The Finish Line for your Phono Cartridge- Stylus Wear by Mike Bodell

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Bill Hart, May 24, 2019.

  1. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    Yes, I know. That was the starting point for Mike's work, and he suggests that it is a good model for a new study, using modern equipment and methods, including cleaning. But, there is certainly evidence of wear that he gleaned from more modern stylus shapes, using lower tracking forces.
    Interestingly, on the cleaning issue, I don't normally wet clean a record after each play. I clean it once, thoroughly, before playing and if it doesn't play well, will do repeated, multi-method cleanings until it plays well or I reject the copy as damaged or flawed. I doubt many people go through the rigors of a deep clean after each play, which is where this might lead if one wanted to minimize friction causing deposits on the record.
     
  2. Ray Parkhurst

    Ray Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    His finding that diamond residue comprised a good % of the surface dust is also telling.

    I have the habit of doing a dry clean both before and after each play, but only on records which have already had a deep/wet clean. For the wet cleaning I had been using a Discwasher until very recently, and now I have a Pro-Ject RCM. I don't notice much improvement with the vacuum machine, but it does have a lot more power, and lets me use a lot more liquid, so the cleaning process is faster and easier. Having the record suspended rather than sitting on a mat seems to keep things cleaner as well, eliminating re-deposition.
     
  3. Otlset

    Otlset free-range audiophile

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    This I presume is 'diamond dust' abraded from the stylus in use. I take this with a large grain of salt. Either the diamond is not up to snuff, or the groove walls are really full of abrasive material.
     
  4. Ray Parkhurst

    Ray Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    I had supposed that the record plays were contiguous, without cleaning between, and that any dust which wore off the diamond would be deposited in the groove.

    Grain of salt ;-)
     
  5. Otlset

    Otlset free-range audiophile

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    I'd like to see someone play one pristine record over and over and over again, until it got to several hundred hours of playing that one record, with the same new stylus of course. It would be interesting to see wear both of the stylus and the record groove. In that case, I might be a little more accepting of finding some 'diamond residue' in the groove.
     
  6. Ray Parkhurst

    Ray Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    I'd bet someone other than Weilert has done this in the intervening years. Over on another forum, I proposed that folks send me their worn out styli, assuming they could assign a reasonable estimate of wear hours. One of the members responded that rather than take people's word for the number of hours, that I just buy a cheap TT and put it on repeat, checking the stylus for wear at intervals. It's not a bad idea, but if indeed there is diamond dust in the grooves, then the record would need cleaning periodically to avoid wearing the stylus faster than if only clean records were played. I guess repeating the test with and without cleaning would give an indication of the impact of repeated playing of a dirty (possibly diamond-dusty) record. Now that we're talking about record wear as well, the record itself would need to be analyzed in some way to see if it is wearing. It all seems a good experiment, and I'm actually contemplating doing it. Problem is the sample size would be very small. It may require at least one additional repetition to see if the results are consistent. 500 hours is only 3 weeks, so we're not talking about a super long timeframe.
     
  7. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    Ray- i see evaluating stylus wear and record wear as two obviously related but separate tasks. How much magnification would you need to see "diamond dust"? It would seem like that should be in evidence after a lesser number of plays.
    The only other observations I have about your contemplated project are that
    • a cheap, semi-automatic record player that 'repeats' is probably going to be of a lesser calibre than many separate tonearms and set up may be pretty primitive. That would likely heighten wear, and would leave open the question of wear on a better set up, but would probably still be instructive, generally.
    • The repeated plays, back to back, raises another issue we've batted around here a few times-- perhaps less of an issue for stylus wear evaluation and more of an issue for record wear--- if you believe that vinyl deformation occurs and back to back playing isn't a good thing.
     
  8. Ray Parkhurst

    Ray Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    I see the experiment as more useful for stylus wear than record wear, since I don't have a good way to evaluate record wear. Most likely my first experiment will only look at the stylus. I will probably do something like this:
    - Image stylus...tip top view...left and right contact views...maybe front view
    - Play x number of record sides. I'm thinking first time through I would stop after ~12 hours
    - Dry clean record and note and possibly image any residue picked up
    - Image stylus
    - Repeat playing and cleaning and imaging at 24/48/96 and then every 96 hours

    I'd appreciate input on the above experimental flow. I could adjust the data collection frequency if I see significant residue. I could also extend to every 192 hours if I see no residue.

    I'm thinking about playing a known record (not the test record) at each test point and possibly capturing it. I have never done vinyl transfer so don't have the hardware or knowledge to do it. Some input on the most expedient way to make that happen would be useful. I suppose same time I could play the test record with a known stylus to assess record wear. I'm sure there will be folks with input on this.

    I have an extra Technics SL10 which I can use for this experiment. The SL10 has a "Repeat" button that I believe will allow infinite playback of a record side. It is a linear tracker so has no azimuth adjustment to cause issues, and since it's a P-mount all the cartridge parameters are defined by the T4P standard. I'll need to decide on a cartridge to use, but I have a good selection of new cartridges to pick from. Just need to figure out what I want to "sacrifice" for the cause. I think an elliptical, either 0.3x0.7 or 0.2x0.7 would be good for this as a first test. I certainly don't want to wear out a LC or MR to start with, nor do I think using a conical is the right choice, but again I will listen to inputs from folks.
     
  9. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    Ray- a few thoughts:
    1. A never before played record that you will wet clean and verify in initial testing has no inherent defects, both in playback behavior (warps, off-center) or sonic anomalies (by listening). Something that has a wide variety of material which includes bass, dynamics, female vocal, etc.
    2. An elliptical that is representative of modern cartridges- happy to defray some of the cost of the cartridge/stylus if that is an issue;
    3. I know you said you are going to confine yourself to evaluating stylus wear, but if you plan to collect any surface debris at intervals, you should probably use a new, uncontaminated brush- not sure how you will evaluate what that debris consists of (if you are going that far);
    4. I don't do needle drops so unless you want a large detour on that subject, maybe check with Mike on what he does and how you can use a simple process- I assume you are doing this to create an audio record of wear that you can compare?
    5. There is, in my experience, some sonic difference in behavior of a brand new out the box cartridge and one that has settled in, but this is probably not a factor in measuring wear.
    Those are my immediate thoughts. You are welcome to PM me or just post publicly.
     
  10. Ray Parkhurst

    Ray Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
     
  11. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    Ray- the only reason I suggested a never before played record is to eliminate that variable as far as record condition is concerned- obviously less an issue if you aren't trying to assess record wear. As to music, I'm pretty agnostic-- you're probably not want to listen to whatever record you choose for a while. Female vocals are good to assess sonics, as I think Hans Fantel suggested in the material Mike quoted from him; as for the rest, just as long as it is dynamic, and puts the stylus to some work, some demanding passages to track, you could play virtually anything.
     
  12. BendBound

    BendBound Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bend, OR
    100% correct.

    The value in Weiler’s work is manifold. He established a pertinent control for those records and systems. That control can be used today on modern records and contemporary stylus tip shapes. He showed progressive tip wear correlated to hours of play and offered reasons for it. He established the logarithm growth in wear flats size in dimensions. He discussed the impact of those wear flats on vinyl groove wear and on the advent of distortion. He showed critical stylus wear and told us how damaging it was to records and how to hear it.

    I am in awe over what Harold Weiler did and wish we could see a modern equivalent in the work.

    On today’s methods of record cleaning you mentioned, I know 20 vinyl nuts. Three have vacuum or ultrasonic or both types of record cleaning machines. The rest clean records with a wipe, mostly. Where I live, there are two vinyl record shops. Both clean records by spraying something on the record and wiping it off with a damp cloth. Yeah. I know, not much has progressed since Weiler penned his pamphlet in 1954.

    PS: I just saw Bill’s note on the same, and a few other comments.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2019
  13. BendBound

    BendBound Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bend, OR
    This lp, mono mind you, has worked well for me particularly on sibilants. One title I think on side two is what I use. Research shows that we first can detect distortion on higher frequencies. At low frequencies, distortion has to be massive to detect. Consider in the Finish Line the experience of CBS Laboratories, Arnold Schwartz. He had to be taught to hear high frequency distortion by the QC technicians at the pressing plant. In my opinion, listening for distortion as a first clue to critical stylus wear will prove troublesome. This experimental research is terrific: Blog - How Much Distortion Can We Hear With Music? | Axiom Audio.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2019
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  14. BendBound

    BendBound Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bend, OR
    I like the way you are thinking. When I get home next week I’m going to send you a note on a longer term project to chronicle stylus wear. :)

    On your suggestion above, my concern in that approach is heating the diamond stylus tip from nearly continuous frictional wear. Diamonds conduct heat very, very efficiently. I have no idea how continuous play would impact the bond between the tip and cantilever. See this link, the last section on thermal stability of diamond: Material properties of diamond - Wikipedia. We know the pressure on diamond in a vinyl groove can be quite high instantaneously over a small contact area and frictional heat spikes. An expert on diamond stylus tips needs to weigh in here on whether continuous play would accelerate diamond wear or cause other undesirable issues. Something to think about in designing a protocol for such an experiment.

    The topic was been discussed on the Vinyl Engine, with research: Frictional heating of vinyl revisited- Vinyl Engine. The generated temperatures are high, but not that high and it’s a very short pulse.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2019
  15. Ray Parkhurst

    Ray Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    In an effort to limit the scope on this first experiment, I'm just going to pick a clean record which has had minimal plays (<5) and focus on stylus wear. I don't have a good way to look at record wear, and I am not set up yet to capture audio for comparisons, so the first round will be visual. I think it's better to take it slowly.
     
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  16. missan

    missan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Stockholm
    Probably not important, but if there is increasing record wear, this might affect needle wear.
     
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  17. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    For MC, for Decca, or any non user replaceable stylus cartridge, I'd have to own 3 or even 4 cartridges to be assured of having 1 ready to play at all times. A big key reason why I run MM and MI.

    Now for some practicality here (many of you purist audiophiles won't necessarily like this) from the broadcast engineer. In the days of AM/FM radio being heavily reliant on record playback on the air, a music intensive 24 hour station averaged 18 hours a day of record playback, every day. A daytime AM music intensive station averaged 9-10 hours a day of record playback. On the Gates CB 1200 series turntables I maintained and the tonearms, we used Stanton 500A styli when possible, usually tracked at 1.75 grams. All styli were microscope checked weekly. Replaced at the first sign of significant wear flats. Usually we went through 6 styli per year, per turntable (2 turntables in use per control room in on air studios). Our production room turntables and tonearms averaged 2 styli a year per turntable. Motors were lubricated and pivot points lubricated 4 times a year. And turntables maintained always to high standards to keep the operation reliable.

    In my own case, I play records on average 3-4 hours a day. Usually I budget stylus replacement as a 2-3 times a year maintenance item. My Technics SL-1500 gets spindle bearing lubrication twice a year. I microscope check my styli every 2 months or if tracking issues noted. When the first signs of wear flats occur, stylus is replaced. I strive to keep a spare stylus available at all times.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2019
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  18. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    Thank you for this.
    I remember the Stanton on the consumer side from the early '70s- the 681e?, being a very robust, and in those days before moving coils were anything but common, well regarded cartridge for audiophiles. The rigors of broadcast or studio work put gear to a severe test. I haven't used a cartridge with a user replaceable stylus in a very long time and keep promising to do a deep dive to see if there is a happy medium between what you've described as practicality and sound. I did just install a modified Denon 103 in one arm as a move in that direction-- I'm interested to see how that plays out.
     
  19. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    The 681 EE and EEE were not consumer so much, as they were the professional reference standard in the record industry for many years. This was in disc mastering (the 681A conical stylus was used as a calibration standard in disc mastering), record label A&R, recording studios, and in broadcasting use. However, the big issue with them today is being out of production (and the generic styli available are not up to Stanton standards).
     
  20. BendBound

    BendBound Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bend, OR
    I did the calculations, you or the station essentially replaced the cartridge every 550 to 600 hours of play.

    Here is a Vinyl Engine thread on the Stanton 500A (in general): This Stanton 500 cartridge - any good?- Vinyl Engine .

    Replacement styli can be highly polished diamonds and conical in shape.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2019
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  21. Drewan77

    Drewan77 Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK/USA
    Sometimes LPs are played without full concentration or as background so why wear an expensive fixed stylus unnecessarily?
    I can highly recommend the Audio Note IQ3, expensive but a superb sounding Moving Magnet cartridge. Because the whole series of Goldring 1000 styli also fit, there are plenty of options to prolong the life of the original for more serious listening. I've owned this for many years & the AN IQ2 & 3 styli each have less than 200 hours on them. A lower cost IQ/Goldring 1042 combo gets a lot of use (still sounds excellent) & I replace these styli quite regularly, at least once a year.
     
  22. Ray Parkhurst

    Ray Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    I am leaning toward using an Empire 480LT for this first experiment. It is a nude mounted 0.2x0.7 elliptical. I have a second one that I've been listening to for a while, and a couple backups, and I'd use one of the backups for the experiment.

    These are not highly polished types, and still retain the overall adhesive roughening. This should make it really easy to see the wear spots develop. Here are the pics of this stylus:

    Tip
    [​IMG]

    Left Contact
    [​IMG]

    Right Contact
    [​IMG]

    Front Profile
    [​IMG]
     
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  23. Otlset

    Otlset free-range audiophile

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    Wow, amazing photos Ray! This should make identifying wear spots fairly easy.
     
  24. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    That is a good suggestion and one that I have on a short list. My playing is largely confined to concentrated listening sessions when I have the time, so it is like the question of why smoke a bad cigar. (wistfully, I had to stop smoking). I guess the aim is to find something that is musically satisfying and relatively inexpensive/painless. That AN would meet the criteria based on everything I've read about it. I'm currently in love with the Koetsu stone bodies- now have two. Sort of the complete opposite, at least in expense and practicality (in terms of user replaceable styli).
    I don't want to go on a big detour, but sometimes, I think there is a lot to voicing that has to do with system strengths and weaknesses. A cartridge one person finds 'neutral' may be lacking in some other respect; some that are 'dramatic' are a little too "leading edge" in my system, without enough body and gravitas. That is less a reflection of the merits of the cartridge than the nature of the system it is being played within. Which, I suppose, makes the task that much more difficult.
    Arm matching too- apart from mass, resonant frequency, etc. A cartridge in my linear tracker will not have dramatic bass-- some people find that these arms don't "do" bass as well as pivoted arms. I get bass with the Koetsus on that arm. I'm now running two arms (for the moment, on two different tables for reasons I don't want to bore you with). I'll have to move this one up toward the top of the list. Thank you.
     
  25. Ray Parkhurst

    Ray Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    12 Hour data...the stylus had picked up a little greasy debris. This may be residue from a previous wet clean using a cleaning fluid I no longer use. I thoroughly cleaned the record before playing, but it seems there was a little of the previous fluid still left. I did not clean the stylus prior to imaging, so you can see what the residue looks like.

    I also did a dry clean of the record, and I expected to see some amount of residue that was broken loose by the stylus, or possibly some vinyl debris worn away by the stylus, but after ~36 plays the dry brush had surprisingly little debris. I saved the debris by sticking it to a piece of tape, though I am not sure what I will do with it.

    As you'll see in the pics below, the stylus is showing no visible wear after 12 hours. This is not unexpected, but good to confirm. For the 24 hour read point, I will clean the stylus prior to imaging.

    Tip
    [​IMG]

    Left Contact
    [​IMG]

    Right Contact
    [​IMG]

    Front Profile
    [​IMG]
     
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