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The Vinyl Dictionary

I wrote this list for my personal blog, but I decided to copy and expand on it here.

When I was getting into vinyl collecting, I learned a long list of new terms and words. Some speak for themselves, but others were completely foreign to me. I thought I'd share the most common phrases with you and a short description of what they mean.

33⅓, 45, 78 – These are RPM (rotations per minute). The standard is the 33 RPM for albums. These are also referred to as LP’s (Long Play records). 45’s are usually 7″ singles of 1 song, with a B-side. 78’s are old, usually thick vinyl, playing only a few songs.

7″ – A 7″ record is not quite half the size of a regular 12″ album, used for singles or EPs.

Anti-skate – is used to force the tonearm towards the middle of the record. Naturally, the tonearm will want to “skate” to the outside of the record as it plays. It’s science. Anti-skate applies pressure to prevent this.

Belt driven – A kind of turntable that has the platter spin by a belt attached to an electric motor.

Cantilever – is the piece that holds the needle in the cartridge and transfers the vibrations from the needle into the magnets in the cartridge.

Cartridge – The unit that rests on the needle at the end of the tonearm. It holds the needle and converts vibrations into electrical current that can be amplified.

Counter balance (counter weight) – The adjustable weight on the back of a tonearm that’s used to control the pressure applied to the needle on the record. Too heavy can cause your needle to “scrape” your vinyl. Too light can cause the needle to skip grooves. Refer to your cartridge’s packaging for the recommended tracking force.

Cue lever – Not all turntables have this, but this is a lever that keeps your tonearm floating over the spinning record until you pull the lever down. The lever will gently drop the needle on the record. Ideal for people who don’t have the steadiest hand.

Direct drive – A kind of turntable that has the platter spin directly by the motor.

Gatefold – A sleeve that opens like a book. The inside usually has more information about the artist, album or some special art work. Gatefolds are used for double-albums and single albums.

Headshell – sits at the end of the tonearm and holds the cartridge in place.

Holy grail – The record that you’ve always wanted but was unattainable because of the rarity.

Idler drive – A type of turntable that uses a rubber wheel to turn the platter.

Master copy – The original stamps used to press the original albums.

Mat – This sits on the platter, under the record. It dampens vibrations coming up from the turntable’s motor and external vibrations, like footsteps. They’re often made of rubber, leather, cork or plastic.

Needle – The diamond tipped pin that glides through the grooves on your record.

Platter – The round disc that spins your record (back in the 90’s also referred to as “wheels of steel” by DJs)

Record – A round piece of stamped wax that, if put on a turntable should produce sounds.. Also: singular word for vinyl.

Repress – When additional records are being pressed after the initial batch, with the same master copy.

Reissue – When additional records are being pressed after the initial batch. The source can be a different master (digital, instead of analog, for example). Reissues often come with bonus material and goodies (posters, t-shirts etc.)

Remaster – When additional records are being pressed after the initial batch with a different master copy, usually digital.

Sleeve (inner) – A paper or poly bag to keep it protected against scratching the record when sliding it in and out of the outer sleeve.

Sleeve (outer) – Usually made out of cardboard/thick card stock paper to store and protect the record.

Slipmat – Not to be confused with a regular mat. A slipmat is used by DJs to hold/cue a record in a set, while the platter still spins under the record. The slip mats are usually made of a soft fabric like felt.

Stylus – See “Needle”.

Tonearm – The arm that holds the cartridge and headshell on one end and the counterweight on the other.

Tracking force – The pressure that’s being put on the record by the needle. The packaging of your cartridge should have a recommended tracking force.

Unicorn – See “Holy grail”.

Vinyl – A collection of records, or the material a record is made of. plural for vinyl is vinyl or records, NOT “vinyls”.

White whale – See “Holy grail”.

I know there are terms missing, so if you have anything to add to the list, please do share it in a comment, or shoot me an email.

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