I know some of you are getting your feet wet (or rediscovering) vinyl records and playback. Newbie vinyl is valid vinyl. It's very exciting discovering the world of records. A lot of great stuff out there for not much money. Experiment with bands you've never heard of, dig stuff that your parents liked or whatever. HOWEVER: Protect your records. Doesn't matter if you got your dad's record collection or found a bunch at a used store or took a chance with some new Audiophile vinyl releases. You need to protect your records. This is more important than how they sound right now. How your system treats them is key. Don't wear out your fragile grooves by a mistracking needle. When you upgrade in five months or five years, don't be taken off guard by how your current system has trashed your grooves. BE AWARE NOW!! My story: Back when I was a kid my Dad got me one of those Zenith dark green fold-out portable phonographs. When I got older I couldn't wait to get a real stereo (although I miss that one like crazy now). The Zenith had one great thing about it. It had a "floating" needle which was pretty snazzy for 1966. Before that I had a little Webcor vinyl groove crusher with a 4" speaker that trashed every record I played on it without fail. The Zenith remarkably was so easy on the records that my 45's and LP's (and even 78's) played to death on that thing still sound fine. I remember around 1971 my Dad taking me to Thrifty Drug Store to buy a replacement needle for it. Cost under $2.00. If a 1966 portable player can protect the records even while playing the heck out of them so should any modern machine no matter how cheapass it is. The problem is the arm and the needle in these cheaper modern tables. THE SHAPE OF THE TIP IS CRUCIAL TO RECORD PROTECTION. My first non-Zenith stereo was one I got at Gemco. It was a CONCORD! Remember that brand? It had a receiver and on top of it was a Garrard record player. Just hook up $100.00 white box Gemco speakers and bingo, loud music. It sounded pretty good but the cheap diamond needle just mistracked on everything and my records suffered because of it. Inner groove distortion (something I had not experienced with my trusty Zenith) became a head-scratching issue. I soon realized that mistracking (that shreading sound on one or more channels especially near the end of a side on loud peaks) was ruining my life. It didn't just sound bad but it destroyed the record groove, never to be repaired. The cart in there was a Shure M44-E. (The problem was the E part). Should have used a conical or spherical tip... That's another story (and another Audiophile argument). After about six months I couldn't stand it (never got a Garrard anything ever again) and I asked a friend who worked at University Stereo (remember them?) what to do. He told me to get a receiver (Sony, Pioneer, etc.) and a separate turntable. He told me the turntable really wasn't that important it was the cartridge and stylus that mattered. He said if I wanted to play my records without mistracking I needed a "high trackability" needle and than meant Shure but at a higher quality level. "Noooo!" I said. "Yesssss", he said. So, after painting my parents house, I took the money and "upgraded". I bought a totally marked down new 100 watt Pioneer 1010 receiver for under 500 bucks, some JBL 100 speakers (traded them in after a week, they gave me a headache) and a turntable, the totall bottom of the line Pioneer manual belt-drive PL12D. The tonearm floated free of any inner device to return the arm to the rest. I figured this was the best kind of arm to have in a cheapo table. When I upgraded the speakers to AR3a's I could clearly hear everything "uncolored" as they used to say. I started with the "hot" cheap cart at the time, a Shure M95ED. I put it on my PL12D and it worked OK but I could still hear mistracking. I saved for a month or so (bought no records or nothing) and upgraded to the Shure V15 Type II Improved. All of a sudden I could play the last song on any album with almost no mistracking. My output went down but I just turned the volume up. The money I spent in 1975: So I spent $98.00 on the new Pioneer PL12D turntable. I spent $75 bucks or so on the Shure V15 Type II cart (a fortune to me in those days). The Pioneer 1010 receiver (a great buy at under 500 bucks) and the AR3as put me in the red for a year. This system lasted me through school, college, radio jobs, music jobs all the way through DCC when I gave the system to Marcia McGovern at DCC to use. It's still going great, ORIGINAL CART!!! My point is, I solved the mistracking problem back in 1975. It is the most important thing to PROTECT YOUR RECORDS. I was willing to lose a little "punch" in the music to be able to preserve my vinyl. YOU MUST DO THE SAME. Find something that doesn't mistrack, if your cheap MM or MC carts are mistracking, find a way to fix it, fast. I had the answers way back in 1975. I can't imagine that things have not improved since then. I can't direct you to what is safe now but I'm sure some people here can. Remember, this is for VINYL NEWBIES. Don't tell me about $1,500.00 turntables and $500.00 carts. If you want to dabble and not spend much, there has to be a safe cart you can play with for not much $$. The Shure V15 is out of print, I'm sorry to say but is there something on that level that is not much money? Bottom line, there is NOTHING WORSE FOR YOUR RECORDS THAN A CHEAP DIAMOND ELLIPTICAL NEEDLE. Totally death for your grooves. People, Newbies and Oldbies, Mistracking might sound like gross distortion or maybe fuzz on the needle or a bunch of fast pops during loud passages or even clipping like an overdriven solid state amplifier. Mistracking can be caused by a badly tracking needle OR perhaps a needle trying to track an IMPOSSIBLE groove caused in mastering/cutting the actual record. Sometimes it's only on one channel, sometimes on both. Make sure you don't actually HAVE fuzz on your needle. You should be able to hear mistracking easily. Heck, I was aware of this problem when I was 15 years old. It was very obvious on my Concord/Garrard that something was wrong on dynamic peaks (usually classical) and it didn't take rocket science to figure that my records were physically suffering for it. It's up to you to determine if your machine is mistracking or not. Make sure you're not playing a used record that was already groove damaged when you got it. Let us know!~ Sorry for the ramble, not much sleep.. BTW, my vintage Thorens 124 has a Shure M44-G cart that I paid $25.00 for and it doesn't mistrack ANYTHING either. 'Nuff said. My Webcor Groove Crusher (upper right in Blue Chip Stamp catalog) and the old 1966 Zenith fold out stereo that saved my records from ruin..