OrigPink Floyd - Piper At The Gates Of Dawn - Columbia Uk 1967 Mono!The Beatles White Album Export Parlophone Mint Complete Top Audio 1st Press~~~~~Rare! Soul Lp The Edge Of Daybreak - Eyes Of Love Sealed Orig! Soul BouldersBrief Encounter - We Want To Play Lp- Music Town Rare Modern Soul Boogie SealedSoul/funk Lp Carrie Cleveland - Looking Up Cleve/den Ex Original Rare Bay AreaBobby Kline Rare Northern Soul Say Something Nice Taking Care Of Business Soul/funk Lp The Mohawks - The Champ Pama Pmlp 5 Uk Original Breaks - RareMega-rare Garage / R&r Instro-swanks-ghost Train-charm 6081-nice!!!Pretty Things - S.f. Sorrow - Columbia Uk 1968 N.mint MonoSkull Snaps Self-titled Lp On Gsf Nm ShrinkMarijata /sought After Original Ghana Afro Beat Lp In Excellent Condition-listenMega-rare Northern Soul Frank Beverley-if Thats What You Wanted Greek Issue!Blue Note 1588 Sonny Clark Cool Struttin Orig Us Dg Lp 47w 63rd Top Condition!Sparkle Self-titled Lp On Jam Sessions Rare Disco Funk Vg++/nm ShrinkNorthern Soul 45 ~ Rose Battiste ~ Hit & Run ~ Revilot ~ Mp3 WlpNorthern Soul 45 ~ Topics ~ Hey Girl ~ Chadwick ~ Mp3 WlpNorthern Soul Funk 45 ~ Charles Mintz ~ Running Back ~ Uplook ~ Mp3Pretty Things S.f. Sorrow 1968 Blue/black Columbia G'fold 1st Press MonoBeatles "yesterday And Today" 1st Us *capitol* Butcher Cover~fantastic Peel Job!Modern Soul Lp Twilight - Still Loving You On Lsw Orig Private Press Bay AreaAleke Kanonu - Aleke / Obscure Nigeria Afro Funk 1980 - Excellent ConditionEx-/ex Pink Floyd -piper At The Gates Of Dawn Uk Columbia Mono Psych Lp -1m/-1aMonster Ohio Northern Soul 45/ Doc Peabody "here Without You Pt 1" Hear!Rare Soul/funk Lp Experience Unlimited On Black Fire 1977 Original Nm D.c.Spiritual Jazz Lp Sadaka - Premonition Creatic 1982 Nm Oakland Modern Soul *rareRare Soul/funk Lp James Knight & The Butlers - Black Knight Cat Orig Nm MiamiOrig P.piccioni "colpo Rovente" Ost Lp 1970 Rca Promo Sp 8031 Jazz-psych MonsterDesmond Dekker - Foo Manchu Original Uk Pyramid 45 ClipA.alessandroni E Il Suo Complesso Lp 1968 Sermi Sp 110 Library Monster Jazz-beatRare Northern Soul Classic Servicemen In Fabulous Condition Listen!Northern Soul 45 ~ Kenny Wells ~ Isn't It Just A Shame ~ New Voice ~ Mp3Pink Floyd The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn Uk First Press 1/1 Columbia Scx 6157The Mad I Hate Music Eyeball 45 Punk Kbd Nyhc 1st Pressing Stimulators Misfits Ahehehinnou Vincent/incredible Afro Beat Record From Benin-highly RecommendedLibrary Funk/jazz Lp I Marc 4 - Nelson Records Glp 1007 Ex Original ItalyCressida ~ S/t ** 1970 Uk 1st Swirl Vertigo LpThe Damned - Stretcher Case Baby 1977 Uk 45 Stiff Gig FreebieSoul/funk Lp Dennis Coffey Hair And Thangs Maverick Mas 7002 Original Ex FuzzAlessandroni Library Lp Prisma Sonoro - Psychedelic Lounge Masterpiece OhearoSpiritual Jazz Lp The Peoples People Present The Spirit Of David Sealed OaklandKate Bush - Aerial - 2005 Uk Emi 2x12" Heavyweight 180gm Lp Record Set - Ex/exSax 2307 Brahms Violin Concerto / Leonid Kogan B/s Rare!Art - Supernatural Fairy Tales Island Original Press Uk Psych Prog 1967 Rare ExWilliam Onyeabor - Body & Soul / Afro Nigeria Psychedelic Moog & Synth Funk 1980Gospel Soul/funk Pastor T.l. Barrett - Like A Ship Without A Sail Orig Private!Pink Floyd The Dark Side Of The Moon Lp 1973 Uk 1st Press A2/b2 Solid Triangle!!Camel - 1st Album - Mca Uk 1973 Very Rare 1st Press N.mintRare Soul/funk Lp The Class-set - My Style Mod Art Nm Orig. In Shrink Chicago! The Chocolate Watch Band Lp "no Way Out" Orig Tower Mono Promo Stamp Psych Vg+Pink Floyd - Piper At The Gates Of Dawn - Columbia First Pressing

Recent News: Records

Source: Google News

Billie Joe Armstrong, Alice Cooper, Tommy James, Darlene Love, more Honor ...
VVN Music, October 24th

Last night, non-profit organization, Little Kids Rock, hosted its sixth annual benefit at Hammerstein Ballroom at The Manhattan Center, which generated approximately $1.5 million in donations to help support students and music teachers in public...Read more

In Listen Up Philip, an arrogant young writer visits the summer home of his ...
Isthmus, October 23rd

A substantial chunk of Listen Up Philip concerns her solo activities in New York, where she acquires a shelter pet and, alone at home, plays vintage vinyl and dances. Much of the film unfolds in and around Ike's house, where the men struggle to write...Read more

The 11 Best Bookstores for Secret Sleepovers
Bustle, October 23rd

It seems like either a dream or your worst nightmare, but the story of a U.S. tourist trapped in a London bookstore gathered a whole lot of attention on social media as he relayed his predicament. David Willis says he was upstairs in the Waterstones in...Read more

Best of Punk Rock @ 'Vintage Vinyl'
The Courier-Journal, October 22nd

There have only been a handful of seismic shifts in popular music, the kind so profound that culture as a whole is simultaneously and forever changed. Two happened within a few years of each other when hip-hop erupted in black communities and punk rock ...Read more

Bob Seger Looking At Highest Charting Album in 28 Years; U2 May Fail to Break ...
VVN Music, October 21st

Bob Seger's new album, Ride Out, is projected to have sales of around 56,000 albums during it's opening week, good enough to put it at number 3 for the week. Hits Daily Double has released their weekly Building Album Sales Chart based on a sampling of ...Read more

Preview: "Love Gun: Deluxe Edition" - KISS
VVN Music, October 15th

Love Gun, one of KISS' biggest albums, will get the 2-CD Deluxe treatment on October 27 from UMe. Over the years, Destroyer has sold more copies but, at the time of the original release (1977), Love Gun was the highest charting album of KISS' career, ...Read more

Best of Michael Jackson @ 'Vintage Vinyl'
The Courier-Journal, October 8th

There's a school of thought that hyper-creative people, true artists, need to be kind of crazy. It's certainly not always true. Paul McCartney seems perfectly sane, as does Bruce Springsteen. But Elvis Presley? Jerry Lee Lewis? Kanye? Wayne Coyne?...Read more

Best of Madonna @ 'Vintage Vinyl'
The Courier-Journal, September 24th

It was the summer of 1983 when Madonna took over popular music with all the subtlety of a runaway dump truck blasting through a hotel lobby. She used the burgeoning art form of music video to create and market a persona that cannily used imagery from ...Read more