Post By: Alan
When most people think of 45 RPM records, they think of the small records often used for jukeboxes and singles. While it's true that many 45's released are singles, there are also 45 RPM LPs out there. These records play at a faster speed than the usual 33 RPMs of a standard LP, and because of this, are often doubles. While on a 33 RPM record, you can fit an entire album's worth of music, 45 RPM LPs can usually only fit about 12-15 minutes of music on each side--usually not enough space for an entire album.
So, what's the big idea? It seems like these 45 RPM records are more trouble than they're worth! According to audiophiles, the 45 RPM format sounds better because more musical data is fit into a smaller space than with 33 RPM records. This logic is also applied to digital music formats such as MP3s. A 256kbps MP3 is said to sound better than a 128kbps MP3 because more data is contained in the file. Just like a computer must read through more data in a 256kbps MP3 than with a 128kbps MP3, a turntable stylus must pick up on more nuances and details in the record groove in a 45 RPM record than in a 33 RPM record.
In theory, it all sounds well and good. It makes sense that a 45 RPM record sounds better than a 33 RPM record. However, can humans perceive the improvements in sound? In my opinion, the jury is still out. I can tell the difference between a 128 kbps MP3 and a 256kbps MP3, however I can't tell the difference between a 256kbps MP3 and a CD. I can, however, tell the difference between a CD and a vinyl record. I just purchased my first 45 RPM LP, and I can tell you that it sounds fantastic, but I can't tell you if it sounds better than the same album pressed on a 33 RPM record. Whew! A lot of perception going on here...
Anyway, the album I purchased was one that I had only listened to on CD and MP3 up until a few days ago. I can tell you that it sounds WAAAAY better than the CD, and definitely better than the MP3. However, I don't have a 33 RPM pressing of the album to do a side by side comparison. Too bad... I need to give the album another intense rotation or two to really get a feel for the superiority of the sound over CD, but again, this proves the theory (again) that vinyl really does sound better.
If you find an album that you love, and it is available in the 45 RPM format, it's probably worth picking up, because in addition to the theoretically better sound, it is also probably a heavier format, made with virgin vinyl, and may even include some nice extras. Enjoy the music...in 45 RPMs!
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