The cartridge – including the stylus, also referred to as the needle – makes up just a tiny portion of your turntable. Even the largest on the market barely tip the scales at 20 grams and are no bigger than a cherry.
Despite their small size, cartridges are one of the most significant components of a record player. They have the all-important task of transforming the grooves of a vinyl record into an electrical signal. And that’s why swapping out a worn or sub-par cartridge (if your record player allows) for a high-quality one will have a tremendous impact on the sound your turntable can produce.
When should I replace my turntable’s cartridge?
Generally speaking, you should get about 500 to 1,000 hours of play time out of your needle. Keep an ear out for distortion, jumps, fuzziness, background noise, spitting, static, crackles, and blurring – these are all signs that it’s time for a replacement. Also, keep in mind that a worn needle could be damaging your beloved records.
If you’re just looking for a quick-fix, it may be enough to pop in a new needle and call it a day. In fact, this is about as much customisation as many entry-level record players allow. If you are, however, wanting to breathe new life into your turntable’s audio quality, it’s worth taking this opportunity to switch out your old cartridge for a new, higher quality model.
Let’s take a closer look at the key benefit of opting for a top-of-the-line cartridge: next-level sound.
How your turntable cartridge affects sound quality
Higher quality cartridges sound much, much better than lower quality models. Why? Well, there is a whole range of nuanced design elements involved:
- Cantilever. You want a cantilever that’s light yet sturdy. That way, it allows the needle to glide effortlessly between the record walls without adding resonance to the signal.
- Stylus. The profile of the stylus determines how much of the record groove can be read and turned into an electrical signal. Conical is the most basic, and most common, profile. Upgrade options include elliptical, fine-line and Shibata.
- Suspension. The suspension needs to be just so to allow the needle to track the record grooves while maintaining close and constant contact.
- Magnets and coils inside the cartridge. This is where electromagnetic induction occurs – in other words, where information from the record grooves is transformed into an electrical signal. Strong magnets and tight coils found in higher-end cartridges produce the clearest signals.
When these four design features work in harmony, you can expect a richer, higher-resolution sound with a more secure, apparent bass.
You can check out our cartridge range here. Or, for more information, give us a call!