Now and then the need for your turntable’s stylus replacement pops up.
At times you see it coming but mostly it catches you unaware during a performance.
Whichever the case may turn out to be, you want to be as careful as possible.
In this article, I will highlight the basic 4 record player needle types.
I will also show you how to choose the best one for your stereo among the 4.
Let’s dive in!
Note; the 4 types of needles highlighted below are not for the 78RPM record. You may just have to stop here and look somewhere else if your record is 78.
Still here? Great. Starting with needle number 1…
Number 1; Elliptical Stylus
Call them elliptical or bi-radial. Whatever needle that is dual-radii, that is one that has two points of contact with your groove, it is definitely elliptical. This double-contact nature establishes a wider needle-to-groove-area contact and thus establishes a higher frequency response, more precise tracking, low distortion, and improved phase response. Ellipticals are a sensible recommendation for those inner grooves that are the hardest to track. Unfortunately, they appear to wear faster compared to the types of needle highlighted below. Another thing about the elliptical stylus is that you need to be extra careful when aligning the tonearm of the cartridge.
Number 2; Spherical Stylus
Spherical styli are characterized by a ball pen-like tip. Perhaps, that is why they are also referred to as conical styli? These needles are not as pointed as the elliptical ones and are, therefore, in less contact with the tiny groove modulation. By implication, they offer a limited frequency response range. While that can be a downside, spherical styli are the most budget-friendly and a smart option for your personal vinyl player. Another great thing with a conical needle is that it picks up less debris and inconsistency from the body of an old or a dirty groove. You can hear less pop and less hum if you’re listening to a damaged groove using a conical needle. If this doesn’t sound great to you, you probably want to check out the next choice below.
Number 3; Micro-Ridge
Micro-ridges are the newest types of styli. They are a newly-birthed innovation to track the body of the latest video disc player units. They are characterized by a distinctively microscopic shape at the curvature and that daubs them the most effective at tracking the tiniest groove modulation. Other than the contact point, the remaining body is carved to be in an unusual shape that is completely different from those of the previously highlighted record player needle types above. What, however, rather separates a micro-ridge from the rest is it’s improved potentials for high definition of sound reproduction, and an increased dynamic range, and a diminished distortion. Note that a micro-ridge is a more expensive stylus. If you’re a DJ looking for a scratching needle for your DJing stereo, there you have micro-ridge. Finally, if the hardware store guy happens to call it a micro-line stylus, he’s still referring to our micro-ridge here.
If you’ve noticed words like Shibata, fine line, and Stereohedron being thrown around in most of the high fidelity communities out there, they all mean hyper-elliptical. A hyper-elliptical stylus is an advancement on the previously highlighted elliptical for lower record wear, super-fantastic frequency performance, improved tracking accuracy, and overall, longer tip life. This advancement is achieved by sharpening an elliptical to become narrower, sharper, and longer for the closest tip-to-groove contact possible. By implication, hyper-elliptical needles are only a great choice for clean, new grooves. Using them on an old, rough, or broken groove will give you the worst vinyl sound experience ever.
So, suppose you just received a new turntable for a birthday present or something, which of these 4 needles should you go for?
How To Choose The Right Record Player Needle
Here are some of the scoops to guide your purchase decision by and put your money on a stylus that you’ll never look back to regret buying.
- Shape; the shape of your needle determines the degree of contact it has with your record groove. And by theory and by practical, the more in contact a needle is with the groove body, the more accurately it is able to track your record. This results in higher frequency and greater dynamic range. And if you noticed from the 4 needles briefed previously, an elliptical or a hyper-elliptical needle has more contact potential due to their pointedness. A conical stylus, on the other hand, offers less contact and you know what that means. Another way to know what shape of a needle to get for your stereo is to check your user manual for recommendation by the manufacturer.
- Size; the size of a needle matters. And by size, I do mean the distance traveled by a needle from the cartridge to your record groove. The thing is, the deeper a needle sits into the groove determines how accurately it’s gonna track. Nevertheless, another factor that determines what needle size would be great for you is your stereo application. If you’re a DJ, and I mean an aggressive DJ who scratches a lot, then the smaller sized stylus would endure all those forces better than a longer one would. As expected, using a long needle to scratch will wear it out faster or even break it off unexpectedly.
- Material; the material used determines the mileage or wear life you can possibly bounce off of your needle. Nickel, diamonds, and aluminum, these are some of the most-used material for molding a stylus. And in my opinion, the diamond-made ones last longer.
Choosing the right one out of the 4 record player needle types may not be a walk in the park. So far, in this article, I have not only explained what the 4 needle types look life but also illustrated how they perform. I have also given you the scoop on how to choose the best stylus for your stereo. I hope this helps.