Knowing when to change your turntable needle (also sometimes called the diamond or stylus) is an important question that vinyl lovers can have trouble answering, especially if new to the world of turntables.
If you’re looking for the answer to this question, you came to the right place. Our analog audio specialists give you information on when to change your turntable stylus.
Turntable stylus lifespan
The life expectancy of phono cartridge needles on the current market ranges from 400-1200 hours of listening, depending on the manufacturer and the materials used.
To find out if your stylus needs to be replaced, you can therefore average your daily vinyl listening time and estimate how many hours of use your stylus has had. If you already exceed the manufacturer's stated life expectancy, it is probably time to change it.
Your stylus may also need to be changed despite not reaching its life expectancy since other factors such as dusty discs and poor calibration can make it deteriorate faster.
Other ways to know if your turntable stylus should be changed
Since estimating your listening hours is not always easy and there are other things to consider, here are some tips to help you decide if you need to get a new stylus.
Visually inspect your stylus
If you have access to a high-power magnifying glass, you can examine your stylus closely for signs of premature wear. Watch for jagged edges or bends in the stylus head.
Black residue on the stylus may also be a sign of overuse or lack of maintenance. In this case, your stylus will need a good cleaning or to be replaced.
Decreased turntable sound quality may also indicate a worn down stylus. A good way to find out if this is the case is to put on a record you know well (it is probably better not to put a very valuable record on it, just in case). If stylus wear is altering the sound of your record, the sound will probably be muffled or distorted.
If your needle is very worn, you may also find the upper mid-range and treble more difficult to discern, or the clean "ting" of a cymbal may be lost. Listen for hissing or background noise on an LP record where there was none before.
All these sound clues can indicate that you should change your turntable needle.
If your needle jumps, change it!
If the stylus jumps or comes out of the grooves, this can damage your record if you continue listening to it. Remove it as soon as possible and do not use your turntable until you replace the needle.
If you just purchased a used record player, take no chances
There is no way to tell how old a used turntable stylus is, how it was used, or how well it was maintained, so always replace the needle on a used record player. This will help avoid damages to your vinyl collection and enjoy the best possible sound quality.
Need a new turntable stylus?
You are now better equipped to know how often you should change your turntable stylus. Now all you need is to know is which turntable cartridge to choose for the best sound quality.
For more information on turntables or audio in general, visit our blog section or Fillion Électronique to discuss with a consultant.