Cartridge repair; re-tipping; canitlever replacement: The Needle Clinic A++


Happy New Year fellow A'goners. Last Monday I bent the boron cantilever on my Rega Apheta 2 MC cartridge. After a miserable attempt at self-repair (I know, but I just had to try), I decided to send it off for cantilever replacement. All of us know of the terrific work that Peter at The Soundsmith does. Only problem is, turnaround time is often in excess of 12 weeks (in my case he estimated 14). I started doing a little research about possible alternatives. One name that came popping up with (almost) unanimously positive reviews was Andy Kim at The Needle Clinic in Bellevue, WA. I contacted Andy and asked if he could repair the Apheta 2 (a somewhat radical design and difficult to work on, as I'm sure Gandy intended). Andy said he could indeed. I asked if he offered boron cantilevers and super-fine nude styli, and yes, ditto. Then, drumroll please, I asked what the turnaround time would be. He said about a week. Pardon me?? I live in North Carolina. Yes, one week.

I decided to give him a whirl. I shipped the cartridge via UPS and it was delivered last Wednesday, January 11. I received an email from Andy late in the day Thursday, January 12 telling me that the repair was complete and that he was "ear testing" the cartridge. Holy cow!! He responded that it sounded fantastic, and sent me a Paypal invoice for $450.00 plus $8 shipping. I paid immediately and the cartridge arrived at my home here in North Carolina yesterday, Saturday the 14th. Unbelievable. More impressive still is his work. I installed the cartridge on my Rega P9 (RB1000 arm) this morning (its a snap in that the cartridge is made principally for the RB1000 tonearm), and the sound is FANTASTIC.

I am a discerning "audiophile" of 54 years with ears fit for the hobby. I won't bore you with a boastful list of my high-end gear, but suffice it to say my system is comprised of very revealing and top drawer kit. The Apheta 2 has always been an excellent low-output MC cartridge, but I think it actually sounds a tad bit better than ever. I had read that Andy employs only the best nude diamond tips, and this thing is marvelous now.

I take nothing away from The Soundsmith, whom most of us know to be excellent as well. The great news is that there is now a clear alternative that offers no compromise and a much shorter (for now) turnaround time. Highly, highly recommended!! -David 

klipschking
Not trying to be a smart a__, but how did you manage to bend a boron cantilever without shattering it?????
Well, Mr M if you must know, just being careless. I rammed my ZeroDust stylus cleaner dead on to the front of the stylus/cantilever. It did not shatter, but bent. Attempting to repair however = shattered.
Thanks for that tip David, I'll have to keep that in mind in case I am ever in a rush. I sent a Ortofon Cadenza Bronze to Soundsmith last year for repairs, and it did take about 10 weeks. Of course I had another cartridge, so I was not in any rush. In fact, though it's been back for about 3 months now, I still haven't re-mounted the Ortofon. I've been having too much fun with a Transfiguration Phoenix S.

It's always nice to have options though. Congrats on your Apheta 2!
Klipschking. I understand your plight. I was reaching over the top and behind my turntable with a loose baggy t-shirt on. When I backed up and stood up straight, I snagged the stylus tip and bent and kinked the aluminum cantilever. New cartridge was in order....
...and Happy New Year to you! Great info, I was just thinking of alternatives for an upcoming retip of my Denon DL-S1 and will definitely check with these guys when time comes (the quick turnaround is an important factor for me as well).
Is $450 the normal rate, or does that change from cart to cart? I know... I could call, just asking. 
Hi boxer12. I think $450 is the top price because of the boron cantilever and the type of nude stylus the Apheta uses. Seems like it drops all the way down to $200 for other combos. Do give Andy a call though, he always picked the phone up right away when I called. Good luck!
Good post. This is good information for someone like me who is getting back into analog after 33 years of digital only. See my post on "Equipment Stand" for a fuller explanation of why.
I'm just glad to hear I'm not the only one that did something stupid to mess up a good cart.
Heck, I nuded my Denon DL-103r being super careful. Got the thing to the point all I had to do was set it down to be done - then for no particular reason at all it just fell out of my hands somehow.  It fell all of two inches but that's all it took. Luckily there was no kink and I gently realigned it.  Now it's in a wood body and sounds better than ever. 
I've had great service from both SS and the ND.  Love SS for all he has done for the industry and recordings in general.

To my 40 years experience the highest quality retip rebuilding and recalibration is by the master himself AJ van den Hul. He is 79 and has been building cartridges for 45 years. He works on each one personally. Contact www.finestfidelity.net . Turnaround time is usally 30 days or less.
I used to use van den Hul a lot when Stanalog was the rep. They did a great job and was reasonably priced.http://www.finestfidelity.net/cartridge-repair
Rwwear, cool beans I wasn't aware of finestfidelity. My Grado might be ready for retip I wonder what it would sound like with a different stylus. 

Or a different cantilever?
Another recommendation for Andy Kim at the Needle Clinic in Bellevue WA.  I sent him my Linn Troika and while it still had some usable life left I decided to have Andy do a retipping.  In less than 1 week I had the cartridge back on my turntable and sounding absolutely wonderful.  Very, very pleased. Highly recommended!!
Hi experts,
How do yoy know when the cartridge need to be retip? What to look at or what to hear?
 Thanks 

It's hard to tell Dan. All of the ones I replaced either were broken or checked under a microscope.
What microscope magnifying power should I buy to check for the stylus condition? I tried my 30x loupe but it cannot tell anything.
Thanks,
Calvin
in determining if an stylus or cantilever needs refurbishment, should the ultimate arbiter be the sound the cartridge makes?  just curious
Probably JJ but it will be a gradual decline as it gets worse and will likely damage your records.

Here's a microscope that was recommended on audioasylum.com:
http://www.celestron.com/browse-shop/microscopes/digital-microscopes/handheld-digital-microscope-pro
 I would think you would start to notice more inner groove distortion and miss tracking 
here it is almost a year later  i sent my grado reference1 in last sunday and its on its way back to me with a new boron cantilever and a microridge stylus.  fingers crossed.  i hope it hasnt changed it too much. very nice email  response and andy picks up the phone as well  ultra smooth process
I had contacted Andy last winter about having a repair done on a Dynavector DV-20X high output.  I called him and he answered right away.

I was a bit put off because he wasn't willing to give me any options for repairs.  He just recommended the boron cantilever and microridge stylus.

I decided not to use him because of that.
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Greetings, I would like to share my positive Retipping experience

This past July while I was unpacking my turntable the tonearm swung lose and the cantilever on my Blackbird was damaged and bent. Upon playing and testing the sound was staticky and distorted. After researching the problem I consider my options; buy a new or used cartridge or have my Blackbird retipped. I reviewed a number of comments and recommendations on the subject through various discussion boards and decided on retipping and the services of Andy Kim.

As I considered this an opportunity to upgrade the sound and performance of my Blackbird I researched the best component and material options. About a week after talking with Andy I sent him my Blackbird. The turnaround time for delivery and return was 7 days. The day I received my Blackbird I installed it and noted some problems and contacted Andy. Andy graciously agreed to reinspect my Blackbird and apologized for any inconveniences. A few days after receiving my Blackbird he provided me with his findings from the examination and would get back to me on the best solution.

On August 23, 2018 Andy contacted me with an surprising offer to COMP me for my Blackbird; which I accepted after some consideration. Please see the attached photo of the NC-1 and the specification.

Note Andy has relocated to Californian now but his email address is still the same.



Needle Clinic NC-1 limited edition moving coil cartridge


The Needle Clinic is very proud to offer our customers a limited edition moving coil cartridge built to our exacting standards based on our decades of cartridge repair knowledge.

The exclusive NC-1 cartridge is a result of co-development between the Needle Clinic and one of Japans finest high end boutique cartridge manufacturer.


The Mission:
Using our decades of knowledge, experience, expertise and relationship oversees to have a limited edition moving coil cartridge built to our specifications from one of the finest cartridge manufacturers available in the world. Create a low output moving coil cartridge with unprecedented price to performance value.
The Achievement:
Very good tonal balance without over emphasis on dynamics and bass. One of the most natural sounding mid bands available, excellent clarity and separation of instruments, sweet top end without explicitness or overemphasis.


Limited Production:
The Needle Clinic NC-1 is limited to 20 pieces.


Specifications:
Type: Low impedance moving coil (MC) cartridge Frequency response: 10 Hz to 50 kHz
Output Voltage: 0.22mV
Channel Separation: 30dB or more (1kHz) Channel Balance: 1dB or less (1kHz)
Cantilever: Beryllium
Stylus Tip: VDH
Load Impedance: 20-100 Ohms Impedance: 5 Ohms
Tracking weight: 1.8 to 2.2 grams Weight: 5 grams
Cartridge Price: $1200 USD


While a horribly expensive lesson for me, I'm glad that it seems he's finally standing behind his work, and hopefully actually doing what customers ask. 
I highly recommend the NC-1 offered by Needle Clinic. I received one as a COMP and the cart is amazing. I set her up yesterday and I’ve been listening to some of my favorite albums and I must say compared to my Blackbird, Benz Micro Wood and my Grado Wood RP it’s sound is superior.

Please see the specs below.

Specifications:

Type: Low impedance moving coil (MC) cartridge
Frequency response: 10 Hz to 50 kHz
Output Voltage: 0.22mV
Channel Separation: 30dB or more (1kHz)
Channel Balance: 1dB or less (1kHz)
Cantilever: Beryllium
Stylus Tip: VDH
Load Impedance: 20-100 Ohms
Impedance: 5 Ohms
Tracking weight: 1.8 to 2.2 grams
Weight: 5 grams


@jpjones3318 - Could you provide a little background and explanation of your experience?
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