Why do 45 records have a big center hole?

It was always a nuisance inserting those plastic insert adapters in a 45 record. Or you had to drag out the 45 adapter and put it on the record players spindle.
the key word being adapter. Why did 45’s have the huge hole? Was it perhaps needed for jukeboxes?

33 1/3 and 78 rpm had the same small hole.

Bonus question, did the wider groves on a 45 give higher fidelity recordings? Could the needle track a 45 more accurately?

I found my dad’s box of 45’s from the late 40’s and early 50’s. I’m thinking about converting them to digital mp3’s. I converted some of my 33 1/3 albums last year.

The master speaks. As for the higher fidelity question, I assume it’s because of the higher RPM for recording and playback, more information can be more accurately recorded.

In Australia, 45s had the same hole size as 33 1/3 albums. Some 45s had a partially cut ring further out which could be pushed out to make a larger hole, but I don’t recall that being the case for the majority of singles.

I bought some like that in Ireland in '83, in Spain they had the big hole. Then there were 45s that were the size of an LP and had the small hole (“super singles”, in Spanish parlance; EPs were the small 45s with two songs to a side).

I bought a few 45’s as a kid. Albums were more popular when I was in high school. I don’t recall seeing many 45’s in the early 80’s.

So the big hole was just a stupid engineering battle between RCA and Columbia Records.

I had always thought it was required for the design of jukeboxs. Oh well, ignorance fought.


the big hole held the records level on just the spindle of a 45 changer without need for an arm. this was simpler mechanism and easier for the operator (either a child or a bopping teenager).

OP’s question is addressed in the 8th paragraph in Cecil’s response. Short answer: RCA was being a bunch of competitive, uncooperative dicks.

Whether or not it was the original reason for the big-hole design, I am pretty sure that, when I was a kid (50s-60s), juke boxes did use a big spindle with big-hole 45s, whereas all the home record player (or gramophone, as they were once called) that I ever saw used a small spindle, and could usually accommodate either 45s, 78s or 33⅓ LPs. (The latter two speeds, of course, only ever came with small holes.)

The big spindle in a juke box would be sort of conical (with the point cut off), as opposed to the straight, small spindle of a home record player, and I always assumed this system was used because it allowed for a degree of imprecision in the movement of the mechanical arm that put the record in place to play. Singles, in my experience, usually came with a small hole, but with a centre that could be pushed out so that they would fit on a large spindle too. The adapters that you could buy were to get them back to their original condition. Maybe some were manufactured with big holes in the first place, but I always assumed that most of the big-hole second-hand 45s that you see are that way because they were formerly used in juke boxes and had had the original centres pushed out for that purpose.

Yeah, I saw that later as I read down but got lazy in updating my response. Was it ever the case that faster speeds had higher fidelity? It seems to me that it would logically make sense that a faster RPM would reproduce sound better than a slower RPM, assuming the same reading and writing technology.

Clearly depends which side of the pond you lived on (for the period we are talking about I lived in Ottawa Canada). I’m old enough to have played lots and lots of records in my youth (even played a few 78’s, although those were old ones belonging to my parents). I don’t recall ever seeing a 45 with a small hole, whether they were new or used. 33 1/3s and 78s came with small holes, 45s with large holes.

At the speeds records turned, it probably wasn’t a factor, especially since the difference wasn’t all that great. OTOH, with tapes, it did play a factor. Studio quality tapes were 15 inches per second (ips) but most home reel-to-reel tapes were 7 1/2 ips. 8 tracks were 3 3/4 ips, while cassette tapes were 1 3/8 ips. Thus, they were playing at a eighth of the speed of the studio tapes, which was a far greater ratio than with record speeds.

Also, 78s used different needles than the other speeds (and stereo used even different ones). Most record players had a double-sided needle, one for 45s & LPs and the other for 78s. Using the wrong one could wear on and ruin the needle or the record.

Most stereos either had a large 45 adapter (about four inches high), or a little one that popped up. Older models required you used the plastic inserts.

All the 45’s I ever saw here had a small hole for the spindle, but you could, in theory, punch out the cutout and use them on a big hole machine.

Ah, see, you assume I read the OP all the way to the end, where he poses the bonus question about fidelity. Unfortunately I was way too distracted by shiny objects to make it that far.

One thing I remember about the big holes in 45s was that it made it easier to carry a stack of records in one hand. You could hook your finger through the holes in the records.

Depended on what kind of music you listened to- there were plenty of 45’s in the late 70’s/early 80’s If you were the type to listen to entire albums, then of course you bought albums. If you listened to top forty ,liked “Margaritaville” and had never heard another Jimmy Buffet song,then you bought the 45

Two curiosities I learned while touring the EMI record factory in London: 45s were manufactured from recycled LPs. LPs not sold, were simply minced up, melted and stamped out as 45s. The reasoning was that LPs required better quality. The printed sleeves, often with very fancy artwork, cost more to produce than the records themselves. And they couldn’t be recycled.

Here in the US, the holes were smooth, so they were manufactured with the big holes. They weren’t punched out later.

RCA designed them together with the record players they marketed.


I’ve recently been reading this excellent book about the history of the 45. The story they give is that, not wanting to pay royalties to their longtime rival Columbia, RCA revived a record changer project they had mothballed in the 30s. While designing the record changer, engineers found it worked best with big holes in the record. RCA’s attempt to compete with Columbia’s LP failed badly–but 45s were still way better than 78s for a single song.