Cartridge Longevity?

In mid '98 I purchased a Sumiko Blue Point cartridge to use with a Premiere FT-3 tonearm / VPI HW-19 Mk. III. I loved the sound right out of the box (lots of detail, crisp treble, tracked inner grooves with so little distortion they sounded like outer grooves). After about forty to fifty hours of play over a year and a half, the treble mellowed (I liked it bright, though), and inner grooves no longer sounded good. Even on mint records, the inner grooves sounded somewhat worn. It was so bad that once I got just beyond the halfway mark on any record side, I couldn't wait for it to finish so I could switch to something else (no damage to the records, though).

I called Sumiko and spoke to the technician, Jim Alexander (who generously gave of his time). He suggested using a demagnetizer. I tried the Benz, and heard no difference. Mr. Alexander had me send the cartridge back so it could be examined. He said he could find nothing wrong with it, but graciously sent me a replacement in Jan. 2000. He ruled out any tonearm problems, but suggested lowering VTA so that the tonearm was parallel to the record. He also suggested I not use the Discwasher stylus brush because it is too abrasive.

As with the old cartridge, I tracked the new one at the recommended 1.7 grams, proper alignment using a protractor, proper azimuth, always used the cueing device, lowered VTA, switched to "LP-9" stylus fluid with its soft brush, and still the same problem: inner grooves sound mistracked and worn. The records I play are scrupulously clean. I hand wash (initially) using isopropyl rubbing alcohol, and sometimes Mr. Clean for heavily soiled records. Before each play, I use a Discwasher record brush to remove light surface dust, and a Zerostat anti-static gun. The results are excellent, they sound clean (I tried the VPI record cleaner a few years back and was unimpressed with it).

Jim Alexander suggested that I didn't allow enough break in time and use time was too low (about fifty hours under two years). He suggested breaking it in for another fifty hours, but within one week's time. I did this and the cartridge did not improve, but it did not get worse either. He finally suggested I have the tonearm checked (locally as I don't have the original packing material to safely send it through the mail. I never had it as it was purchased used).

I've been very careful but a cartridge should last more than fifty hours. Mr. Alexander claims you should get at leat 1000 hours of quality play from a Blue Point, and possibly up to 3000 hours. What am I doing wrong? Not enough break in time? Not enough usage during the life of the cartridge? Or do you need to spend four figures to get longevity? This is very frustrating and any info would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
My experience with the Blue Point is that, once broken in, it is a rather mellow sounding cartridge. That you prefer the brighter, unbroken in, sound probably indicates that you should purchase a brighter, livlier cartridge. My experience with Mr. Alexander, by the way, was not so positive as yours.
I will str0ngly suggest you not to demagnetize cartridges. The first thing you will do is demagnetize a magnet which plays important role in cartridge performance.
Clean records only with professional fluid avoiding any rubbing alcohol, isoprophyl or Mr Clean. Using other liquids will just make things worse.
If you will clean with pro fluid once per month you will not have any static problem and won't even need a zerostat as well.
I consider cartridge demagnetizer and zerostat as a rip-off components.
In the price range of Sumiko BP an adequate Shure carts have unbeatable performance.
I have my analogue collection and numbers of turntables since I'm 5 starting from childrens tales and songs.
Cartridges last a lot longer than 50 hrs, and from Mr. Alexander's examination of your original BP, it was not worn out. I believe that what you're hearing is not a product of your cartridge, but of other parts of your turntable system, including the isolation and vibration control you are providing for the whole set-up. Checking out your tonearm is a good idea, also the suspension of your TT, and isolation of the motor.
You don't say whether you had the arm checked or not. If it's just inner grooves that bother you, as you indicate, then alignment and/or the arm could very well be the problem. Check the over hang to make sure it's correct, as well as azimuth, and VTA.
Also some catridges do not "sit" well. If you only use your cart. 25 hours over a year's time, that's hardly any use at all, but since your "new" cart. gives you the same problem without sitting for a year, I would first suspect something other than the cart., set up or the arm for example.
My BluePoint was the same. In the end result..nothing special...over-rated mail order type "stuff". Ever wonder why you don't see the BluePoint in retail stores?

Buy at high-fi shops you can walk into.

It's great the response that analog/turntable related questions get on this site!
Utter nonsense and off topic. I bought my Blue Point from a dealer whose shop I walked into. And it's been fine for 2 years and low hours. Tony Cordesman included the earlier version of it in a survey for TAS and called it a Best Buy. Other writers for TAS have also liked it in its price range. I've seen a complaint or two about tracking ability, but the reviewers said it tracked great and that has been my experience too. Other than the effect of too frequent plays at too low a tracking force I don't know what could be the cause of Jsangelo's problem, but it isnt anything inherent in the design of the cartridge.
Listen to the Psychic...

My last MC was a Sumiko Blue Point. I really liked its musicality and dynamics. Now I have an Ortofon X5. I'm not going back to Sumiko. The Ortofon is three dimensional yet crisp in the highs and a very good tracker. Detailed yet musical. Need I say more? Oh yes, I got it through the Hong Kong connection (Mr. Juki) for only $110!

Try getting a protractor from
If your are hearing distortion on only the inner grooves then it appears there is a tracking problem and it is most likely related to alignment or worn out lps. As stated, check and make sure all components are properly set up. Also, check the anti-skating.

How does the lp sound with "new" LPS?

The above post about the demagnetizers deagnetizing your magnets is not correct. What they do is demagnitize the coils, which should be free of any inherentor residual magnetism. They do absolutely nothing to the magnets.

I use one and find it does clean up a slight haze that can slowly creap into your cartridge over time. It is a slight hazy veil that is lifted.

Some people report (+) outcomes, others report no difference. (YMMY)

As a side note to your tracking problem, try this: (Wet and play the inside track will distilled water). See if this cleans up your problem. If it does, it may indicate that the problem is in your set up or lps and not your cartridge.
Thanks to everybody for your responses. Marakanetz, I agree with you on demagnatizers. As a test, I demagnatized an old Grado ZTE+1 SIX times. Since it's a moving magnet, doing this should have completely neutralized the Grado. Instead, as on my Blue Point, no effect. The company said that as long as the LED was working, the unit was demagnatizing. Ultimately, I returned the demagnatizer. Maybe I'll try a professional record cleaning fluid someday, but I still stand by my hand-washing method.

Sc53, I don't appear to have suspension problems, and the motor is very well isolated on my HW-19. NO motor noise whatsoever is heard through the speakers.

Mrvordo, I checked and rechecked overhang, VTA, antiskating, azimuth, etc. All okay, and nothing changed from when I originally set the cartridges up. That's why this is such a mystery to me.

I wouldn't suspect the tonearm, as it moves freely, and I'd think that if the problem was there, it would trash the cartridge very quickly and do permanent damage to the records as well. No damage, fortunately.

What I need to know is this: is it anybody's experience that not breaking a new cartridge in for a minimum number of hours over a specific amount of time, or letting a cartridge sit for several weeks or months without playing it will lead to definite deterioration? How many quality hours should one expect from most cartridges, cheap or expensive? Again, many thanks to all of you who took the time to respond.
Just a quick note, LP#9 will only clean your cartridge stylus. (And very well!) It won't have any effect on cartridge alignment or inner groove distortion caused by misalignment. I've used LP#9 on everthing from inexpensive Grados to Clearaudio Insider. Never a problem. The soft brush is gentle and won't cause damage if used properly. RRL includes a instruction sheet.

Secondly, I strongly agree with Marakanetz. ALL record cleaning solutions have a sonic signature. I'm not sure what Mr. Clean contains, but I'd be cautious. IPA is known to disolve plasticizors used in some vinyl formulations.

In the past, I've seen where some use Tilex in their DIY solutuions. There are warnings on the label saying it will strip the varnish off your brass faucet! Use something safe. Years back I used Turomat, however,I've found that Record Research vinyl wash works better, and leaves little sonic signature. I've tried Disc Doctor, but didn't like the sonic signature, nor the fact that I had to rinse off each record afterward, taking twice as much time. The record surface also didn't visibly shine as brightly as with RRL vinyl wash. Why chance ruining your expensive, sometimes irreplaceable vinyl by using somehting which may be harmful? It doesn't make sense.

I'd also highly recommend that you have someone with knowledge and experience check your turntable set up. I would bet that it is misaligned or that some of your records have inner groove distortion which is caused by misalignment.
A catridge will last at least 500 hrs and the stopper, being made of rubber, can deteriorate over time. My feeling, regarding your problem, is set up. The BPS is a fine cart. and after 2 "new" carts, and still inner groove problems, set up is where you should look.

A new cart with track properly and should not distort in the inner grooves.
SteveG where do you get that Record Research Labs vinyl wash?
Most audio stores that I've been in have had Record Research Labs products in stock. If yours' doesn't, try, ,, or I think that Musical surroundings has info on dealers at Maybe it's available at a store in your city?

You won't be disappointed.
thanks Steve I'll look it up...
But "my town" & "record stores" simply aren't used in the same sentence so that's why I asked.
I have had exactly the same problems with my BPS cartridge except that it took a lot longer.For the first 100 hours or so the cartridge got better then it got worse especially with regard to distortion near the inner grooves.Its now got so bad that I dread the end of a side because I know I wont like it.I had my alignment in an Ittok checked by a Linn setup professional so I can only say that something is happening with the cartridge.I will not be buying another BPS!!
not bps. i can understand its inner groove distortion. its not a great tracker anyhoo. it requires about 1.7 or 1.8 gr of force and even w/the lyle alum block, it only improved, and didnt eliminate its high and low freq probs. thats right, it doesnt go down that well either. the mids, dynamics, and imaging are another story. vg there. inner groove probs never reared their head here because i used it on straight line trackers. i dont expect that if i mount it on my smeIV, there wil be probs but i probably wont mount it on the IV, its not worth the effort considering my other carts (oc9, at150ml, grace f9e, virtuoso dti vdh, etc).
demagging carts depends on which one. ortofon recommends not to do so. the oc9 responds well. this isnt my observation, my friend has the demag and uses it accordingly.
another note: stylus cleaning should not be done with ANY alcohol or solvent based cleaner. some styli are attached with glue which doesnt hold up under solvent attack. my friend lost the stylus from his monsters 1000 and 2000 because fo solvent based cleaning! WARNING!
That's funny, Tommy. I've used RRL LP#9 stylus cleaner on a wide variety of cartridges in the past without ANY problem, and it is Alcohol based. I've used it on my vdH Copper Hopper, Benz Ruby, and Clearaudio Insider without ANY problems. In fact, Musical Surroundings strongly suggests the use of LP#9 before each record play, and they are the distributor for Benz, Clearaudio and Koetsu. I'd seriously doubt that they'd suggest using anything that could cause a warranty nightmare. Before RRL, Audio Technica once used an alcohol based stylus cleaner that I'd used on my early Koetsu Rosewood and various Grados. By the way, do they even make Monster 1000's and 2000's anymore? I haven't heard of them in years!
I have a Clavis DC in a Rockport table that is setting records as it will be four years old shortly.....It has well over 2,000 hours on it and I have used some green sandpaper and LP-9 to clean the stylus all these years.....The cartridge took almost 500 hours before it became dynamic and now it won't wear out! Might be the vacuum hold down on the Rockport as all records are now flat, but who knows....
How do you use green sandpaper to clean a stylus? Where do you get it?