How and when to check stylus condition.

Looking for a litte practical advise about checking the condition of my stylus. My cartridge is a Sound Smith VPI Zephyr. The TT is a VPI classic w/ Classic 3 wand. I'm pretty sure I have well over a thousand hours on the stylus, maybe close to 2000 hours. My analogue section sounds great, but I wonder if the stylus is worn. As an aside, it was a bitch to set the carty up on my Classic, but once tuned in, it sings. Anyway can check the sylus without having to take everything apart? Who can check it and how is it done?
If you system sounds great, why bother.
What you could do however is to listen to a record which you use a lot. Check the higher frequencies for anomalities and the bottom end. If both seem ok, the sound does not seem frayed you are still all right. Also, if you use an LP which is exceptionallly quiet regarding background noise and it does get more noisy, a faulty stylus is plowing up the grooves. If however the Lp is still quiet, you are fine and can stop fretting.. for now.
Here's a 21st Century answer: ( You should be able to position the 'scope, and view the front/sides of your stylus, without dismounting the cartridge(still the best way though).
Rodman, what a cool device. Always one for the if it ain't broke don't fix it camp, but this is cheap insurance against heading off damage to records.
Sent the carty back to Sound Smith. Spoke to Peter Ledermann. He cautioned that it is likely the carty may need a "re-tread" with that many hours. As mentioned above, playing the carty with a worn out stylus can damage my LPs. Will report back on what Peter finds.
Hello Glen- An OCD analog buff can even journal the wear on his stylus, by saving pics of it to a computer file. It's also nice to know if the stylus is properly aligned on the cantilever of a new cart. How about visually observing the stylus, in the groove of a record(SRA & azimuth, for yucks). Nifty gizmo! BTW- It's on sale, right now, for $45.00.
if you know anyone with a microscope, you can easily check the stylus. I recently checked mine after i saw this article and found that my stylus was ok, but had some strands of what appeared to be fiber. I used the magic erasure and carefully cleaned. No observed wear on the three cartridges i checked.
Peter Ledermann just finished the retip of my Zephyr cartridge. He said the stylus was approximately 80% worn, but for some reason that I do not understand, not in such a way that it damaged my vinyl. In any case, I should get my cartridge back in a few days. I'll report back on performance later.
Hi folks, reporting back on the retip. Short answer: dramatic improvement accross the board. You name the attribute, it sounds better.

Take away: DON'T trust your ears. The degradation in sound which occurs as a result of normal stylus wear is very subtle. In light of what I learned, I recommend checking the stylus every 1000 hours, unless something breaks. At least that was Peter's advice.

An aside: I drive all tube gear. Power tubes "supposedly" have a 2000 hour usefull life. Audio tubes have a 4 to 5000 hour life. It's almost impossible to keep track of tube and stylus life when I'm running so much gear. And this is even where my Ref 5 and PH-7 have hour meters. Any practical suggestions?
Buy a tube tester, and a microscope! Learn to use them both. BTW: A 200X scope would be barely adequate. 800X, much better( )
I change my "small" audio tubes, not necessarily the power tubes, every year and find it a BIG improvement each time I do. How do you like the Classic compared to the Scoutmaster?
Conical and elliptical tip: 300 hours
Microline-type tip: 500 hours
I change one a year on average.
I will never use MC carts again unless I'm wealthy; too expensive to replace all the time. Don't let your carts mis-track or get worn, it'll ruin your vinyl forever. Sometimes it's just the vocal sibilants that get shredded first, but you'll never get them back. 500 hours. Really. 1000 hours? Never.
Excellent thread! I think it's time to take my Rega in to my dealer for a check-up!