One of the most frequent questions new turntable owners ask is how often one should change the stylus on a vinyl player. If you can’t hear music from your turntable, and you don’t know why, one of the possible culprits is a needle that needs changing. The best way to address this issue is to determine if the player needs a new stylus—here are five signs that point to yes.
The Needle Has Residue on the Tip
Besides vinyl cleaning products, you need a needle cleaning solution as well. If your needle has grime or dirt on the tip, clean it using a solution especially for record players. Typically, it’s best to clean this on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. If the needle has not gotten cleaned in months (or years!), you should get a replacement—the layer of dirt might be too thick for any cleaning solution to dissolve.
The Needle is Jagged or Bent
A bent or jagged needle will need a replacement as well. If you use a bent needle to play your records, you could easily damage them. Buying a new stylus will cost much less in the long run than the repairs and replacements you will incur due to using a broken one.
You Hear Hissing or Static
When you sample a record at the store and get a clean sound but hear static when you put it on your player at home, your needle probably needs replacement. Also, keep an ear open for odd sounds in the background or an overemphasis on “s” sounds (also known as sibilance).
The Needle Bounces
Once you set the stylus on the record, it should stay there until you take it off. If the needle bounces along the track, it needs immediate replacement. Needles that do this are old or damaged—bouncing prevents you from hearing the tracks correctly and can damage the vinyl.
The Record Sounds Dull
Sometimes a record that sounded okay will turn dull without warning. The audio will sound like the treble has been turned down. When this happens, it is the needle and not the record itself that is the matter. You could try quick fixes before changing the needle, which could cost a considerable amount.
Besides checking the stylus for dust and grime, a turntable owner could try setting the anti-skate on the turntable set or checking cable connections for loose connections and dirt.
Owners who have purchased a replacement record needle can track their usage—since needles typically come with a measurement of hours, they could check off each hour they use the stylus. This practice gives a better idea of how often they use the turntable, which helps them predict the next time they need to replace the needle.
When getting a second-hand turntable, always replace the needle before using it. Since you do not know exactly how old it would be, starting again with a new stylus will be a more efficient way of using your turntable.
Though listening to music on vinyl is simply the best way to go, various other questions and issues could crop up about storing and playing records. From mundane concerns like how dust affects records to learning the difference between a direct drive deck and a belt, vinyl enthusiasts have a significant learning curve. When you’re learning something you’re passionate about, though, nothing will be insurmountable!
Music Connection is your premier record store in Manchester, NH. We have everything you need to enjoy your favorite vinyl tracks, from new and pre-loved records to replacement record needles, cleaning products, and more. Browse our catalog or contact us today for more information.