Unlike the music your turntable plays, its parts won’t last forever. The quality of the stylus of a record player deteriorates over time with continuous use. Rounded tips can turn into sharpened edges, and fine points become blunt with age. When this happens, it’s time to consider replacing your record player needle. Turntable needles also have a shelf-life of averaging at about 1000 hours of playing.
Another way to determine whether your stylus needs replacement is by the sound quality your record player makes. While it does produce that vintage sound, not all quirks are part of its regular performance. Audio crackles, static, distortion, and any skipping are all signs of a much-needed needle change. If you encounter any of these and are looking to replace your turntable needle, here’s how you can do it properly.
First, examine your turntable to figure out if it is the needle that needs replacing. Complications can also occur in other parts or in the vinyl track itself, so the tonearm and the cartridge attached to it. If the stylus is removable, then you can have it changed. Otherwise, you would have to replace the whole cartridge. Hopefully, that won’t be the case since needles are more affordable and more low maintenance.
Know Your Needle Shapes
Being familiar with needle shapes is important because it directly affects the audio output. The greater surface contact between the stylus and the record produces a more accurate, crisp sound. The common forms available are the line, conical, elliptical, and the Shibata.
Needle shapes also impact precision and price. The Shibata, line, and elliptical tips have higher quality performances and are more expensive. The conical one, since it has less surface contact, produces a less accurate sound. However, it is cheaper and more durable.
Since different shapes and sizes give off varied performances, determine your record playing needs and preferences to choose the stylus type most fitted for you.
Choose A Reliable Model and Brand
Most of the time, turntable owners look at the model number and get the same needle for that unit. Unfortunately, this record player check isn’t always the best thing to do. Some manufacturers make changes in the middle of production without changing model numbers. Also, previous record player owners sometimes sell their turntables without the cartridge or the stylus, prompting customers to replace them themselves.
To avoid further damage to your vinyl records, carefully analyze your turntable and its stylus. Check for both the player and the needle model number. If either one is missing, consult music equipment sellers and manufacturers. There are also websites available to help you with your maintenance needs.
You can check the original company of your model or its resellers, but that is not always advisable. There are universal cartridge that would fit a wide range of turntables like the Shure Stylus. It also helps to check your turntable instruction manual for further instructions and tips on your stylus replacement.
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