Anyone agree or disagree?
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I've looked at styli with special stereoscopes designed for the task. With my untrained eye, I could not really see wear that my ears clearly said was there. The dealer with the scope also pronounced healthy cartridges that I thought were clearly worn (or had other problems like the elastomer in the suspension going bad, etc.).
The short of this is that one's ears are clearly superior to any visual inspection short of something exotic (like a scanning electron microscope).
Larryi: I'm just worried that I may be using a stylus that is causing damage to my records.
I purchased a used record the seller claimed was "mint -" which had significant groove damage (crispy crackling) on both of the final (inner) tracks.
The seller said he was using a better cartridge/turntable which had been professionally set up.
I agree you have to trust your ears but when the damage is done it's done.
I'm pretty confident that what I'm seeing though my budget scope is a healthy "needle".
Thanks to both for the input.
The difference in what you hear and what the seller hears could be a matter of what part of the groove your cartridge is tracking. Different stylus shapes mean they contact the groove at different points. So, the record could actually be damaged and the seller would not know it because he is tracking the undamaged portion. It may not be the case that your cartridge is worn or defective. If it sounds good on all of your other records, I think you don't have a problem.
The new Acoustic Sounds catalog shows a technician inspecting a stylus using a
"Heerbrugg M5 microscope, a Swiss product specifically designed for phono cartridge inspection"...
"This device allows our techs to examine cartridges at up to 50X magnification".
I feel better now that I am, at least, in the ball park.
Dweller- The seller of that album may not have ever cleaned it before playing. Grooves that are worn by styli actually sound more muted than when new, as they've been, more or less, "shaven." Dirt that has been melted into the vinyl by stylus pressure will give that crackley sound you mentioned. Then again; it could have been a noisy pressing to start with. I miss the days when most shoppes that sold cartridges, had an inspection microscope.
They also sell a Handheld, LED Lighted 30x to 100x handheld microscope at Radio Shack for about $20.00 Its ok for the inspecting we are talking about. I know a guy that used to inspect stylii at a Stereo Shop, and is still very active in turntables, etc...and he told me that you need a minimum of 200x to begin to examine stylus wear. I dont know myself. Ray