JICO rates stylus wear

the thin end of the wedge
Bebé Tonto

Post by Bebé Tonto » 31 Jan 2011 20:58

Hi Desktop,

You have touched several very interesting topics at once.
desktop wrote:My friends who listen mostly to classical music or unprocessed vocal music are quicker to complain about distortion, often becoming unhappy at 500-1000 hours of stylus use.
Well, 500h is perfectly agreeing with the typical "300 to 1000h" stylus life quoted ubiquitously.
desktop wrote: So distortion "creep" could easily surpass the 5% level of THD at frequencies above 7KHz, and listeners might not perceive this distortion because the onset is so gradual. Remember that loudspeakers can have most of their bandpass way above 5% distortion. In fact there may only be a few narrow bandpass regions in most loudspeakers with distortion under 5% distortion. So most listeners will be using a distorted playback device to make their listening determinations.
Yes, this is true and its a very good point.

desktop wrote: All things considered I find the conclusions JICO is now "standing by" in print in their website to be very reasonable.
Has JICO posted about these wear studies in their website?
desktop wrote: At that point it became obvious that many discs, had allot of sonic information above 20KHz, cut into their grooves.
Yes, good point, although also some of this information is just 2nd harmonics caused by the stylus itself. Although, instruments also have harmonics...
desktop wrote: I loved pulling out discs and playing them to point out how much information many discs contained above 22.5KHz, and how compressed speakers sounded if the speaker had great high frequency(...)There were 30ips analog tapes made in the 70s and 80s with allot of high frequency info at 30KHz and remastering these tapes requires a playback system better than the tapes.

The discs with allot of +20KHz information often separated the cartridge "men from the boys". The shibata nude diamond improved the sound of those non-CD-4 albums dramatically.
Funny thing, yesterday i was listening to a record with a particularly good HF sound (can't remember which). I played it at 16RPM and could hear very high frequencies (>10KHz) on the cymbals still at 16RPM. So you could bet there was more than 20KHz in that record. The Neumann SX68 cutter is flat to 25KHz, by the way.
desktop wrote: The other factor that involves CD-4 reproduction is that even if the carrier frequency was reproduced with 25% distortion (like turning a sine wave into a triangle wave), since the 50 KHz waveform (of any type) was subtracted, leaving only the differential "music" behind, the ability to track at 50KHz allowed for huge amounts of distortion
I don't know what you mean with "substracted". The carrier is FM-demodulated, not "substracted". Also, by the way, the carrier is 30KHz.

Let's see if you can get the full information from JICO. But, BTW, as far as i know, JICO assembles styli, but does not polish diamonds. That is done -i suspect- by Namiki, at least for the MicroLine/SAS.

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Post by dlaloum » 31 Jan 2011 23:57

Very very interesting - thank you

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Post by desktop » 01 Feb 2011 03:21

My Japanese retipper has often told me that the elliptical profile on varied batches of stylus tips may measure the same at the contact points (like 0.2x0.7 or 0.3x0.7) but in reality the angle of the "grind" is often different. This also seems to be true for shibata profile stylus, and in her opinion it creates a completely different acoustic signature for the output. For the 1st 20-50 hours there may not seem to be a difference in shibata styli, but once wear becomes a factor, the way the balance of the diamond tip is "wearing" can cause a change in high freq capability. In her experience, some poorer shibata styli wear out their ability to reproduce the 40KHz frequencies within 20 hours, while others can continue to properly reproduce 40KHz for hundreds of hours on the same vinyl. Her and I have a number of copies of the Yangzee Symphony by Shostokovich, which is one of the few symphonies conceived and produced during an era of discreet 4 channel sound (RCA). We've "burned" up a number of copies between us, but this disc was free of recycled vinyl, had a short pressing run and then fell into obscurity.

The problem is that if I say "Elliptical" it means something to most people. But in reality, the variety of grind angles on ellipticals produces dozens of different stylus 90 degree profiles, for the same spec. So obviously, until we know the planar grind angle for the JICO styli I don't know of what I speak. But generally, 133 - 177 hours of accurate life is all we can expect from an elliptical.

Yes JICO in an attempt to be as honest as possible says "our SAS stylus accurately reproduces highs (which I now know to mean 15KHz, and was the entire purpose of my inquiry) for 500 hours". This is a tremendous reduction in my expectations but not unreasonable given the reality of what they are saying. I applaud them for honesty.

Obviously if you only play Desmar or Ensayo/Telefunken (70s) vinyl then you may get longer lifespans from your styli. I am a bit adrift because unlike loudspeakers with their lifespan measured in decades, styli wear out in a matter of days (177/24 = about 7-8 days). It is a shock and surprise, but the technicalities seem reasonable.

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Post by Whitneyville » 01 Feb 2011 06:04

Desktop, your re-tipper raises a "point" (bad pun intended), I've seen on SEM stylus photos. Even brand new, there are obvious (at 5000-10,000X) differences in the exact shape of the diamond tips of a given "shape". Brand/cost seems to have little to do with either. I have two "generic" nude Shibata stylii for my AT-14Sa cartridge which look as good as, or better than an OEM stylus. One came in a JICO "jewel box" (it's actually an ATN-15Sa stylus) and the lowest priced one I have, and it's shape and polish is better than the OEM new stylus. BTW, an SEM pic showing the cantilever can break your heart over a new $200+ stylus. At 500X, off-centered tips, and bends that aren't supposed to be there are glaring. My Dad's client that now I do their photographic copies for uses a SEM for geological work, and maybe once in a couple of years, they make a "quick and dirty" scan of my stylii (although they did four for me this month). An optical microscope doesn't let you "see" what a SEM does at the same magnification, because of the "infinite" depth of focus on the SEM. JICO's observations may also be for "average" "real world" dirty LP's too. I never cease to be amazed that "records" (78, 45, 33's) work as well as they do. Variable width/variable density sound on photographic film (no longer used) had greater range than any magnetic tape and even the highest grade digital audio recording methods. Written/read with a near UV laser would give even higher quality.

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Post by desktop » 01 Feb 2011 20:28

that's why the only digital sources I really liked were the 3M digital recorder with a sample rate of 300K, the PCM recorder that almost made it to consumers, and SACD. Vinyl was just a bizarre upgrade from wax cylinders, but it has worked really well.

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Post by Whitneyville » 02 Feb 2011 09:13

My Sony Hi8 and Canon XL1S DVD both use PCM for audio and I returned the Canon for the 96.1KHz upgrade. The little DVD tape can record the entire Bible in an area of less than 5 sq. mms, along with four channel audio at resolution superior to Blu-Ray. Of course photographic film can surpass that in .05sq mms. at even higher resolution. Film's limitation is optics and has been since WWII, and today many lenses can resolve over 300 lines per millimeter. I have one for the 4"x5" view camera that will resolve over 560 lines per millimeter. Its a Rodenstock Rodagon 180mm F5.6 lens. Price? 1 1/2 times as much as the most expensive new Cadillac this year. My Dad bought it before he retired. He has a vacuum back for the Toyo view camera for ultimate sharpness.

Guest

Post by Guest » 02 Feb 2011 13:05

Hi All,
This is bad news to me.
I bought an AT 440MLa with money I could ill afford because I was under the impression that "micro line" and similar styli prolonged both the diamond and record life because they spread the surface load.
Am I now to understand that this is simply not so and that the "common wisdom" has been wrong all along and may indeed be something which has been put about to sell more expensive cartridges/styli?
Regards

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Post by dlaloum » 02 Feb 2011 13:49

No I don't think so...

what this information tells us is that the Line contact styli do indeed have a longer life than elipticals...

It's just that eternal optimists that we are we have assumed the best case... and reality is not quite so optimistic.

The measurements being talked about indicate that as wear occurs distortion increases measurably....

At what level of distortion should one replace a stylus.... ?!?

Also the distortion involved appears to be primarily 15KHz and up... the stylus would I believe need to be a lot more worn to have the same effect at say 5kHz...

The other interesting thing is the info about the Shibata style cut - there appears to be consistent information that when things start to go bad the Shibata's start to shine.... (well at the very least they go less bad, or bad less quickly) - but that may depend on the particular details of the individual Shibata cut.... insufficient information!

Back to your 440Mla - good stylus - good cantilever and it should be among the long lived varieties.... The major question mark being what do you consider long lived and where do you draw the line? (What level of distortion defines "Worn Out"?)
Wherever you draw the line - your MLa stylus will outlive just about any eliptical....

This thread is convincing me to be more religious about my use of Last on both records and styli....

and by the way - I recently started checking my Styli under a microscope (a recent fleabay pickup).... it convinced me I should be more diligent about stylus cleaning!.... which is referential to the previous comment about Record and Stylus care...

Guest

Post by Guest » 02 Feb 2011 17:08

All good stuff. But I would definitely hold the horses as to reaching any conclusion just yet. The devil is in the detail. Especially as to how Jico might be measuring and specifying distortion in this case. And anyone else, for that matter !

As Bebé Tonto already posted, it's trivial to obtain 5% harmonic distortion from any stylus, any profile, new or not. The issue is the conditions under which such distortion is measured.

It matters, not only to interpreting the meaningfulness of such a measurement, and correlating it with wear, but in being able to repeat it domestically.

I haven't been able to find Jico's statements on this matter online. Could someone kindly post a pointer ?

I can understand the principles at issue, and can buy into the concept of wear normalising contact region curvature. Even for this to be accelerated somewhat for high initial curvature stylii. But the rate at which this happens is at issue, and how it is measured is a critical factor in determining how practically useful as an indicator of changes. And how it might map on to real audible performance. All results still seem possible to me.

So hold all tickets ! A lot of numbers touted so far seem quite implausible. Either aren't trackable, can't exist, or don't readily correlate with cited distortion levels !

The Jico site might help, so if someone could kindly point at that info, I'd be thoroughly grateful. Thx !

Bebé Tonto

Post by Bebé Tonto » 02 Feb 2011 19:44

[quote="ld"]All good stuff. But I would definitely hold the horses as to reaching any conclusion just yet. The devil is in the detail. Especially as to how Jico might be measuring and specifying distortion in this case. And anyone else, for that matter !

I haven't been able to find Jico's statements on this matter online. Could someone kindly post a pointer ?/quote]

This. We need actual figures and thorough descriptions of what was tested. Not rumors. And, again, as much as i like JICO (and i'm one of the most vocal pushers of their styli), i take this info with a pinch of salt.

Guest

Post by Guest » 02 Feb 2011 21:50

Hi Bebé Tonto. Ooops, looks like something went wrong withyour last post ! I wasn't sure if you have at least some Jico info, or a pointer to Jico stuff that is referred to (not by you) earlier on the thread ?

TA

Post by TA » 03 Feb 2011 21:38

Without any measures I tend to agree with JICO. In my experience, I have found cleaner sound and lower surface noise when I change to a new stylus, even if the stylus has not been played more than 500 h.

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Post by desktop » 04 Feb 2011 02:26

If everyone goes to the JICO website and clicks on their "SAS Information" link you will see that now JICO is claiming that their stylus will meet spec for 500 hours. The story about the stylus is interesting too.

When I first started publishing test information about loudspeakers for dozens of Disney technicians to use as the "speaker guide", most distortion numbers for compression horn systems had more than 10% THD for all frequencies, and most cone speakers were over 10% distortion at many frequencies before they went beyond 3 watts continuous input. I think that since JICO doesn't really want to print poor looking distortion figures, they are taking the safe approach and simply listing the number of hours playing vinyl, that an SAS stylus would hold to its "new" spec.

I also think it is true that the SAS stylus may not be for everyone (certainly not NHK broadcast engineers), but it is designed to have "the longest possible lifespan, due to the way the stylus tip deforms with use (or some reasonably similar language).

The rest of the stylus designs would seem to wear more poorly, although a few "super styli" might wear out a little more slowly. JICO's goal was to design a stylus with the shape that should play with "line contact" clarity for the longest possible time, now rated by JICO at 500 hours.

We should still buy line contact or even more extreme stylus profiles, ... Because Of The Way They Sound. Even if an AT ML stylus wore out in the same time frame as a shibata, or a VdH it's what they sound like that makes us want the better styli.

I'm pretty fussy about cleaning my styli, and discs. But I will have many pressings with ground up vinyl in the formula and that is extremely abrasive. I always begin to feel less confident in the sound quality of most line contact (or better) cartridges after 200-300 hours. Maybe that's unreasonable but when I compare a new cartridge with a fully broken in suspension (Stanton 681s arrived at radio stations broken-in), with a cartridge that has 200-300 hours use, the newer one always sounded better to me. With ellipticals the usage available seemed less than half that much.

Most of you don't remember that CBS "wrote the book" on vinyl wear and cartridge longevity in the 50s for 33 and 45 rpm discs made of vinyl. They tested diamond spherical tip styli, sapphire tips and there was one other material that was used/measured. The cheapest material had a 30 hour recommendation for replacing the stylus, sapphire was 60 hours and diamonds were rated for 250 hours. These were for spherical 0.7 mil tips which should have a very long lifespan. But CBS measured lifespans of styli at the point where the tip wore down to the bushing, or when the stylus tip showed a distinct elliptical shape, but facing parallel with the groove. In other words CBS was measuring the wear-out point on a stylus by whether it was destroying the disc or not. The quality of playback was a lesser consideration.

With the upsurge of prerecorded material being used on radio, especially FM radio, the radio station owners had 2 huge expenses; transmitters, and record libraries, and those were the items the station owners tried to preserve. So for radio stations they started out checking stylus on-air to be sure they weren't damaging records, and then in the Stanton 681 era, you calibrated your station once a week or so. The NAB tapes and phono setup (primarily your cartridges) just kept being used until the station couldn't meet specs like channel balance, distortion at the transmitter etc.

Radio stations were the entities that made the issue of anti-skating important, because without antiskating on a turntable, the styli wear out much faster on one side. thus limiting frequency response on one channel. It is no surprise that an elliptical stylus would have a fairly short life too. Ellipticals are sharpened wedges with 2 bearing surfaces that each have an infinite amount of pressure per sq measurement. But if the top of the pile seems to be a "special" design and yet the warrantied SAS lifespan should be 500 hours, then everything else should be less.

My usual problem with styli is dirt on incoming bargain records. But often enough I will use a stylus that sounds Really noisy on a disc, so usually I will try a different stylus profile cartridge. Often the reduction in background noise is breathtaking. But then 25 discs later when I have high background noise and I switch BACK to the first cartridge mentioned in this story, I get the same dramatic reduction in noise by changing cartridges in the reverse order.

Being irritated that I have to mark a plastic album sleeve with the stylus that has to be used, I usually test again after a cleaning of both cartridges, using them on either the Pionner PL 800 pair or the Luxman pair (the PX 101 uses a standard headshell so that is easiest). 99 times out of 100 it seems the "wear track" somewhere on the groove walls is the culprit. Some previous user of those vinyl discs, played a cartridge either outside of the proper tracking pressure, or wore down their stylus until it plowed a track into the vinyl. Here comes I, later trying to match the correct stylus profile to "track around" the damage done to the groove walls.

Kansas City has a research facility at the Univ of Missouri, Kansas City (called KCMU, go figure). The college is large (30K-45K students) and many commute from Kansas City. The Marr Research Library for Recordings is a special little place trying to provide a special service. Many of their rare vinyl records have music which is unavailable anywhere. The climate controlled library area has thousands of wax cylinders, and discs of all types and sizes. They stock at least one playback unit that will play every disc they stock so the place is full of various 78rpm acoustic playback units, as well as a group of more modern turntables. Their goal is to digitize music and they will provide a sample of this music to requesters from Missouri for free online.

The Marr Library's highest priority (as they articulated at an AES meeting held there), was to carefully digitized all 75,000 of the music sources in the library, but there are thousands of more discs on this facility's wish-list, dozens to hundreds coming in any week In addition The Marr (as they call themselves) want to keep every disc in a perfect condition. They are currently using a simple AT line contact cartridge in their 4 working turntables (for consistency plus quality sound at a reasonable cost). The college is spending allot of money to keep The Marr going, and they are not extravagant.

But The Marr constantly checks for groove damage microscopically. Since there was a thriving local record production and recording industry for jazz musicians like Count Basie and Charlie "Bird" Parker, there are hundreds of different old jazz titles that show up at auction in Kansas City many of which are not cataloged, with no other copies known to exist. Protecting this collection is the only thing the staff does (except produce a local radio show each week using these discs/wax). The Marr is not interested in the highest level of absolute fidelity, and ease of use is important.

My own playback system is far superior sounding to the one I auditioned at The Marr during our AES meeting/debate. Using The Marr's playback system as a working "studio monitoring system" shows that doing the job takes precedence over hearing the finest details. But The Marr now uses a line contact cartridge stylus in their turntables because it doesn't have as much background noise, because the stylus is not riding in the same worn track, carved out by spherical or elliptical stylus. The Marr cleans every incoming disc very carefully, so the reason they use a line contact stylus is for better sound and less damage to discs.

Maybe we shouldn't all get worried about using the same cartridge styli we've been using all along (and we've been generally happy with most of them). I have hundreds of cartridges with dozens of different stylus profiles. By playing so many different cartridges, I am probably extending the life of my vinyl discs. The minimum stylus profile I use is a shibata, but I also use many "higher-end-profiles" like Hyperelliptical, Line contact, Stereohedron, VdH and ML.

I brought this topic up because my "gut feeling" has always been that I don't like sound of most styli that have more than 200-300 hours on them. When I worked retail I was a sales manager and I tested every system "for sale" personally. I changed almost all the cartridge styli or the cartridges themselves once a week, and then put that item in the "used packages" area because we never had enough functioning, used cartridges for the used turntables we sold. Sales often depended on consumers bringing in their favorite records to use as the test source. Some of these discs were visibly dirty, so wear might have been greater. I could chart the change in sales if the cartridge styli were changed on a Sunday instead of a Friday, since Saturday was the biggest sale day of the week. It cost money, but it made money

When I moved to manufacturing, life got so much simpler. Cartridge manufacturers gave cartridges away to speaker manufacturers before every CEShow so that if a loudspeaker sounded great the cartridge maker could take some of the credit. If the display sounded bad, everyone used the excuse that the "set-up was wrong" in the cartridge-turntable match, or the amp-preamp match, etc. excuses. If a cartridge donated to me sounded bad, I returned it, saying we had others "enough" before we got their items. If a cartridge sounded good with our loudspeakers we used them in the show and then made sure salespeople had them for demos.

So until I retired, I had a constant flow of nice phono cartridges. After retirement, I had to buy cartridges and styli (ouch, makes me shiver to think of it), so I started doing my own testing and making lists of the cartridges I'd like to buy inexpensively, and which cartridges/styli I never wanted to listen to. I get reasonable cost retipping, and once in a while when VdH USA has a sale, I use them to get more exotic styli. I listen to vinyl, every day I am home, and often when I visit friends. I have only been testing cartridge styli for the last 12 years since my first retirement and that period of time also coincides with my attempt to buy older stock cartridges and styli, when I realized many of the makers of cartridges and styli were going out of business. Here are some other opinions I have beside the fact that I seem to be able to hear the degradation in sound that occurs after a cartridge is used 200-300 hours.

Sometimes a good idea produces a poor sounding stylus. Sonus Blue styli sounded good for a month or so out of the packaging, but then the beryllium cantilevers would crack/oxidize/something, and sound bad. The Dynavector 20B had a beryllium cantilever too and they seemed to hold up well (I'm getting 2 retipped).

The original Benz Glider had suspension failure and catastrophic bottoming more than 1/2 the time when the cartridge was first introduced, so don't buy original NOS Gliders. I have 5 Grado cartridges, 2 new Blacks, a new Red, an MX8, and an FT3+, and they all humbuzz in my turntables more than any other cartridges (the Supex 900# Super and the 901 Super were the 2 former humming-est cartridges, but they were MC types). The stylus on the MX8 sounds great, although the noise level is way too high. Every time I plug an energy-saving 60w fluorescent bulb in my listening room the noise level buzz gets louder on all my Grado carts (the USA now mandates now the severe reduction of production of incandescent light).

I always preferred the sound of induced MM cartridges like Nagaoka/Nagatron or ADC, but I still listen to Stanton, AT, and even better Shure MM cartridges. And of course, I listen allot to Deccas. These have some of the nicest, grain oriented, gem quality, large diamonds you can find for audio. I also find that Denon, by polishing their stylus tips more than anyone else, cause their styli to last the longest for a given stylus profile.

I wear out many styli each year (I get 3-10 or so, retipped each year), and most of those are MC types. Almost all my MC cartridges/styli have shibata tips or other more high-end profiles. I use them because they are sturdy, they sound good, and retipping is reasonably available. I'd get hyperelliptical or line contact retips, but the prices are much higher. If I am going to spend more money, I wait until VdH USA has one of their $300 retipping special prices and I get better quality stylus profiles. There seems to be an unending supply of Stereohedron styli that are NOS, so I buy them all the time, same for AT ML styli, but this only works on MM cartridges and I listen 70-80% of the time to MC cartridges because they sound better (to me).

While I was unprepared for JICO to say - We warrant our longest lasting stylus for 500 hours - I've always used that rule in general anyway. From my retail days in 1971-76, then working for manufacturers I was spoiled with new styli. Only the hassle of replacing cartridges without separate styli, when using a fixed cartridge mount tonearm would cause me to be so lazy that I didn't remove certain cartridges for 300 + hours of use. So now I will stop being overly optimistic about cartridge/stylus life. I need to protect my records more than styli. There may be some styli that Might last 800 or even 1000 hours playing average vinyl discs, but why take the chance? I'm sure that long before we hear sound degradation, a worn stylus is causing groove damage.

I know it sound like "ole grandpa" telling stories about how things were worse in the "old days" (50s). I promise you that CBS labs did do tests for stylus and vinyl groove wear in the 50s, randomly pulling records out the production line to run destruct tests on them. The "old days" of the Grand Stereo HiFi Business is also history. Now cartridge manufacturers make you buy cartridges for CEShow in Las Vegas (unless they are trying to steal someone else's business). Don't be upset if the cartridge stylus you use is probably more short-lived than most of us thought. But it is your vinyl collection that is most important, so keep that in mind.

If you noticed a concern in many of my previous posts, about which stylus profile did the least damage to a piece of vinyl, my opinion is now focused in a slightly different direction. Now I am more concerned about when styli wear out, because worn styli do more damage to discs, than any amount of playing vinyl with an unworn stylus. I buy allot of styli from JICO, and they can make a nice stylus. But if they say their longest wearing, best sounding stylus (SAS) is good for 500 hours, I will be sure to check my styli at 200 hours. I guess I'll need a new microscope set up so I can see styli properly at 500x. I can't clean my styli or discs too much more than I do already. I just have to be less lazy about changing a stylus in a tonearm with a fixed mount. I'm trying to keep my vinyl collection in the best shape possible, and when I listen to it, I want it to sound the best it can. That's the goal at least.

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Post by lini » 04 Feb 2011 03:00

desktop: Uhm, you sure the Sonus Blue has a beryllium cantilever? Rather looked like tapered alu to me, but I might be mistaken... However, I think unlike the Gold Blue, which uses a conventionally mounted, bonded diamond, the Blue has that strange, claw-like mounting also used on their Dimension 5 in combination with a nude diamond... And I've heard that was rather prone to break.

Btw, Hifikit.se currently sells really cheap Gold Blues (and Silver Es). Haven't heard anything about the Silver Es, but at least the Gold Blues seem to be NOS originals and work pretty well, albeit under considerably higher tracking force (at least for quite a long break-in period). I.e. the suspensions apparently have become pretty hard - but tracking ability is still good, if one loads 'em accordingly...

Greetings from Munich!

Manfred / lini

Bebé Tonto

Post by Bebé Tonto » 04 Feb 2011 19:22

desktop wrote: Most of you don't remember that CBS "wrote the book" on vinyl wear and cartridge longevity in the 50s for 33 and 45 rpm discs made of vinyl. They tested diamond spherical tip styli, sapphire tips and there was one other material that was used/measured. The cheapest material had a 30 hour recommendation for replacing the stylus, sapphire was 60 hours and diamonds were rated for 250 hours. These were for spherical 0.7 mil tips which should have a very long lifespan. But CBS measured lifespans of styli at the point where the tip wore down to the bushing, or when the stylus tip showed a distinct elliptical shape, but facing parallel with the groove. In other words CBS was measuring the wear-out point on a stylus by whether it was destroying the disc or not. The quality of playback was a lesser consideration.
This is a very good point.

On the other hand i think Ortofon rates it's Replicant stylus (similar to the Fritz Gyger S) at something like 2000 or 3000h...

They also did tests with the FG "S" profile on an endless groove (lead out groove), and i think it withstood 5000h without problems.

I think the story is not so easy, a lot depends on the cleaniness of the surface and the quality of the vinyl. And i don't think only Telefunken vinyl is gentle to your stylus tip. I think most late 70s-mid 80s record compounds that are similar to RCA dynaflex (more or less thin, very flexible and shiny) are the safest to your needle. Those modern 180-200g "hard" records are a stupid idea in my opinion.

You want your needle to touch a soft, compliant, shiny vinyl surface.