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
    That's another cartridge I'd like to own; haven't heard one in years. I gather they are a little more reliable now. They are pretty much in their own class. Do you use that as a daily driver? And does it track well on everything? What arm? Thanks.
     
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  2. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    Location:
    sweet VA.
    That requires time and $$$.
    Great that it works for you.
    Just not where I want to be, or go.
     
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  3. Jimi Floyd

    Jimi Floyd Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pisa, Italy
    @BendBound Thanks a lot for the original paper and the patience and knowledge you showed in this discussion, also thanks to @Bill Hart for starting the thread. I never ventured in the 1000+ hrs territory with any cartridge, my ears told me already not to do so, now I know 500 is a more realistic figure. This will not stop me buying the best cartridges I can afford, dedicated to vinyl as I am this will only get me enjoy more the time available with each of those. Thanks again.
     
  4. Otlset

    Otlset free-range audiophile

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    Yep, my 'daily driver'. :D I found this image of my Immedia RPM2 table and RPM2 arm on the net. The arm is a medium mass oil-damped unipivot type -- perfect for optimal performance from this cartridge. It's not the best tracker out there probably, but it tracks pretty well compared to carts I've had in the past.

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. HiFi Guy 008

    HiFi Guy 008 Forum Resident

    Location:
    New England
    I'd love to hear that cartridge too! Was just reading about it. For that money, I thought it would be a superb tracker, and tracer.

    What aspects of the arm make it a good match? The unipivot bearing? The mass? Something else?

    Now you've got me thinking (for the umpteenth time) about purchasing one!
     
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  6. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    Thank you. Yeah, that should work- damped. I think the old Keith Monks arm had mercury contacts and was one of the arms preferred for the original Deccas. Apart from the Neumann --rare as hen's teeth, and its clones-- the Tsar?, the Decca is the only one that is 'direct drive'- i.e., no cantilever?
    That's great that you've gotten such utility from it. Deccas had a rep- perhaps undeserved now, that were like owning vintage British sports cars-- only didn't leak oil. Do you deal with that Wright fellow in England directly?
     
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  7. Otlset

    Otlset free-range audiophile

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    It's an expensive cartridge as cartridges go (I think mine was just over $4500), so with that kind of outlay I'm glad it has served me so well for so long! Makes me feel like I got my money's worth, and it's still going.

    I believe all the characteristics I mentioned, medium mass, unipivot, and oil-damped all contribute to optimizing the cartridge's performance. This is reinforced by all I've read about the cartridge and set up on the web and various forums over the years from users of this type.
     
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  8. Otlset

    Otlset free-range audiophile

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    I bought mine from a US distributer, some guy named Gregoire or something. But at the first sign of mistracking or distortion that wasn't there before, I will send it back to the UK and the cart builder himself Mr. John Wright for servicing. Yeah, for all it's quirky reputation it has been a steady and trouble-free performer for me.
     
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  9. BendBound

    BendBound Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bend, OR
    See this article on LJC...brace for it too since it has some “interesting” comments.

    High Fidelity: Decades of Decline
     
  10. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    Location:
    sweet VA.

    Would many argue that recording quality peaked somewhere in the late 50's?
     
  11. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    Some I agree with, but Audio Note isn't cheap either. (And no, I don't really want to go down that rabbit hole- you do get what you pay for in some instances though the cost of entry can be high). I use 18 watt SET mono blocks that are utilitarian in the extreme. They sound wonderful. No fancy case work, no claims to special tech- just a well designed piece of gear. They only work with extremely efficient speakers.
     
  12. Such a great example of what this forum is capable of. Great information and great discussion. This is a big one and matters to everyone tied to the analog world. All the fussing over record cleaning, stylus cleaning, cartridge alignment, VTA, etc can be so easily outdone by a long in the tooth worn stylus. And a lot of us are still unaware or in denial about effective end of life.
     
  13. monomusic

    monomusic Forum Resident

    Awesome thread and info here, great to read. My stuff isn't super high-end. Turntable is a 1983 Technics SL-B300. I usually just replace the stylus every year and a half - Ortofon 300 (retails for around $240). It probably has much, much longer hours/life left on it than that, but it's just a routine I'm happy with doing. Tracking is set at 1.5 grams. As for caring for it, I generally brush the stylus (horizontally with the tonearm, only) after playing two sides of records. My cleaning is just using the Discwasher felt brush with cleaning fluid, when needed. Nothing fancy here at all, but good enough for me, I guess.
     
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  14. Kyhl

    Kyhl formerly known

    Location:
    Savage
    You had to go there didn't you. :D

    Last year I reviewed the cost per hour to burn up tubes. Now I know the cost per hour to wear out a cart. Great. Just great. Without calculating the hours I always had a ballpark cost on my cart that I didn't want to exceed. I'm not sure I've fully digested the $1 per hour of listening enjoyment between the cost of cart and tubes.

    Prior to this I never counted the plays. Replaced when I thought it was necessary while feeling that they never lasted as long as others suggested they should.

    A bit over a week ago I noticed some high frequency distortion in the right channel requiring more anti-skate to finish the record. Didn't have a counter but I bet it has easily played 600 albums. Guess it could be more. Haven't played anything since then and a new replacement arrived yesterday.

    Last fall I decided to play my entire meager collection as it is reorganized into new shelving. Guessing it is 300-350 records into the collection play and the cart was not new when this goal was started. Anyway, I am certain there is less than 1,000 hours on this micro line MC cart that is worn out. A counter should arrive Thursday. We will see how many sides the replacement survives.
     
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  15. BendBound

    BendBound Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bend, OR
    Just for you Kyhl: A few years ago a new "diamond" was discovered at impact crater sites. This new diamond is still made of carbon atoms but differs from typical diamonds in crystal lattice structure. The diamonds we are familiar with have a cubic lattice, while these new-discovered diamonds have a hexagonal lattice. That means that the hex-diamond, called now Lonsdaleite, is theoretically nearly 60% harder than the cubic lattice diamond.

    See this link for details: Scientists Have Made a Diamond That's Harder Than Diamond.

    Terrific article here that also discussed boron nitride, which at one time scientists thought was even harder than diamond: Have scientists really found something harder than diamond?

    Before you get excited, read this link: Lonsdaleite - Wikipedia.

    I hear absolutely no discussion of making stylus tips from these type of diamonds. Unfortunately, the number of inclusions found in these actually lowers their hardness on the Mohs scale to 7 to 8, which is not good for stylus tips. Assuming that issue was solved, the cost to make the raw material for styli would mean cartridges with Lonsdaleite would cost $15,000. But they might last up to 2,000 hours. The problem of course is the cost to play an album would still be $5.00 or so.

    :tiphat:

    Another point Weiler made was that diamonds are so hard compared to vinyl, that it was not the travel on vinyl that worn the diamond tip. He argued that it is the dirt deeply embedded in the record groove that worked over the diamond to create those flat spots. As noted, he analyzed the dirt from record grooves and found that a good 35% was diamond dust from the continual wear from groove grit. As diamond dust accumulated, wear would accelerate.

    If that is true, big if, a record needs to be re-cleaned periodically to remove that diamond dust. If we did that, I might venture that a stylus tip could last longer than 500 to 600 hours. Of course, how often do you do this, once every ten plays of an lp. I don't know.

    Consider, if laboratory conditions were done by cartridge manufacturers on pure vinyl grooves completely free of diamond dust, I can see why some tout 2,000 plus hours for stylus life. The problem of course, that is not real life at my turntable.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
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  16. bluesky

    bluesky Forum Resident

    Location:
    south florida, usa
    Thanks guys!! I've learned a lot!!

    Great thread - thanks again.
     
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  17. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    Any stylus wears after 1 hour. The 200 mark is just when they consider it a worn product but you can keep going for a while. After 500 hours or every half year its best to get a replacement though.
     
  18. Optimize

    Optimize Forum Resident

    Location:
    EU
    Yes, logically the stylus wear is faster and more dramatic in the beginning of its use. When the contact points are smaller and have a higher force for each square unit. Then the bigger the flat spots gets the growth of them in square unit is slower as the square area unit increases and the pressure is lower for each square unit as it is a bigger area..
    As discussed earlier.
     
  19. Ray Parkhurst

    Ray Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    I'm curious why you believe time has anything to do with stylus replacement. It really should only matter how many records the stylus plays. Maybe you're thinking of a certain number of plays per day? That varies quite a bit between listeners so quoting an absolute time makes no sense. What if I go on vacation for 6 months...should I replace my stylus once I return?
     
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  20. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    No, but I specified with 500 hours. Why didnt you assume that I meant replacing it every 20 days is necessary?
    In any case, 500 hours gets you about 2 full records a day for a year. Pretty average for most.
    But for Elipticals it can be good to do it sooner rather than later.
     
  21. Ray Parkhurst

    Ray Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    So you recommended replacing after 6 months, even with the assumption that the average user playing 2 records a day would take 1 year to get to 500 hours? Why 6 months? An abundance of caution?
     
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  22. Otlset

    Otlset free-range audiophile

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    A quote from the study above...

    "In The Wear and Care of Records and Styli, Harold Weiler illustrates wear as seen through a microscope on spherical (or conical) shaped diamond styli, versus hours of record play. Based on his experiments, Weiler determined the rate of wear of a diamond stylus to the point of extreme groove damage. He tested on 12-inch vinyl records introduced in 1948 in mono and played at 331⁄3RPM (stereo came in late 1957). The standard mono stylus at the time measured one thousandth of an inch (1.0 mil) at its longest radius. All of his empirical tests were conducted at 7.0 grams of vertical tracking force (VTF)."

    By contrast, my cartridge is set at 1.57 gms, and is a paratrace style as opposed to a conical. And I clean my records as well or better than anybody too, so wear on the stylus from dirt in the grooves is minimized, if not almost eliminated (as Weiler thought vinyl produced very little if any wear on the diamond itself). Just outlining the contrast, which must account for the outstanding life of my cartridge so far.
     
  23. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    Just from personal experience. If you were extremely careful you would just replace it after 200 hours which would really keep you safe.
    But I tended to go a bit longer without issue when I had one. More than 500 hours I would not go though.
     
  24. Ray Parkhurst

    Ray Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    We are all presuming that line contact styli will last longer than ellipticals, due to more surface area in contact with the groove, and that clean records will wear the stylus less than dirty ones. So you've got both of these going for you. But how do you know if your stylus is still good, and not damaging your records? The sonic signature of a worn stylus is subtle.

    I'd expect this is not a very popular statement, since replacing a stylus every 200 hours is fairly expensive, and it's really based on nothing scientific. Indeed I have a couple cartridges that really only fully broke in around 100-200 hours, so replacing at that point would give up most of the best-sounding life of the cartridge. Even the 500 hour recommendation is just speculative, as you really don't know if you still have 500 or 1000 hours left on the stylus, or if you've already worn it to the point of damaging grooves.

    For the last several years I've been basing my replacement timing on visual confirmation. Given the many variables that affect wear, I don't know a better way. Sonic changes are another way to go, but I firmly believe that by the time distortion or noise are noticeable, you've already been damaging grooves.
     
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  25. Otlset

    Otlset free-range audiophile

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    I have been assessing component upgrades to my system in many areas over many years, hours and hours of comparing and contrasting various new and vintage tubes in both amplifier and phono stage, speaker placement differences, minor cartridge adjustments over the years in all parameters, any changes where I could detect an improvement in the sound. So I'm used to assessing the sound of my system, and sensitive to changes. Although I still don't have as sensitive ears as Warren Jarrett has, I still can not detect any degradation to the sound due to a worn stylus. And I'm very aware that I should be hearing some faint raggedness or fuzziness to the sound as (I assume) the diamond wears out and the support pole (my cartridge has no cantilever and apparatus) for the stylus gets exposed and starts cutting into the record. But so far, despite my alertness to anything amiss in the sound reproduction, it still sounds fantastic and natural.
     

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