Record Speeds (Revised). When Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, like an early film camera, it was hand cranked, so that the speed was not standardized. People would simply crank the cylinder at a speed that made the voice sound natural. The music cylinders that were reproduced with for nickelodeons were typically recorded at 120- 160 revolutions per minute, which would allow two to four minutes of recording time, depending on the width of the groove.
When Eldridge Johnson and Emile Berliner invented the Gramophone disc, they allowed for five minutes of playing time, when the disc rotated at 70 – 80 RPM.
In 1925, when Western Electric introduced electrical recording, the disc speed was standardized at 78.26 (nominally 78 RPM). That speed was easily reproducible using a standard 3600 RPM motor with a 46:1 gear reduction.
The electrically recorded discs actually sounded as good at 33 1/3 RPM than the older non-electric discs did at 78 RPM. However, record companies at that time decided not to release records at 33 1/3, so that their discs would still be compatible with the non-electric Gramophones and Victrolas that people owned.
Shortly after 1925, the Vitaphone system, also developed by Western Electric, to add sound for motion pictures, used 16” - 33 1/3 RPM discs that allowed for 11 minutes of recording time, enough for a 1000’ reel of film.
Then in 1948, using the microgroove technology developed by Dr. Peter Goldmark, Columbia introduced a 12” - 33 1/3 RPM record that they called the LP for long playing. They initially marketed these discs to classical music listeners, who could now hear an entire movement of a symphony without having to change the disc. That same year RCA introduced a 7” - 45 RPM record that sounded as good or better than the 33 1/3 LPs. 45s usually only had one song per side, similar to most of the old 78s. RCA marketed the 45s as being a more convenient size for a single song, like today’s mp3 downloads. By 1950 record companies had stopped releasing 78s, and by 1951, Columbia and most others were releasing both 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records.
Tags: Record Speeds (Revised), record speeds, Western Electric, electrical recording, Vitaphone, Edison Cylinder, Emile Berliner, Eldridge Johnson, Gramaphone, Victrola