Record Player Stylus Replacement

Change Cartridge To Turntable Upgrade 

Technics Turntable
Technics Turntable

A record player stylus replacement will take place depending upon the usage of your playing vinyl records. Whether you are a beginner or an audiophile, over time, you will have to replace the stylus or styli (needle). The time to change the cartridge or needle is a great opportunity to think about upgrading to a better cartridge for your turntable. In order for you to upgrade to a better cartridge your tonearm must allow you to remove the existing one. Otherwise, you can only replace the needle and not the cartridge.

All record styluses will wear out at different rates. Changing them will be based upon usage as mentioned before.

The stylus or needle should be changed after 500-1000 hours of use. A good rule of thumb to follow is if you play your records everyday then you might have to change the styli (needle) about every 6 months to a year. For those that play records once in a while, you probably don’t have to change the styli for 2 or more years. However, if you should notice any sound discrepancies, change the needle or upgrade to a better cartridge.

If you are a beginner in playing vinyl records, it’s important to clean the stylus after playing an album or 45 RPM records. By doing this it will increase the life of the needle, and provide better sounding vinyl music. Taking care of the needle is very important step not to overlook in the maintenance of your turntable.

Video – Changing The Stylus

Below is a short video on how often you should replace the stylus or needle.

Types of Cartridges

There are two types of cartridges on the market today that you can buy for your turntable and they are the Moving Magnet (MM) or Moving Coil (MC). Both types are explained below.

Moving magnet cartridges tend to produce lush, mellow sound. They are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and levels of quality. Most MM cartridges have replaceable styli. Their high voltage output, variety, and the availability of stylus replacement make Moving Magnet cartridges a great choice for the beginner and audiophile alike. These cartridges are less expensive than the MC types. See figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Moving Magnet & Moving Coil

Moving Magnet & Moving Coil Cartridges
Moving Magnet & Moving Coil Cartridges

A moving coil setup requires much more consideration for you system, as well as a familiarity with audio component setup. Moving coil cartridges are not always the best idea for a beginner. Many MC cartridges will not work in pre-amps designed for MM cartridges. Modern receivers often do not have an input for turntables (this section is usually labeled “Phono“), if your receiver does not have this feature you will need a separate pre-amp to drive your turntable, and an open auxiliary plug-in. If the modern, or vintage receiver does have this section you will need to know if it is configured for MM or MC. If the unit is not clearly labeled your manual will provide you with specifications. Some units are configured for both and all you need to do is move the switch into the proper position. Be prepared to spend lots of money for the MC cartridges. See figure 2 below.

Matching Cartridge with Turntable

In order to obtain the best sound from your turntable and system, it should be matched by type of cartridge, preamp, and tonearm. When you are purchasing a new cartridge it is essential to take the time to ensure the proper balance between these parts are met.

PreAmp Matching

Be sure when selecting a preamp that you can match it with the type of cartridge you are going to buy. So, if you are going to use MM cartridges, make sure that the preamp unit can play the MM cartridge type. In some cases, some preamps come with both cartridge types MC & MM. You just have to flip a switch to the proper position to match the cartridge your turntable will be playing.

If the turntable you own does not have a preamp in it, you will have to purchase one separately. When you select one be sure it will play the MM or MC cartridges your turntable is using. Failing to match up the preamp with the cartridge it will alter the sound coming from the turntable. Some units have a switch for playing both types.

Tonearm Matching

Types of Cartridges – Moving Magnet & Moving Coil

Generally, moving coil cartridges provide the best overall sound quality. However, they are also the most expensive.

Moving magnet cartridges cost a lot less than moving coil ones. If you have the money, go for a MC cartridge. If you have limited funds then focus on a high end MM cartridges.

Tonearm/Cartridge Compatibility

For best performance, the tonearm and cartridge should be matched. All cartridges will not work with all tonearms, and vice versa. To insure a proper match, one must be aware of the mechanical specifications of both the arm and phono cartridge.

Compliance of the cartridge should be within 7 Hz and 12 Hz. The optimal frequency is 10 Hz. Below is a basic formula:

(tonearm + cartridge mass) and cartridge compliance = Hz resonance.

Any cartridge/tonearm combination will exhibit resonance at a specific frequency (or frequencies). This resonance is due to the interaction of the cartridge (acting as a spring), and the weight of the arm (acting as a mass). The “springiness” of the phono cartridge is described as compliancethe weight of the arm is specified in massSee Figure 2 below.

Figure 2. See the graph below (curtesy of Ortofon)

Ortofon Total Mass Chart
Ortofon Total Mass Chart

Below is a website that has a calculator that will provide you with the proper frequency.

Total (tonearm system) mass can be calculated by using the formula M = 10⁶ : (f² x (2π)² x C where:
f – Cartridge resonance frequency in Hz
π – 3.14159265359…
C – Cartridge compliance in µm/mN
NB: Total (tonearm system) mass M is a sum of Mass of cartridge, Mass of headshell and screws and Effective mass of tone arm (all values in gram)

How To Clean The Turntable Stylus or Needle

Another important maintenance job that must be done on a regular basis is cleaning the stylus or needle. Basically, there are two ways to clean the stylus without having to bust the budget and they are a needle brush or Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Both options are explained below.

Needle Brush

When using the needle brush, take the brush and brush the needle in the same direction as the record spins on the turntable. Back to forward. Do this a couple of times and the needle is clean. Do NOT brush the needle sideways as this will damage the needle.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

Cut off a small piece of material and place it on the record where the needle would normally play. Hover the needle over the material. Lower the needle on the material. Then, raise the needle. This up and down process cleans the needle. Do this a couple of times. The needle is totally cleaned.

How often should I clean the needle? The answer to this question is very easy. Clean the needle on a regular basis. For example, if you are a regular listener of your vinyl records, once a week should be fine. For serious vinyl users, clean the needle or stylus after playing one side of an album.

By doing this, you will increase the life of the needle and your vinyl records.

Shopping Cartridges & Needles

Now you are ready to shop for cartridges and replacement needles. Some cartridges do have the ability to separate (remove) the styli (needle) that can be replaced. This allows you to retain the cartridge and just replace the old used styli (needle). If your aim to upgrade to a new cartridge, you will need to inspect the tonearm to determine if it allows you to remove it from the tonearm. If yes, you are good to upgrade. If no, you can only replace the needle.

In the shopping section below, there will be MM and MC cartridges for you to compare and purchase. When shopping for needles or cartridges you need to know which type of cartridge your system will be using. Just click on any image below to place the order on Amazon.

As an Amazon associate I earn from qualified purchases.

Audio Technica AT-F7 Moving Coil Cartridge

Denon 103 Moving Coil Cartridge

Denon DL-110 High Output Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Black Cartridge

Denon DL-108 Moving Coil Cartridge

Hana SL Moving Coil Cartridge

Audio Technica AT33SA Moving Coil Cartridge

Sumiko Blue Point #2 MC Cartridge

Shure M92E Moving Magnet Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Moving Magnet Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Mono Moving Magnet Cartridge

REGA Carbon Moving Magnet Phono Cartridge
Ortofon Bronze 2M Moving Magnet Cartridge

Audio Technica AT440MLa Dual Moving Magnet Cartridge

Rega Elys MK2 Moving Magnet Cartridge

Audio Technica At95e Moving Magnet Cartridge

Audio Technica AT95EX Moving Magnet Cartridge

Shure M97xE Moving Magnet Cartridge & Kit
Shure M97xE Moving Magnet Cartridge

Shure M44-7 Moving Magnet Cartridge with Black Headshell

Audio Technica VM530EN Elliptical Moving Magnet Cartridge

Audio Technica AT91R MM Cartridge

Audio Technica VM520EB Elliptical MM Cartridge

Audio Technica AT440MLB MM Cartridge

Audio Trchnica AT100E MM Cartridge

Ortofon OM Pro S MM Cartridge

Ortofon OM Premounted MM Cartridge with Headshell

Ortofon Super OM10 MM Cartridge

Ortofon 2M 78 PMP Cartridge

Ortofon OM-Q Bert MM Cartridge
Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Blue MK II MM Cartridge

Ortofon OM5e MM Cartridge
Shure 91ED Stylus

N97XE Replacement Stylus for M97xE

N95ED Shure Replacement Stylus

Shure VN 35E Replacement Needle
Ortofon 2M Red Replacement Stylus

Ortofon 2M Blue Replacement Stylus

Ortofon Q Bert Replacement Stylus

Ortofon Pros S Replacement Stylus

Denon DL 301MK2 Moving Coil Cartridge

Audio Technica AT33PTG Moving Coil Cartridge

Grado Prestige Blue2 Standard Mount Cartridge

Grado Prestige Gold2 Standard Mount Cartridge

Audio Technica ATN95E Replacement Needle

Shure N44C Replacement Needle for M44C

Shure N44G Replacement Needle M44G

2 N447Z Shure Replacement Stylus for M44-7, M447

Stylus & Record Cleaning Supplies

Record Player Stylus Cleaner Brush

Groove Washer SC1 Stylus Cleaning Kit

Ortofon Stylus Brush

ONZOW ZeroDust Sylus Cleaner


Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Pads

RD1006 Discwasher Vinyl Record Cleaning Kit

Boundless Audio Carbon Anti-Static Cleaning Brush

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