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]



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]

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    

Beatles Please Please Me (black & Gold Parlophone Uk Original Stereo Lp 1963)Led Zeppelin 1 Plum Press Uk Turquoise Nr Mint Rare Great Top Audio Complete ~ Northern Soul Duke Browner Crying Over You Original Usa 45Milton Wright - Spaced Lp - Alston - Rare Modern Soul Nm ShrinkAffinity -linda Hoyle Lp-rare 1st Press-" Affinity " - Vertigo 6360004 G/foldWee You Can Fly On My Aeroplane Lp (1977) Owl Private Soul/funk Orig.Court Davis Try To Think Moster Northern Soul Holy Grail East Coast 45 7" Hear ♫Velvet Underground And Nico Lp Mono Torso Orig. Andy Warhol PsychSapphire S/t Lp (1981) Private Modern Soul/funk Orig.Ambassadors - Soul Summit Lp - Arctic - Rare Soul Funk Vg+Helene Smith Sings Sweet Soul Lp On Deep City Soul/funk Orig.Northern Soul Four Perfections Im Not Strong Enough Original Usa 45Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon A2/b2 Solid Blue Triangle Posters/stickers ExNorthern Soul Tony Galla In Love Original Usa 45Kingstonians - Hold Down / Barry York Who Will She Be - Crab 19 - Very GoodTommy Flanagan Trio Overseas Prestige 7134 Us Original 50th D.g. RvgRyan Adams - Live After Deaf - Never Opened, Never Played, Unused Download Card.Messengers Incorporated Soulful Proclamation Lp Private Soul/funk Orig. John Coltrane Blue Train Blue Note Lp Mono W. 63rdWar Zone Lower East Side Crew 7" Ep 1987, 33rpm, Colored Vinyl, Hardcore, NyhcNick Drake Lp Five Leaves Left Uk Pink Island 1st Press Beautiful Copy Real DealPink Floyd Piper At The Gates Of Dawn 1st Mono Press Lp Blue/black Columbia ExRare 45 Northern Soul Linda Jones (i Just Can't Live My Life) Promo" Led Zeppelin Iv " Sensational Nm A3 B3 Uk Red Plum Top Error Label Lp L@@kNorthern Soul Tony Middleton Paris Blues Original Usa 45" Led Zeppelin 1 " Amazing " Mint "poss Unplayed Final Uk Red Plum Labelled Lp Pink Floyd Pulse (emi Emd 1078 Uk Original 4 Lp Box Set 1995 + Book) Prog. Nice!Hank Mobley And His All Stars Blue Note Lp 1544 Mono W. 63rd Flat EdgeRighteous Flames / Roy Richards - You Don't Know / Summertime Coxsone Cs 7061 - Lewis Conection S/t Lp (1979) Private Soul/funk Orig. Sealed!Elvis Presley-100% Genuine And Original Sun Single-mystery Train-mega Low StartBrand New Deja Entendu Rsd 2015 Vinyl Lp Record Store Day /1500 2xlpBlack Sabbath Lp Paranoid Uk Vertigo Swirl 1st Press Big Bear Credit Top Example1960’s Ska Singles - Batch Of 20 - Good - Very Good Condition - Listed -rarePatto-self Titled Vinyl Lp Uk Original Vertigo Swirl 1st Press Top Copy Miracle Production/great God Over Zion - Boston Jack (70's Reggae Roots 7")Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon - 1st Uk Press - Solid Prism - Excellent AudioLee Moses "bad Girl" Rare Soul Funk 45 Musicor ListenT.l. Barrett Like A Ship Lp (1971) Private Gospel Soul/funk Orig. Northern Soul 45 Rpm - The Appreciations On Sport RecordsKenny Dorham Quiet Kenny New Jazz Njlp 8225 Us Original Purple Lbl D.g. RvgSam Dees Lonely For You Baby Rare Northern Soul 45 On SssAsd 429 Bach & Mozart Violin Concertos Gioconda De Vito Lso Rpo Rafael Kubelik Little Joe Cook Doodle Pickle - I'm Falling Northern Soul Rare 45 Hot 7" Hear ♫Led Zeppelin Mudslide Lp Green/brown Vinyl Tmoq Trademark Of QualityLight Of Saba/words Of Wisdom - Michael Rastar Light Of Saba (74 Roots 7")Rivage - Sittin' On It Lp - Sun-glo - Rare Soul Funk Vg++ Promo W/ Poster!The Beatles, Please Please Me, Vj-581 Promo Original 1964Trevor Clarke - Giving Up On Love - 7" Muzik City Blank Listen ♫Johnny Burnette Tear It Up Rare Vogue Coral Tri Beauty Excellent+ - Free Post UkTom Petty~wildflowers~factory Sealed Original 1994 Lp Pressing~mint~ex Rare!Rare Garage Psych Punk Teddy And His Patches Suzy Creamcheese Chance '67 Orig.Don Cunningham Something For Everyone Lp Exclusive Private Latin Jazz Orig.Lou Ragland I Travel Alone B/w Big Wheel 7" Pink Label Amy Promo Vg ConditionMary Love - Lay This Burden Down - Rare Original Stateside Demo - Mint MinusMatt Covington - S/t Lp - Zip - Rare Modern Soul Boogie SealedMega Rare Steve And The Board And The Giggle Eyed Goo LpFeather Da Gamba Like It Or Get Bent Lp (1971) Private Psych Orig.Exciters S/t Lp On Loyola Latin Panama Soul/funk Orig.Khazad-doom "level 6 1/2" Lp Rare Original 1970 Private W/ Insert Tolkien Psych

Recent News: Records

Source: Google News

Faith No More To Have Top Veteran Artist Debut For the Week; Mariah Carey to ...
VVN Music, May 26th

Projections are in and it appears that Faith No More's Sol Invictus will be the biggest debut of the week by a veteran artist and the biggest album overall. On Hits Daily Double's Album Sales Chart, the album is projected to move 25,500 copies in its...Read more

Thanks to a Wildly Talented Team, The 2015 Kips Bay Decorator Show House ...
Huffington Post, May 26th

Show houses by nature are places for designers to highlight their talent and capabilities. Over the years of both attending and participating in them, I've found that like fashion shows, sometimes participants create concepts and over-the-top themes to...Read more

Music Documentary Traces Cambodia's Lost Musical History
Phoenix New Times, May 26th

swinging youth scene, and went on to kill approximately two million Cambodians. This pop culture history could have been lost, but lucky survivors lived to tell their stories, and record collectors saved rare vinyl documents, often risking their...Read more

Best Beatles covers @ 'Vintage Vinyl'
The Courier-Journal, May 21st

No band's music has been covered more frequently than that of The Beatles, with versions ranging from the easiest of listening to heavy metal ragers. As you get ready to enjoy Memorial Day weekend at Abbey Road on the River, join C-J music writer...Read more

Best of Cheap Trick @ 'Vintage Vinyl'
The Courier-Journal, May 7th

Is there any rock 'n' roll band taken for granted more than Cheap Trick? Doubtful. Cheap Trick has delivered glorious music for nearly 40 years, merging rock and pop in consistently delightful ways. Rick Nielsen is a seriously underrated songwriter and ...Read more

Local Award Winning Songwriter/Singer, Irene Leland, Performing At Vintage Vinyl, May 5th

Folksinger/Songwriter, Irene Leland, named one of "Musicians Who Are Hot in 2014" by the Marquix Global Network will be singing some of her international award winning songs at the famous Vintage Vinyl in the Delmar Loop on May 6, 2015 from 5 to 5:30 ...Read more

Man offers $8000 for rare vinyl record: 'Finding it in S'pore is amazing'
AsiaOne, May 5th

Vinyl records, which predate digital music and compact discs, have been making a comeback in recent years, especially among audiophiles. And because some original pressings are now hard to come by, collectors are willing to fork out a tidy sum for a...Read more

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy Will Play a Free Show at Vintage Vinyl on May 4 (UPDATED)
Riverfront Times (blog), April 29th

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy will play a show with his son at Vintage Vinyl at 2 p.m. on Monday, May 4 -- the afternoon of his band's sold-out twentieth-anniversary show at the Pageant. Tweedy will also sign autographs for those lucky fans who manage to get...Read more