How long does your diamond stylus last? [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums

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Les Adams
11-20-2007, 02:32 AM
I realize this is very subjective as stylus life depends on many factors, but my own recent experience has led me to ask other members who use vinyl to share their experience.

The other day I purchased the Diana Krall album "The girl in the other room" - what a gorgeous recording and performance. However, I noticed there was some slight sibilance on her vocals and occasionally the attack of the hi-hats sounded slightly wooden. This is the first time I have been aware of any such distortion on my turntable, or at least the first time it has been significant enough for me to stop listening and start investigating. At first I thought it might be the pressing, but just in case it was mis-tracking I tried increasing the VTF by 1/4g, adjusting the bias and cleaning the stylus with isopropyl alcohol but there was no improvement, I therefore decided to try the new replacement stylus I had recently purchased on Ebay. That cured it - distortion gone! I was also aware that I could now hear Ms Krall's breathing clearer and there was an overall improvement in sound quality, the hi-hats "ting" as they should and definition is improved. The obvious conclusion was that my stylus was showing audible signs of wear, so I replaced it.

I was surprised by this because my V15Vxmr is only two years old and based on an aproximate vinyl listening time of 5 hrs per week that is only 260 hrs. Even if I double that time it is still far short of the 1000 hrs I always understood a diamond should last. As the V15 tracks at only 1grm I believed the diamond should last longer than most, which is why I raise the question in this thread.

To answer the obvious questions, all my vinyl is in excellent / mint condition, clean and free from fingerprints. Any surface specs of dust are removed before playing using a carbon fibre brush. The VTF has been set at 1g from when the cartridge was new and the VTA and alignment are all set correctly. The stylus has never been dropped or knocked and is always lowered onto the record using the SME damped lowering device, so there is no cantilever damage.

How long does your stylus last?

hydroman
11-20-2007, 05:46 AM
The diamond i supect was fine - but the contacts and the movement may wear after a while. Was it an exact replacement stylus?

Diamond is harder than plastic - duh! ;)

Les Adams
11-20-2007, 11:08 AM
The diamond i supect was fine - but the contacts and the movement may wear after a while. Was it an exact replacement stylus?

Diamond is harder than plastic - duh! ;)

Yes it was an exact original Shure replacement.

I am not sure which parts of the stylus you suggest have worn. As far as I am aware, there are no contacts as such, only a cantilever and suspension mounted within a metal shank and I must confess I have never heard of anything other than the diamond wearing out in a stylus. I am also not aware that any plastic is used in the stylus assembly, apart from the outer casing. The replaced stylus was the original one supplied with the cartridge and had never been removed from the body till now, so there is no wear on the shank.

Your theory that the diamond is ok will be considered and checked as I intend having the old one professionally examined under a microscope to look for any shoulder wear. If it needs replacing, there is a specialist company here in the UK who offer a re-tipping service for all moving coil and moving magnet cartridges. It costs around 100 but they guarantee to at least match, if not improve upon, the original specification.

I still think that whatever has happened to this stylus, it has worn out long before I expected it to and that is why I would like to hear from other members and their experiences, albeit with other makes of cartridge.

hydroman
11-20-2007, 12:54 PM
oh no - to be clear - i meant that a plastic record would (should?) not wear down a diamond...

I 'thought' the diamond was in a suspension that as it moved left/right/up/down made an elctrical path (veeery small voltage) that was picked up and amplified. I was concluding that these tiny metal contacts became worn/corroded...

I dunno' - i just used to sell them. This is the extent of my knowledge.

[puts head back down/The Other Children Are :Learning]

Les Adams
11-21-2007, 03:21 AM
oh no - to be clear - i meant that a plastic record would (should?) not wear down a diamond...

I 'thought' the diamond was in a suspension that as it moved left/right/up/down made an elctrical path (veeery small voltage) that was picked up and amplified. I was concluding that these tiny metal contacts became worn/corroded...

I dunno' - i just used to sell them. This is the extent of my knowledge.

[puts head back down/The Other Children Are :Learning]

Ok I understand now, my knowledge of cartridge design and exactly how they work is very basic.

As I understand it, the constant vibration and friction placed upon the diamond causes wear on the "shoulders" of the tip and eventually this leads to mis-tracking and distortion.

SAEA501
11-22-2007, 04:42 AM
Sounds to me that you are tracking the cartridge too light. At higher frequencies, without sufficient downward force, the diamond cannot maintain perfect contact with the vinyl and will actually impart more wear on the vinyl than tracking a little heavier. I would rebalance the arm, start from scratch, and set it at 1.25 or even 1.5. That cartridge is designed for that range and the additional weight will not wear the diamond or the vinyl any faster than the 1 gram you are tracking now. I have a Panasonic SP-10 with an SME 3012 arm and I have set all of my cartridges up at 1.5g.

Try it....see what happens.

Les Adams
11-22-2007, 09:18 AM
Sounds to me that you are tracking the cartridge too light. At higher frequencies, without sufficient downward force, the diamond cannot maintain perfect contact with the vinyl and will actually impart more wear on the vinyl than tracking a little heavier. I would rebalance the arm, start from scratch, and set it at 1.25 or even 1.5. That cartridge is designed for that range and the additional weight will not wear the diamond or the vinyl any faster than the 1 gram you are tracking now. I have a Panasonic SP-10 with an SME 3012 arm and I have set all of my cartridges up at 1.5g.

Try it....see what happens.

Hi SAEA501, Thank you for your comments.

The recommended tracking force range for the V15Vxmr is .75g - 1.5g, so 1g is right in the middle. It is one of the few cartridges that tracks perfectly at 1g due to the extremely light beryllium cantilever and micro-ridge stylus design. The cartridge is also a perfect match for the SME arm and has performed flawlessly at that weight for almost two years. I did out of interest try increasing the VTF to as much as 1.5g but there was no improvement or difference. The new stylus cured the sibilance problem and is tracking perfectly at 1g.

This pretty much proved to me that the old diamond was worn, I was just surprised that it has only lasted about 500 hrs playing time so the point of this thread was to ask how many hours use other members had from their styli.

It is interesting that you use an SP10, what a fantastic turntable that is. Have you owned it from new or is it an ex-broadcast unit do you know? The SP10 was widely used in radio before the CD and automated playout systems replaced them. For a while they could be picked up for next to nothing, albeit without a plinth. I narrowly missed a pair going for 200 about 2 years ago. The SP10 has a history similar to my Garrard 401 which was also widely used by the BBC and for other broadcast applications, although mine was used as a hi-fi turntable by the previous owner.

pixelthis
11-23-2007, 01:20 AM
A stylus will wear, thats why they sell replacements.
Used to be, when I was into it more, I just replaced the entire cartrige every few years or so, a good excuse to "upgrade".
Maybe it has something to do with vinyl being pliable and diamond being a bit brittle.
Besides, you play different records, you use the same stylus every time

Les Adams
11-23-2007, 05:07 AM
A stylus will wear, thats why they sell replacements.
Used to be, when I was into it more, I just replaced the entire cartrige every few years or so, a good excuse to "upgrade".


Absolutely correct.

I have previously owned many cartridges including Shure V15 III, V15 II, M75ED, Ortofon MC20, ADC XLM, and that was in the days when I listened exclusively to vinyl - and for many more hours per week than I do now but I seem to remember the styli lasting longer in terms of hours use.

I was not suggesting a stylus should not or would not wear out. I was merely interested to know how long other members styli have lasted as I thought mine had worn out prematurely.

SAEA501
11-23-2007, 05:46 AM
Hey Les,
Glad you got your problem corrected. I bought the SP-10 new in 1973 with the original Panasonic plinth. I use a Denon DL-103 moving coil cartridge. Still looks and performs like it did the day it was new. Nice piece.

jim goulding
11-23-2007, 08:32 AM
I have no scientific knowledge on the subject or know where to get any but I would be interested to know. I own a first generation Koetsu Black which I purchased new with a whole lot of hours on it altho I seldom use it these days cause my current phono pre doesn't have quite enough gain to do it justice. The last time I used it, it sounded as luxurious as ever and I think the fine detail was as always. It has an elliptical stylus. I have heard that the cantilever suspension material is subject to age. I, too, track at the maximum recommended tracking force for the purpose contact with the groove. I would welcome any opinions on this, too, and facts if any are known. Cheers.

emaidel
11-23-2007, 08:53 AM
The Shure V/15 Type V has a small brush Shure called a "dynamic stabilizer." Like the brushes on Pickering and Stanton cartridges, when this "stabilizer" is used, it requires a tracking force (and anti-skating force) setting a bit higher than normal. With the Pickering and Stanton cartridges equipped with their respective brushes, if you wanted to track at 1 gram, you had to set the tracking and anti-skating force at 2 grams. The additional gram was needed solely to offset the weight (1 gram) of the brush assembly itself.

I don't know if the "dynamic stabilizer" on the Shure requires an additional 1 gram setting, but I know it requires something.

Also, assuming all the tracking and anti-skating force settings are as they should be, there is always the possibility the jewel, or the diamond tip itself, has become loose in its setting in the cantilver. This can results in all sorts of unpleasant distortion, even if the diamond itself is far from worn.

Les Adams
11-23-2007, 09:15 AM
The Shure V/15 Type V has a small brush Shure called a "dynamic stabilizer."
I don't know if the "dynamic stabilizer" on the Shure requires an additional 1 gram setting, but I know it requires something.

Also, assuming all the tracking and anti-skating force settings are as they should be, there is always the possibility the jewel, or the diamond tip itself, has become loose in its setting in the cantilver. This can results in all sorts of unpleasant distortion, even if the diamond itself is far from worn.

Hi emaidel. Yes the dynamic stabilizer on the V15 requires that the VTF is set 1/2g higher to achieve the desired 1g when playing. However, I recently read that Shure recommend the stabilizer is only for use under "difficult playing conditions.. i.e. warped records or where there is a mis-match with the arm". The SME3009 / V15 are pretty much a perfect match and so the stabilizer can be clipped up and the VTF set conventionally at 1g.

I have yet to do critical listening tests to see just how much, if any, difference it makes, but the article I read claimed it sounded better without the stabilizer.

Ok about the possibility that the tip has become loose. I intend having the old stylus professionally checked and hopefully that should solve the mystery once and for all.

hydroman
11-28-2007, 07:51 AM
When i had the Shure V15 on my Dual - i needed the extra .5g

Les Adams
12-01-2007, 06:59 AM
When i had the Shure V15 on my Dual - i needed the extra .5g

I tried that but in the SME it made no difference. It seems very happy at 1g.

I think the arm and cartridge are just well matched.