How old is your cartridge?

We read and hear about cartridges that are ancient that people are still using, and we read about others replacing their cartridge after a few years because the cartridge is spent. 
How old is your cartridge that you use regularly? 
I know one person still spinning a Shure V15 Type II Improved with a stylus that is probably about 30 years old. The cartridge itself was purchased by the guy new in the early 70’s. 
My cartridge, a Linn Arkiv B, is 18 or 19 years old and it’s definitely tired by now. 
Thanks all for responding! 
I have 3 actively used vintage Cartridges, and 2 new.

1, Shure V15VxMR from 1996, 24 years old. It replaced my prior V15VMR with worn stylus.

x version: I soon broke the original brittle beryllium shaft of the styus, left it unused for many many years, last year I learned about Jico here, revived it with Jico SAS stylus, it’s now on tonearm #2 (new MC on tonearm #1). Jico has a brush, for dust, it is not damped like the Shure brush.

I gave my earlier V15VMR body to a friend

2. AT440ML, from around the same years, lets say 20 years old. Compared to Shure, great, but the Shure brush feature was the deciding factor. (my hot air system circulated dust, and the brush damping feature solved my springy floors vibration).

I just added a TT in my office, no dust or vibration problem, the AT440ML with it’s original and barely used stylus sounds great here.

3. Shure M95xe. During the many years of CD bedazzlement, V15VxMR out of commission, cost of replacement stylus ridiculous, I bought this M97xe, same brush advantages. I occasionally played old dirty LP’s with this elliptical, again for it’s brush feature. It is a mighty fine elliptical, sounds surprisingly good. It’s stylus should be replaced.

Got back into LP’s, some new, finally properly cleaned my old ones, used the M95xe a lot, stylus now needs replacement.

Relocated TT to location where springy floor is not a problem, reduced dust circulation. Upgraded the whole thing to Vintage TT, 3 tonearms: new long arm for new MC cartridge; Vintage Shure/Jico in the back for comparison of MM to MC, MC won, and to play ’not sonically special’ ’test for sale’ LPs (avoid wear to MC Stylus) (I need space, selling LP’s on eBay); 3rd, left arm for new Mono cartridge.

I’m both extremely happy and proud of my TT, it’s shown in the last photo of my LP listings

“Age is inconsequential.

Hours matter”

I disagree- 

the rubber in the suspension will deteriorate with age. That can affect trackability and could lead to mistracking 
Suspension may deteriorate faster, before stylus wears out completely- by that time i am sure though that the shape would be rounded -, when mistracking appears you know it.
Got a Stanton 681EEE from 1976. Old enough to tell me the suspension getting hard argument is another one that sounds good but falls apart in the real world. Meanwhile the one I use every day is a Koetsu Black Goldline now going on 3 years. It will like the vast majority of cartridges be replaced with a better one long before it needs to by wear alone.
Any decent engineer knows that rubber deteriorates with time either through chain hardening or chain scission. That is real world 
Zavato, so you change out you motor and transmission mounts on your care every 3 years? 
Strut and shock mounts?

As an ME I think you are full of da ....
With my SOTA Sapphire turntable and Premier FT3 arm, I still use a Monster Cable Alpha Genesis 1000 MC cartridge — its output feeding into a McCormack Phono Drive preamp.  I purchased this cartridge in the late 1980s, and, at that time, it was a “leading edge” moving coil cartridge.
Audiophiles normally have many cartridges, an old cartridge can be almost unused if a person have 15 more cartridges in rotation (for example). 

Cartridge can be stored for decades properly, it depends who is the owner. 

I have personal experience with more than 60 different cartridges, most of them are NOS or like new (and very rare), my experience is very positive with 99% of them. 

You can buy a new stylus replacement for your Shure, this is not a rare model (so you can find an original stylus). 

You can also buy a JICO SAS replacement for Shure cartridge! 

But any stylus profile (diamond) have their own life span, this much more important that a cartridge age. If you stylus is worn you must replace it. 

Check your cartridge and if you're not happy with the sound (or there are some problems) you can search for JICO SAS or Original Shure replacement, your cartridge can be inspected by pro for about $30-40 under a microscope. 

I have several cartridges that are between 35 and 40 years old:
1) Kondo AN Io ii
2) Fidelity Research Mc-44
3) Fidelity Research Mc-1 Mk.3.
4) Accuphase AC-1
They all still sound good. 
Deteriorated Suspension: I was concerned, decided not to buy a used MC cartridge primarily because of suspension concerns.

I got surprisingly lucky with my 20 year old/hardly used AT440ML, I was expecting to experience problems.

I have a shop light with 30 power glass. Shocking at first sight, the aluminum cantilever was black, even more crud heading toward the intersection with the body. I figured, what the heck, nothing to lose: grab the alcohol, a brush, and my compressor (aimed carefully).

Alcohol didn't do it, seemed like I would need automotive brake cleaner. I grabbed my nearby contact cleaner, even then it took 5 rounds to get all the crud off the cantilever. I figured, the suspension might have been bad, these chemicals must have done harm.

Surprise, the damn thing sounds terrific. Downstairs slightly beats my Shure/Jico SAS, and nearly as good as new AT33PTG/II MC.

It's here in my office sounding terrific.

My first MC, I was going to go for the anniversary limited AT1000MC, but suspension concerns made me go for a new AT. These new AT's have the same performance specs as it had, why risk it?
Any serious driving enthusiast knows the single biggest factor in new car ride and handling is the suspension and motor mounts are all brand new elastomer. Some of them have gotten pretty sophisticated over the years but with older cars its a relatively simple process to change these things out. After a good 15 years its guaranteed to make a solid positive difference. Even just sitting in the garage the darn things wear and settle resulting in imprecise suspension geometry and slop and play under load. 

As usual this is not from parroting blather others spouted its from actually having done the work replacing these things on a 240Z and a 911. Heed the words of experience. 

Like I said, this is one of those things that sure seems it has to be the same with cartridges. Only it never seems to work out that way. Probably because this is but one very small item on a very long list of items determining sound quality. Maybe something to do with there being some sort of difference between a car that weighs a ton and a cantilever that's some tiny fraction of a gram? 

Any decent engineer should be able to tell the difference. You'd a thunk.
I want to remind to all of you guys that Nagaoka (adored by many for some unknown reasons here) has a very stiff suspension and it’s a new cartridge, dynamic compliance of this Moving Permalloy cartridge is about 7cu @ 100Hz, remember that Denon DL-103 compliance is 5cu @ 100Hz ! The difference is very small, indeed.

So a brand new Nagaoka MP series, designed in 21st century for modern tonearms, is a low compliance cartridge (about 7 cu @ 100Hz) depends on the model, some of them are even stiffer just like DL-103, look at this Nagaoka with 5.5 cu @ 100Hz dynamic compliance!

An old DENON-103 designed in the 60s for super heavy tonearms is 5 cu @ 100Hz and every dog knows this is the lowest possible compliance on the planet!

Can you believe it ?

Now I want to remind you that classic MM cartridges like Shure are HIGH COMPLIANCE, some classic MM from the golden era are as high as 25 cu @ 100Hz. It’s nearly 5 times higher than Denon or Nagaoka!

Convert it to 10Hz and you will realize that a compliance of some great MM is 30cu - 50cu at 10Hz.

Even if you think the rubber getting stiffer, then, even after 40 years these high compliance MM cartridges are STILL HIGH COMPLIANCE. Believe it or not, you can actually measure it!

And your adorable NEW cartridges from NAGAOKA is a LOW COMPLIANCE from the start (very low for MP cartridge), why? Maybe you have to worry about NEW MM cartridges more than about an old ones? This is too stiff right out of the box from your favorite shop, how can you live with that?  

Think about it, before you will post anything about stiff suspension on 40 y.o. cartridges, especially when you want to mention an MM or MI design.
Glupson, it is probably deaf by now.

The suspension of a cartridge is not subjected to the environment atrocities that an automotive suspension is. Most of them are made with synthetic rubber that has a longer life span.

The only ways I have had cartridges fail is the stylus disappearing fortunately covered under warranty and the tiny wires of a MC cartridge breaking due to work hardening. I have never worn out a stylus probably because there is always the next better cartridge. 

Right now I have two brand new ones, a Clearaudio Charisma and a Soundsmith The Voice. Like Chakster I am down on moving coil cartridges. I think they are a rip off. If I turn out to like The Voice (still in the box) I might give his Strain Gauge a try. 

"Glupson, it is probably deaf by now."

I have to get a new(er) stylus to be sure what the time might have done to it. It does make sounds without much obvious distortion so I am hopeful. It is an Ortofon Concorde from way back when.

I have many cartridges that I rotate so none with the stylus worn out; the oldest I have and use a couple of months a year are a Nakamichi Mc 1000  (1978) and an Ortofon Mc 30 (1979) 
It is very possible for some cartridges to last seemingly forever while others can have a worn stylus in as few as 800 hours. I've seen both.
At the end of the day, diamonds do have different hardness. A user won't know what they have 'til they know.

Good point Boothryod! At some point, either late 80’s or early 90’s, I had a cartridge when part of the Diamond split off. And it was relatively new too- 
Dear @zavato  :  Yes, rubber deteriorates over time. Now, not all cartridges were designed with the same kind of overall suspension set/kit, suspension is not only about that " rubber ", even Ortofon has a trade mark on the kind of suspension they use.

So some cartridge suspensions are more suceptible to degrading over time and something important about is how carefully the cartridge owners are with their samples.

If you ownonly  one cartridge and you used it 4-5 days every week for 3 hours each time then the stylus tip goes out of play after around 1,500-2,000 hours so you have to send to a re-tipper whom not only will change the stylus tip but he makes a check up in the cartridge suspension and if need it he changes dampers and other suspension parts, repeat if the cartridge need it.
So in this way your cartridge can " live " almost for ever because in normal playing condition the cartridge motor just does not deteriorates as could be the suspension.

Allaerts gives at elast 20+ years of cartridge live with around 5K hours in its stylus tip, this comes from his site:

"  and has an expected life of five thousand playing hours. "

I own120-130 vintage and today cartridges that more or less are in rotation so its playing hours of each one are in true lower that we can imagine but and especially with vintage MM/MI and even that be NOS no one can gives you an absolute warranty that that cartridge will play well not for 1K hours but not even for 100 hours and that's why no seller gives you warranty about. Some of those cartridges after less than 50 hours falls down. I had that type of experiences with used and NOS vintage cartridge, normally MM/MI ones I can't remember rigth now a LOMC cartridge where I experienced the same and I own several LOMC ones just because are superior quality performers than the MM/MI designs.

In the long MM/MI thread J.Carr was rigth when posted there about that LOMC superiority. In those times I was in disagreement with him, from some years now not any more.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
Current cartridges under my possession:
SPU Gold reference - almost 10 years
SPU Silver meister MK ii - 3 years
Ortofon SPU mono - 4 years
Ortofon SL15e -?? needs to be retipped
Ortofon SL20Q - ?? needs to be retipped
Ortofon MC100 -?? hardly used since it is inferior to others
Ortofon MC20 super - 1 month (retipped newly)
Denon DL103r - 5 years
Denon DL303 - ?? still sounds good
Denon DL102 - 7 years, not used much
Audio Technica AT150mlx -- 2 years (second replacement of stylus)

Three arms in use. One arm (Ortofon RMG 309) needs to be fixed, and need to find out where to send it to get it fixed. One arm coming soon. So will have 5 arms in action some time this year.

There is a difference between the age of a cartridge and the age of the stylus tip. 

A New Old Stock cartridge can be 40 y.o. (unused), and your stylus can be used only for 2000 hrs max (with the best possible stylus profile). 

I've been lucky with my EPC-205C MK3. It has the original stylus, and the suspension, said to be its weakness is still fine.

This particular cartridge in my possession sounds great. It beat the AT440mlb, Shure V15 III HE & IV MR and Hana EL, all of which I used within 2020. It sounds so natural and relaxed compared to the rest. The Hana came second. The Glider SM which is my primary cartridge sounds better, but I'm tempted to say I probably can live with the Technics if I should lose the Benz.

I think it will need a retip in a year. I'll see what the retipper will say about the suspension. 
Dear @audite84 : "  I've been lucky with my EPC-205C MK3. It has the original stylus, and the suspension, said to be its weakness is still fine.

This particular cartridge in my possession sounds great. It beat the AT440mlb, Shure V15 III HE & IV MR and Hana EL, all of which I used within 2020. "

That Technics is very good quality performer and beats several vintage top cartridges as the AT or Stanton, the 205C MK4 is even better I owned.

When you decide to re-tip it try to send it to VdH , Dr. Van Den Hul MM reference cartridge that he still owns is the Technics EPC100C MK4, he fixed mine when no other re-tipper accepted to fix it because they just can´t do it.

@rauliruegas Thank you very much for sharing your experience. I started with the EPC-205C MKII, then moved up the line to the MKIII. I'll keep an eye on the MKIV. And yes, I'll send my stylus to Dr. VDH for retipping. 

You can’t ship anything to VdH if you don’t know him personally, you can only ask his official distributor in your country if it’s acceptable. The price is insane and not worth it with your 205c mk3 cartridge. I seriously doubt the information about VdH personal retip/rebuild is valid today. Many people who retipped before reported that most likely he’s no longer retip/rebuild anything personally, except for a very special occasion.

I think you should try JICO SAS first, they got replacement stylus designed for your cartridge, the benefit is S.A.S. profile (Super Analogue Stylus). My original mk4 was better than S.A.S., but the situation with mk3 is different, I preferred the sound of S.A.S. over original mk3 stylus.

The benefit of the original elliptical is extremely low mass with hollow pipe boron cantilever.

Fist S.A.S. combo was Boron Rod + S.A.S. profile, now it’s Sapphire or Ruby cantilever with the same profile. Try it if you can find it!

You said the damper is OK, but how do you know? I bought at least 3 samples of mk3 and 4 samples of mk4. The damper was weak on all of them, except for Axel’s re-build samples!

I’m waiting for my NOS p-mount version of 205p mk4 to check if I’m lucky or not, gonna get it in a month or so. My last try with Technics.

In my opinion Audio-Technica AT-ML180 OCC is superior cartridge to all those Technics 100 and 205 series. Search on audiogon if you want to know why.

Dear @audite84 : When you be ready to the re-tip put in contact with me and I will give you the information to contact directly with and I have to tell you that dealing with is not expensive.

What makes to talk persons as the one here against the Technics superior quality level performance just speak because their very low knowledge levels.

I remember that when I had to send my EPC100C MK4 to been fixed by VdH another gentleman here had the same problem ( both of us bougth the cartridges from the same seller in NOS condition and were the stand alone version not the one with integrated headshell. ) and I gave him the information about.

Things were that this gentleman just bougth a Lyra Atlas LOMC cartridge and when the Technics came back to him he posted here that performed even better than his Atlas.

I repeat those Technics models are way superior to the ATs, Stantons or even almost all vintage MM/MI cartridges but the AKG P100LE and the ADC 26/27.

There are several vintage MM/MI cartridges where you need and keep your " eyes " on it as: Astatic MF-2500, Empire 4000/D3, Grado The AmberTribute, Sonus Dimension5, Nagaoka MP50 Super, Nagatron 9600, Shure Ultra 500, Acutex 320 III STR,  Azden YM-P50VL, Micro Acoustic MA630, Grado G-1+.

You can be sure that any one of them beats AT/Stanton and the like. Yes you need patience to find out any of them. Keep in touch.

In the other side today MM/MI/LOMC cartridges are excellent performers and with the advantage of manufacturer warranty.


Recently had my Benz L2 (not sure of age but it's older) rebuilt by Steve at VAS.  I think he can pretty much rebuild anything that's wrong with one from replacing a worn stylus to a complete rebuild.  Did a great job too.
@chakster I think the suspension is fine because the cartridge sounds very good. That's my only way of telling. But it is old, so it is possible that the suspension is suboptimal. And thank you for your contribution to the discussion. 

@rauliruegas Thank you. I'm just wondering, is it a good idea to have it retipped with a finer profile? 
I think the suspension is fine because the cartridge sounds very good.

When suspension is softened a cartridge body will be too close to the record surface with recommended tracking force. But the stylus tip on mk3 is very tall, so even if the damper is almost dead there will be some tiny gap anyway. However, this situation is not normal, but it’s a compromise. We discussed Technics low riders with Nadric million times on this forum :) It’s very hard to find a Technics cartridge without softened rubber damper, unfortunately it’s a problem of this brand (I tried so many times).

Dear @audite84: As I posted the re-tipper will check suspension too and if need it to fix it then he will does.

Now, VdH will use it’s own stylus profile/shape that Dr. VDH designed: the VdH one that’s way better than the original and that is the one he uses with the VDH cartridges ( yes, finer profile. ).
Don’t worry about your MK3 will sounds/performs better than ever.

Build date

Mid 1960s - Decca C4E - checked over and retipped by John Wright (London Cartridges) - this is my main system "daily user"
Late 60s - Ortofon SL15 ELL - checked and paratrace retip by Expert Stylus
1981 - Decca Gold Garrott Bros rebuild with later retip by John Wright
1980s - Denon DL103CII - Expert Stylus white sapphire cantilever and paratrace - my study system "daily user"
2003 - Allaerts MC1B - rebuilt and retipped by JA - my other main system "daily user"
2000s - Garrott P77i

1980s - numerous others in the spare cupboard - all working
AKG P8ES Super Nova, Ortofon M20FL, Ortofon VMS30, NOS Grado FTE+

Currently listening to early 80's Pickering XSV/4000 on my Technics 1200 GR. I bought mine from Russian time traveler, NOS condition. It's excellent!
Todays cart flavor is the Pioneer PC-1000 mk2 with Beryllium cantilever. This cart was made in the 70's for legendary Pioneer Exclusive series of turntables and tonearms. Damn good!!!
I am using a pickering XSV 3000 with stereohedron stylus for the past two years nearly every day.  still sounds great.  I am starting to think the older MM have a longer lifespan due to the lower tracking force.
My daily driver is my 1967 Decca FFSS Mk IV C4E - just came back 2 weeks ago from John Wright (London cartridge designer) after an overhaul and new Paratrace tip. Whilst that was away, I was using my 1981 Garrott Brothers Decca Gold.
This LEVEL II is from the mid 80’s, simply wonderful.
Original RUBY work withing the manufacturer's specs (high compliance) according to Test Record measurements of tonearm/cartridge resonance. Not first and not last Grace sample in my collection, never had an issue with any of them! Some NOS styli, more here.

What can be better than unused (still sealed in the box) original stylus for killer vintage MM ?
My Soundsmith Cartridge is a half year old now.  Based on the last two cartridges I had and wore down to nubs I estimate you can get about 500 miles out of a stylus.