Choosing the Cartridge or Stylus

Choosing The Cartridge Or Stylus
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A turntable cartridge and stylus are two independent pieces that function together like a precision instrument. The stylus is the tiny rubber blade that directly contacts the windshield in turntable cartridges, similar to windshield wiper systems on cars.

Cartridges are manufactured as an electromagnetic device used to translate the data stored on the record grooves. Hence, converting the sound into apprehendable sweet analog music. Moreover, they are an important asset in music quality.


Besides, when the blade can no longer properly clear the rain, you know it’s starting to wear down. You will just need to repair the blade part if the wiper assembly is still in good shape. The same principle applies to treating a turntable. If the cartridge is still in good shape, only replace the stylus.

Why Should You Replace Your Turntable Cartridge or Stylus?

Turntable cartridges, particularly the stylus, also known as a needle, deteriorate over time. As a result, these parts will eventually need to be updated to maintain top sonic performance, especially if you have one of the best turntables on the market.

Changing the stylus regularly will also help protect the integrity of your increasing vinyl record collection, which can be scratched or destroyed if needles are used beyond their recommended lifespan. Even if your turntable cartridge is in perfect operating order, you can still update to a newer, better-performing model. There are many options, but knowing how to use turntables makes the process easier.

When Should a Cartridge or Stylus Be Replaced?

When it’s time to change a turntable stylus, audible signals will appear. You need a new stylus if you notice distortion, fuzziness, channel imbalance, crackle, sibilance, static, or blurring when there wasn’t any before. The typical audio signal indicates that you need a new stylus that sounds like a filthy record. Test the audio quality using a clean and LP that is in good condition.

Keep an eye out for physical symptoms that your turntable stylus needs to be replaced. For example, it’s time to replace the stylus if it skips or bounces. Examine whether the needle head is bent, misshapen, damaged, or is coated by any material. If any of these signs appear to be present, it’s time to replace your stylus.

Turntable cartridges are also in need of replacing as they cannot last forever. In most cases, simply replacing the stylus is enough to give your recordings a new lease on life. However, there are situations when you must replace the complete cartridge, such as when you buy a used turntable and have no knowledge about its history or how well it was cared for, or when you wish to improve the acoustic output of your turntable.

If you can’t replace the cartridge or the stylus, you’re dealing with a toy rather than a serious piece of audio gear. The entire unit would have to be replaced in such a case. However, even the cheapest turntable models allow customers to update the cartridge and stylus, so double-check first.

What Is the Difference Between a Cartridge and a Stylus?

The needle on your turntable stylus makes contact with your recordings. For translation, the stylus is coupled to a cartridge that is locked to the arm of your turntable. The stylus transfers data as a signal to an amplifier, which is then played back through speakers.

Cartridges and turntable needles work together to transform mechanical movement into an electrical signal. Magnets cause a voltage generated in a bundle of wires near the cartridge’s back for positive and negative connections.

Multiple factors influence how well a cartridge transmits a signal. These factors include the shape of the stylus, stability of the motor, materials used in the building of turntables, Isolation of the turntable, a needle, and a cartridge. To use turntables with home speakers usually require an auxiliary amplifier.

Is it Better to Use a Cartridge or a Stylus?

Entry-level turntables usually include a non-removable cartridge that can be replaced with a stylus. Take a peek at the end of your turntable’s tonearm if you’re not sure. If you notice screws holding the cartridge to the end of the arm, it’s time to replace it. If there are no screws visible, you will only be able to replace the stylus. This capacity is confirmed by double-checking the product’s handbook. More durable turntables allow you to replace either or both of these parts.

Determine whether your turntable is equipped with a standard or p-mount cartridge. The most common cartridge is a normal cartridge. A typical cartridge attaches to the underside of the tonearm of a turntable with a pair of vertical screws. A p-mount cartridge fits into the tonearm’s end and is held in place by a single horizontal screw.

If you merely want to replace the pen, all you have to do is pick a compatible stylus with the needle shape you choose. While the manufacturer’s selection is likely to be limited, other firms produce and sell replacement styli for various turntable models.

Select a Needle Shape

You’ll need to choose a stylus shape whether you’re buying a full turntable cartridge or simply a new stylus. Although many manufacturers have developed unique designs, Technica’s most popular stylus shapes are spherical, elliptical, line, and Shibata. The curvature of the stylus is significant since it influences the system’s overall audio performance and reproduction.

The stylus’ form also has an impact on cost, alignment precision, and wear. Because they make the least surface contact, spherical tips are the most economical, easiest to use, and longest-lasting. They don’t have the same level of performance as the ellipse, line, or Shibata stylus tip shapes, though.

Because they’re harder to make, the other stylus shapes are usually more expensive. However, they also have greater sonic quality; all you have to do is make sure the stylus is properly placed on the turntable so it can trace the grooves precisely. Without the right equipment and skill, this alignment can be difficult to achieve, which is why the basic spherical stylus tip is so popular. Furthermore, because these superior tips keep greater surface contact with vinyl records, the stylus should wear down faster over time than spherical-shaped needles.

Final Verdict

To help protect the stylus’s condition, keep your vinyl records and stylus tip clean and free of dust and fingerprints. Gently place the stylus on the record since dropping it can damage the record and blunt the tip. It is a good idea to replace them every few years as they have limited life.




Thank you for reading!