Vinyl Record Speeds and Sizes
Vinyls records come in three different speeds. They are 33, 45, and 78 RPM (rotations per minute). In general, you’ll find that 12 inch vinyls play at 33 RPM, while 7 inch vinyls play at 45 RPM. 78 RPM is basically a historic speed that you won’t find the need for with modern vinyl records.
The 78 RPM Vinyl
78 RPM was established first as a standard speed. In the early days the first vinyl records were all played at 78 RPM. This became the standard speed set in 1925 due to the fact that 78 RPM was the optimal speed of most electric motors found in record players at the time. Also the technology for recording on a record was still in its infancy and a faster speed was required for better audio quality and fidelity.
33 and 45 RPM Vinyls
Eventually recording technology improved and with it records could be played at slower speeds without sacrificing audio quality. This gave rise to records that could hold more information (longer play / more songs). The 33 was the first alternative to the 78 and eventually the 45 came out to compete with 33s. Both speeds (33 and 45) had gained popular acceptance. Manufacturers of record players made the decision to offer both speeds on their turntables.
Most likely your turntable has these two speeds (33 and 45) as its pretty standard. 78 is not a speed you’ll probably ever need as its only required to play very old records. If you have the desire to listen to 78s you’ll also likely need a special needle rather than your standard stylus.
There are 3 speeds for different vinyl records. The rule of thumb is 33 RPM for a 12 inch vinyl and 45 for a 7 inch vinyl. You’re less likely to ever play a vinyl that requires 78 RPM but if you do, it’s probably an antique and needs special care and a special needle. Whatever your preference of record speed or size, happy listening!