Andy Kim - Needle Clinic

I wanted to put this post out there about Andy Kim of Needle Clinic, located in Bellevue, Washington. As many may know, Andy is a cartridge re-tipper. I tried to find some older posts to add my comments but couldn't find them. So I'll start another OP. I just got my Lyra Kleos back from Andy today. Here's my comments.

My Kleos sounded a little off lately, so I thought it should be checked out. I sent it to Andy Kim. It turns out all that was needed was the stylus required a cleaning and polishing. Andy reported back that the stylus only has about 10 percent wear; IOW plenty of life left.

So I remounted the Kleos today and have been playing all types of music: rock and roll, classical, and so forth. The Kleos sounds wonderful; just great. Kudos to Andy Kim.

Fyi -- some may ask why I didn't send it to Peter Ledermann at Sound-Smith. I seem to recall reading somewhere that he's been unusually busy lately -- and with good reason -- and turn around might be a bit delayed. Also, I'm not sure Peter uses replacement cantilever/stylus assemblies that match (or at least come close to) the original. Andy does.
Anyway, that is a bridge I don't have to cross today.

Bottom line: Andy turned my cartridge within a week of receipt and I am pleased.
Bif...glad to hear you had a positive experience. I'm going to be sending him my Delos for repair.

Really helps to read good things about a company. Peter, (SoundSmith) has done 6-8 cartridges for me over the years and all have been excellent, but I agree that he seems really busy these days, that why I thought I'd try someone else.
Andy Kim has been great. He did wonders for one of my budget carts. I have a Denon DL-160 and the cost of the re-tip outweighed trying to score one on the net. Communication was timely and professional. Shipping was quick and he even mounted the cart on the headshell I provided him. Nice guy to deal with. I wanted to give Andy a chance because of A'gon member Viridian.
Give it a whirl and let us know how you make out. Is your Delos broken? Retip/exchanges with Lyra are just too da*n expensive. If Andy can repair the Delos to perform at or near original spec for a fair price, that's a win-win.
When a Lyra cartridge that doesn't play or sound right is returned to us, and it can be brought back to appropriate performance levels without replacing components (other than the washi paper dust cover), we typically don't charge anything.

This includes suspension readjustments, trackabiity adjustments, low-rider adjustments, replacement of the washi paper, stylus / cantilever / magnet cleaning, etc.

Such work is a routine occurance, and I believe that this would have covered Bruce's Kleos, had he returned it to us.

OTOH, Lyra does not retip its phono cartridges - we only do rebuilds (and adjustments as mentioned in the first paragraph). If a Lyra cartridge is worn to an extensive degree and/or damaged, it will be fully rebuilt to the latest (most advanced) production specification for that particular model, or replaced with a brand-new cartridge.

Regarding Sound-Smith, the styli that they use are several times larger (heavier) than what Lyra uses, and Sound-Smith's preferred ruby/sapphire cantilevers also have nearly two times the mass of the boron that Lyra uses, also Sound-Smith uses a different, simpler bonding method to secure the stylus to the cantilever (that requires the cantilever to be prepared differently).

To provide some numbers that you can compare to, the Kleos uses a diamond stylus that measures 0.08w x 0.12l x 0.5h (mm), with the playing surface comprised of a minor radius of 3um and a major radius of 70um. The Delos stylus is smaller (shorter), but has similarly-dimensioned playing surfaces (2.5um x 75um).

hth, jonathan carr
Thanks for chiming in Jonathan. You posted that "Lyra does not retip its phono cartridges - we only do rebuilds (and adjustments as mentioned in the first paragraph). If a Lyra cartridge is worn to an extensive degree and/or damaged, it will be fully rebuilt to the latest (most advanced) production specification for that particular model, or replaced with a brand-new cartridge."

Three questions. (1) Please clarify what is meant by Lyra does not retip, but will do a rebuild. That is, if as part of rebuilding a Lyra cartridge, the stylus is worn, will it be replaced? (2) Where does Lyra post the cost for a rebuild? (3) How long does it take to turn around a cartridge if (I) it requires just a simply cleaning, or (ii) a rebuild?


P.S. Jonathan -- I was without my Kleos for about 2 and a half weeks. Most of the time delay related to the mails. While the cartridge was offline, I used my backup cartridge. The difference between the two was quite stark. However, after my Kleos came back spit and polished, it sings. If I can keep it maintained for a reasonable cost, it's a keeper.

Btw, does it sound reasonable that the stylus showed only 10-percent wear after 1500+ hours of use? Frankly, that seems very, very light.
My Kleos sounded a little off lately, so I thought it should be checked out. I sent it to Andy Kim. It turns out all that was needed was the stylus required a cleaning and polishing.
Glad you got it looked at by an honest guy and kudos to Andy Kim (whom I hadn't heard of before this thread).

I can no longer count how many times I've had cartridges shipped to me for inspection, supposedly because (according to the owner) they were wearing out or defective, only to find that a simple but thorough stylus/cantilever cleaning brought them fully back to life. It's always the first thing I check, and usually the last that I have to. :-)

Stylus cleaning after every side is mandatory to maintain performance, especially with cartridges having advanced stylus profiles like the Kleos. Modern styli rely on very small contact radii for their clarity, HF extension and low level detail retrieval. The tiniest amount of smudge interfers with that.

This is true even if your LPs are very well cleaned. As JC taught me years ago, a perfectly clean groove will shed vinyl particles. The heat and pressure at the stylus/groove interface bond these to the stylus. Cleaning after every side is the surest way to avoid incremental buildup of smudge.

Routine use of a Magic Eraser (followed by a soft brush or a dunk in Xtreme Phono type goo) will maintain a stylus in as-new condition.
Doug, does it sound reasonable that my Kleos stylus only shows about 10-percent wear after 1500+ hours of use. Frankly, I'm quite surprised. I always thought 2000 hours was pretty much the best one could usually expect.
I can answer for Doug authoritatively and say that at 2000 hours your Kleos will be toast and that solely as a result of my extreme generosity, I will pay you $100 (and I will send you a prepaid shipping lable) to take it off your hands so that you do not have to go through the agony of cartridge disposal ;~) This is a one time offer, so call now. Operators are standing by! This offer will not be repeated! OK, $150, but that's my final offer.
Hey Swampy ... , when you say toast, is that white bread toast (ala the Blues Brothers) or whole wheat toast?? :-)
Neither, Bif. It's the kind of toast that Jack Nicholson told Karen Black to put between her knees in 5 Easy Pieces.
Ha ha. I remember that. Jeez ... we are old farts.

I can't speak for Lyra, but some stylus profiles do maintain a useable shape without serious sonic degradation longer than other shapes.

The worst case would be a conical stylus (which has a spherical cross section across the groove contact points). Even new, such profiles have limited HF extension and detail retrieval, since a contact diameter equal to the width across an LP groove is many times larger than the radii of HF's and lower level details. These "fat" styli can't trace shorter wavelengths and slur right over them. Worse, with every bit of stylus wear, this contract radius grows progressively larger. The sonics of a a conical stylus, limited to begin with, deteriorate steadily from hour 1 of play and constantly thereafter. This is exacerbated by the fact that, when new, all pressure is concentrated on two single points of contact, so wear from friction will be faster than on styli that have vertically longer contact surfaces.

Elliptical styli are better. They have shorter contact radii (in cross section) but longer contact surfaces (vertically). Their wear from friction will be slower and the resulting sonic deterioration less.

Better still are micro-ridge styli, as used by Lyra, ZYX and others in higher end models. The cross section of a microridge stylus looks something like a football with a tiny rod poking out at each end (the ridges). These ridges, which is what the stylus rides on in the groove, have a very small diameter, as small as 3 microns. As they wear down, the shape of the remaining portion of the ridge remains... wait for it... UNCHANGED! Those 3 micron contact radii are maintained until the ridges are entirely worn away. IOW... virtually NO sonic degradation. Further, the ridges are parallel to the groovewalls, making a very long contact surface (vertically). Friction is thus spread over more diamond surface, reducing the rate of wear.

This, by the way, explains the high sensitivity to SRA adjustment of micro-ridge styli, whereas conical styli are almost entirely indifferent to SRA.

So... am I surprised that your Kleos shows so litte wear? Not at all. Enjoy!
01-20-14: Bifwynne
Ha ha. I remember that. Jeez ... we are old farts.
I saw the film back in the day also, but I DON'T remember that. Maybe that's also a sign of getting old :-)

-- Al
lol - I saw Five Easy Pieces when it came out too, but didn't remember anything about toast in reference to Karen Black.....had to look it up - it was actually a chicken salad sandwich (??) that Nicholson said she should put between her knees, according to Wikipedia. :-D

Thank you for the information about Andy Kim and the cartridge repair/retipping services he offers, Bifwynne. I couldn't find the Needle Clinic on line ( google search=drugs, anyone? lol) but did find a post about Andy Chong Kim on the Vinyl Asylum. For those that were "Needle Clinic" challenged like I apparently was, his website is:

He told her to hold the chicken salad, not the toast; it was the toast he wanted. Just fyi.
OK, a bit of research discloses that none of us are remembering it correctly. What Rpeluso said is correct, except that "her" was not Karen Black, it was a waitress played by Lorna Thayer.

-- Al
we are old farts... Guilty as charged.

Hold the chicken salad... I knew that...

Lorna Thayer not Karen Black...I didn't remember that...

Guess I'm an old fart w C.R.A.F.T disease (Can't Remember A F'ing Thing).

On topic- 2000 hrs seems very low for a well-maintained, high end stylus. That could easily equate to $1-$5/hr cost for the stylus alone. Yikes!!!
@ Oakiris -- that's looks like the correct site.

@ Swampwalker -- yup, that's my recollection too. Sometimes I just can't believe so many years have gone by. I'm still so young at heart. I still love looking at pretty young ladies. Was just spinning some Manhattan Transfer doo whop music and started jitter-bugging with my lovely wife. :) :)

Well, like Nanutac, I'm looking forward to buying a 50 foot sailboat yacht and doing the West Coast in the next few years, G-d willing. The real concern is how to fit my stereo rig onto the boat. :(

Btw, "Yikes" is right. Stylus life on a $3000 cartridge gives me pause. I checked the Lyra website about rebuilding cost. The US Distributor lists the cost as $2100 -- that's a big Yikes!!
Want to thank you Bifwynne for posting this thread, I never knew the needle clinic existed. After reading the positive replies about Andy I gave him a call and will be sending my cartridge in shortly for a rebuild. He currently has a turn around time of two weeks give or take a little. He seems very knowledgeable and dedicated to his work and is a pleasure to talk to about audio. Best Regards
If you have the time and the funds use Soundsmith. I did not and used Andy to straighten my stylus on my Lyra. A fair price but a little longer turn around then promised. When I got it back the length of the needle was so short the body now rested on the surface of the record. I sent photos of what it should look like compared to what it does now and was told that is not the same cartridge. After much back and forth, Andy felt the problem was my tracking force settings, never an issue before. At his request and at my cost I returned it to Andy to take a second look. Andy offered to replace the stylus but was leery of changing the cartridge from its original state. I agreed. He suggested I remover the white film, paper? to make it a nude cartridge, not an option to me. You can still see a very slight angle on the stylus, as if the it shortened as far it could be. Andy denies this. I now have a maximum tracking force of 1.5 and a little brush handy to clean the underbody. Andy is no Peter L.
Dreadhead ... your report is very troubling. I think it's the first negative report I've read about Andy's work.

I'm not sure what to say. It gives me some pause. Maybe I should take Jonathan Carr up on his offer to clean, inspect and adjust my Kleos to make sure it really is ok.

If I decide to send my Kleos into Jonathan (or the US distributor), I'll report back on the results.

I feel badly if I steered anyone the wrong way. I can't explain what happened to Dreadhead. It's hard for me to even visualize how the "length of the needle was so short the body now rested on the surface of the record." Of course ... I am not discounting what Dreadhead is saying.

Sorry to read news like this.
When I had a suspension issue with my Delos I worked with AudioQuest USA who in turn sent the cartridge to Lyra in Japan. Overall it took 8 weeks but it was well worth having Lyra investigate and resolve the suspension issue. My Delos arrived back good as new with new mounting hardware to boot, all at no cost. I would strongly recommend anyone who has invested in a Lyra to deal with them as much as feasible.
Thanks Jcoehler. I'll keep that in mind. Problem is that once hooked on my Kleos, it's hard to go back to the Zephyr (my back-up). And to be without my Kleos for 8 weeks ....
Oh yes Bifwynne...I should have mentioned longest, most painful 8 weeks of my audio life but well worth the wait in the end.
Jcoehler...was your Delos still under warranty? I have the same suspension problem with mine, but mine is about 3 years old, but only has around 250 hours on it.

I have talked to Jonathan several times about mine and he told me, (unless I didn't understand him correctly) that it would take 6-9 months to get it back and that Lyra probably wouldn't cover the cost of it. That's why I was looking at an alternative, but to read Jonathan's comments above, maybe they have changed the way they do things?
@Mofimadness - I was the second owner of this Delos and the warranty was never brought up. I'm not sure if they went by serial number or what to determine. I coordinated everything through Alasdair at AudioQuest -

I simply stated my concern and from there an RMA form was forwarded which I completed. I was then returned a PDF with RMA Number which I printed and returned to AudioQuest who then sent on to Lyra in Japan. It was right at 8 weeks from me shipping to AudioQuest to having it back.
Jcoehler...thank you very much for the info! I'll follow
what you did. I really appreciate your help! I'll let
everyone know how it turns out.

UPDATE: I used the email address that Jcoehler provided and
within just a few hours my Delos is already on the way to
Audioquest, then onto Japan for inspection/repair.
Audioquest has been EXCELLENT to work with.

I'll keep everyone posted as to it's progress.

Jcoehler, thanks again for the info!!!
Just got back my Benz LPS reconditioned by Andy. Sounds terrific. A very happy customer.
I have just received word from Andy that he was successful in the repair of the suspension on the Technics U205C MK III.
This should be great news for anyone that owns this cartridge because there are no replacements other than Jico.
Total cost was $67 and I am all smiles!
Thanks Griffithds! That is great news.
Thanks Don, However I would appreciate if you posted this good news in my thread 'Technics 205 suspension'. There is no single responce there while my question is as specific as your answer. The 'Andy thread' is more, uh, general.

It has been done my comrade.
BTW: For those of you that are trying to contact Andy with no response, he will is out of town for a week.
Well I just got a quote from Andy to retip a Vitruoso for half the price of Soundsmith back east. Is what he is offering comparable to the Soundsmith? The quote that soundsmith gave me which I believe is just a standard charge which was for a Ruby tipped stylus. It seems all of you are quite satisfied with his work which is a good thing for me since I am only 250 miles away from his location.
Ive had nothing be outstanding success with Andy. More than not a stylus cleaning was all that was necessary for the 7 or 8 cartridges i have sent him. First class work and communication.
Want to share more success with Andy. He fixed my Shelter 5000 superbly at less than half the quoted cost of another company. Great communication as well.

I recently sent an original Benz glider to Andy.  Turnaround was about a month.  He replaced my cantilever and stylus.  Looks the same as old.  Stylus is a little different.  Sounds great.  So far only 10 or so hours.  Sounds like a Benz glider to me. 

I recently had the cantilever replaced in my Fidelity Research FR1. I chose to go with the original materials, aluminum with line contact diamond. Turnaround was 4 weeks and it sounds excellent. I must say though that the diamond is a lot smaller than the original.   
Yes the stylus is smaller on mine as well.  Seems to track fine
@bifwynne not everybody are so happy about Andy's work, read JP Jones comment in this thread
Andy appears to use a smaller better diamond than was used in the original glider.  Tracks incredible!
Don't have any experience with his cartridge repair but he did do a restoration of an old Omega watch for me.  I was very happy with his work, price and delivery time.
 Personally, I would send him a cartridge to fix without hesitation.
I would honestly say that considering what I have is an original glider, I believe it actually sounds better than it ever did.