History of the 78, 33, 45 RPM Record

Recording technology has come a long way over the past hundred years from 78 RPM to 33 1/3 RPM and 45 RPM. But how are they different and why are there multiple speeds? Simply put, technology changes and the industry adapts.

What is RPM?

RPM stands for revolutions per minute and this is the universal measurement for turntable and record player speed. It measures how many times the platter will spin completely in a minute. So put it this way, 1 RPM means the platter will do a complete 360 degree turn in 1 minute.

78, 33, 45 RPM History

In the 1890’s, Emile Berliner’s first gramophone records came out and it spun at 78 RPM. The record material was made out of Shellac, a material that can “ping” when you hit it, causing additional noise.

In 1948, the 33 1/3 RPM record was produced by Columbia Records, which was produced in a long play (LP) record playing for about 20 minutes each side. The record material was made thicker and used a different vinyl material which reduced noise.

Just a year later in 1949, RCA Victor released a smaller 7″ version of the vinyl in a 45 RPM format which resonated quickly with music listeners. The compact and portable size of the 7″ vinyl made it easy for listeners to store and travel with. Different colored vinyls were also introduced which made the 45s even more popular.

Vinyl Today

In today’s world, the music industry has moved to streaming and downloading. Far away from vinyl. In between these two technologies of course there are cassettes and CDs which were super popular for a good 30+ years. Although vinyl is a technology from the past, there has been a major surge in the popularity of turntables and record players. According to an article that came out earlier this year by The Guardian, in 2016 about 3.2 million LPs were sold which set a 25-year high. Compared to the previous year, sales grew over 53%.

Modern day turntables

Turntables and record players no longer have a fixed RPM speed at which they operate. Our Stir It Up Turntable features a 33/45 RPM switch so you can dial in your setting for the vinyl you want to play.

33/45 RPM Switch - House of Marley Stir It Up

See how turntables have evolved and check out our new Stir It Up Turntable. Create a classic sound that reveals the true depth of your favorite music. The streamlined design of the turntable features natural bamboo for a warm look, and a built-in pre-amp that’s compatible with any of our speakers for easy connection.