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Old 12th Sep 2019, 2:38 pm   #1
John10b
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Default Question on Recording speeds

A question in today’s Daily Mail asks “Why were 78/45/33 rpm used as the standard for vinyl recordings”.
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Old 12th Sep 2019, 2:56 pm   #2
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

Something in this thread.

https://vintage-radio.net/forum/showthread.php?t=111672
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Old 12th Sep 2019, 2:57 pm   #3
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

Google found this :

As more and more audio manufacturers turned to producing record players, the idea of a 78 RPM turntable became the norm. This is because the 3600 RPM motor used within the turntable saw peak performance at 78.26 RPM.

Format wars is nothing new in the audio and video department. From VHS vs. Beta to Blu-ray vs HD-DVD, companies have often put out competing formats. RCA, which failed miserably in the 1930s to release a 33 to the public went out to release a 45 RPM.

The record was smaller than the other options. Ultimately, RCA released the format in order to directly compete with the Columbia Record 33. The 45 of the time did not provide much in terms of an advantage over 78s, and Columbia’s system could play both 33 and 78, so few manufacturers picked up on the 45s.

While the 45 didn’t provide any real benefit over the 78, it was a smaller size. So, by the early 1950s, nearly all record manufactures focused on systems that could play both the 33 and the 45. The 78 more or less dropped out shortly after the conclusion of World War II.

The faster a record spins, the better it sounds. With that in mind, there is only so much a record can play. This ultimately proved to be why the 45 outlived the 78. Of course, everyone has their own listening preferences, so there are still fans of the 78s.

All three speeds though have played an interesting role in the development of enjoying audio at home. There are certain limitations to certain speed records in how they are produced impacting their playback.
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Old 12th Sep 2019, 4:24 pm   #4
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

That's a pretty good summary Christopher. There has been lots of discussion and threads on here in the past [eg Nymrod's link] and different explanations. When you add in all the technical and commercial issues in the UK and USA markets there's lot of varied explanations about most aspects. It's true that 78's went into the background by the early sixties but it was a relatively slow decline. Shops often sold them in just in a plain brown paper bag-the opposite of sixties marketing. I think the old adage about faster speed equalling better quality very much applied to records and tape-recording back then, with the same restriction on recording times in both instances. My view on the 78/80 platters is that a surprisingly high quality was often achieved and can still be resolved today. The Sound Engineer Robert Parker got some amazing results as broadcast on the BBC in the eighties [Jazz Classics in Stereo] often derived from the very earliest 78 rpm Mono Records [not the sort of fake "stereo" that was on some modern vinyl recordings at that point] a different technique!

Dave W

"Perfecting Sound Forever-The Story of Recorded Music" by Greg Milner [2009] is one of very many excellent books covering this topic. It's a fascinating and very readable account of both the history and technical issues.

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Old 12th Sep 2019, 5:42 pm   #5
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

78 faded out when vinyl came in.
The wide groove and high speed necessary to drive the acoustic reproducers became superfluous when electrical amplification became the norm. The new vinyl records only needed to power a tiny moving-coil or crystal pick-up, so great saving on materials became possible.
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Old 12th Sep 2019, 6:51 pm   #6
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

I seem to recall some theory about how the speed 33 rpm came into usage.
Caught my attention at the time but I can't recall what it was now Maybe something to do with relative speeds on optical soundtracks perhaps? I think someone pointed out that 33+45 makes 78 as well but I don't think that it had a significance.

I hadn't thought about the cost of materials previously but it makes sense. The whole "Reproducer" could be lighter now including the software [ie the Records]. [which didn't break] and you could get 22mins + on each side at 33 rpm. Very handy for getting 2 albums on a C90 cassette tape.

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Old 12th Sep 2019, 7:38 pm   #7
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

There was a distinct reluctance by UK record-player-makers (like EMI/HMV) to acknowledge-and-embrace/adopt the US RCA-inspired '45' - there's a good discussion about this in "The Setmakers".

Despite their resistance, it really came down to "content is king" - 45s, rock-and-roll, the convenient ability to stack-up a bunch of 7-inch 45s on an autochanger won the day.

OK, some of the first 45s were horribly pressed on scrap-value vinyl and first-generation styli would mess them up after a few dozen playings - but who cared? This was 'top-twenty' music and the 7-inch Buddy Holly 45 you bought last week is now history because you've just got both the newly released Elvis 45 and The Shadows latest to play to your friends this weekend !!
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Old 12th Sep 2019, 11:25 pm   #8
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

This thread provides quite a bit of background:

https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/...d.php?t=151267 “Why both 33 and 45?”

It is covered in that thread but in particular there was a full suite of mathematics and engineering behind RCA’s choice of 45 rev/min – a new speed at the time - and a 7-inch disc diameter. RCA did consider 33⅓ and 78.26 rev/min, and other disc sizes, but rejected both as being less suitable in relation to its objective, which was to produce a fast and reliable record-changing system.

Columbia chose the existing 33⅓ rev/min transcription speed for its LP. The readily available articles, such as that attached, do not explain why, although one may infer that the engineering analysis showed that there was no good reason not to do so. The full answer was probably provided in the article – which I have not seen - in the IRE Journal for 1949 August, available (for purchase) as an IEEE paper, at: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/1698116, “The Columbia Long-Playing Microgroove Recording System”, by P. Goldmark et al. Post facto support for the 33⅓ rev/min choice was provided by EMI in the WW article: Turntable Speeds – What is the Best Speed for Microgroove Recording?” by G.F. Dutton, attached to post #21 in the above-mentioned thread.


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Old 12th Sep 2019, 11:43 pm   #9
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

Interesting that the first reproducers used a "semi-permanent" 0.001" tipped lapped steel stylus. I guess they may have been over-optimistic about the amount of wear that a vinyl record would cause.
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Old 13th Sep 2019, 6:46 am   #10
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

The attached article from Audio Engineering 1949 March provides additional background on the RCA 7-inch, 45 rev/min disc. It was written before RCA had released much technical information – that came with the article in RCA Review 1949 June.

The RCA disc was compared (favourably) with the Columbia 7-inch “LP”, which was evidently the latter’s answer to the RCA development. It was not compared with the Columbia 10- and 12-inch LPs, for reasons given in the article.

An interesting aspect is that the early work on microgroove, vinylite records was done pre-WWII by RCA, with René Snepvangers as the key engineer involved. The work was suspended during WWII, then revived afterwards. Snepvangers had moved to Columbia by 1944, where, working with Peter Goldmark, he developed the LP. So the LP and the RCA 45 really had a common technical origin.


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Old 13th Sep 2019, 8:47 am   #11
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

Quote:
Originally Posted by emeritus View Post
Interesting that the first reproducers used a "semi-permanent" 0.001" tipped lapped steel stylus. I guess they may have been over-optimistic about the amount of wear that a vinyl record would cause.
Also interesting that at that time a sapphire stylus was regarded as permanent. Certainly Garrard regarded it so in their miniature high fidelity magnetic pickup from the 1940s. If the stylus was worn or damaged, the whole head had to be returned to the Garrard factory.

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Old 13th Sep 2019, 9:16 am   #12
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

Quote:
Originally Posted by G6Tanuki View Post
There was a distinct reluctance by UK record-player-makers (like EMI/HMV) to acknowledge-and-embrace/adopt the US RCA-inspired '45' - there's a good discussion about this in "The Setmakers".

............
AFAIK it was the 12 inch LP that EMI were depressingly slow in adopting - a full 3 years behind Decca. However, their longstanding relationship with RCA led to them importing the neat little RCA 45rpm changer unit pretty early on, I believe as a kit of parts for UK assembly where they were fitted with a 50 Hz motor and branded HMV. I have one in my collection which works well now that I’ve fitted it with a Chinese red/black ceramic cartridge.

There’s an old thread on this topic:

https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/...ad.php?t=56645

A little-discussed feature of the RCA changer is its frighteningly fast speed in changing records. I guess that the aim was to compete with the continuity of the 12 inch LP by having the shortest possible interruption between 7 inch discs.

It may be that HMV were aiming to compensate for their tardiness in adopting the LP by filling the gap with 45s, but whether they actually issued 45s before LPs I don’t know.

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Old 13th Sep 2019, 10:40 am   #13
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

The 12" single rotating at 45 rpm was an interesting diversion towards the end of the vinyl era. In a sense the advantages of greater dynamic range (wider groove spacing) and increased bandwidth (faster outer groove speed than 7" singles) harked back to the old 78s. The format was, of course, popular with disc jockeys in the eighties before CDs and other digital media became the norm. Like all these things they still have some nostalgic appeal.

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Old 13th Sep 2019, 2:41 pm   #14
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

I generally associate the 12" maxi-single with "extended remixes" where you needed the extra playing-time.
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Old 13th Sep 2019, 5:38 pm   #15
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

Yes, also true and particularly so with the competing 33 rpm 12" 'single' format.

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Old 13th Sep 2019, 5:40 pm   #16
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Smile Re: Question on Recording speeds

Hi,
I was recently given a boxful of 78s, among them were the usual HMVs, Deccas, etc. But there were also some Columbia discs, mainly with 'humorous monologues' recorded thereon which spin at 80 rpm.
It's curious that the standard ended up 2 rpm slower.
Cheers, Pete.
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Old 13th Sep 2019, 6:01 pm   #17
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

I was told that the 78 standard was chosen as a compromise because early recordings could be at various speeds between 75 and 80.

No idea if this is true but it would have been difficult for early disc cutters to give a guaranteed accurate speed.
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Old 13th Sep 2019, 7:17 pm   #18
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hartley118 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by G6Tanuki View Post
There was a distinct reluctance by UK record-player-makers (like EMI/HMV) to acknowledge-and-embrace/adopt the US RCA-inspired '45' - there's a good discussion about this in "The Setmakers".

............
AFAIK it was the 12 inch LP that EMI were depressingly slow in adopting - a full 3 years behind Decca.
Yes, I admit that I mis-remembered.

I find it deeply fascinating to see the different paths followed by the radio/recording industry in different countries, and trying to understand the different market-drivers that were in play at the time.
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Old 13th Sep 2019, 11:20 pm   #19
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Default Re: Question on Recording speeds

Before releasing LPs RCA in the USA issued albums that consisted of a box set of 7" discs playing at 45rpm with a large centre hole to be on their auto-changing turntables.

Did HMV or anyone else in the UK issue albums in this format?
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Old 14th Sep 2019, 2:41 am   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barrymagrec View Post
I was told that the 78 standard was chosen as a compromise because early recordings could be at various speeds between 75 and 80.

No idea if this is true but it would have been difficult for early disc cutters to give a guaranteed accurate speed.
That seems quite plausible.

78.26 rev/min was derived as 1800 divided by 23. 1800 rev/min was the rotational speed of a 4-pole synchronous motor operating from a 60 Hz supply, and was the typical drive motor for industrial/professional equipment, which often used geartrains to effect speed reduction. The latter made integral division down from 1800 rev/min desirable. 1800/22 gave 81.82 rev/min, and 1800/24 gave 75 rev/min. Notwithstanding that 75 rev/min was a “round number”, it was at the lower end of the range of existing recordings, whereas 78.26 rev/min was closer to the middle. So presumably that is why it was chosen.

33⅓ rev/min was 1800/54, original developed for movie sound purposes and then used for transcription recordings and later the LP. 45 rev/min was 1800/40. Even in 1949, some transcription turntables, such as the RCA 70-series, were gear-driven. As described in the earlier thread https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/...d.php?t=151267, RCA developed a retrofit epicyclic ball-type reduction unit to allow its existing two-speed transcription turntables (33⅓ and 78 rev/min) to also work at 45 rev/min.

That RCA was working on microgroove and vinylite records before WWII, and that Columbia’s work was facilitated by Rene Snepvangers’ move from RCA to Columbia does I think weaken the argument that RCA’s work on the 45 was in total simply an emergency reaction to Columbia’s release of the LP. The 7-inch 45 was in fact a logical choice for popular music, as was a companion fast changer system. If that concept was in existence before Columbia moved, then also using the 45/changer combination for classical music (and other longer works) was a reasonable immediate and short-term defensive move. It is conceivable at least that Columbia chose to develop the LP in part because it saw a need that the microgroove/vinylite combination would address, and in part because it saw that as avoiding a head-to-head clash with RCA, some of whose thinking would inevitably have come with Snepvangers, deduced and inferred by colleagues if not directly stated. Columbia’s immediate defensive response to the RCA 45 was its 7-inch “LP”. But the LP and the 45 were mostly complementary, and that is how both the industry and market saw it. Be that as it may, urban legends and “format wars” are probably seen as being more fun than the often prosaic facts, at least in the world outside of this and similar forums (where drilling down for evidence, often arcane, is much more the norm).


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