Skip to main content

What is an L.P.?

The 12 inch, 33 and 1/3 rpm long playing vinyl disc (called an "L.P.") suceeded the 10 inch, 78 rpm shellac disc during the early 1950s as the standard format for music reproduction. Through the 1980s the L.P. remained the prime type of recorded media available commercially, it was more or less completely replaced by digital Compact Discs during the 1990s

Collections of "78s" were kept in multi-sleeved folios not unlike photo albums. A single L.P. would typically contain a whole album's worth of "78s," so recordings in this new format were also referred to as "albums" even though an L.P.'s large carboard packaging is nothing like an album in design.

From the late 1940s on, all long-playing music recordings, including today's CDs and digital download collections, have been referred to as albums. In a sense we've come full circle with multi-CD sets frequently being packaged in something like miniature versions of the original 78 rpm record albums.

1. Overhead view of an LP record.

2. An album of 78rpm recordings

3. An LP album jacket

4. An old turntable for 78rpm Records

5. A more modern turntable for L.P.s

6. Close-up view of a phonographic needle cartridge in action.

7. L.P.s and other types of vinyl records, like the 12 inch maxi-single, are the backbone of hip hop. DJ Afrika Islam, seen here "scratching" and "mixing," creates new sounds using the L.P. as source material.
Image sources: