LP needle wear and tear

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R Gifford
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LP needle wear and tear

Post by R Gifford » Sat Oct 07, 2017 1:26 pm

Back in the LP collecting days I wanted my records to last forever. In addition to proper record storage (vertically, in sleeves when not playing) and a light tone arm weight, needles (diamond, of course) were replaced about every nine months. Warnings about worn needles destroying records appeared frequently on the back of record jackets and on inside sleeves. Veteran LP collectors will remember the recommendation of diamond over sapphire and osmium needles.
Most of my LPs are gone but enough of them were kept and those compromise at least 10% of my listening time, especially operas, which are expensive to replace with CD versions. My current playback system is over ten years old and the needle for LP playing has never been replaced. The LPs still sound fine with no noticeable distortion. Were the warnings about records being ruined by worn needles unnecessary? What do CMG readers who still play LPs do about needle replacement?
Occasionally record reviewers mention wearing out their copies of favorite LPs. I wonder what kind of playback equipment they used. I still have some of my very first records and they still sound fine after some fifty years (Although a few pops and clicks have been sometimes added). When I started listening my collection was quite small and my first LPs were played over and over. Have any readers "worn out" any of their LPs?

John F
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Re: LP needle wear and tear

Post by John F » Sat Oct 07, 2017 1:51 pm

I still have a lot of LPs and when I listen to records, it's almost always to LPs. Haven't changed the stylus since I can remember, maybe 30 years, and I can't hear that any damage is being done to the LP grooves. I believe it depends on the cartridge and stylus you have; if they are high compliance and the tone arm weight is set low, they should track the groove easily. Also, of course, on how often you play the record.
John Francis

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Re: LP needle wear and tear

Post by jserraglio » Sat Oct 07, 2017 2:29 pm

A worn stylus can damage a record the very first time you play it. But that may not matter to you if everything still sounds good and the grandkids are not drooling over inheriting your vinyl treasures someday.

I don't get obsessive about it, my records being bought used or garden variety, but every once in a very great while I pull the stylus, check it under magnification and remove any dirt.

Go, Tribe. And may they dispatch the Yanks to La La Land tomorrow nite.


Last edited by jserraglio on Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: LP needle wear and tear

Post by absinthe » Sat Oct 07, 2017 4:23 pm

I still have some CD-4 quadraphonic discs for which I always use a Shibata tipped stylus. I bought an Ortophon cartridge recently because I've reverted to LPs, this cartridge allowing me to swap the Shibata stylus for a standard elliptical. There are several reasons for using a Shibata stylus but the main difference is in the cartridge, it having to cope with frequencies up to about 40kHz to pick up the frequency-modulated front to back differential signal.

Point is, they wear out. They render some records un-listenable particularly on tracks close to the centre. I'd say about 500 sides and they need changing to avoid the horrid distortion (which probably means they're threatening the vinyl). I kept a note of how many stereo sides I play with a view to changing the elliptical after about 1000 sides. At average 2 sides per day that around every two years.

Some of the newly released "classical" discs do seem of superior quality (I should think so at the prices!). I store them in Nagaoka sleeves though a few come in similar material. Best to try to keep them as pristine as possible.

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Re: LP needle wear and tear

Post by Lance » Sat Oct 07, 2017 8:56 pm

Interesting to talk of needles, turntables, etc. I have three or four turntables, but generally use my Thorens turntable with an Ortofon tone arm (from Denmark) and various diamond styli. Given 70,000 classical LPs over the years since I was around 17, I've never worn out a vinyl disc. The problems, if there are any, is in the acquisition of pre-owned LPs, which often have an abundance of pops, clicks, or scratches caused by mishandling, but are still playable even through some light scratches. I use the lightest grams as possible on the recording. Having all these LPs for going soon on 60 years, I guess I have been lucky not to have created damaged recordings, always frequently checking the stylus with a microscope for wear or fuzz. I also use an alcohol/water-type preparation with a soft velvet-type feeling device to wipe the stylus clean after every few hearings of LPs. Now, however, the LPs do not get played if there is CD counterpart. The CD, especially for broadcasting, seem superior for radio and for precise tracking.
Lance G. Hill

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]


John F
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Re: LP needle wear and tear

Post by John F » Sat Oct 07, 2017 11:57 pm

What's really important is to clean the LP's surface of dust and grit. These can be pressed into the groove wall with just one playing and create surface noise.
John Francis

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