Top Tips on Choosing a Turntable Cartridge or Stylus

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turntable cartridge

Top Tips on Choosing a Turntable Cartridge or Stylus

Do you still enjoy collecting vinyl records? If you answered yes, then you are in the right place. Turntable cartridges, commonly known as the needle, usually lose their life over the years due to excessive usage.

Changing the stylus prevents your vinyl from being damaged and will provide a better listening experience.

We have listed some items to help you with choosing your next turntable cartridge or stylus:

What is a turntable cartridge?

Even though a turntable cartridge and stylus are two separate parts they work together like a precision instrument. A turntable cartridge could be described as the windshield wiper assembly on a car used to clean any dirt or water on the windshield.  Whereas a turntable cartridge converts the mechanical movement into an electric signal to produce sound.

To sum it up, the job of the cartridge is to transform the resulting vibrational energy into sweet analog sound. There is a big quantity of musical information encoded in records – therefore it is no surprise that the quality of the cartridge has a big influence on sound quality.

The effectiveness of a good cartridge to be able to transmit the electric signals to produce clear sound depends on the following factors:

  1. Eliminates unwanted vibration also called turntable isolation
  2. The material used to construct the turntable

The level of the power produced by a turntable cartridge produced on its own is comparatively low.

What is a stylus?

turntable cartridgeWhen we say the turntable cartridge is the windshield wiper on the car, the stylus most certainly has to be the thin rubber blade attached to the wipers which makes direct contact with your windshield to clean the dirt or water. How do you know when to replace the rubber blade on the wiper? You will notice when the blade no longer serves the purpose of cleaning the car’s window effectively. Therefore the stylus would need to be replaced only and not the turntable cartridge if it is functioning as well./

Here is what you need to keep in mind about the stylus:

  1. The shape of the stylus
  2. The tracking pressure rating

The cartridge and the stylus go together on a turntable. They are necessary components.

How do you know when to replace a stylus?

Here are few indications to help you decide when the cartridge and/or stylus needs to be replaced:

  1. The most evident indication would be finding that your stylus is damaged.
  2. Whenever you are ready for an upgrade despite no damages to your current one.
  3. When you start hearing audible noises like distortion, or crackle during playback.
  4. If your stylus tracks improperly, eg. Excessive skipping or skating during playback.
  5. If you have purchased a second-hand turntable, inspect the cartridge and the stylus replaced since you can never be too sure about how the previous owner might have used it.

How much does a new cartridge cost?

The cartridge is an electro-mechanical device that translates the information from the grooves of the record into an electrical signal that can then be amplified to produce music. The cartridge consists of:

  • Stylus shape
  • Cantilever
  • Trackability
  • Generator type
  • Mount type

The cost of a new turntable cartridge depends on the brand you are picking for yourself. There are so many options available in the market. You need to be sure of which one you are choosing and double-check if it is compatible with your turntable otherwise, it is going to be quite useless for you.

To give you a fair idea about how much you must be prepared to spend on a new turntable cartridge is somewhere around $25 to $15,000 a piece! Make sure you are well-prepared with a budget and do some homework before you actually go to buy one.

If you are still unsure as to how much money should you actually invest in a new turntable cartridge then you can always compare the cost of the rest of the equipment with whatever money you are willing to spend on the new piece.

Why does stylus shape matter?

turntable cartridgeThe construction and shape of the stylus add to how well it replicates sound from the record, due to the contact the stylus has to the surface area of the grooves. The shape also contributes to the wear and tear of vinyl records over the years. Both of these things will affect the cost of your stylus. If you are looking at purchasing a stylus you should know about the different types of styli and the advantages of each one. Four main types of the stylus are spherical, elliptical, hyperelliptical and micro-ridge and in our future blog article we will break down the benefits of each of the types and how to care for your stylus.


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