NOS cartridges

I've seen several older carts for sale both used and NOS. I always thought there were issues with the elastomers and other materials in an older cart even though it may have never been used, making an investment in one a chancy proposition. Is this a valid concern?
Yes, it is. I wouldn't buy NOS carts if I were you.
I am not so sure, I have cartridges over 20 years old I use occasionally and they are used as well as old. I have considered buying NOS and would if I wanted the cartridge.
I would suggest you read the many many pages on the

"Who needs a MM cartridge type when we have MC?" thread

I have bought 3 NOS MM's that are over 20years of age and they play just fine
of more then 20 NOS cartridge I have only on ADC XLM II(Made in USA, Made in Japan are very good), ADC Astrion and Sonus Gold Blue the suspension wasn't good.
I have a number of 20 and 30 plus years old carts (all MM or MI tho') and ALL sound very good in deed.
I had two new MC carts (Ortofon) and both of them had suspension problems and had to be replaced (a 6 month effort in each case).
Now go figure...
A lot of may have to do with the temperature and humidity they were stored at. Preferably cooler temps and lower humidity I think would keep them in better condition longer.
Dear Rickmac: I agree with the other people posts. Don't worry about. I already buy over 60+ second handa and NOS vintage carrtridges and only one of them with a suspension problem.

Do you think that your Grace 707 tonearm performs in good condition afeter all those years that when manufactured? are you sure that its bearing and internal wire are like " new " in quality performance?, but performs very well: right?

regards and enjoy the music,
Big Difference between wire, bearings, and rubber elastomers. I have stated this before. Experts before, in the age of vinyl nirvana, in the 1980's always recommended that cartridges be replaced every 18 months regardless of useage, including NOS, never used. This is due to the oxidation that occurs naturally. This happens to Pinch Rollers, Belts, etc...on tape decks as well. But these are much easier treated with rubber cleaner/conditioner to restore the rubber. This is not easy, and almost impossible to do with the damper in a cartridge. Its definately risky buying old, NOS cartridges for this reason. its human nature, gonna happen, you cant change that. so, much safer to buy New Cartridges that are within proper date. i know that many of you post here whatever Raul says, but thats his opinion, and he is entitled to it. But doesn't make it right. Id be wary of NOS cartridges, unless you can buy new quality replacement stylii, like those from JICO. Then its a different story. Ray
I hardly think that I belong to Raul's posse considering the disagreements we have had in the past. As I said I use older cartridges all the time, in a recent test in HIFICRITIC a 18 year old Shure V-15, put in as a reference, outscored several NEW MCs and MMs, some by a large margin. Although I use MCs myself and have since the 70s older MMs can work well. I recently bought a Grace F9E on a used Linn, worked fine and I sold it to a MM user. Took me back to my Grace dealer days. I thought changing your cartridge every 18 months was intended to sell you a new cartridge, it may have applied to el cheapo cartridges but no one I knew paid any attention to it. Nor was it in the dealer lit in the days when there was such a thing. Some of the most respected reviewers talk about cartridges they have used for years, I have never read of one discarding a cartridge because it was old.
Hi Stan,
I have exchanged posts with you in the past, regarding VPI and SME. You tolld me that you were pretty well lost in todays audio, since you gave up business many years ago. I have the source of the writings of this info, regarding cartridge life, and being on the safe side, in replacing cartridges, after certain amounts of usage. As for NOS in a box, it mentioned 18 months, as for usage, some recommend 500-700-1000 hours of usage, depending. Its not something as easy as looking at the stylus tip under high magnification, that can show serious problems, but not really a gauge for replacement. There is a book, that you may well want to invest in, it has many of the experts in Turntables, as well as cartridges as contributors. Its called "Good Sound" by Laura Dearborn....Im not at all looking for an arguement, but posting recommendations from sources far more knowledgeable in this field than myself. Kind of like getting your car oil changed every 3,000 miles. Others will argue that they have gone farther without changing their oil. Thats fine, but much safer, for the guy who follows a schedule, and the 3,000 mile methosd thats been around for years. This was not an attempt to sell more cartridges, but I can see how there are those people out there that would have that be the first thing that pops into their head. I believe that you may not recall reading this, but maybe its something that you missed, after all, this advice was given during the Heydays of Vinyl and Turntables, along with the best of cartridges....the 1980's....Ray
Rayr2 et al, you're misinformed re using old NOS cartridges. I wrote Ortofon in Danish in Denmark and asked them this very question re using a NOS M20FL, and received the following answer from an engineer:

"There's nothing that ages if the pickup isn't used, we have examples of 20 and 30 year old pickups that work. The parts that wear are the diamond and suspension system when used, and dust is another factor that ruins pickups, but again mostly during use. You can comfortably use your M20, the only thing to be aware of is the .5 mm free height between the pickup and the record."

Rayr2, Ortofon is probably the most accomplished pickup/vinyl transducer maker in the world today, having been around the longest with the most success.

*Critically*, don't forget the extreme self bias inherent in pickup makers' supposed recommendations (that I've never heard) that one should replace cartridges every 18 months. If Ortofon says it isn't so, it isn't so.
While I ceased being a dealer for some years I am now one again and I certainly do not consider myself lost in todays audio. I have been a dealer for Supex, Ortofon, Grace, Shure , Sumiko and others in the past and now am a Dynavector and Van den Hul dealer as well as a VPI dealer. I admit that I have lost interest in the parts of the market that feature components costing over $20,000 each. If you want to think that cartridges are good for only 18 months that is your privilege. If anyone out there has an 18 month old Koetsu Rosewood and is ready to throw it away I'll give you $200 for it.
I think the 18 month was for the ceramic.Of coarse I may take what Stanwal doesn't want.After all,they are bad,aren't they.♫
I will provide the information that I have. But a good starting point is Good Laura Dearborn. This book is not biased, like calling a company like Ortofon. This book uses experts in the fields opinions. Creators of Table, Tonearms, etc... and they give the take on cartridge replacement. I would say they are more informed than I am. And whoever you spoke with at Ortofon, I did the same here at their USA plant, and got faulty information regarding a MC3Turbo Cartridge. So, you never know what kind of nimrod is on the other end of the phone. But as a start, it would help you, and many others here, to look for the Book called Good Sound, By Laura Dearborn. Best, Ray
These words are not mine. I am repeating things, statements I have read in audio books, and magazines that afre informative. Some are designers. In fact, one is named Les Watts, a cartridge designer for Shure for many years, and he was cautioning many members of the Forums, such as Audio Karma, Audio Asylum, Vinyl Circle, and others, about how these parts deteriorate over time, even in NOS Stylii. This was a direct conversation that I had with Les Watts, again, a cartridge designer for Shure, not some Salesman, or the like. And he is from the days of Vinyl from 1970's and 1980's. And also a Audio Consultant besides a designer. I am not talking with some of these young kids, or guys that are hired today, that in conversations you can tell, that they know no more than I do, by their responses, and the need to look things up in books because they have no clue of what Im asking. Not everything has to be a moving part to age, and become brittle, its human nature, like Science. I dont care whether you want to accept it ot not, thats on you. But my sources are very reliable, and the cartridge designing was their specialty. Not sales. Les Watts is well known, and worked with the Berrylium cantilevers, the best cartridges that were ever available. I still have his email for contact. So Stan, this may not be advertised on a box, but is in nearly all informative books and magazines about audio, and cartridges/stylii. Ray
Kristian, although I presume that the reply that you received is correct regarding the M20FL, I believe that it may be stretching the truth to extend that explanation to every cartridge.

When it comes to cantilever metallurgy and corrosion resistance, or chemical composition in the damper elastomers, suspension, coil lacquer and so on, there are too many differences between brands and even individual models to apply hard-and-fast rules.

And although Ortofon may be one of the oldest cartridge manufacturers, they have managed to lay a few eggs in production models. For example, at least one model that I know of combined silver coil wire with damper elastomers containing sulfer. The sulfer in the dampers would gradually penetrate the lacquer insulation protecting the wires, attack the silver, and sooner or later the coils would corrode and break. Needless to say, the follow-up to this model was substantially revised.

A couple of other models from several manufacturers (unfortunately all very nice-sounding cartridges) didn't incorporate sufficient strain relief on the coil lead-out wires, and with the constant flexing that regular use would impose on the lead-outs, they would gradually work-harden and eventually break.

Other cartridges used certain aluminum alloy cantilevers that had good performance when new, but were prone to corrosion failure over time (particularly in humid environments), and the cantilevers would tend to collapse after a few years.

All of that said, I agree that an 18 months replacement cycle is much too short for any model that has been designed reasonably competently and used carefully.

hth, jonathan carr (cartridge designer)
I personally felt the same way, when I read this info regarding the shelf life of anew cartridge. That is why I always tried to find audio dealers that sold alot of cartridges, didn't overorder, and was able to buy as new and fresh a cartridge as possible. Because for me, its alot of money to spen on cartridges. Only to have to worry about shelf life. But being in the business, and from a repair/technician point of view, I myself knew that it does make sense. So, I tried to buy as new as possible, and it gave me something to be wary of when buying used cartridges, or old new cartridges. But this was well known by those with the technical know in business back in the day. Im only telling you what was known, and stated by dealers, who has constant conversations with dealers, and me as with the designer, Les Watts from Shure. Ray
Rayr2, If you think the Shures were the best cartridges ever available there is not much more to say. I have been in audio since 1962 myself. Since my PhD is in the History of Science I have some slight acquaintance with it, especially with regard to scientific argumentation. Announcing that something is "Science" is not a good example of it. Nor is quoting statements by others without evidence. This is a forum designed to let members express their views; apparently you are uncomfortable that some of us have ones that differ from yours. That is your problem, not mine. No one has a gun to your head forcing you to buy old cartridges. All I can say is that I am currently considering buying a NOS Ortofon on ebay for my own use. As to which of us knows more about audio I invite anyone in doubt to look at our past posts on this forum.
Ray, Obviously, it's a case by case phenomenon and past history of storage conditions must be an important determinant of cartridge longevity, but there is enough collective experience on this thread alone to put the kibosh on your thesis that cartridges only last 18 months from manufacture, granted that you are only repeating what you learned from two reputable sources. In my 35 years of playing vinyl, I never ever noticed any sort of deterioration in a cartridge after such a short time. In fact, since I don't get that many hours per week to listen, many of my cartridges (purchased new from dealers, not NOS) were still getting better at the 18-month mark. Also, I used to haunt audio salons in the good old days; I never heard any dealer make such a blanket claim re shelf life of cartridges. (By the way, why is Laura Dearborn qualified to expound on this subject, other than the fact that she wrote the book you cite?)
Stan, I could care less whether you agree with what I said or not. You sound like a hostile gentelman. I dont expect everyone to agree with me. Or with what I have heard. I hope you dont get a lemon on that Ortofon, because several already have, if its the M20FL. Also, another thing, I didn't stste Shure was the best cartridge ever made. Again, you take me out of context. Im sorry if you feel you salon is threatened by your lack of knowledge. But thats on you, insecurities are something that with work, you may be able to get over. I dont think any particular cartridge is the best.

As to LewM, I dont think Laura Dearborn has the qualification to make any statements. Other than she did alot of research and interviews. The book is something compiled by her, and is a source of experience, wisdom, knowledge, experimentation, theory and more all by experts in the field. The designers that make all of this gear, cartridges, turntables, speakers, amps, their designs, why they chose them, some great tables vary so greatly in their design, and theory. Its the people in the book, that have the valid information, and opinions and facts that I believe, and are qualified to make such statements. All you could do, is get your hands on a copy, browse through it, and make your own decisions. Im not forcing anything. It seems that you forget when you point the finger, 4 are pointing back at ya. Really, none of this info is my own, but that of experts in this field for many years. And I realize that no single statement hold 100 percent true in all cases. Thus, some cartridges last far longer than others, of the same model even. I cant explain this, but hope your on that lucky end of the stick. Im not here to argue, but to pass on useful info, that came from experts. Its just another way of looking at things, than the way you guys all look at the same thing, all the same way, and attack like ravens anyone that doesnt agree with you, or may have another way of looking at things. I would only accept, or post info that I got from very reliable sources. And that is all I did. Sorry if that offend you Stan. But as you say, I can do this, and Science was just the first word that popped in my mind, I maybe could have used one better. But you get the idea. Read one, look for books and info like I have found. Ray
A stylus last about 2000-3000 hours according to the makers.That said,if parts other than moving parts age too,why do they design and supply replacement styli?To rip us off?If you take 2500 hours and divide it by 18 months,it would take at least 4.5 hours of listening everyday to wear it out.Is it their intention to rip us off,(I doubt it)or do they still not know you shouldn't put a new stylus in your over 18 month old cartridge?Just curious.♫
Wouldn't it be nice if they could design a cost effective MC cartridge with user a replaceable stylus?All those little extra connections plus added mass that would be needed to do that would ruin the MC benefit.It sure would save us from shipping them back to the pro's though.♫
Could somebody ask Laura where to find the expiration date?
Could somebody please find Laura?
I haven't seen an article or heard about her in nearly 10 years or so.
Perhaps she reached her expiration date?
Hifitime, there are such cartridges.
for example Empire MC-5. Extremely good cartridge.
I guess I stand corrected.Every MC I've had,and still have wasn't.Denon,Ortofon,and the list goes on and on.My local dealer that had a good microscope retired.There are a lot of others,but stylus would be a new word to them.So now I have to figure out a way to know when my styli are getting worn(I'm bad at keeping track of play hours).I've had Empire MM's also.Well I always learn something here.Thanks.
There is a guy on the Vinyl Engine, who forgot more about cartridges and stylii than you and I will ever know. And not only him, but others like him, in the business for years, and plenty of experience with the wide cariety of cartridges, and classics for the past decades, late 60's onward, and still very much into cartridges. He and the others have stated that High Power Microscopes, especially ones by Aidio Technica, Technics, and some others were a good way to examine the stylus. AS far as seeing any damage, or possible defects of the stylus tip, and wear pattern, but was not a way to gauge how much time has been put on a stylus, or how much time is left on a stylus. A microscope just was not designed to do this, they are as I said, for examination of the status of a stylus, to know if there were any obvious problems, that would or could be damaging your precious Vinyl. As to how long a stylus will last, in hours, there is no rule that 1000-2000, much less 3000 hours is the norm for the life of a stylus tip that is in proper use. Most I have read, have stated typically 500 hours, to possibly 1000 hours. There may be special, expensive stylii that claim 1000 to 2000 hours, but that is not the norm to anything I have read.

Also, while your having a good time poking fun, at the book "Good Sound" by Laura was for many years a book that most audiophiles, during the real heyday of the 1980's and onwards would order from most of the Vendors that sold Cartridges, Equipment, etc...The Internet was not so popular during this time, or it would have been dominant there as well. There was a second Book published, for Home Audiophiles that was a thinner, in pages,Book that also sold very well. "Good Sound" covered every technical aspect of Turntables, Design, Setup, Tonearms, Amplifier/Preamps and designs of those, Speakers and Placement, also the Designing of these was a very detailed book. Even chapters on Tape Decks and Tuners even though these were on their way out at this time. I would not be without this book, and if you get a chance to get your hands on a copy, and look at it, I promise you, you will not be able to put it down. It does not focus as much on recommending Brands or any peice of equipment, but does have lengthy writeups, on the design and theory of theTop Dogs in this business from ever area. Such as Bill Firebaugh from Well Tempered, and VandenHul, Nelson Pass, Joe Grado, and so many more, like the owners and designers of these companies, Shure, Krell, Audio Research, Pink Triangle, George Merrill, Acoustic Research, Tandberg, Revox, Koetsu, and on and on...thes people comment on all aspects of Audio/Stereo and the design factors that they like in all areas, not just the things that they made, but all areas. Incedible Book, around 300 pages or so, or valuable knowledge. This is my most honest Opinion, and meant to be a help, and enjoyment for all people posting here. The amount of pages dedicated to just Cartridge Setup is amazing, and many little tricks that help in the setup process that save time, and mistakes that lead to doing things twice when not necessary. It also recommends many ways of buying items that are not the most expensive, but most reasonable. You would love the book, I promise you that. Ray
Thanks everyone for your responses. I haven't been involved in this hobby for over 25 years and I'm suspect I'm often living in the past. My introduction to real hi-fi in the late 70's and early 80's is my point of reference and I feel this has been a drawback. My system is not always satisfying and I'm struggling in my attemps to improve it. Thanks again.