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The world of aftermarket styli

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Jelloalien, Apr 10, 2018.

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  1. Jelloalien

    Jelloalien Stylus Genie Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    I often stumble across threads on various forums about Jico vs Pfanstiehl vs Tonar vs EVG.....etc...etc.

    So I was hoping to maybe just make a super thread and share all our knowledge and wisdom and try to figure out just wtf is going on.

    I deal with the Tonar / Nagaoka distributor for Canada so I will def have some bias here, but my bias is a combination of speaking with my supplier on what he knows to be true, what he believes to be true, and from myself reading things online. Your opinions, thoughts, knowledge, speculation, etc., are highly welcome.


    I can't say I know 100%, but I believe there are only a handful of aftermarket styli manufactures at present:

    Jico is the probably the king of the hill. Japanese high build quality and excellent quality control. I was told Jico actually plugs however many styluses into a cartridge right on the assembly line to ensure top QC (whether that’s true, I have no idea). They market their own brand as well as manufacture styli for other companies to rebrand.

    Nagaoka is another major Japanese player. I believe at one point they made the majority of aftermarkets but I don't believe that to be the case anymore....however much like Jico they too seem shrouded in secrecy. They do however have their own current line-up (the very popular MP series) which are awesome.

    Pfanstiehl, to the best of my knowledge are Swiss made, and a step down in quality. I'm not saying they are bad, or can't sound good.....I’m simply suggesting that there is a reason there are usually much cheaper generic options from websites and eBay.....and that’s usually cause they are sourced from Pfanstiehl.
    I believe there’s may be a Pfanstiehl Japan as well(?) but that's yet another mystery.....

    RESELLERS: there are a bunch other websites but I’ll just focus on a few of the bigger brands out there currently:

    Tonar - Tonar primarily sources their styli from Jico. I believe Tonar is one of Jico largest European resellers which are branded and distributed throughout the world. I also believe Nagaoka supplies Tonar with styli and products too, but am unsure as to the extent of that.

    EVG - To the best of my knowledge this company was supplied by Jico as well, but recently that changed and Jico cut them off, so now they source from Pfanstiehl.

    LPGear - I believe they are Jicos major USA reseller. They seem to have created their own VIVIDLINE and claim it’s manufactured by artisans in Japan. Gathering info online, I personally would lean towards that the VL is likely Jico or Nagaoka made. However anything is possible, they could have monks making them exclusive styli in the himilayan mountains, I really have no idea. Anyone know?

    Turntableneedles - I think maybe Jico supplied styli to them, but I feel like maybe they are going the route of EVG and also are getting cut off (that’s not a fact, that’s just my guess). They seem to sell the Jico SAS line primarily and everything else seems to be changing to the “BLISS” brand. I'm speculating, but I believe the Bliss brand are Pfanstiehl made in either Switzerland or Japan.


    Jico does sell their own styli direct on their website and although we can confirm Jico manufactures styli for other companies, there is speculation that Jico provides other resellers with a middle-ground version, and keep their top-shelf for themselves to only sell direct.

    I've read of people buying both a Jico brand and a “other-branded-Jico”, testing the m visually and sonically, and stating that:
    A) the Jico direct definelty sounds better
    or
    B) both looked and sounded near identical

    I've never done an A/B comparison myself so can't comment much other to say it seems unlikely to me that Jico is doing that. I also had a conversation with my supplier who inquired some and we both believe it’s unlikely this is happening.....BUT....I really have no idea.

    I know some original styli used a tie-wire construction, (Pickering I believe) and I've read that Jico did re-create this in their aftermarket cantilever, but it only can be bought direct from them......this is the only instance i think I’ve been able to confirm where a branded Jico is different than a “other-branded Jico.

    I've also never seen turntableneedles packaging or lpgear. Does anyone have a photo of either, I’m curious what they look like.

    Anywho, thanks for reading, sorry it’s so long winded, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject
     
  2. patient_ot

    patient_ot Senior Member

    Location:
    USA
    Went through the debate over domestic rebranded "Jico" vs. the Jico direct from Japan. Decided to go with the latter. Glad I did.
     
    Jelloalien likes this.
  3. JohnO

    JohnO Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    There's also Japan stylus/cantilever manufacturer Namiki. The only info I have is their own website, but they are manufacturing these and selling them to someone:
    Stylus Chip | Adamant Namiki Precision Jewel Co., Ltd.
    Cantilever | Adamant Namiki Precision Jewel Co., Ltd.
    MicroRidge | Adamant Namiki Precision Jewel Co., Ltd.

    There's apparently a supplier/manufacturer in Columbia and a Florida seller on ebay sells those. Here is a current example. He has many styles, all seem to be spherical but the seller sometimes lists these as replacements for elliptical model numbers (like this for Stanton 500 which is not an elliptical "DE", or a 3 mil "D3", but a .7 spherical):
    NEW NEEDLE STYLUS 820-DE 820-D7AL 820-D3 FOR STANTON | eBay

    There is or was a supplier/manufacturer in France. Some of those appear on ebay.fr.

    In times past (1960s-70s), there were other indie suppliers, at least Astatic, Duotone, Walco, and even Empire and Zenith. Some NOS shows up on ebay. For these, I do mean they sold stylus assemblies for still usable magnetic stereo carts from Pickering/Stanton, ADC, GE, etc., along with "needles" for the ceramic lot.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2018
    Jelloalien likes this.
  4. Jack Flannery

    Jack Flannery Forum Resident

    Location:
    Houston, TX
    I bought a Jico stylus. Shipped from Japan. Strange website. Very fast delivery. Great product.
     
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  5. cjc

    cjc Forum Resident

    Audio Technica AT95e made in China?
     
  6. Jelloalien

    Jelloalien Stylus Genie Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    I thought they were made in Japan, but I also believe there is a European branch of Audio Technica because I get an unbranded at95e and was told it originates from there. Same cartridge, just no logo.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2018
  7. Jelloalien

    Jelloalien Stylus Genie Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
  8. JohnO

    JohnO Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    I should have included Electro-Voice above with Empire and Zenith and the rest.

    The current EVG is somehow an outgrowth or remainder of the Electro-Voice stylus department. Maybe you can find out? I'm curious. Not that it matters.

    And for Empire, an ebay seller recently had a NOS stylus, a genuine Stanton manufacture Stereohedron for the 881S, in an Empire package. I waffled on it and it was sold. But Empire was its own major brand of cartridges, yet they were selling a pretty full line of stylus assemblies, that they mostly manufactured themselves, for all the main brands of the time. Weird.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2018
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  9. Jelloalien

    Jelloalien Stylus Genie Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    Thanks for adding that info John, some more mysteries to unfold haha
     
  10. stereoguy

    stereoguy Its Gotta Be True Stereo!

    Location:
    NYC
    Forum member PhxJohn is an expert in aftermarket styli. If you have any questions, he'd be a great person to ask, awesome guy, also.

    Also, I'm 99% sure SOME aftermarket styli are made in China, just not sure which.
     
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  11. stereoguy

    stereoguy Its Gotta Be True Stereo!

    Location:
    NYC
    If only JICO would manufacture a high quality stylus for the old GE VR-1000, it would be nirvana.

    They could manufacture a stylus for it that would let its performance surpass ANY of the NOS styli still around and give new life to the cart, which is amazing sounding.
     
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  12. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    I think you are right on the money. JICO did indeed cut off EVG. Pfanstiehl was indeed sourcing the 772-DE (for Shure V15 IV) from JICO. They got cut off for that model and one or two others. EVG and Pfanstiehl are waiting for the unnamed Swiss manufacturer to begin producing 772-DE's. If one wants Japanese styli...specifically JICO made you can buy Tonars or one of the retailers that the OP mentioned. All EVG and Pfanstiehl will be Swiss manufactured.
     
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  13. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    That would be great. JICO has to be the champion of aftermarket styli. BUT, I did contact them on this matter and they very, very politely declined. Right now, JICO is interested in raising profits. They do not want anyone selling their styli for less than they sell them retail. JICO just raised its prices to Tonar 10-30%. I believe that JICO only wants one distributor per continent. I must add that I have much respect for Pfanstiehl as well. They have been with the same Swiss supplier for 35 years and Pfanstiehl continues to manufacture styli for ceramic cartridges here in the States. Grado Labs is the only other stylus manufacturer in the States. With the prices increases for JICO sourced styli....I think it may very well increase sales for EVG and Pfanstiehl at least among the less critical users. I have to wonder about EVG. Their advantage over Pfanstiehl with most audiophiles was the fact that EVG styli were sourced from JICO. That fact was argued for years until it ended. Now with EVG selling the same Swiss sourced styli as Pfanstiehl, what is their advantage ? Pfanstiehl at least pertinent provides information on the styli packaging. Nagaoka does not respond to emails from me or even to distributors with whom I am in contact. Needless to say.....none of their products are in my future.
     
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  14. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    Thank you for the kind words.
     
  15. Jelloalien

    Jelloalien Stylus Genie Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    Thanks for commenting on this thread John. I was literally just the past few weeks told nearly all that you wrote, but since i deal with Tonar i don't always wanna over-step what i should or shouldn't say.

    I too heard JICO wants to limit distributors and the price increase is indeed in the works. Sooner than later as it were.
    On the Tonar end, I was told for some styli the price increase isn't to nuts, but for others it is well over 30%......

    LPGEAR, as i don't deal with them, i believe there should also be a price bump there......but if there isn't a price increase on the US side, it's going to make being price competitive in Canada unfair, imo.

    Less critical users simply going for cheaper cost replacements have always flocked to the "cheaper generics" however, so it's kinda always been this way i guess. But you are likely right, until the market corrects itself from the price increases.

    Out of curiousity, what is it you were wanting to know from Nagaoka when you emailed them?
     
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  16. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    I do not remember exactly what I emailed Nagaoka about. Probably it was to ask if they had the molds to create styli for the GE VR 1000. I think LPGear is going to see an increase in sales. Turntable.needles....no comment. I know what you mean about 'over-stepping'. I am in the same position.
     
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  17. Conrail16

    Conrail16 Active Member

    Here's the packaging of my turntableneedles OM10 clone. I was a bit surprised actually to see Jico mentioned by name on the packaging.

    turntableneedles.com packaging
     
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  18. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    The Namiki people, it seems, make only the stylus tips and cantilevers, not complete stylus assemblies. I won't be surprised if Jico and Nagaoka buy from them.
     
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  19. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Tonar also distributes complete Nagaoka cartridges under its brand. I have a Nagaoka JT-555 branded as Tonar JT-555.
     
  20. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    LPgear is careful to package everything in their own-branded packaging. I bought a few items from them. One was a an AT7V, considered a gray market item in the US - they didn't even give me the original box/packaging, sent it in their own box with soft bubbles inside, same for Tonar-555.
     
  21. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    The Adamant website is interesting. Component parts of a stylus assembly. Thank you for posting it.
     
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  22. Jelloalien

    Jelloalien Stylus Genie Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    Thanks for posting that! Very interesting.
    I still feel like Jico is going to be cutting turntableneedles from supply, but the packaging definitely is interesting otherwise....
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
  23. Jelloalien

    Jelloalien Stylus Genie Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    I believe you are on the money, I forgot about this.

    These are the other “Tonar” branded styli on my lists which I believe Nagaoka manufactures for them. I was told Nagaoka may stop making styli for resellers however, only have their MP line-up. I have no confirmed this however.


    N611BE
    Stylus Birdie DJ
    Stylus Diabolic DJ
    Stylus Baktrak
    Stylus Banana
     
  24. Jelloalien

    Jelloalien Stylus Genie Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    This does make sense however. Brand recognition is powerful.

    An interesting note, not that long ago Jico sent out word that they didn‘t want anyone making use of their name for marketing’s purposes unless it was specifically their brand (ie. Jico packaging) being marketed and sold.

    We obviously still see this isn't always the case as a lot of sites just use a stock photo.
    But TTN writing “Jico” on their packaging is kinda a no-no.....lol

    If you are able can you post a photo of the lpgear packaging? I've not seen it, just curious about it really.

    Tonar does repackage as you point out. Some photos in this old ad
    Tonar Ortofon (omb series) OM30 Stylus
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
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  25. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    Most are repackagers. EVG, Pfanstiehl( for mag styli), Tonar....geez....there are not that many companies remaining. That was limited to distributors. I am not up to snuff with retailers because I only deal with one big one.
     
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