How much a vinyl record can hold is determined by its diameter and playing speed. A 7-inch record at 45 RPM has around 5 minutes of playtime per side, which is enough for 1 song. A 12-inch record at 33 RPM can have up to 22 minutes of playtime per side, which is enough for 5 songs.
In this article I’m going into detail about the capacity of vinyl records. I want to explore this subject by taking a look at playing speeds, record diameters, groove width, groove threads or lines, and average song durations.
Table of Contents
Song and Track Durations
Before I started calculating and estimating how many songs or tracks fit on vinyl I needed an idea of the average track duration. Dale Swanson did some data mining a few years ago.
He was pulled in the top 50 tracks per genre from last.fm and calculated their average duration. From the 250 genres he grabbed, I’ve shown 10 relevant ones in the table below.
|Music genre||Average song duration|
The average of these data points is 4 minutes and 32 seconds. This is the first variable I need for making a good estimation vinyl song capacity.
How Many Lines And Grooves On A Vinyl Record
Each side of a vinyl record has 1 groove at most. This spiralling groove creates the lines or threads on the record. The amount of lines on a vinyl record ranges from 230 to 700 threads determined by the record diameter.
|Record diameter||Amount of lines*|
The width of vinyl record grooves average around 0,0014 inches(or 0.035 millimeters). The width decreases the further lower in the groove. The radius of a stylus tip averages around 0,0006 inches(or 0.015 millimeters.).
How Many Songs Can A Vinyl Record Hold
Now that we know the average song duration and how tracks are recorded into and played from vinyl records we can start accurately estimating the how many tracks fit on a vinyl record.
But before we can calculate how many songs a vinyl record can hold we have to calculate how many minutes of playtime each record type at each speed has.
To estimate the playtime of vinyl records we have to divide the amount of threads or lines by the RPM speed. This should tell us how many minutes of music a vinyl record can hold.
I’ve placed all the calculations and estimations in the table below.
|Record diameter||RPM||Playtime*||Amount of songs/tracks*|
|7-inch||45 RPM||5 minutes||1.1 songs|
|7-inch||33 RPM||7 minutes||1.5 songs|
|10-inch||45 RPM||12 minutes||2.6 songs|
|10-inch||33 RPM||15 minutes||3.3 songs|
|12-inch||45 RPM||15 minutes||3.3 songs|
|12-inch||33 RPM||22 minutes||4.9 songs|
Bass Effect On Vinyl Record Capacity
A vinyl record has bass recorded on it, but recording bass on vinyl records comes with issues related to playtime. Bass, or low frequency audio, is cut into the groove. The lower the sound, the wider the groove has to become. And wider grooves means fewer of them fit on the LP.
To counter this issue bass gets cut which limits the space lower frequencies would occupy. To compensate this cut the preamp boosts the bass during playback. The preamp also reduces the trebble (high frequency audio). This boost and reduction are both following the standard RIAA curve. Because of this the bass cut is barely noticeable, and groove width can be limited.
Because of the bass cut during recording and its boost from the preamp during playback according to the RIAA curve, it won’t affect the playtime of or how many minutes of audio fit on a vinyl record substantially.
To get more bass from vinyl you could invest in better speakers, a subwoofer, a preamp with EQ, or upgrade your cartridge. But a free alternative is speaker positioning. Try placing your speakers closer to a wall to boost the percieved base levels.
Check this out for a full guide for speaker placement. (opens in a new tab)
Considering the average song duration of 4:32 and calculating vinyl record playtime, using their thread count and RPM at which they’re played, we can estimate that 12-inch vinyl records at 33 RPM can hold 5 songs per side on average. 10-inch vinyl records at 33 RPM can hold 3.3 songs per side on average. And finally, 7-inch vinyl records at 33 RPM can hold 1.5 songs per side on average.
Thanks for reading, I hope this was what you were looking for. If you’re interested in my other educational vinyl articles check them out here.
- LP Record Standards, http://www7a.biglobe.ne.jp/~yosh/standards_table.htm
- Genre Average Song Lengths, http://daleswanson.blogspot.com/