Stylus Wear Study

the thin end of the wedge
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ray_parkhurst
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Stylus Wear Study

Post by ray_parkhurst » 17 Jul 2019 20:11

There is still a fair amount of controversy over how much wear a stylus can have before it needs replacement. Indeed there are multiple reasons for replacement, but the main three I am interested in are:

- Noticeable (but not catastrophic) increase in audible distortion
- Noticeable (but again not catastrophic) increase in surface noise
- Extreme increase in distortion and/or surface noise

This thread is a formal request for folks who have replaced their stylus/cartridge for any of the above reasons to send them to me for imaging. My images would be used to measure:

- Lengths and widths of the contact areas
- Distance between contacts at bottom of the groove

I would plan to publish the results as they are available. I'd request the following information from the submitter:

- Stylus/cartridge type, brand, model, etc
- Approximate number of play hours
- Reason for replacement
- Any anecdotal info relevant to the above
- Release statement to allow the above info to be published

If the submitter wants the stylus/cartridge returned, I'd request a return envelope or return postage be included. Please PM me with your details and to get my shipping info.

Hopefully there is a large enough group of folks with worn-out styli/cartridges that a meaningful database of images and correlation to play hours and sonics can be put together. I plan to publish the results here on VE, though I will likely solicit inputs from other forums. Let's see how much of a response I get here first...

Edited to add: I would also like to receive ANY stylus/cartridge that has known play hours, to aid in creating a database of wear vs play hours. So what I can offer is essentially a free imaging service provided the submitter has a reliable count of play hours, and provides return shipping packaging and postage.

Snead
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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by Snead » 17 Jul 2019 22:54

Really great idea, Parkhurst! When you get enough samples, the law of large numbers should kick in and give an approximation of how wear progresses vs. hours played.

The only hangup I can see is getting an accurate hour number with each stylus. I have a couple of worn ones but how many hours on them? Beats me! But more power to you if you can do it! It would be a great service to many.

ray_parkhurst
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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by ray_parkhurst » 18 Jul 2019 00:24

Snead wrote:
17 Jul 2019 22:54
The only hangup I can see is getting an accurate hour number with each stylus. I have a couple of worn ones but how many hours on them? Beats me! But more power to you if you can do it! It would be a great service to many.
Unfortunately I'll need to rely on the data from the submitter, but that's the best I can do. If you have no idea how many hours on a stylus, then the data won't be useful, so anyone interested in this project needs to at least have a reasonably accurate estimate.

Agrippa
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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by Agrippa » 18 Jul 2019 02:08

Excellent initiative and I wish you the best of luck, as well as a great and useful response rate!

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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by AudioFeline » 18 Jul 2019 04:12

ray_parkhurst wrote:
18 Jul 2019 00:24
Unfortunately I'll need to rely on the data [on hours played with the stylus] from the submitter, but that's the best I can do. If you have no idea how many hours on a stylus, then the data won't be useful, so anyone interested in this project needs to at least have a reasonably accurate estimate.
I agree and disagree. I understand it will be good to be able to get data so you can determine the relationship between the stylus and hours played.

However, obtaining very worn styli will help you to determine how much is an extreme/worst-case amount of wear on the stylus, thus giving you the extreme measure of wear.

BTW, it's an interesting project. I look forward to seeing your results - where are you hoping to publish them?

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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by Collux » 18 Jul 2019 05:10

It may be worth factoring in VTF in this exercise.
(I guess the default could be the manufacturer's specification.)
Alternatively, something indicative: low/med/high if gathering actual values is seen as onerous.

ray_parkhurst
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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by ray_parkhurst » 18 Jul 2019 05:12

AudioFeline wrote:
18 Jul 2019 04:12
I agree and disagree. I understand it will be good to be able to get data so you can determine the relationship between the stylus and hours played.

However, obtaining very worn styli will help you to determine how much is an extreme/worst-case amount of wear on the stylus, thus giving you the extreme measure of wear.

BTW, it's an interesting project. I look forward to seeing your results - where are you hoping to publish them?
Well, the questions I am trying to answer are "how long do different styli types last", and "what do they look like when they fail". I guess it would be interesting to analyze different styli only knowing that they have failed, but ultimately if I don't know how many hours they've played, it won't be nearly as useful and will not answer my primary questions.

I expect the submissions, if I get any at all, will come in slowly, so I will publish them here as they arrive. Ultimately if I get enough to make some correlations, I may publish a paper with the results. I'm just hoping to get enough to gather a modicum of data to help answer the questions.

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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by ray_parkhurst » 18 Jul 2019 05:21

Collux wrote:
18 Jul 2019 05:10
It may be worth factoring in VTF in this exercise.
(I guess the default could be the manufacturer's specification.)
Alternatively, something indicative: low/med/high if gathering actual values is seen as onerous.
What I would ask is that anyone submitting a stylus/cartridge for this study please confirm that VTF was controlled/measured in some fashion and was not outside the recommended range.

Delta667
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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by Delta667 » 18 Jul 2019 06:35

Ray,
You can buy an inexpensive player with a repeat function and do your research on it.
Explore the stylus and take photos at intervals.
This will be the surest way to research.
In just a month, you can wind up 700 running hours.
After you erase 3-4 stylus you will understand that there is no direct relationship between time and wear of a diamond.

Just a week ago, I sent a similar player to eternal rest (its motor stopped), which I used for a long time to polish chips on expensive styli.
It had a disk with 0.0 / 0.5 diamond paste. Some styli on this disc melted like ice, others resisted for up to a week.
These are my outdated technologies)) But they gave me a complete understanding that diamonds (styluses) are completely different in durability.

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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by BMRR » 18 Jul 2019 15:20

It will probably be at least two years before my AT440MLb stylus needs to be replaced, but if you're still doing this project in 2021, I'd be more than happy to send it to you for evaluation. :)

ray_parkhurst
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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by ray_parkhurst » 18 Jul 2019 16:09

Delta667 wrote:
18 Jul 2019 06:35
Ray,
You can buy an inexpensive player with a repeat function and do your research on it.
Explore the stylus and take photos at intervals.
This will be the surest way to research.
In just a month, you can wind up 700 running hours.
After you erase 3-4 stylus you will understand that there is no direct relationship between time and wear of a diamond.

Just a week ago, I sent a similar player to eternal rest (its motor stopped), which I used for a long time to polish chips on expensive styli.
It had a disk with 0.0 / 0.5 diamond paste. Some styli on this disc melted like ice, others resisted for up to a week.
These are my outdated technologies)) But they gave me a complete understanding that diamonds (styluses) are completely different in durability.
I did consider doing something like this, but the timing is just too long. I was actually hoping (naively I suppose) that I'd get a good response from folks wanting to participate, and could come up with 20+ examples of styli that would give a good baseline for the study. Doing it myself, it would take a couple years of work to make that happen, and wearing out 20 styli. The data would be excellent quality, and indeed it may show what you are saying about inconsistency of stylus wear. the big problem with that method is the same that happened with Weilert in his study so many decades ago...diamond dust. I normally clean my records before each play, or at least when they look or sound like they need cleaning. But a continuous-running test would deposit the worn diamond onto the vinyl, causing faster (maybe much faster) wear than would be normal. I could add a daily record clean to the regimen I suppose, but that might not be sufficient.

Depending on the response I get, I may have no choice but to do something like this, but let's give folks some time to respond. After all, if I could get a few styli to image, I'd quickly see if the experiment was working well enough to continue.

BMRR
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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by BMRR » 18 Jul 2019 19:06

I think the biggest hurdle will be finding styli with a known number of hours on them. Folks who keep a log of stylus hours are a small minority of us, I suspect. I've got lots of second-hand styli that previously belonged to other people but I have no way of knowing how many hours are on them. And I have so many cartridges in my own collection, which I rotate frequently, that it takes me a very long time to put, say, 500 hours on a stylus.

I think you'll need to find someone who listens to several records a day, every day, with only one cart/stylus, who can either keep a log of hours or give you a reliable estimate based on the number of records they typically play. For example, if you found someone who consistently listens to three LPs a day (average LP being 20 minutes per side), that comes out to two hours per day... so it would take a bit more than 8 months for that person to put 500 hours on a brand new stylus.

ray_parkhurst
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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by ray_parkhurst » 26 Jul 2019 00:22

Delta667 wrote:
18 Jul 2019 06:35
Ray,
You can buy an inexpensive player with a repeat function and do your research on it.
Explore the stylus and take photos at intervals.
This will be the surest way to research.
In just a month, you can wind up 700 running hours.
After you erase 3-4 stylus you will understand that there is no direct relationship between time and wear of a diamond.

Just a week ago, I sent a similar player to eternal rest (its motor stopped), which I used for a long time to polish chips on expensive styli.
It had a disk with 0.0 / 0.5 diamond paste. Some styli on this disc melted like ice, others resisted for up to a week.
These are my outdated technologies)) But they gave me a complete understanding that diamonds (styluses) are completely different in durability.
Looks like I am going to do exactly what you proposed. I plan to check the stylus at 6/12/24/48/96 hours and maybe every 96 or 192 until I see heavy wear. Should be an interesting study...

H. callahan
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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by H. callahan » 26 Jul 2019 02:51

One should not forget that the quality of the tt also can influence stylus life. A simple tt will create more vibrations on the platter while having more play in the tonearm, both which can lead to the stylus jumping in the groove - which will shorten stylus life.
So to get meaningful results one should use a reasonable tt - as life of a stylus probably is shorter on a Crosley than on a reasonable tt.

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Re: Stylus Wear Study

Post by ray_parkhurst » 26 Jul 2019 02:57

H. callahan wrote:
26 Jul 2019 02:51
One should not forget that the quality of the tt also can influence stylus life. A simple tt will create more vibrations on the platter while having more play in the tonearm, both which can lead to the stylus jumping in the groove - which will shorten stylus life.
So to get meaningful results one should use a reasonable tt - as life of a stylus probably is shorter on a Crosley than on a reasonable tt.
I was also concerned about TT setup, ie azimuth and VTA and such, so I decided to use a Technics SL10. The T4P standard makes these parameters consistent, and reduces azimuth errors. The cartridge I chose was a NOS Empire 480LT, a 0.2x0.7 nude elliptical.

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