How long does a stylus last?

I'm thinking of buying a good cartridge; Koetsu or the like but I need to buy used to afford one.
How many hours on a cartridge is too many hours. Does this vary from brand to brand?

I had my Benz M.09 served me for about 5,000 hours before I developed misperformance on inner tracks of some of my records and traded it in.

I prefere to get ones with 0 hours on them and certainly among those I can afford.
I've been looking at Koetsu. They don't become affordable (generally) until about 300-500 hrs. I have a Shelter 501 mkII and a Dynavector XX-2. ("My System" is not updated)
I have had a Koetsu Black that I bought second-hand in 1986. I got 10 years use out of it before the stylus degraded.

I've just had it re-tipped by Benz Micro for €200 (the cantilever and suspension were fine).
The tips are diamond, very very hard,
But even they wear in soft vinyl with time.

A clean record, and cleaned stylus help preserve the tip.
I can get in excess of 10 years out of tips on my deck, but I use a Keith Monks machine.

I suspect that the VPI would give acceptable results as well. Even the lowly disc washer is a help.

Last don't forget stylus pressure, more is less time, and handling. NO cartridge takes rough handling well, dropping the stylus tip into records, side skates, etc. all can shorten it's life.

Hope that helps.

Keeping your records clean with a good record machine and cleaning fluid along with cleaning the stylus before each play with a Zerodust or Mr Clean Magic Cleaner (DIY - Doug Deacon invention), greatly extends the life of your stylus.
A cartridge stylus will last much longer than anticipated if you follow Cello's advice. I've never had to replace a cartridge because I've worn it out. The desire to get something different happens first and in my case after seven years or so.

Speaking of cartridge selection. You've probably run into a post or two regarding the ZYX Universe and how wonderful it is, especially at it's price point. LOL. I laugh because that price point is so far above consideration for me. I've had the pleasure to listen extensively to the upper end ZYX line of cartridges and (now this is my opinion...not looking to argue) to my ears they are the best I've ever heard. I have been impressed enough to order one of the more entry level ZYX cartridges for myself and will receive it this week. I don't want to sound overconfident about it but I believe it will live up to my expectations and far exceed the performance of more expensive ones. My advice is to wait a while, do some research and at least consider one of these while you can get them at a huge introductory savings. I don't want to divuldge the cost to me as I think that would be rude to the distributor but it should be known just how helpful he is and willing to go to every effort. I didn't request it but I'm pretty sure there would be an opportunity to listen to one of his demo units. IMO, there is a very good chance you can get a better cartridge brand new. Food for thought anyway. And, no this isn't some shill. I've never met the guy and have no vested interest in his success other than I've fell in love with what I've heard and he's the kind of guy I really like doing business with.
Though I don't have a cleaning machine, I usually use the Premier LP cleaner and dry brush method,Last stylus cleaner and Zerostat before each play. I found the Zerodust doesn't work all that well. More offensive records get hand cleaned with Record Doctor fluids and brushes.
Re: ZYX, I have read here:
how good these are so maybe I will hold out for one.
Nowadays, does anyone ever use a microscope to examine a stylus? I recall pictures of diamond stylii with a couple of hundred hours on them showing obvious wear. Perhaps the line contact stylus wears less, but by the same token would degrade more with wear. 1000 hours used to be considered a reasonable maximum.
I would highly recommend that you clean every record with Disc Doctor, RRL or Audio Intelligent cleaning fluids with either Disc Doctor or Last brushes and a good record cleaning machine like the VPI or Loricraft(this one is great but quite expensive).
Every record even brand new LP's have the mold release compound on them left from the manufacturing process.
I would not think of playing a record regardless of how good it looks (even if brand new) on the surface without giving it a thorough cleaning. Playing clean records will definitely extend your stylus life.
Agree with El. 1000 hours average.
Eldartford: those photos of worn stylii were when the stylus was set at 5 grams+, and records were NEVER cleaned.
Now, with 1 gram to 3 gram stylus pressures, and cleaned records... (us LAST stylus preservative too...)
I can see 5,000 hours...
Hi Stuart. I got 8 years [approximately 3000 hours] out of my original 1981 koetsu rosewood before I sent it to Japan for a rebuild.I then got another 12 years out of the rebuilt one before I sent it out again[approximately 3000 hours] . Keeping your records clean is imperative to long life as well as stylus pressure. Mine was used in an et-2 tone arm at 1.5 grams tracking force for most of it's playback life. My records are cleaned with a vpi 16.5.
Eldaford. Interesting analogy on stylus wear. I usually rejig my Et-2 tonearm at 6 month intervals to clean the air bearing and then would inspect the stylus under a microscope at the same time. After approximately 200 hours of use there was no sign of wear on the diamond. Even at 3000 hours the wear on the diamond was negligeable. The koetsu cartridges will require a rebuild mainly due to stylus fatigue long before the diamond is worn. Stuart... the rebuilds by Koetsu[Japan] are typically a 3 to 4 month time frame. I rebuilt my rosewood [for the second time] about 1 1/2 years ago.After reading all the praise and accolades heaped on the Shelter 501 at that time, I purchased a new Shelter 501 to tide me over while my koetsu was in Japan.I could appreciate it's stellar performance but, as good as the shelter is... it aint a koetsu!It's hard to describe the magic of Koetsu. Anxiety got the better of me. I missed my beloved koetsu so much I sold the Shelter, broke down and bought another rosewood. Didn't lose much on the deal as the 501's were selling like hotcakes at the time. If you can find a used one from someone you can trust... go for it... you will never regret it.Every music loving vinyl junkie should experience a koetsu at least once in their lifetime.
Ecclectique...Because your observations are based on inspection with a microscope, I tend to believe you. The wear that I recall seeing was with less than the 5 gram VTF that Elizabeth suggests.

For reasons I suggest, (1) line contact stylus. (2) lower tracking force..1.5 gram or less. (3) Low stylus mass MC. (4) Very clean LPs.

Hey! This is good news for a change.
Eldartford. Yes,I would think clean records would be the primary factor here. On the other hand, I remember inspecting many friends cartridges on the microscope over the years and have seen a some real doosies,some with very low hours as well. My father in laws shure v15 with probably less than 300 hours on it was so far gone I couln't even clean the burnt carbon deposits off of the diamond! He used an old stacking dual table,filthy records and never cleaned the stylus.Thought that was the function of the little dust paddle on the shure. At the time I was using linn sondek with a sonus blue [anyone remember it?]mounted in a black widow. The sonus stylus was so compliant one was very fortunate to get even 100 hours on it before it collapsed. Never forget my him ragging on me about that one.....though the ragging stopped pretty fast once he saw his stylus magnified 100x.

Observation of stylus condition via microscope, while better than guesswork, is fraught with problems. I have done this as well, using the Shure scope and photos. See the parallel thread running on Vinyl Asylum. The whole subject is problematic in that styli wear, rather than breaking, so the point at which the stylus is unacceptable sonically, may occur before mistracking. And this may be a judgement call as well. Tales of styli lasting 4000 to 5000 hours seem extremely optimistic to me. I'm sticking with 1000 hours average. We all would like our expensive investments to last forever, but it just ain't so.
...and the bottom line is that no cartridge has an "odometer" and you certainly never know how many hours it served especially when you're buying it through the internet.
Viridian. You have a point however, inspecting a used sylus under a scope will tell you a great deal about it's use or misuse. Styli that are not regularly cleaned or used on uncleaned vinyl will surely suffer a premature fate long before those that are cleaned regularly, not to mention mis-alignment, improper tracking force,overhang or azimuth. Perhaps this is how you arrived at a 1000 hour average or are you speaking about your own personal experience. While I would concurr with 4000 to 5000 hours being very optimistic or even should easily get more than twice your guesstimate if proper maintenance and cleaning proceedures are excercized. My good friends 11 year old shure v15 mr sounds teriffic and still tracks like a champ.
That is how I arrived at my educated guess. And that is what an average means. I believe it was A.J. Van Den Hul who said that the life expectancy of his cartridges is 2000 hours, though I may be misquoting. These are expensive cartridges with line contact stylii that are babied by their owners, so really I don't think that, as an average life, I am that far off. The Shure is an unusual example, it tracks at 1 gram with a micro-ridge stylus. Name another cartridge that does. By the way, the suspension on my V15Vmr collapsed well before the stylus was shot. Personally, I would err on the side of excess conservatism, my Blue Notes and Riversides cannot be replaced, my cartridge always can. Remember, if I am wrong, I am buying new cartridges too early. If those who subscribe to the 2000+ hour lifespans are wrong, their record collections are compromised. Judge for yourself. Clearly, many who have weighed into this thread disagree with my thought process. To each his own.
Hey Marty. Well said,and your educated guess may even be much lower if one factors in all the variables in the real world. Hell,once upon a time I tore the sylus off a brand new denon 103d while cleaning the record with a brush! Cartridge life averaged out to be a big fat "ZERO" hours!!!!!! Lost a couple of good nights sleep over that one.
Marakanetz...Hey! Neat idea for a stylus odometer. All you would really need is a timer (such as commonly used on machinery) wired up to the TT motor. Cost would be about $15, but with Cryo treatment it would sell to the vinyl crowd for $200 easy :-)
Ecclectique, I did that with a Denon 301, perhaps we are living in parallel universes that are mirror images of each other. This Sunday, another Audiogon member has asked me to come to his house and install a Dynavector XX on a VPI Scout. Ya think that I'm sweatin' a little?
If only I kept a cartridge long enough to wear it out. I get itchy feet after a year and want to move on, but my latest is a koetsu Rosewood Signature, so hopefully as some of the respondents intimated, I've reached my destination. Good advise though on the central importance of record cleaning.
Sorry, but you don't get to rest here. You need to get the Koetsu Signature Rosewood Platinum.
I had a Transfiguration Temper,that gave me ,believe it or not,eight years before upgrading to the Temper-v.Not too much degradation either,although I have been fanatical about proper cartridge maintenance.Meaning CLEAN stylus every 2 or 3 sides,and after every listening session.As well as cartridge BOTTOM(for dust).Also,obviously,keep covered,when not in use.I also have a dedicated room,that I control humidity,and temperature in.
Larry,an update for you.Last Saturday,finally got my updated SOTA COSMOS back.WHEW,3 1/2 hrs setting it up!Then off to dinner,exhausted.Came home 11:30pm,and had to give a listen.Lasted until 4:00 am.I must say a couple of things,hey I deserve to bloviate a bit,since as you know,I've been down all winter.

First,Kirk,owner of SOTA,really pulled out all the stops on the table.FLAWLESS job,and STUNNING SOUND.As to the Symposium shelf,under the table,that you got me worried about,thankfully the table LOVES this support.I really deserve this lucky break,after the long wait.

Without resorting to the typical rationalizing of one's own set-up,all I can say is I have never been happy with the instrumental TIMBRES from my analog rig(though my Levinson 390-s CD player,though limited,compared to vinyl,has been just fine,for digital).I still have a bit of tweaking,vta/downforce,to do,but the overall impression I'm getting is so much better than I've had before.To me timbre is the hardest aspect of sound to get.Too many Philes are happy with bass/dynamics and splitting plaster to realize that it is the timbres of instruments that need the most attention.Just some thoughts.Thought you'd be interested.

As a sidebar,let me recommend a FABULOUS disc,that was one of the first to go on the table,Saturday.First time I heard it on my own set-up,since I have been after it for about 4 years.It was given to me by my pal YODA,last week.It is a DG pressing of RUSSO's STREET MUSIC.The other side is the Rhapsody In Blue by Gershwin.The Street Music side is the real GRABBER,with a FLOATING harmonica and bluesy, percussively dynamic orchestral music that is a superb demo disc,though to hear it at 4 am,sort of was sobering.Anyway,hope all is well.Say hello to Doug,for me.
I sent my Grado Reference (the $1200 one) to Grado for a rebuild after using for 7 years. They sent it back saying it was perfect! I do clean my records using a Nitty Gritty and use Last #4 cleaner. This is not typical for my use as cartridges rarely last more than 1000 hours or a year. Nice to know Grado will check out the cartridges, though.
Big Congrats on getting your SOTA back. You must be one happy camper. I am delighted that the Symposium Ultra shelf is working well under the SOTA.
If you ever get a chance, try using a set of Symposium's Rollerblocks under the SOTA and on top of the Ultra shelf. It might take you to an even better place. Best to borrow a pair. If you can't find any to borrow, let me know and I will lend a pair to you for a test drive.
Use Stylast and it'll last a lot longer