Ongoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: Why are vinyl albums 12 inches across?

If you’re into vinyl, you may have asked yourself “Why is this album I’m holding twelve inches in diameter?” Valid question.

When inventors were experimenting with flat discs for recording sound, they tried a number of diameters ranging from three inches to five to seven to eight to ten to twelve to fourteen to sixteen. When the 78 RPM record was introduced, ten inches seemed to be the right balance for speed and capacity.

But in 1948, Columbia Records introduced the long-playing record which could hold more than one song per side. To balance the needs of capacity (about minutes per side) with speed (33 1/3 RPM) with the size of grooves required (they were called “microgrooves), everything came together in a size that said “twelve inches.” Plus there had been other experiments with this size back in the 1930s. And so it stuck.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38556 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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