Re-tipped phono cartridges


I noticed a lot of ads for re-tipped phono cartridges are suggesting this is an improvement over the original. I respectfully disagree. Regardless of the new stylus the integrity of the original design has been compromised. Think of it as a fine Italian automobile with a blown engine. It can be fixed but is it ever truly the same?
dreadhead
I would not say it is one side or the other. Too many variables.

Only a comparison of the two via listening and looking at what has been done in the specific cartridge in hand... some measurements, and then look at the two points as a set..and then spread it across a few people of reasonable balanced thinking... then... we might have an average of some sort.

Anything else tends to be in error. As in, black and white does not exist --It’s just a desire in the mind, essentially...a human frailty.

The bigger problem is... if it is vintage... there is no way to obtain an original -in original condition- to do the comparison with. And many other possible scenarios of unfolding complexity.
"fine Italian automobile"

Good one.
You are confusing two differing ideas. By definition, any change, not by the manufacturer, compromises the original conception, or the “integrity” of the design, as you put it.

However, this does not preclude the eventuality that a listener might perceive the new cantilever material, or stylus profile, to be a sonic improvement.

Sometimes putting a 440 in that Challenger is better than the 225 that it came with. Though it’s only original once.

As far as the ads go, it’s really simple. Don’t buy one.
I noticed a lot of ads for re-tipped phono cartridges are suggesting this is an improvement over the original. I respectfully disagree. Regardless of the new stylus the integrity of the original design has been compromised.

Absolutely, this is what i’ve been posting here for a long time. And every cartridge manufacturer will tell us the same, J.Carr explained it on this forum. It is always a compromise, especially when the cantilever is replaced.

There are plenty of amazing original cartridges on the market, especially the vintage cartridges, sometimes the price for a whole new cartridge (even with Diamond cantilever) is very close to the service price charged by retipper for a new cantilever/stylus. I’ve bought a few NOS (never used) Dynavector cartridges with Ruby and Diamond cantilever for less than retippers service price. When the actual NOS cartrisge with the most expensive diamond cantilever cost less than sevice price it means something.

People upgrading some inferior cartridges with better cantilevers and better diamonds and i can understand it, but still i would rather buy a better cartridge from the start. I can also understand if someone tried so many cartridges and there is an absolute favorite discontinued model, original designed is retired and you can only fix it with someone else.

Many cantilevers were made exclussively for specific cartridge manufacturer, not available today for anybody else. beryllium cantilever for example. Hollow Pipe Boron cantilever for example. Short gemstone cantilevers. They are NOT available for ANY retipper. Replacing those with something else is a compromise, not the best solution. Also they know nothing about calculation made by the original designed (before he decided to use one or another cantilever/stylus etc). An original designer can make 20-50 samples of the cartridge prototype using different materials before he will chose one. Each state of the art cartridge is voiced by the original designer. 

My analogy is not a cars, but a plastic surgery. Some people don't mind to add a bit of silicone to some parts of their body, or change the shape of the nose for example. They think it's better.  



Well, if someone is sending a cartridge for retipping, it's usually because it's sounding pretty ratty.  So it makes sense that the one that comes back is an improvement over what they remember.  But the deterioration of a phono cartridge is so gradual, I'm not sure anyone could accurately remember the sound of the original. BTW, I had Soundsmith retip a Transfiguration cartridge for me and it sounded great, so I wouldn't hesitate.  It only cost $500 as opposed to a new one for a couple grand, so there's that as well. 
We have seen different assumptions about durability of styli.
From, say, 500 till 2000 hours. Whatever the case at some point
in time the stylus will wear out. There are then two alternatives.
Exchange for the new cart by the manufacturer which offer this
possibility or ''retip'' in two variations; either stylus only or stylus
and cantilever combo retip. The later is more expensive but the
first more difficult to do. So, obviously, the retipper will prefer
the combo. By MC kinds this consist in gluing new cantilever/
stylus combo in the so called ''joint pipe''. This is usually aluminum 
pipe on which the coils and tension wire are fastened and in which 
the cantilever is glued. By MM kinds the new cantilever is glued 
 on the restant of the old cantilever. 
Accodrinf to the Technics research published here the type of the cantilever and the whole moving mass is very important.

Technics engineers explained it very well:

"Somewhere in the high frequencies, every cartridge has an undesirable resonance point. Undesirable because there the frequency response curve climbs a sudden peak. If that peak is in the audible range, your records sound not as intended. That resonance frequency is determined by the total effective moving mass of the vibrating system - the summed masses of the diamond stylus and, most importantly, the cantilever and magnet, etc. To shift that harmful resonance frequency up into the high supersonics, the effective moving mass must be reduced to the lowest possible minimum. Also, too much effective moving mass increases the mechanical impedance, thereby negatively affecting the cartridge’s tracing ability."

As you can see on this image they are comparing Hollow Pipe Boron to a pure Diamond rod cantilevers. The high frequency peak is different.

I have a better example of the same technology on high resolution image of my Grace LEVEL II with hollow pipe boron cantilever and MicroRidge stylus.

The difference of this technology is obvious, can you see any glue around the stylus tip on my images ? It’s nothing but a grown crystals of Pure Boron into a pipe configuration. A tip mounting hole made using a laser beam. This is all about low moving mass and superb rigidity.

Unfortunately none of the retipper can offer Hollow Boron Pipe cantilever these days. They can’t mount the stylus using laser drilling techniques, instead they are using a huge amount of glue just like this (on boron rod) or like this (on ruby rod).

When you retipper is not qualified you can get something like this (horrible job, will you accept it even if it's cheap?). In comparison just look at the original from the manufacturer.






Dear chakster, I don't know when my Klyne 7PX 3.5 is produced
(80is?) but there are ''filters'' included for different hf frequency 
resonances. From 20 Khz till 35 Khz. There are also recommendation for about 30 wel known MC carts. The ''system'' is called ''high frequency contour''. So the phenomenon you mentioned was well known back then already.  

Retipping a cartridge is a silly idea. There is much more stuff inside the cartridge that wears out such as the suspension and coil connection wires. The manufacturer will remanufacture the cartridge giving it an entirely new armature/cantilever/ stylus assembly. Oh, what happens to the coil wires is that years of vibration work hardens the metal and eventually they just snap. Always have your valuable cartridges remanufactured by the original company. Always keep an eye on your stylus with a microscope. Do not wait until you hear something. That’s way too late.
Seems to me retipping a cartridge is like changing the oil on your car without changing the filter.  Break it out the wallet & buy a new one. 
Hi Chakster,
What camera were you using when you took those high resolution pictures? I want to invest one to examine some of my cartridges.
Thanks,
Calvin
That is easy to say when you have a $45 Shure. $16,000 Goldfinger? Not so easy. 
Yes @nandric i see this feature in the manual for your Klyne, but the recommendations given for the original cartridges. I believe when someone change the original cantilever (especially boron pipe) to something else (including boron rod) the moving mass will be different, also the stylus tip is not the same, so everything will be different comparing to the original. As the result: the response is different according to this article. Technics research was made back in the 70's. 

Maybe we can compensate somehow by tuning equipment, or maybe our ears can't detect the difference, but this is not what i'm trying to say here.

 In theory changing cantilever and tip we're getting a different cartridge with different moving mass and difference response at high register. I'm sure this is only one aspect of a much more complicated thing that i don't understand as i am not a cartridge designer.

What i often read here is the "retipped is better than the original", but then i realize slowly that people never compared a pefrect original to retipped/refurbished sampe in A/B test. They are sending a cartridge for retip to get in back in 5 month often. Probably their cartridge degraded in sound earlier, i have no idea how they can compare retipped sample to original if they don't have two samples of the same cartridge on hands. Referring to a faulty memories is not the same, this is not A\B test, such comparison is irrelevant in most cases, except maybe a well trained audiophiles/professionals.   

I am comparing cartridges on 4 tonearms in one system and i know how faulty our memories really is, even after 10 minutes.
I've had Andy Kim retip my Clearaudio Virtuoso.  Not because the stylus was worn, but because I broke the cantilever.  I hate Clearaudio's design, the cantilevers stick out way in front of the cart.  I couldn't detect any difference in sound and was very happy with the results. 

I have also had my Van Den Hul MC Two retipped.  In that case, it was retipped and the suspension replaced by AJ Van Den Hul himself.  Pretty close to getting a new cartridge from the master at about 25% of the cost of getting a new one.
@chakster 

What camera, please? I too would like to monitor my stylus in as much detail as your 'MicroRidge' image.

Thanks!
hey @terry9  the camera is iPhone with additional analog Macro Lens added right on the iPhone body, there are many available and all of them are very cheap, probably under $20, i got mine for free from a friend and it's no name lens (mounted with magnet or bracket). 

The key factor is natural light. 
@chakster

Amazing! Thank you!
@chakster 

Sometimes the recognition SW doesn't seem to work ... 
Dear chakster, ''free will'' and ''free choice'' are inscrutable notions.
The first is invented by Kant the second is suggested by liberal
capitalism. I think that you assume both in your advices (grin).
Even the manufacturer have no ''free choice'' for cart parts but
are dependant from their supplier. There is no sense in ''longing
for , say, Berillium cantilever'' if those are not produced. You are
what German call ''idealist'' which is curious attitude in ''not
ideal reality''. But it is true that we can afford idealistic attitude
in our forum and be pragmatic in reality. To me this means that
if you own some very good cart but, alas, with wear out stylus,
the pragmatic solution is to retip stylus only. If cantilever is also
damaged then, obviously, the combo of both can be got for about
$400.  With present cart prices not an difficult decision. 
Even if a certain cantilever and cartridge is not produced anylonger there are many of them on the market, even unused samples (perfectly working). So many good ones under $1k, sometimes we can win a $500 NOS cart with Diamond cantilever (like Dynavectors i have mentioned) or we will pay the same for new boron rod to retipper who is not the original manufacturer of the cartridge and the result can be way different in sound as i explained earlier. 

I wish to read more from the OP, because this is not my thread

P.S. Personally i will always buy a new cartridge (a vintage one in NOS or Excellent condition) instead of retipping service. Simply because i don't have a favorite cartridge yet, even after inspected many of them, there is always something better i can find over the years. That rare Miyabi MCA impressed me a lot, it can be my cartridge of the month :)