What happens when the stylus tip wears out on a $12,000 cartridge?

There is no shortage of stereo phono cartridges with 5-figure price tags. What do you do when the stylus tip wears out? Do any/some/all manufacturers of these cartridges provide or offer a re-tipping service? Or do you just lay out another 12 or 15 grand for a new cartridge? Sorry for my ignorance - the Denon DL-103R/Lithium Audio Musikraft shell I currently use is the most expensive cartridge set-up I’ve ever owned. I’ve had a couple re-tipped by Soundsmith in the past for $200 - 300. What do you guys at the other end of the price spectrum do?


It varies by manufacturer. Several offer a "full rebuild" for ~ 50% of MSRP, whereby you receive (after several weeks) a brand new cartridge in the old body. E.g. Koetsu, Ortofon. I like this option, but manufacturers dependent on a single ageing master (like Koetsu) mean it cannot be counted on for the long run (the Koetsu master passed away last year - RIP Fumihiko). I used the Koetsu option a few times; they really are good as new. Note MSRP can be relative to the distributor network you send it into! Ortofon handles these cases direct, which is much better IMO. If you can afford $12K one time, you can afford a $6K refresh every few years (don't use it for background music lol).

Some offer only "trade in" value to a new cartridge which is often paltry (e.g. 25%). I do not like these options. Benz Micro offered generous trade in allowances in the 2000s, but took those away when they couldn’t keep up with demand.

And then you always have the 3rd party retip / rebuild option. Retip is only possible when the coils, cantilever, and suspension are still intact. Both options here usually cost FAR less than the above options. None of the cartridge manufacturers make their own styli (and very few their own cantilevers), so it is often possible to retain much of the original design intention this way.

Thank you for that mulveling.  Very interesting.  I asked because when Stereophile magazine reviews a cartridge they never really provide any "afterlife" info regarding what restoration services a manufacturer may or may not offer.

Great question, great answer!  It's these types of interactions that keep me coming back to forums!

I am the US agent for two very high end cartridge line we rebuild them including suspension  cantilever and stylus  for a modest dollars 



There is a New Purchase Price $10000 dollar Cart’ not too long owned, with very little usage hours recently put up for sale in the US.

The Cart’ is a documented case within this forum, for having developed a fault that was in place way way before a Tip Wear Concern could have arose.

The above reinforces one absolute! Cart’s are Fragile !!!

The environment the Cart’ is typically used in is very hostile to the intricacy of the Cart’s design, additionally, the user interface adds to the risks associated to the Cart’s fragility.

Combine the two impactions on the Cart’ as stated above, and it is pretty much a given that by the time the Styli is worn and needing a assessment for replacement, the Cart’ is already far removed from the New Purchase Supplied Condition and is one that is with a long term usage that has not been with a condition that is closely resembling a optimised functioning Cart’.

My suggestion to those that care to have a optimised functioning Cart’ in use that is now outside of a Warranty Period. Is to create a relationship with a Third Party Service, and have the service periodically Thoroughly Clean the Cart’ and maybe inform there is a need to carry out Tensioning to the Tie wire, to return to a optimised the damping function.

A treatment such as this, carried out a few times prior to the Cart’ being completely overhauled after a period of long term usage and Styli deterioration, is not too much of an inconvenience or added cost to keep the replays as accurate as originally intended, and additional $400-$600 might get one beyond the 2000 hour styli life is their Vinyl in use is thoroughly clean.

At the time of Complete Overhaul, the owner can decide to return to the Manufacturer or continue with the Third Party Service to continue with their very valuable maintenance.

Note: In many cases, a Cart’ returned to a Manufacturer will be treated with parts that have equivalent properties to the ones used in the original returned model, hence meaning the Cart’ will not be supplied as a return, meeting the exactness of the original purchase !!

There is a very strong possibility the replacement parts selected by a Third Party Service will have equivalent properties to the ones being selected to be used by the original manufacturer, or even be an improvement in their extrinsic properties as the overall assembly?

The choice is quite straight forward, one can Pay a High Price for a returned Cart’ from a Manufacturer, that is the Manufacturers 'latest version' for this Cart’. The likelihood is that the Cart’ will not be an identical model of the Cart’ sent in.

Alternatively, one can pay much fairer monies for a Cart’ sent in to a Third Party Service. With the Knowing the Cart’ will be overhauled by a very skilled technician, with the likelihood being non-original Parts are to be used. With the end product being as valuable in use as any Cart’ version on offer from the alternative option.



Soundsmith re-tip service in New-Jersey. All done safely online with UPS shipping. Did it once on a zephyr and twice on a Lyra Kleos once cartridges reach 1,000 hours. The purists will balk at that. A perfectly acceptable solution to me with absolutely no discernible sound difference from the original cartridges. Under $400 per re-tip.

Very educational and very easy to put the cart before the horse during repair. Will there be any return policy if you do not like the sound the repair makes? It would be interesting to hear if retipping or other repairs restore the sound you were willing to initially pay. It seems to me without an audition of the repair or happy with the sound guarantee you are buying a pig in a poke.

Before you buy it, check with Steve Leung at VAS, ask him if he can re-tip and/or rebuild suspension/cantilever/tip. Worse than wear would be bending or snapping the cantilever.

I sometimes buy broken cartridges that I know he can rebuild. I ask him first, he tells me which ones are bad choices to work on.


Atlas does exactly that. They have a $450 service fee which covers cleaning, stylus check and tune up. The problem is you lose your cartridge for 6 months.


Excellent answer. I have a feeling that in some instances the owner is give a "new" cartridge at about 1/2 price. The old cartridge is sent back, stripped and rebuilt given a new serial number and sold as new. I have no problem with this recycling as all the important parts the wear are new. Elusive disc offers trade ins for new cartridges. Instead of getting the same cartridge back you get a different one. This is a bit more expensive costing about 75% instead of 50%.  Soundsmith is easily the most reasonable offering rebuilds for about 10%.

@scott22 - good question. I don’t think there is anyone who would not prefer a factory-rebuilt cartridge to a retip, but as stated above, it’s not always possible, as the maker is  no longer around, as in the case of Transfiguration.  All I can say is this- I cannot recall reading one post here in 10 years where someone has had a cartridge worked on by Soundsmith or VAS that they were not delighted with.  I did have a problem with the suspension after a Soundsmith repair and they fixed it asap.  As far as the same exact sound?  I don’t think anyone will go in record as saying the sound was exactly the same.  Musical memory is too short to make an exact comparison.  But from what I can see, the crusty, picky audiophiles here are invariably satisfied with the cartridges when they get them back.

When one purchases a 10K cartridge they are stepping out on the ledge. No way around it. If you're actually looking and this is more than conjecture the solution put forth by tunes409 sounds pretty good. Phasemation is a very solid brand IMO.

I still wonder how you know your cartridge needs to have the stylus tip replaced? Other than the purchase of a $1200 microscope, how do you know. I don’t track the hours played. Plus, if a stylus starts to degrade, it is a gradual process and I would never know how the sound changed over that lengthy degradation process.

How do you all know when the stylus needs replacement?

@pgaulke60 - for me, after a few years, the cartridge just starts sounding a little ratty, as if the stylus is dirty, or mistracking. You can always just send it to a retipper for an inspection and, at least in the case with VAS or Soundsmith, I think they will be honest about it. If you don’t feel you trust them, that’s another story. 

@chayro Thanks for the response.  I have two turntables, in different rooms, with the same cartridge.  I think I will call these outfits and ask about retipping for my specific cartridge.  Would really like to know if it is worn.  Then, if the one I send in is good, or gets retipped I can put it on the table I use daily, and repeat the process.  Thanks

Truth is none of us “knows” for sure when a stylus is worn enough to need replacement, assuming a gradual decline and not a catastrophic failure as occurs when the stylus comes unglued from the cantilever, unless one owns a suitable microscope and is skilled at examining styli. You learn to live with that, or not.

What happens, when a $12000 cartridge wears out? You end up with thousands of hours of great listening and a $1200 cartridge that should be re tipped and enjoyed for thousands more hours.

So what does the company who made the cartridge have to say about refurbishing the stylus?

@pgaulke60 - just an aside, most retippers offer different cantilever options, such as ruby or others. Personally, I would ask them what they think works best. In my case, both retippers suggested just a retip on the original cantilever and they came out great. They know what works and the last thing they want is for you to get the cartridge back and complain you don’t like it. Plus, I would think you have the best shot at the original sound with leaving the cantilever, assuming it isn’t damaged, and replacing the tip with one of similar profile. 

Re-tipping save you 60 hours of break in.  But on the 5th re-tip or five years you would benefit from a total rebuild or exchange.  The suspension gets mushy, less compliant over time and use bring the cartridge out of spec and damage to your beloved LP.

In relation to a Cart's voicing the contributing materials that distinguish the sound are usually related to materials selected for use and the structure.

Wire Type, Winding Ratio, Generator Material, Body Material are pretty much to remain as part of a full refurbish, with the most likely to be exchanged being the Coil Wire, if the wire has  a coil that has been damaged beyond repair.

Coil Wire will impact on the voicing and most likely be a noticeable change to end sound.

Sacrificial Parts in the assembly can have a impact on the sound, with my experiences being that the Styli only as a change will be the one least attributed to making changes to the sound being produced.

My experiences have left myself with the thought, that it is the overall assembly that has to be considered to explain why very closely related Cart' Models have a different voicing. 

The Styli > Cantilever > Armature > Damping and Tensioning Tie Wire are the items responsible for the voicing. If this assembly is attached to different Body Material, or Generator Material, further voicing options are able to be produced.

A Styli is pretty much the same material, today Diamond is usually used, but will be found with variation in the form produced.

A Cantilever will be found as a variety of materials ranging from Gem Stones through to a Organic Material. These as a part, depending on material selected will change the voicing. I fail to see how a equivalent part exchange such as Boron for Boron, even if part with Styli were differing weights such as a 0.17mg be replaced by a 0.25mg equivalent part, I doubt the average listener will detect any difference.

The Armature will be quite generic in type, it is a part of the damping system but will be found in different metals, usually magnetic, partially magnetic or non-magnetic. each as a selection will be used as a means to improve on magnetic interference. It will be difficult to suggest if a difference in a material or materials magnetic property will be audible to a typical listener. I would lean toward a change of this item only, to one of a equivalent type, will be difficult to detect as an audible difference.

The Damper Material is where endless research has been carried out and will most likely continue to be carried out, as miniaturisation in general demands the technologies are available to improve designs.

The Damper materials have evolved and are today able to be found as compounds such as:  Silicone, Fluorosilicone, Bromobutyl, Fluoroelastomer, Bromobutyl/EPDM, Nitrile, EPDM. 

Above materials are to be found with a wide range of Shore 00 and Dyne measurements, a Manufacturer will be secretive of materials used and measurements for such material.

It can be very easy for an exchange part of one of these Damper Parts, which is classed as an equivalent part, to be quite influential on the sound being produced. Reason being not one manufacturer is going to make known the selected properties for their damper material used in the assembly, the likelihood being that Damper parts not direct from the Manufacturer will have a different Dyne and possibly a difference to the Shore 00.

In certain levels of a Cart', the Tie Wire is usually selected for the voicing as well. The wires suitable for use are normally a very fine steel wire, which can be seen referred to as Piano Wire.  As this is used for voicing it is hard for the layman to know if it is a bespoke tensioning of a Damper or a certain wire type that is responsible for the Cart's voicing.

The wire is usually anchored to a Pole using different methods to produce the anchoring, some are clamped and some are adhered. The wire also has the potential to transfer energy, maybe the anchoring has an impact on the voicing?   . It is again difficult to say whether a change of tie wire material will be detected by a typical listener, but the likelihood of there being a change to the tensioning and its effect on the Damper, this will most likely be detectable. The tensioning change resulting in the optimising of the Dampers function, might be the reason why so many who have a Cart' returned are immediately impressed. 

The suggestion is that an individual part swapped out apart from coil wire, 'will not' create a sound that is noticeably different. 

If multiple parts were no longer seen to be optimal and selected to be swapped out, then yes, 'a difference in voicing will be created', but how detectable it is as a change to the remembered voicing, will be probably be down to the time spent without the Cart' in use.     

There are individuals with real adeptness in these matters, of which a limited number are willing to make this knowledge available to those who share in the interest, it does not take too much searching to see what is going on under the hood of the Cart's housing.

There are also places where one can go to have a Public Dialogue on the subject, as well as the option of conversing directly with a Third Party Service as the source of answers to questions.

The idea can quickly grow for the developing of such skills being witnessed, which for a few can be very appealing, I know an individual now developing their own skills and already have donor models and FGS tipped Cantilevers at the ready.

. Having a time served technician, using their experience to treat a Cart' with their own developed skills, where getting the Cart' back in the game, functioning  at a very high level of performance is also a real treat to have for oneself.

Another 1000-2000 hours of listening bliss along with $0000''s saved is to be had with such an approach.       

When first returned to viny, my first carts were Denon 103R (purer-copper than the original 103), and I enjoyed their sound. As time went on, the carts wore-out and my aspirations grew.   I now had four of them, so each went in for an upgrade. 

At my request Soundsmith installed a BORON cantilever and ELIPTICAL stylus on each.  The result - unique carts with a decent body, good engine, good cantilever and good stylus. Each upgrade cost about the same as the original 103R.

Sonic improvements were easy to hear: better clarity (resolution), attack, decay and tone.  Yet, there was one issue...

{@chayro "I cannot recall reading one post here in 10 years where someone has had a cartridge worked on by Soundsmith or VAS that they were not delighted with."}

Each of the carts sounded slightly different, with one cart being noticeably better than the others, and one cart rather poor-sounding.  I do have a microscope, and I discovered that the poor-sounding cart had a much larger amount of glue holding the stylus to the cantilever.  I speculate that tracking was this cause of this cart's poorer sound.

For me the take-away lessons were easy:

A.) Carts are made, upgraded and repaired at the bench, where automation is less important to craftsmanship.  Significant variation should be expected, so develop a relationship with your vendor.  

B.) As money and time allow, be willing to experiment.  IMO, these unique boron-eliptical103Rs sounded better than the OEM carts. 

At twice the original cost, I was happy with both the sound and the 2x longevity.

I have moved on from these carts, but I am very glad for the experience.


Chayro, I agree with your approach. If you love the cartridge it’s best to stay as close to original as possible when retipping. J Carr of Lyra wrote here that it may not be a good idea to change the cantilever material dramatically from original, since the suspension and other components were selected to work well with the original structure. Apropos of nothing, I followed that philosophy when having my Koetsu Urushi retipped by Expert Stylus; they replaced only the stylus. Surprisingly but only subjectively, the thing sounds better than ever. This probably means it was subpar long before I woke up and sent it off to ES in the UK.


To those who are not familiar with the Denon 103R, it is made with an aluminum cantilever and a conical stylus.


"automation is less important to craftsmanship" should have read "automation is less important than craftsmanship"... I hope this is clearer.

If you take care of your cartridge and get 2000 hours out of it, at about 44 minutes per album, it is about 2,727 albums. If you pay $12,000 for the cartridge, it costs about $4.40 to play an album. Only you can decide if it is worth it to you.

Streaming doesn’t wear out, and with Qobuz it’s higher sound quality, too!

As good as Qobuz is, and it is good, it won’t beat a high quality vinyl rig. You are smoking some good s$&t….

One of the problems with a worn stylus is the fact that it is now damaging your records. This can be something that is initially not that noticeable, until such time as you replace the cartridge or stylus and hear the groove damage!

Probably a good rule of thumb is to consider replacing the stylus and/or cartridge after a certain amount of time ( depending on the stylus shape) regardless of what condition it might appear to be.

I would think if at all possible, a re-build by the original manufacturer ( if in budget) would be preferable, simply because they have the exact specs and access to the original parts.

@jsbail Has produced a equation similar to ones I have presented in the past on the subject of cost per replay.

@jsbail stated " If you take care of your cartridge and get 2000 hours out of it, at about 44 minutes per album, it is about 2,727 albums. If you pay $12,000 for the cartridge, it costs about $4.40 to play an album. Only you can decide if it is worth it to you. "

This is also able to be presented in different manner and one that has been supplied recently through a Cart' Sale as an opportunity to be realised.

Obviously an option such as this is not too common and is one that is Cart' Bound, leaving the idea of having Cart' Options as the long haul methodology to make a Purchase.

A $10K Cart' with approx' 100-200 hours of usage life was put up for sale at approx' $6K.

If the 2000 hours usage was realised this would come in at, using above math' $2.20 per replay (1000 hrs @ $4.40).

Using a Third Party Service to overhaul the Cart' @ approx' $500 and the following usage extends to 2000 hours the cost of replay per Album drops to $1.60. (1000 hrs @ $3.20)

The Cart' in use 'will' by design and material selection most likely standout as an attractive performance way beyond a new purchase Cart's that will come in at $1.60 per replay.

As Cart's today are advancing in their designs with minuscule graduation in  improvement, even nanoscopic might be a better description, the TOTR Cart' of a previous generation 'will' not be easily differentiated as a Performer.

With the above in mind, a Cart' following one overhaul and 4000 hours of usage could undergo another overhaul @ maybe $600 will come in at approx' $1 per replay for the overall 6000 hrs. ( 3000 hrs @ $2ish)

I strongly suggest cleaned Vinyl is used any Cart' that comes with a particular Value, is sent into a Service at least once, to undergo a thorough clean during its period of accumulating its pre-overhaul hours, if this is adopted the cost per replay will creep up.

If a user with a tight budget has the opportunity to use such a methodology for their Cart' needs, and successfully achieve Two 1000-2000 hour usage periods, this is a economic way to attain usage of a item not usually considered.

I myself have Cart's rebuilt and Donor Cart's to be rebuilt.

My rebuilt Cart' in use at present, has been upgraded to be comparative to the Brands TOTR models from a past era. My Cart' has the same Damper assembly as used in the upper range on models.

The Cart' has been side by side compared the the Brands TOTR model from the past era, which today can still be seen offered as a £4K sale item. There is little to be concerned about during the A/B of the Cart's, my Cart' has certainly shown it is not the Poor Cousin.

With cost of Donor and Rebuild, if I get to the 2000 hrs of usage, using the above math, I will be in at £00.30 per replay, but for myself £00.70p vs £4.00 per reply is extremely welcomed as well.

'Oh Happy Days'.  

Van den Hul retip/rebuild all their cartridges for very reasonable prices.

The $12,000 cartridge hypothesis distorts the picture because $4-6K is a more representative price range for high end cartridges.

Reading this reminded me of a wonderful quote by George Gobel when he found himself on Johnny Carson's couch with Bob Hope and Dean Martin. I'm definitely a pair of brown shoes on this couch. 😉

Search Audiogon

VAS (Steven Leung) cartridge repair/retipping service?




I definitely should have mentioned Van den Hul and SoundSmith offer excellent rebuild rates on their own cartridges! Much lower than 50%. It’s a huge advantage. I’ve really been enjoying some Van den Huls lately, and want to try SoundSmith too.

One of the problems with a worn stylus is the fact that it is now damaging your records. This can be something that is initially not that noticeable, until such time as you replace the cartridge or stylus and hear the groove damage!

@daveyf Is there any research or hard data around this topic? I find it hard to believe there would be NO audible cues for such a poorly conditioned stylus, especially on inner grooves, and especially if you have a "fresh" cartridge to compare (many of us here have several). I had an ancient Koetsu Onyx that sounded like magic on outer and middle grooves, but a mild overlay of grungy haze always emerged past those middle grooves. It could’ve been stylus wear, or suspension - I suspect the stylus. Anyways, I didn’t play it too much before rebuild, but the records I did play seem fine.

My impression of vinyl is that it’s quite resilient, and I prefer to avoid paranoia rabbit-holes on this issue. Sure, you can damage it - usually manifesting as lots of noise. I have some of those records in my collection, complements of prior owners. Many of these records still sound surprisingly good, other than the noise (loud ones, like Blue Oyster Cult and Metallica).

There’s a video on YouTube by vwestlife where he starts with a clean sounding record and plays the 1st track repeatedly with progressively insane VTF. IIRC he ends up at 30g VTF! (yes the suspension bottomed out so maybe not a full 30g). The record gets noisy, but honestly I was impressed how well vinyl held up to abject abuse. You read some of these forums, and they would make you think the grooves should have been rendered completely smooth past 10g VTF.

@mulveling I have not seen any hard data, however, I have personally witnessed an LP that had been damaged by just one pass of a worn out stylus ( A friend had inadvertently played a new album on his worn out stylus and then I played it back after one play on my system with my new cartridge....). The problem is that the stylus shape  ( being worn) is now essentially damaging the groove as it passes through. This is easy to understand, as the stylus is now cutting into the vinyl. I had a conversation several years back with Harry Pearson about this issue, and he concurred that the problem is that one really cannot hear what is damaged when listening to a cartridge that is worn out. Only upon a replay with a fresh cartridge will the damage become obvious.

As you say, we all own LP’s that have damaged grooves in our collections. The reason many times, besides the usual scratches due to poor handling and storage, is because the groove wall is damaged, and this is NOT something that can be seen under light! The result is a loss of high frequency extension and usually a lot more background hash and noise. The proverbial....noisy pressing.

I like to think my new purchase Vinyl will be quite high in quality as a first replay, but usually it had been found not to be.

Buying from a supplier that makes a return easy is beneficial, and I have returned an Album on one occasion three times, of which I believe the fourth supplied was the better of the batch. This same Double Album was cleaned using the PAVCR Manual Method and was much improved, much of the noise diminished.

When buying Albums under my other guise to help a new to the industry Artist>Band, this can be a increased risk as a Crowd Fund or Merchandise Web Page can be the sales portal, returning an Album can be less straight forward.

I take all new purchase Albums to my HiFi Group to offer new musical encounters, to date the die hard Vinyl Brigade have always been complimentary of the Vinyl's Quality.

When it comes to replaying my long term owned Albums, some as long as 40 years, where many of the performers are now passed, I don't go heavily on the criticism of the Vinyl's condition, I just like it to replay in a way, I feel the Styli is not being exposed to unwanted abuses from the grooves condition, surface noise and a tick/pop, these are merely crows feet wrinkles seen at the sides of a loved ones aging eyes. I would not swap that Vinyl out for any other, a CD will have to do, if a recording it is to be listened to without the aged interference.        

@pindac You make an interesting point about old vinyl and the condition that we can maybe expect. However, with the many new releases/reissues that are coming out and have been released, I see little reason these days to accept a noisy pressing of a record that i know has been re-released/reissued and is not only likely to be a quiet pressing, but also probably also at least as good a mastering ( many times better). Sure, if the original is so rare and unusual that it has not be re-released/reissued, then putting up with a noisy pressing is the only option. Luckily today the likes of Acoustic Sounds, Blue Note and Impex and others are releasing re-issues that are generally excellent.

As an aside, I used to collect original BN pressings, some of which I would pay high $$ for, now if there is a reissue, I am all in on that...at a significant saving in cost. ( and almost always at a superior condition).

IGNORE COST, when to check/replace/rebuild?

I made a chart, forgot I made it.

I have a general idea of how many hours/week I listen to LPs, use that to guess life, then ship to someone you trust to evaluate it/rebuild it.

Say it's estimated good for another 200 hours, you could try selling it with that established expectation documented, go ahead and buy a new one for yourself.

Audio Technica has a program for their MC cartridges: they check it, if worn they offer to keep it and sell you a new one at substantially reduced price. I bought a new replacement  AT33PTG/II at half price


Soundsmith has a chart giving 'average' life expectancy for various stylus shapes.

"Wear, Tear and Life

So we know that the more extreme line contacts reduce wear.... but what is the difference?

Apparently according to Jico (manufacturer of the highly regarded SAS stylus), the amount of playing time where a stylus will maintain its specified level of distortion at 15kHz is as follows:

  • Spherical / Conical     - 150hrs
  • Elliptical                        - 250hrs
  • Shibata/Line contact  - 400hrs
  • SAS/MicroRidge          - 500hrs

This is not to say that at 500 hrs a SAS stylus is "worn out" - but at that stage the wear has reached the point where distortion at 15kHz surpasses the level specified by Jico for a new stylus. (Which I believe is 3%).

Some manufacturers have traditionally defined a stylus as being "worn out" when it starts to damage the record... in these terms the figures provided by Jico can at least be doubled, and in some cases quadrupled."

excerpt from here:




I always say: advanced stylus does cost more, but figure in the 'average' longer life, they do not cost much more.

12K, noooooo wayyyyyyyyyyyy

@daveyf It is such outlooks and intentions that make us all individuals, and I have no issues with anybody that makes inroads to having recorded source material close to them that is of exceptional quality as a production.

All evaluations of ancillaries for replaying vinyl that I take part in are using Vinyl pressings from the Brands known for making these high quality pressings available, along with what the HiFi Group earmarked as High Quality pressings.

For me I've made Old Bones with a large collection of Vinyl and well will be Wed to it to the end, "For better or Worse" 😎. 

You can buy 10 or 12 very nice cartridges for the same money that would probably sound 90 to 95 percent as good. That way you have very many spares to last a lifetime. 

@elliottbnewcombjr I highly doubt, lets say, a denon dl 103 with a spherical/conical stylus is going to be considered worn out or near worn out at 150 hours. 

A potential problem with forgoing an official rebuild from the manufacturer and going with a third party retip service instead is that if/when you really do need a rebuild (for the other internals, etc) the OEM might not want to touch it if a third party worked on it before.

I have two Lyra Atlas Lambda (SL + Mono) and accept that I am on the hook for costly rebuild when the time comes. I might do a 3rd party retip with a $3K cartridge, but not with these.

@elliottbnewcombjr I highly doubt, lets say, a denon dl 103 with a spherical/conical stylus is going to be considered worn out or near worn out at 150 hours. 

The Denon 103 is also a nude conical, which puts it a significant cut above the typical (crappy) bonded conical. 

@dwette It is your choice of how to achieve extended usage of a owned Cart'.

When any method is adopted such as Manufacturer or Third Party Service, there are Key Words to be considered. 

Words such as ' Equivalent Part' is commonly seen in a description. 

Equivalent not identical, for many many Cart's returned for refurbishment, they will be returned as a variant of the original one supplied. 

J Carr has on another occasion made it known there is one Cart' in Lyra's range that is rebuilt as like for like. This not typical, as fragile parts deteriorate over time in storage as well as in use as the intended function. 

I have seen dampers looking like a half eaten ring donut, as a result of UV exposure. Which Cart's mounted are totally protected from UV? 


I'm so grateful to be following a conversation about how to re-tip a $12k phono cartridge.

Sure beats coversations about laser prostrate surgery.


I’m no expert, I post what I have read by reliable sources.

It’s very hard to believe a diamond can wear so quickly (on average), however, the forces occurring in the groove are tremendous.

Jico is the source of the AVERAGE life expectancy chart Soundsmith included in their article about stylus shapes, based on Jico’s EXPERT research.

It is qualified, based on technical performance (not based on occurence to damage grooves, I think our biggest concern)

"stage the wear has reached the point where distortion at 15kHz surpasses the level specified by Jico for a new stylus. (Which I believe is 3%)."

Many have said they get 1000, 2000 hours, that is great, saves a LOT of money: but according to Jico they are statistically playing well into the % of distortion, perhaps unable to hear it. After all, by the time we can afford good stuff, we are OLD (on average), ability to hear high frequencies diminished (on average).Groove damage may or may not be occurring after a certain point.



I’m not in the majority, are you? Of course we are all part of the majority even if we get superior results than the majority’s lower average.

I have read several times that it is found that the MAJORITY of wear is on only one side, because the anti-skate has not been properly adjusted.

Which means: the MAJORITY of vinyl listeners are not getting balanced performance, (audible and stylus/groove wear) from the 1st hour or beginning at some point since a cartridge was improperly factory/dealer aligned, or subsequently adjusted/replaced.

AND those misaligned stylus wear earlier than properly aligned, contributing to the AVERAGE short life they find.

Alignment tools and skills are of vital importance in Vinyl systems.


A spherical stylus (any stylus) does not know what cantilever/cartridge it is on, or how it is mounted (nude or bonded).

Jico says Spherical wear much more quickly than other stylus shapes, based on their research findings, AND quite logical considering the tremendous groove forces are concentrated on the smallest amount of groove wall contact, spherical the least contact area thus highest wear.

The Shibata was developed just because of the wear observed from elliptical styli when developing CD4, in the years just before 1970. In order for an elliptical to track CD4 45khz, exceedingly high VTF was needed, and wear was too high. Shibata improved that a lot, and today several line contacts have equal or even greater contact patch compared to Shibata.
A MicroLine tracking at 2g, for instance. It’s contact patch is much larger

That’s advanced stylus shapes compared to Elliptical which has far more contact surface than spherical.


This is why, On AVERAGE, a more expensive advanced stylus shape does not cost as much over time, their larger contact surface minimizing wear to both itself and your grooves.

IF your stylus lasts 3 times what Jico says, the difference between Spherical and Advanced Stylus Shape is still relative x3, and the cost per hour of an advanced stylus shape is even lower, 3 times lower? At some point the advanced stylus shape is SAVING you money, all the while delivering better performance/less groove wear!!!

No matter what, cartridge alignment is FUNDAMENTALLY CRITICAL.


Back to $12k cartridge: no way is that going to save you money!!!


I have read several times that it is found that the MAJORITY of wear is on only one side, because the anti-skate has not been properly adjusted.

I should have also mentioned improper azimuth as another cause of wear on one side of a stylus.

once again, tools and skills for alignment are critical to success.

In 2023, I visited a friend's to assess a change to the  Signal Path within their Analogue Source, Cart' Tags were now continuous and Phono Cables and Phonostage connectors were low eddy. 

Here is the complexity that was met, by complexity, the element of hard to believe is a good description.

A donor model Cart bought in to be rebuilt was added to the Cart's to be used.

The system owner kept the Cart's condition to himself, but made it known we might be easantly surprised.

The donor Cart' really did impress and was encouraged to run on in ure.

Winding up the session the system owner revealed the Cart had been sold to him as a Cart with well over a 1000hrs of usage. To this day the Cart' has left a indelible impression and made me rethink less harshly about what defines the end of a  Cart's usage life when it is still intact and usable. 


SUCCESS is/was achieved for:

that cartridge, that stylus shape, that tracking weight, that proper alignment in all respects, those new/properly cleaned LPs ...... EVERYTHING ’right’ makes a huge difference, far above Average.


I like low tracking weight

1.0g Shure V15vxmr Shure (max 1.25)

1.25 Shure 97xe; AT440ml; AT14SA; AT TR485U

1.5 Grado Mono

1.7g Goldring Eroica

2.0 AT33PTG/II (both Stereo and Mono versions); Sumiko Talisman S

as you can see, I don’t buy expensive cartridges, but I get excellent sound out of my current variety, which I hope NOT to add to.

Wear is also minimized when you use a variety, but alignment skills are important for initial overhang/null points, then VTA/tracking force/anti-skate each time you change the headshell. Easy and precise arm height adjustment is a gift you give yourself, you can change tracking weight/anti-skating very quickly after a while.

Level always on the TT deck, I re-check tracking/anti-skate every few months anyway. Dust in/on the arm/mite pee in the bearings, who knows

It is worth repeating, the alignment of advanced styli is more critical than spherical or elliptical. Not just for best audible results, also to prevent damage the mis-aligned advanced stylus can make.

The tools are inexpensive, the skills are readily acquired after a few tries, someone showing you hands on very helpful. Confidence grows. I have taught several friends, they handle it themselves now. One ’knows’, has all the tools, done it himself while I was watching, but is still waiting for me to finish recovering from recent heart surgery so I can do it for him. I try not to use the word cowardly ....

Seriously, it is liberating to be able to change/align cartridges. Hands on, making a difference yourself is part of the great enjoyment of Vinyl. Hands on, the lack thereof, was a big part of early unhappiness with CD players.