Cartridge break-in: with or without tears?

Or: how do you do it? I think I must have gone about it the wrong way. This weekend I changed my very old cartridge with its broken-down suspension for a new Benz Glider. With this new cartridge I listened to records in the normal fashion for a couple of days, happy enough with what I was hearing but calculating how many weeks it would be until I got to hear what the cartridge would sound like once it was broken in--and thus until I would be in a position to decide whether my turntable (a Rega P3) was something I could live with for a while longer or whether (as I suspect) it really needs to be replaced with something considerably better very soon.

Then I got impatient. I set the stylus down on the locked-out pink noise section of a Cardas frequency sweep burn-in record (well cleaned beforehand) and let it play for a few hours. Every once in a while it occurred to me to wonder whether this could possibly be a good idea, since normal vinyl doesn't like a stylus repeating the same track even twice over within a couple of hours, and here was this track being traced some hundreds of times all during the same afternoon. Meanwhile the pink noise was still pink (though what else would even *destroyed* pink noise sound like?), and nothing was smoking. After three or four uneasy hours I decided enough was enough and went to lift the arm. The stylus had accumulated gray junk all over it and up the cantilever. Since I'd brushed and Premiered and RRL'd and Loricrafted the record beforehand it seemed unlikely that the junk was record mould release or normal dirt, which left the unhappy possibility that it was instead chewed up vinyl, ploughed up by my brand new stylus. I cleaned everything up, and the cartridge sounds okay (or sufficiently okay: I am guessing that the tizzy treble I sometimes get is a matter either of bad lps or of the cartridge's newness). So I am hoping I did no real harm (except to the break-in record, which had other problems in any case). But I feel I may have narrowly averted real damage.

So what do you guys say? Have you ever done this, and have you ended up with pulverized vinyl and traumatized cartridge? Have you all known from the beginning not to try this?

I am coming to the unhappy conclusion that I don't deserve to upgrade my turntable this year or possibly ever.
I just play records until it's broken-in.

I don't use the same one over and over.

I expect that once you get the stylus clean again, everything will be ok, except maybe the test record could be toast.
I've used those Cardas tracks to help break in several cartridges. One friend's Shelter 901 spent weeks on the damn thing before it started sounding decent.

My TT turns itself off after 45 minutes, so I take that opportunity to brush things off and switch to a different groove. Going several hours in one groove does seem like pushing one's luck. Give that poor groove a break.

I clean my records exactly like you, but there's always some stuff piled up around the stylus after an extended stay in the same groove. Clean the stylus and cantilever thoroughly and you should be okay. A very gentle scrub with a piece cut off a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (household cleaning product) works wonders for that baked on gunk.

BTW, I'm not sure it's very useful to actually listen to the pink noise. I think most of the breaking in is mechanical, especially if the cartridge is the only new component. I prefer to spare my ears.
I too just play records and let it break in slowly. Given that cartridges only last a thousand (or maybe two thousand hours, if you are lucky), I hate giving away 10% or so of my cartridge's life on break-in. I might as well listen and enjoy how much better I like it once it is broken in.

And yes, the Glider II has a little bit of an HF edge to it. (I still consider it to be a good cartridge, because except for that, it sounds really good, and has pretty good frequency extension. It does lack a really deep dark background though. I eventually went to the Koetsu line to tame that HF and to get the really black backgrounds I was looking for; and of course the Koetsu mid-range magic.)

How do you like your Loricraft BTW?
Does it really do that much better job than hand cleaning and then vacuuming the record clean?
I have considered getting one at some point. (I have a nitty gritty 1.0 that I got for basically nothing, and it works pretty well. However, I think I might want to jump up past the usual step up in RCMs (i.e. the VPI units), and get either the Loricraft or the Keith Monks machine.
...just as Tom and Doug say... but about those "tizzy" highs: could be the VTA?
Thanks to you all. I am feeling much reassured and won't ever make that particular mistake again.

TWL: The test record was toast from the moment I opened it and saw the label torn and spattered, waiting to snag any stylus that ventured too near. To my mind it thoroughly deserved its pulverization. So I can think of this as merely a detour on the way to the trashbin.

Dougdeacon: I'm not quite so far gone as actually to have spent those hours listening to the pink noise. (Though just a smidgen more infatuation and such a thing might begin to seem a rational and attractive use of time.) My patchy system no longer has actual speakers, only headphones (AKG-K1000s, far cheaper than comparably good speakers and more practical in my acoustically leaky apartment). I just stuck the earphones on my ears every once in a while to make sure nothing was going audibly wrong.

Cpdunn99: Possibly so. Not everything sounds gives that treble tizziness, however; and some records (like a set of Couperin trios on ASV Gaudeamus last night) are perfection. The P3 isn't especially friendly to VTA adjustments, but I've got a couple of spacers around and will experiment. Maybe my ideas of perfection need a little exercise.

Kurt_tank: The Glider was what my local audio dealer steered me to, I think because he had had experience with it and not with the other cartridges I had come in to ask him about. I felt a little hesitant about it, but this cartridge was necessarily going to be a compromise between something that would work with the P3 and its RB300 and might also be transferrable (I hope) to what I might get next--except that the more I read the less sure I am of what I ought to or even can get next, so the framework of this hypothetically reasonable compromise has fallen apart. Anyway, it's experience.

Given the state of the rest of my system, I really have no business owning a Loricraft at all. I love it but can't do a proper comparison with other machines, first because it's the only RCM I've used (I took a big jump up from an ancient DiscWasher and then a carbon fiber brush, both of which did a surprisingly good job of keeping my records pretty clean, considering) and second because the unit I got was used when I bought it. I've had some problems with the management of the thread--since more or less resolved, partly by the SmartDevices technicians, who gave the thread tube a good flossing and replaced the jar's hardware, and partly by my own experimentation with the speed of the vacuum head's movement over the surface of the record. But these problems I think I would not have experienced had I shelled out for a new machine. I got the Loricraft instead of a VPI for the same principal reason I use headphones rather than real speakers: a strong desire not to drive my neighbors crazy. But I'm not especially fond of the VPI's shrieking myself. And, maybe more than anything else, I just loved the splendid solidity and admirable ingenuity and general wellmadeness of the Loricraft--a primitive feeling of intense liking that that has me in its grip even yet.

had tried and had a number of carts mm, mc etc...
still don't know the differents between before and after break-in on any one of those i've had.
contrary, when the cartridge is worn i could hear instantly.
maybe i'm divin' onto music i listen too deep so there's no place in my gray substance to analyze how it's different after break-in or before.
i won't deny that the moving parts of every cartrige need to be setled for the best performance, but accelerating a break-in seems to me like flooring the accelerator in the brand-new car right out of the dealership(no wonder to me as i see some consumer report as "had replaced engine after 24k- miles" as an example of the break-in acceleration:-)).
Those popular low compliance cartridges (Shelter, Denon,...) can take a long time to break in. I broke in my new Denon for the first 30 hours with the looked grooves on cardas record as well, and like Doug I did change the groove fairly often. Leaving the Denon with its spherical stylus in the groove longer than an hour resulted in damage to the groove not the stylus. The damage to the groove was pretty audible since the pink noise was much lower in frequency with the higher frequencies being damped.

Also is helps to alternate between lateral and vertical modulation grooves. And unlike Marakanetz I heard a clear difference after the break in. The high got much smoother and the highs went from unlistenable to extended and smooth. But then the Glider might be not as difficult to break in as the Denon. Certainly I would start playing with the VTA after the cartridge has been running for 50 hours.

Good luck and enjoy.

Your theory makes sense and my break-in experiences have been similar. A low compliance Shelter 901 took forever. It was virtually unlistenable (screechy) before 50-75 hours and I'm not sure it was fully broken in even at 150. It lived on that Cardas record for days.

OTOH, two mid-compliance ZYX Airy's were a joy to listen to right OOTB. It was easy enough to hear their suspensions loosening up for 25-50 hours, but neither was ever unpleasant. We didn't bother with the Cardas tracks for them. Like Twl and Kurt_Tank said, why not just enjoy the music?

Regarding your somewhat "unbalanced" RCM/TT mix, at least you have a RCM for life! It's surely better for your vinyl to be played really clean on an entry level TT than to be played dirty on some fancy rig. Like you we admire the Loricraft's impressive BQ and its cleverly effective and efficient design. Nice job finding one used. That must be rare.

I don't remember if we've discussed it, but at the end of each sweep we move the arm off the back of the machine (so the nozzle is sucking air) and leave the vacuum pump on while performing the next step. IOW, the pump is pretty much running full time during cleaning sessions. IME this keeps the tube clear and stops the thread clogging up. We've never had a thread jam since we started doing this.

If you can afford a Loricraft or Keith Monks, get one. I've played records cleaned with RRL fluids and modded shop vacs, NG's and VPI's. In nearly every case the noise level was unacceptable. In nearly every case a re-cleaning on the Loricraft did the trick. The only ebay seller I know whose vinyl is as clean as ours is Black*Pearls from Frankfurt Germany. He cleans every record on a Keith Monks. Vacuum wand/felt designs just don't compare.

If you want to hear for yourself before deciding, mail me a couple LP's and I'll clean them for you. No charge except return postage/insurance. Email me if that's of interest. (That's an open offer to anyone BTW.)
It's fine to use the Cardas pink noise tracks (that's what they're for), though you really don't need more than an hour in a given groove. I'd do an hour lateral and an hour vertical. In my experience this will speed things up by 20 or 30 hours or so. Maybe more.

I'm sure you didn't harm your cart. If you still don't like the sound, either it's not broken in or there's an issue somewhere else in the system, either synergy or a problem component.

I just glue a sheet of sandpaper over an old Niel Sadaka record and let 'er rip. Leave the volume all the way up and go for a drive until around 4 in the morning. If your house is still there when you get back, mix up a pitcher of martini's (after you take the arm off) and get out the heavy metal. Do not do this if you have pets that you still like,
I suppose my need to shorten the break-in period must be some pathological variant on upgrade-itis: I can't afford the amp I'd like to have, or the turntable, but I *can* drive my cartridge through a wild and hasty youth. So, much chastened and carefully considering everyone's advice, I will be moderately immoderate and will try alternating briefish periods on the lateral and vertical modulation grooves, if the splattered label lets me, and then I will stop and listen to records and not criticize any more. By the way, has anyone had any experience using the break-in tracks on the Clearaudio stroboscopic record? Are all break-in tracks more or less the same?

With the Loricraft I was just lucky. The way I got it was by calling Smart Devices, the US importers, and asking if they had any refurbished ones to sell. I ended up with one (not refurbished) that had just been traded in for one of the even sturdier models. Most of the people at Smart Devices were not at all eager to do this, as I realized afterwards; but I was fortunate in the first person I happened to talk to about it, Lavinia Radulea, who found out a way to arrange it. With absurd generosity, they gave me the full warrantee. Buying it used saved me five hundred dollars. I don't think I would have been able to talk myself into doing it otherwise. As it was, I had to tell myself lies (about how I was going to keep the Loricraft just long enough to clean my collection once and then immediately sell it again) in order to get past the guilt at spending even as much money as I did.

Dougdeacon, yes, I do remember your suggestion a few weeks ago about leaving the air pump on all the time. I tried it when my machine was misbehaving so badly that no amount of ingenuity could save it; now that it is behaving somewhat better what you advise does help. But I think the problem with my machine (now not much of a problem at all) has to do either with the acceleration of the arm at the beginning of its movement from the label outwards. The faster it moves (and the speed is variable, unpredictable), the more likely there is to be a thread problem. Slowing it down and giving it a bit more fresh thread seems to work best.

Patrickamory, I believe you are right about the component and synergy deficiencies. I know what I'd like my system to be, but the interval (replacing one piece at a time) is likely to be long and awkward. Indeed, I am not sure what to do next.

The shocking thing is that this whole lunatic analog binge began as an economical way (I thought) to keep my ears happy while I decided whether I could scrape up the money for a used Wadia. In that distant, innocent time, the idea that I might have to spend four hundred dollars on a VPI RCM just clean staggered me.

Susan, the funnier thing is now that you've gotten a taste of doing vinyl well you'll really be depressed if you spend the money on the Wadia! Unless maybe you get it used.
Who has the money for a (used, bottom of the line) Wadia after all this? No, my disappointment is going to have to find itself a humbler cause than that.