Real world life expectancy of a high end cartridge?

While I know they’re supposed to last 1000 hours how many make it all that way?  

Question prompted by my brushing a knuckle on my AS Palladian this afternoon and trashing it ... lesson learned not to try tonearm adjustments without full access to the table (normally I move the table off the wall shelf to a more convenient location to make adjustments, but not this time 😬)

And doesn’t it just happen that the cost of a recipe/trade is exactly my deductible so even insurance is no help 😲

Anyway just needed to vent ... but anyone playing with these expensive baubles better be prepared to reup on a replacement at any moment 🤪
33b07c8b a6d8 4786 bcd8 c42e79bdc595folkfreak
At least you didn't say the cleaning ladd did it!
Stylus life?  Maybe shorter than you think:
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I bought a bottle of Stylast and am applying it before playing every side. Cartridge is a brand-new Denon 103R on a new Pioneer PLX1000. I will keep track of the number of sides played. LAST claims Stylast is a lubricant that will significantly extend stylus life! 
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Great method Elizabeth.
I wish I was that dedicated!

Honestly I can say I am clueless on how many hours on my carts.
I do have 3 right now for main table and tend to rotate them around so hopefully get decent mileage.

Also have been using Stylast for ages, I bought 2 bottles and still nowhere near empty on first bottle!
And to Folkfreak.... Ouch!

Expensive whoopsie!

Stylus life? Maybe shorter than you think:
Beat me to it. Seems 500 hours is likely the safe limit for most styli.
For tracking stylus life I built a little click on/click off elapsed time timer using an electronics module that is good for 999 hours -- most other counters have far too short a period. You can see a picture of it in my system description -- it was a simple enough electronics project. Of course now I need to take it apart to do a reset!
I'm at ~1200 hrs with my Benz Wood SL, and while it still sounds lovely overall, I MAY be imagining slight distortions where there wasn't before.  It certainly isn't obvious, but is enough to have me thinking for a retip, rebuild, or a brand new cart...
The other annoying thing is about the stylus guard that came with this cart. It was so flimsy and poorly designed that I was so scared of damaging the cart trying to put it on I never used it -- if it had been a better designed one I'd have had it on, and this would never have happened. 
I also use the Elizabeth method. Learned about it (possibly from Elizabeth) many years ago.  Click counter on my Ortofon Jubilee shows just over 4,100 sides, and the cart. still sounds good.  My rule of thumb for clicking - any side played over 1/3rd merits a click, as does each side of a 45 rpm 12" disc. 

I've got a dealer demo Ortofon Cadenza Blue waiting in the wings when the Jubilee is retired.
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Elizabeth, Have you ever done a side by side comparison?  One with Stylast and one without?  Of course, you'd have to own two identical cartridges.  

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I really don’t agree with the 500 hr stylus life. I get much more play time out of all the cartridges that I have used since the 70’s. In 1980 I started using Stylast on all of my cartridges before playing. The stuff works ! Don’t believe that BS that it will make the diamond fall off. As for keeping track of how many hours of play on a particular cartridge, I have used a click counter since the 70’s. I don’t count sides but rather albums played. My reason for this is if you count sides you are not getting an accurate time count. For example, I have a lot of 45 rpm 12 inch albums that I play. Average time per side is about 12 minutes. Compare that to a 33.3 album with an average side time of 20-23 minutes you can see how the time get less accurate. So I think album count is a better way to keep track. I use about a 42 minute average for each album. Not perfect but it gives a pretty good ballpark figure.

Right now I have a Ortofon Windfeld cartridge with 3067 albums (around 2200 hrs of play on it). Looking at it with USB microscope the cartridge is starting to signs of wear. I am comparing it with a brand new Windfeld that I own with no play time on it. I am starting to see wear on the sides of the stylus. Looking straight on at the stylus you can see that it is thinner compared to the brand new one. The tip looks great, no flat spot the I can see. Another thing you can see is if your anti-skate is setup correctly. Improper anti-skate will show more ware on one side of the stylus vs the other. Usually the inner groove side shows more wear. I have seen cartridges that have a notch worn in them on the inner groove side because of no anti-skate or improper setup, but that is topic for another time. I don’t want to start that here.

I also have a Benz LPS with 2500 hrs of play. That cartridge is done. You can see wear on the sides and a flat spot on the tip of the stylus. It doesn’t track well anymore and sound is degraded. I think that using Stylast is the reason for the extended stylus life. I don’t think that I have gotten less than 1800 hrs of play out of any cartridge that I have owned since the 80’s, regardless of the manufacturer. I can see nor hear any reason why to replace a cartridge with only 500 hrs of play on it. I think you are wasting your hard earned money if you do.
Drill bits always last longer when lubricated with oil. That is my rationale for using Stylast. As benjie's experience above shows!
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I'm going to be the creep again. Stylast like Last is nothing but freon. A great solvent for non polar substances like oil but nothing more. You can prove this to yourself. Put a drop on a glass slide and let it evaporate. Do it again in the same spot. Do it a thousand times and what you will be left with is absolutely nothing on the slide. Zip. Zero. Nada. If there is a positive gain it is just from keeping your stylus clean. But, you can get freon a lot cheaper. We are easy targets for crap like this. By all means keep your stylus clean. The best way to determine stylus life is looking for wear under magnification. Everything else is just guessing.
Click away Elizabeth. 



Mike, how do you know that stylast is freon ? My understanding of freon is that it is a gas at room temperature that only turns into a liquid when it is cooled and compressed. Well it surely isn't being cooled and compressed in the bottle that it is sold in. So if it is freon as you say, how is it in liquid form ? 
Moreover to benjie’s comment, how does the suggested experiment “prove” that stylast is Freon? There are any number of liquids that evaporate without leaving a residue.

 I haven’t used stylast for several years. I was skeptical of the idea to use magic eraser. Then I used a microscope to look at Styli before and after a careful magic eraser treatment. That experiment converted me to magic eraser for cleaning my stylus. No liquids. It’s quite remarkable.
I have no beef with stylast. I certainly never had a problem with it. But where there is smoke, there is sometimes fire.  So I prefer not to take a chance.
Freon boils at minus 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Freon at normal room temp is a gas. But that's probably just the cheap freon everyone else uses. Obviously, Stylast uses the really good room temperature liquid freon. 
It can be kept in the liquid phase when under high pressure, but I agree with your basic point as regards Stylast.
My point would be, how much can it really matter? Pressure on the stylus contact patch is on the order of a ton per square inch. Pressure like that, whatever dirt is on there, ain't gonna be on there for long. Add to that, no record ever is perfectly clean. Cannot be. Even if it were somehow absolutely clean going on the platter, the second the stylus touches down it begins microscopically scraping and shaving and scattering tiny little bits of vinyl all over the place. So forget about that.

This is yet another one of those areas guys fret and stew and fuss over what don't amount to a hill of beans. You clean enough to get the obvious crud off. All the rest is marketing. 
@millercarbon I think there are two sorts of problems caused by dirt on the stylus. In the long term build up of baked up crud is of course a problem and a good thorough cleaning regimen is needed to prevent that. But more problematic and more annoying is the quick build up of a ball of fluff. My hypothesis is that this little ball actually interferes with the ability of the stylus to ride the groove and is often audible as a halo or buzz around the sound -- like mild mistracking.  Some stylus profiles are more prone to this than others but pre brushing each disc and a quick check/clean after each side keeps this under control. I use a tacky pad for the quick cleans and the magic eraser for deeper cleans but checking with a scope after each couple of plays allows me to get on top of issues before they arise.

That's all assuming you haven't bent your cantilever 90 degrees -- which was the point of the thread after all. Arguing about 500, 1000 or 2000 hours is besides the point if your expensive jewelry has bought it along the way!
Cantilever bent 90 degrees! I actually had that! Stanton 681EEE. Needle-nose pliers bent it back. Straight as I could get it anyway. Still had a kink in it. Seemed to play just fine. Now, pretty sure if that happened with my Koetsu it would not sound the same. But it is all relative. Which is my point.

Like this whole thing about hours. What a lot of hoo-haw. As opposed to Hee-Haw, which at least had Roy Clark going for it.
Re bending it back -- surprisingly given it's a megabucks cart it's a simple Aluminum cantilever so could be bent back -- but not sure how that would affect my trade value! And "audiophile nervosa" and all that 😖
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I would say that sounds about right.
My first bottle is maybe just over half empty and likely bought a pair of bottles about 6 years ago or so.
And I am not as diligent about applying it every side as I should be.

Great laugh.
Oh sorry that would be nitrous oxide....
Benjie, Freon is now a very loose term. There are many types that have different vapor pressures. Chlorofluorocarbons are also used as solvents not just refrigerants. They have a unique smell, the smell of Last products and cleaning agents like brake cleaner. They are excellent solvents, evaporate very quickly and are electrically neutral. So, you can spill the stuff in your amp and nothing will happen unlike water or alcohol. There only major problem is that they deplete the ozone layer. Chlorofluorocarbons will not chemically change anything. They are inert. There is nothing in Last products that does not evaporate. Anyone can prove this to themselves with a microscope slide. Don't believe me! 
Last products are great but extraordinarily expensive cleaning agents but nothing else. Keeping your stylus and records clean is important and it will allow them to last longer. I have never worn out a stylus and I watch them under my office microscope. All the cartridges that have failed on me have done so electrically.  
Oh Uberwaltz there is absolutely nothing funny about Freon. In making comments like that you just demonstrate your ignorance on the topic. 
Freon is a large molecule. All you have to do is keep the top on and very little will escape. If you want to have fun just leave the top off over night and see what happens:) Let us know about the results. 
Millercarbon, you ever use brake cleaner? It costs maybe $2.50 a can.
I think the only thing we demonstrated is your touchiness on the

TBH Freon is a bad term to use anyway as I think you realise with the description in one of your posts.

"The term "freon" is a common descriptor or proprietary eponym (similar to a generic trademark) like "xerox" or "kleenex." It is commonly used when referring to any fluorocarbon refrigerants. "

Yes Wikipedia is a wonderful source...….

Note to self, must try harder!

Mijo, Besides your insistence and your claim that the Last products "smell" like Freon, you have presented no evidence for your claim beyond your observation that it evaporates without leaving a residue.  I guess we're going in circles, but many solvents evaporate, leaving no obvious residue. I think there is a very old thread where someone claimed Stylast was an alcohol, which is why it might harm the adhesive used to bond the stylus to the cantilever, in that person's way of thinking.

By the way, I think brake cleaner, as sold in spray cans, is ether or closely related chemical, not freon.  Ether also does evaporate leaving no detectable residue.  I don't doubt that Stylast is a re-packaging of something not too exotic, and that it is very expensive on a per ounce basis.  But we have lots of testimony, including my own, that one small bottle lasts for years if not decades.  There are much bigger rip-offs in audio.  Of course, I stopped using it a few years ago because of those rumors about damage to the glue or the migrating-up-the-cantilever story. Plus the fact that Magic Eraser works so incredibly well while avoiding any danger that might be posed by any liquid cleaner.
It might be a volatile substance diluted in water, suggesting that after a certain amount of time, the volatile active ingredient may evaporate, leaving only water.

Reading through the discussion Mike you keep talking about Stylast as a cleaner. I don't use that product. I am using the Stylast 5 stylus treatment which is used as a lubricant for the stylus to protect against heat and wear. It has NO cleaning properties associated with it. If you tried to clean your dirty stylus with this product you would see that the dirt just balls up on the stylus tip, it does not remove it. I believe Last states this in the usage instructions for the product to make sure the stylus is clean before applying Stylus 5. I think we all agree that the most important thing here is to keep the stylus as clean as possible. I take it a step further by using Stylus 5 to extend the life of the stylus.

Rather than relying on someone who obviously knows very little (if anything) about the products of The Last Factory, head over to the company’s website and have your questions answered. Neither Stylast nor Last Record Preservative (used by The Library of Congress to prevent the deterioration of their historical discs) contain any alcohol or other solvent, and certainly not Freon. That statement is absolutely false, and if I were Walter Davies (owner of the company, and one of the three chemists who developed their Patented products (ever tried getting a patent on Freon? ;-), why I’d.....

David Wilson did a study of Stylast when he was a reviewer at The Absolute Sound (he was at that time primarily a recording engineer and record company owner, very concerned with LP playback gear), measuring the improvement afforded by Stylast. His findings were published in Issue 32, the measurements validating the improvement in LP sound provided by Stylast as reported by Tam Henderson in Issue 20.

Last Record Preservative and Stylast reduce wear to both the vinyl of LP’s and the diamond of stylii. Neither contains Freon, alcohol, or any other solvent. Stylast not only doesn’t in anyway harm the elastomer suspension of cartridges, the Stylast fluid that makes it’s way up to that suspension is absorbed into the rubber, keeping it from drying out. Davies reports the use of Stylast can prolong the life of a diamond stylus by a factor of ten. Last Record Preservative is just as effective at reducing wear of LP vinyl.

The analysis in the link below is most interesting. Empirical data and research is the best to get to the truth of matters. I have a partial bottle of Stylast but not used it in years; will start using what I have left.

On the other hand, see the * review on Amazon:

Has anyone else experienced what he experienced?
Probably a good idea if I check what I use BEFORE posting not after... Doh.

I am and have been using Lyra SPT not Last products for my stylus treatment.

I DO use Last for tape head treatment though.
From the LAST instructions!

1) brush the stylus diamond before side one
2) apply Stylus Cleaner #4
3) brush the stylus diamond
4) apply Sylast Preservative #5
6 play side one
7) brush the stylus diamond
8) apply Stylast Preservative #5
9) play side two
10 repeat with next Lp

Without using Stylus Cleaner #4 and Stylast Preservative #5 together, you will not get the longest stylus life!

Thanks for posting those instructions. I have both the cleaner and preservative, will use in that order.
I just strolled through this thread...

One poster said "Stylast is nothing but Freon". My memory recalls this same response in another thread.
@don_c55 ,

Of coarse, there's nobody that can verify your findings.
Wow, I simply just replace the stylus when I notice it doesn’t sound right. Usually a year maybe two?  My favorite is the ancient Nagaoka MP11 Boron.  Love the fact that I can switch between elliptical, and conical depending on what I am playing.  

A few years ago I re-tipped my 1966 Denon 103 for the first time.  I must say that after the re-tipping I noticed absolutely not one bit of difference.  My Decca Red still has it’s original stylus and sounds fantastic.

Most of my cartridges are from the 70’s and 80’s and most still have their original stylus.  I never thought of counting playing time, I just simply listen.  Works for me.

My cartridges last five or six years, and I play Lps 3 hours per day ave.
That is my experience!

I use the golf clicker too, but have settled on 20 minutes a side. I keep two cartridges, an SPU Synergy and Benz Micro LP and have re tipped them both once.There seems to be two issues regarding cartridge life, sound quality and record wear. Of the two, record wear concerns me most, my ears are too old to notice sound degradation anyway.

Anyone care to comment, assuming no damage, which would tend to come first, sound decline or record damage? I have always assumed it's sound degradation.

I would say that you would notice a degradation in sound first. My reason being is that the stylus sides wear first, causing less contact with the sides of the groove wall. You will hear distortion and noise in the record that wasn’t there before. One channel my get weaker in sound output. Most people don’t look at their stylus head on with a USB microscope, they just look at the stylus from the side and only look at the tip of the stylus to see if it is getting a flat spot. Looking head on you can see the stylus getting thinner which is more important. When you look at the side of the stylus you want to see if you are getting what they call as a cat’s eye starting to form about half way up the side of the stylus. When you have those two conditions, your stylus is worn but I do not believe to the point where it will start to damage a record yet. Think of it as your "Check Engine Light " has just come on. Time to think about some parts replacement.

As I stated above I have a Windfeld cartridge with about 2200 hrs of play and the last time I checked the stylus I saw that the stylus is thinner and I am starting to get that cat’s eye forming in the side of the stylus. Even though the cartridge still track well and sound distortion free, I would say that it is at the end of its life.
Benjie, You see the cat eyes when you look straight down on the stylus. The eyes will be adjacent to the very tip, one on each side, not 1/2 way down unless you have a stylus that is smaller than anyone knows how to make. The Windfeld is a great cartridge. You would have to spend a lot more to get anything that sounds appreciably better. In terms of tracking you can not find a better tracking cartridge at any price. Send it back to Ortofon and have them re-manufacture it. 

When I was in high school I worked for DBx in Waltham. I constructed the chassis for 32 channel noise reduction units. We had a large bath that cleaned the flux off of circuit boards. We filled it every morning with a Freon. I lived with that smell for a year. Most Chlorofluorocarbons smell pretty much alike. I did not say brake cleaner was Freon. It is another Chlorofluorocarbon that smells pretty much like a Freon. Last is a Freon and nothing else. Its your money. 
Neither Iso propyl or Ethyl alcohols will attack the adhesive used to fix styli in place. You can use Ethyl (denatured) alcohol to clean up uncured epoxy but once the epoxy has cured the alcohols won't touch it. 

Mike, Let me try and clarify my last post, I think I might be confusing you. Most people do not look at their stylus straight on, level with the stylus. It is very difficult to setup your USB scope in that position while the cartridge is mounted to the tonearm. No I am not looking down at the stylus to see if there are cat’s eyes developing on the sides of the stylus.

This is how I inspect my cartridge. I have a Graham Phantom II Supreme tonearm. As you probably know the arm wand is removable. I remove the wand with the cartridge still attached and lay it upside down which gives me full access to the stylus. I am able to view it at any angle with no obstructions. Most of the time I will use a 60X illuminated loupe to do my inspection. I am able to look directly at the stylus head on to see how thin the diamond is getting. I am also able to look directly at each side of the stylus to see if the cat’s eye is starting form. The tip of the stylus can also be viewed in this position. That is the beauty of having the ability to remove the arm wand with the cartridge still attached. After I have done my inspection I just screw the arm wand back on and I am ready to play records again. Don’t have to do any re-setup of the cartridge because I did not move anything. And that is the real beauty of this. I am able to check the wear of the stylus every 200 hrs in just a few minutes. Hope this clears things up.
Pleased to find out that when my Dynavector DV 20X2L cantilever finally died after 3000 hours and alcohol induced fumbling that Dynavector dealer gave me a good discount on a replacement trade in. Not sure if this is WW?
I love the way people argue rather than taking 5 minutes to check the facts readily available on line, e.g. Google for Walter Davies's patent on Stylast ...

As a funny coincidence the patents expires today July 6th 2019. This is his only patent in his name in this field and is quite easy to read. It seems to describe the product he went on to sell in rather different terms to those used in prior replies here and reading it may add fuel to the fire.

You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink!.......