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Stylus lifespan

Discussion in 'audio' started by Frankiesays, Sep 9, 2019.

  1. Big Tabs

    Big Tabs “telling it like it isn’t...”

    Mine was from Maplins a while ago, x10 and x400. cost ??£20 - £30 - the main issue is it requires stability/ a fixed stand as you cannot hand-hold the device on high magnification. You need a bright fixed light source as well. I wouldn't recommend using it with a fixed headshell/mc cart. I remove my MM stylus to check it.
    The usb microscope I have takes stills /pictures as well, which is very useful. There is at least one thread on pfm on the subject of microscopes. A jewellers loupe is a good start. Lots of light, no alcohol. :)
    scotty38 likes this.
  2. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Loupes thread here. Strongly recommend buying a nice vintage microscope too, you can get something really nice for <£100:


    This ‘60s vintage Olympus was £65 IIRC and it is a lovely thing, though did need stripping and cleaning as the oil had hardened up. All good now though.
    Big Tabs and scotty38 like this.
  3. scotty38

    scotty38 pfm Member

    Thanks both, just bought one of the cheap USB type to have a play, comes with stand etc and I have a removable headshell so I'll see what I can see :) Read the loupe thread some time ago, must admit I'd forgotten about the older microscopes, now you've started me off on something else lol....
  4. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    With conventional microscopes the area you might find an issue is how much downward movement the specimen platform thing has, i.e. can you get it down far enough to get a good head-on look at the stylus? I’m fine as I’m using a MM cart so I can deal with the stylus assembly alone, but a long-body MC might be far more awkward. By saying that the specimen platform is almost always removable via a few bolts, so fabricating something wouldn’t be too hard.
    scotty38 likes this.
  5. scotty38

    scotty38 pfm Member

    There was one the same as yours on ebay a little while ago, now gone, someone on here I am going to guess :)
  6. scotty38

    scotty38 pfm Member

    Turns out it hadn't gone, just wasn't in the "Microscopes" section. Anyway to cut a long story short I won it at £65...
  7. peterm

    peterm pfm Member

    I've got one that looks just like Tony's, it's not an Oplympus though.

    The biggest challenge is trying to get the cartridge supported in the right place, at the right angle (I used a lump of blutack) and with the illumination suitably aligned. My wife said "how can you spend so long looking at something that small"!

    And be careful not to wind the stage up until the stylus gets squashed against the lens!
    scotty38 likes this.
  8. scotty38

    scotty38 pfm Member

    The cheap usb one I bought arrived today so I have had a quick look at an old K9. Looks a bit grubby but otherwise fine. Don't seem to be able to get the zoom to work though but yes even with that it's all about getting it in the right place. Not worried about manhandling the K9 but will be a different matter using a "real" cartridge :)
  9. forester

    forester pfm Member

    No one's mentioned the inescapable: failure to clean the stylus will significantly reduce it's life. A hard lesson to learn. Sibilance and mistracking can give away a worn stylus, but best not to let it get that bad.
  10. Jagged24

    Jagged24 pfm Member

    The Weiler article is interesting. But I wonder whether modern stylus profiles extend lifespan. One argument for the extended 'line contact' profiles is that notionally there is less wear. ZYX for example claims that their line contact styli are good for at least 2000 hours.
  11. yeti42

    yeti42 pfm Member

    My local dealership has a high power stereo microscope, high enough to get a good look at the stylus and not just the “cats eyes” a mono one will show. I took a 17D2 in to have a look at with maybe 5 years use as my primary source, probably between 3 and 4000 hours, you could see wear on it but it wasn’t done yet. I currently have a Proteus with around 2000 hours and have noticed sibilance recently. I’m waiting for an SPU Royal N and when it arrives will have a good look at the Proteus, I’m not expecting it to fare a well as the 17D. Pity as I can’t get another so it will mean trying my luck with the re-tippers.
  12. Craig B

    Craig B Re:trophile

    The following table comparing different styli types (credit: audio-technica Ltd.) is very informative, in that, in addition to including a graphical representation of the relative contact patches, as they would interface with the groove walls in plan view (table row 'A'), it also lists the contact patch area in μm^2 (table row E). Note that sometime after line contact types gained market share, ellipticals were bundled together with spherical types under the general category of 'point contact'.

    From the perspective of wear due to contact pressure, 'point contact' tips should be the worst offenders (for a given downforce), as the g/μm^2. will be far greater than for any of the line contact types; where pressure per unit area is calculated using VTF/(2 * Ac), where Ac = area of contact in μm^2. The only inexact bit here is who's interpretation of vinyl deformation under load is used, as this factors into tip contact area (i.e. a perfect sphere, as in the case of spherical, would have a contact area approaching zero if interfaced with a similar hard surface).

    Table row 'F' lists values of L1/L2, which relates to the distribution of contact area (hence also force) across the groove walls, and, when factored in with 2 * Ac this loosely matches the relative expected styli lifespans by type that certain manufacturers list as hours.


    Another graphic that is telling, at least from the point of view of relative subjective performance (rather than longevity), is that of the plan view of various point and line contact styli as they trace a given length of simple sine modulated groove (credit: Adamant Namiki Precision Jewel Co. Ltd.). So called 'pinch effect' occurs when the lines of contact stray from perpendicular to the linear mean of the groove (i.e. the cutter stylus path); IOWs, the stylus is forced to travel vertically where it can't fit horizontally, all the more so at near end of record side where groove signal density is much greater (note the contact shapes appearing smaller as the lines of contact stray from horizontal). This vertical modulation is very audible and easily recognizable as 'spherical sound' by those of us old enough to have started out in life listening to records 'conically'. IMO, what has allowed spherical tips to continue in the marketplace is that this tracing distortion is not unpleasant, that is, as long as it doesn't negatively affect tracking ability (pinching the stylus up out of contact with one or more of the groove walls, for example). In some ways, the audible affects of tracing distortion 'fills in' for the spherical tips inability to trace HFs; IOWs, the vertical oscillations give a mono representation of what can't be resolved stereophonically; hence part of the subjective agreement that ellipticals and line contact types 'do' stereo better.


    When one relates the geometric data of the table to the dynamic affects demonstrated by the drawing above, it becomes obvious that it isn't just a case of better tracing of HF signals that the more exotic shapes bring, but also a marked reduction in 'additive' distortions due to vertical modulation (and L/R phase errors) where none exists in the source.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2021
    James likes this.
  13. Anh

    Anh Naim ghetto blaster

    I got lazy with my AT440Mlb, not cleaned it, only removed dust using the supplied brush...... 6 months / 300 hours in, the ML stylus is starting to struggle with poorer records.

    My much fresher back-up stylus does a better job so that's now in place.
  14. Vinny

    Vinny pfm Member

    Build-up of crud (really only visible using great care and mag' FAR greater than a loupe), is easily taken for wear.

    Keep a stylus clean - blue jewellers' putty, magic rubber, ultra-sonic cleaner, preferably all, every once in a while, and some kind of stylus brush as often as you like.
  15. Jagged24

    Jagged24 pfm Member

    Thanks, that's very helpful. Your post provides an explanation for the expectation that line contact or other extended stylus profiles should have a longer lifespan.
  16. TCar

    TCar pfm Member

    Which seller did you use or can you recommend?
  17. oldjazzer

    oldjazzer New Member

    Just spotted this thread and though I,'d add my 2p worth.
    25 year old Shiraz mc cartridge finally gave up with what I thought was a chipped/broken/missing diamond, so off it went to North West Analogue in Uk (NWA).
    Turned out to be the suspension that had given up. On inspection, NWA said the stylus was perfect! A big surprise (and relief as a new cantilever and stylus was much more than fresh suspension) as with say 4 lps a week on average over 25 years comes to around 5000 hours!
    Over the years, used dampened AT ultrasonic jobby, soft brush...... and of course a record cleaning machine! Currently the highly recommended Pro-ject one.
    Will post again in 25 years, when the cartridge needs it's next service :)
    Vinny likes this.
  18. sq225917

    sq225917 Bit of this, bit of that

    A. You cant count.
    B. NWA didn't look at the stylus.

    One of the above is true.
  19. Martyn Miles

    Martyn Miles pfm Member

    I had 5 new styli on my Entre MC over about 35 years.
    I’d class myself as an average user, from what I’ve read on PFM.
    Expert Stylus Co. would check it every 3 years or so.
    Virtually no wear in that time period.

    Wyndham Hodgson ( Prop. ) told me if a cartridge is set up correctly ( and with records in
    good condition ) and the bias correctly set wear should be minimal.
    Looks like he was correct...
  20. Seanm

    Seanm pfm Member

    I once had a stylus given a clean bill of health by an expert which, when I re-mounted it, didn’t sound worn so much as broken. I don’t really have any faith in these services.

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