AT OC9 tracking problem. Worn out?

I've got an Audio-Technica OC-9 that I've had for just about a year now. Recently I've been having some tracking problems on the innermost tracks on a couple records that are new (or almost new)and blemish-free. I've looked at the records under magnification and been unable to see any marks. The stylus is well cleaned with an Onzow Zero-Dust usually every record, and with fluid about once a day or so. I spin a lot and I'm going to guess that the cartridge has somewhere between 1000 - 1200 hours on it. The alignment on the cartridge is spot on and the VTF is set properly at 1.75G.

Can anyone tell me what the ordinary useful life is for one of these cartridges? Any other thoughts on other things I should try?
The highly polished diamond on the OC9 tends to wear evenly, so you probably wouldn't notice any "wear" in the sense that your car's brakes or tires might be damaged.

But, at 1000-1200 hours, the stylus is likely at the tail end of its useful lifespan and in danger of damaging your records. Replace it. I had an OC-7 and OC-9 and replaced them both around the 800 hour mark just to be safe.
If you really want to know, you could consider sending the cartridge to Acoustic Sounds or Soundsmith, and have them inspect the stylus under a special microscope. They'll tell you exactly what kind of shape it's in.
I really believe that the old rules may no longer apply. Yes, 1200 hours is a lot under the tried and true rules of thumb for analog, but these rules were written when cartridges tracked at 25 grams.

Ok, maybe not 25 grams. But you get the idea. I wouldn't be surprised if your stylus had little or no significant wear.

What I can't understand is how you can last 1200 hours without catching the upgrade bug...

Eko - Would a worn stylus account for the bad tracking? It actually still sounds very nice.

Tfk - You are right about the upgrade thing, but I've been very happy with the sound of the OC9 so there hasn't been any compelling sonic reason to do it. But if I have to....
My OC9 is 20 years old but had a long period when it wasn't used. I use 2.2G. Almost invariably cartridges have a lighter than optimum recommended TF. I used mine in my SME IV and now in VPI Scoutmaster and I never tracked under 2g. Try a little heavier and see if it tracks better.
Eko - Would a worn stylus account for the bad tracking? It actually still sounds very nice.

Well, because there are so many other variables, it's impossible to say whether a worn stylus is causing your problem. But, given my experience with the OC9, it's the most likely scenario. The only way to know for sure is to get it under a microscope at a knowledgeable cartridge dealer. If it bothered you enough to post this thread, I think it's worth the time to send the cartridge out for inspection just to satisfy your curiosity as to where you stand on the wear curve.

I disagree with Tfkaudio in one important respect. He may well be right that your cartridge has some life left. But cartridges are easily replaceable. Records aren't. If it were a $5000 cartridge, I might be more inclined to suggest you squeeze every drop of life from it but given how inexpensive the OC9 is, I say better safe than sorry.
Dear Grimace: +++++ " tracking problems on the innermost tracks on a couple records that are new ... " +++++

if the problem is only on those two records then IMHO i possible that the problem is on those records than in the cartridge.

Now, if you can take that cartridge with those records and try it on a different system: with a friend of you or an audio dealer.
I think that 1K hours is only the half ( at least ) of that stylus cartridge life but there is no precise rule about because the wearing depends on many factors. You could have a better information on it if you ask directly to Audio Technica and maybe too they could support you to inspect ( free ) your cartridge.

Regards and enjoy the music.
I agree with you're point. At $350 its the cheap enough to just replace it. Although I'll probably try a different cartridge of some sort.

Can you describe the symptoms a little more? You said you have "tracking problems" on a few LP's, but didn't say exactly what makes you think so. What are you hearing? Knowing this might inform the diagnosis...
Tracking problems are skips where there are no mars in the vinyl. I've got this happening on a couple of records - both relatively new high-quality pressings. Its only happening on the far inside tracks. I'm going to go play them on a buddy's table to see if its the vinyl, but I don't think it is.

Also, I'm noticing elevated background noise on deadwax, between tracks for example, again on newish vinyl.
Thanks for clarifying. When you said "tracking problems" I doubt anyone envisioned actual skipping. That's a very different thing.

I'd be astonished if putting 1000 hours on any cartridge could cause it to start skipping, when it didn't do so before. It seems more likely that something needs adjustment.

When this happens, does it skip inward or outward?
I think its fixed. Actually, Bill figured it out. The anti-skate was way over-cooked. I never thought to look at it because I hadn't adjusted it. I must have brushed it with a dust cloth or something and turned it way up. the little wheel is ideally placed to do that. Deadwax is quieter too. I think the stylus was rubbing against the groove wall instead of sitting in it.

Thanks for everyone's help!