Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

the thin end of the wedge
Erin1
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Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by Erin1 » 24 Oct 2019 12:51

It is my opinion and belief that OEM and aftermarket stylus prices are a rip off.

I can give two clear examples to prove my point.

1) I just bought two new EVG ATN-102E stylus from eBay from an Australian seller for AUD $29 delivered. This stylus fits my AT-150MLX and all similar bodies. It sounds good. (Thankfully)

If you go to buy an aftermarket stylus that is designed for these bodies say ATN-120E aftermarket - you will be charged about AUD $80 for the cheapest one.

And yet, there is no inherent difference. Both are aftermarket, both have plastic and a cantilever and two magnets. The shape of the plastic varies slightly, but that's it. Perhaps the donut suspension varies, but I cannot see a 2mm sized piece of rubber causing a price blowout of $50🤔

This is clearly profiting off people because they want/need/choose to have a new Stylus.

Example 2
The new VM95 OEM microline replacement stylus costs about $50 less than the VM 540ML replacement stylus.

We have the same Nakimi Diamond. Some plastic, a cantilever, and rubber donut suspension.
????

Furthermore, I doubt anyone on this forum got a pay rise of any significance in the last 5 years, and yet, cartridge prices doubled over the last 5 years.... At the same time cartridge and stylus sales increased. Isn't higher volume meant to bring prices down?

It is what it is - capitalism and the free market at work. So be it.
If people pay these prices, manufacturers will continue to jack up the prices.

I just wanted to call out this extortion for what it is.

PaulKehayas
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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by PaulKehayas » 24 Oct 2019 13:51

I have to agree with you...It is one reason I have thought the VM95 series a miracle...because the price is relatively cheaper than other....I mean, it`s at 440MLA prices currently for the ML isn`t it?

billshurv
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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by billshurv » 24 Oct 2019 15:01

A luxury car has roughtly the same number of parts as a budget car.

If you can get your Nirvana from a VM95ML you've got a top end diamond at a £400 saving.

Now the current vinyl revival has seen huge price increases because people will pay for it. but that has left a gap at the bottom that AT are very neatly filling. So on balance it's a good thing.

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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by patient_ot » 24 Oct 2019 17:07

AFAIK, there are only three major suppliers of high quality, nude OEM diamonds mounted on cantilevers. They are Ogura, Namiki, and Fritz Gyger AG. These three suppliers cover everything from the sub-$500 MM cart market to the megabuck LOMCs.

Audio Technica has an arrangement with Namiki where they are able to offer better prices than many other cart brands for high quality diamonds.

Like anything else there is inflation and overhead costs, dealer margins, prestige pricing, etc. which add to the cost for the consumer.

I can tell you that if you were to order the minimum quantity (20 or thereabouts?) of Microridge diamonds mounted on boron cantilevers (no magnet or plastic housing, just stylus + cantilever) they would cost you ~$200 each.

Not sure what the other suppliers charge, but it's likely more.

Erin1
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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by Erin1 » 25 Oct 2019 01:48

PaulKehayas wrote:
24 Oct 2019 13:51
I have to agree with you...It is one reason I have thought the VM95 series a miracle...because the price is relatively cheaper than other....I mean, it`s at 440MLA prices currently for the ML isn`t it?
I think you've made a wise choice. You will get perfect tracing of high frequencies and lower stylus replacement cost.

Erin1
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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by Erin1 » 25 Oct 2019 01:51

patient_ot wrote:
24 Oct 2019 17:07
I can tell you that if you were to order the minimum quantity (20 or thereabouts?) of Microridge diamonds mounted on boron cantilevers (no magnet or plastic housing, just stylus + cantilever) they would cost you ~$200 each.
.
Yep, but as you already mentioned, AT gets better pricing than this.....
Which is what I was saying... When things are ordered in bulk the pricing usually comes down.

So...with a higher volume of cartridge and stylus sales, the prices should actually be coming down, not going up.
Capitalism and the free market at work. 🙃

Erin1
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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by Erin1 » 25 Oct 2019 01:56

Something I don't understand is how aftermarket stylus manufacturers after about 50 years of making stylus still can't seem to make a really good stylus.

Wouldn't you think that since that's their business they might actually put some effort into developing a high strength low mass cantilever, and perfecting the art of mounting a diamond straight? So the user of Thier products actually gets something genuinely good, rather than just tolerable?

I'd pay $10-$20 more if the aftermarket stylus was actually comparable to the original stylus.

I have a very hard time believing that suspension rubber (or foam) is especially mysterious and difficult to engineer.

I'll come back to my original point which is that I just bought a $29 stylus which is pretty good. It's bonded elliptical so... You know, there is some sibilance on vocals, but it's not too bad, but if the cantilever was just a tiny bit lighter, and the suspension just a little more supple, this stylus would be a great performer....

I notice that there is a lot of aluminium overhang after where the diamond is mounted. Even if that extra 0.5mm was cut off the cantilever at the factory, that would probably be enough to lower the tip mass just enough to reduce the sibilance to unnoticeable levels.

I just can't imagine it being too difficult to narrow the gap between the sound of an aftermarket and OEM stylus.

Furthermore, I can't understand why there are no nude aftermarket stylus. Surely a nude stylus being only about .08mm of extra diamond can be that much more expensive? Surely not?

If anyone thinks I'm being unfair, consider that you can buy a DVD player new for about AUD $30. A Bluray player is about AUD$99 (for the cheapest ones)
They have a lazer, motors, drawers, belts, microprocessors, opamps capacitors ,resistors, a circuit board, a power supply, chassis, polystyrene and cardboard printed packaging, a user manual, a power cable, a remote control and a free HDMI cable...

And a stylus costs $400?

patient_ot
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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by patient_ot » 25 Oct 2019 03:34

Erin1 wrote:
25 Oct 2019 01:51
patient_ot wrote:
24 Oct 2019 17:07
I can tell you that if you were to order the minimum quantity (20 or thereabouts?) of Microridge diamonds mounted on boron cantilevers (no magnet or plastic housing, just stylus + cantilever) they would cost you ~$200 each.
.
Yep, but as you already mentioned, AT gets better pricing than this.....
Which is what I was saying... When things are ordered in bulk the pricing usually comes down.

So...with a higher volume of cartridge and stylus sales, the prices should actually be coming down, not going up.
Capitalism and the free market at work. 🙃
Yep, it's capitalism. Before anything else, it's inflation. And even though AT like most big companies sells direct and through big box online stores, they sell to dealers as well and all third party retailers (even big box) have margins they want. So when Ortofon raises prices they do the same. They're still cheaper than everyone else.

Like it or not it's what we're dealing with. Awhile back I look into starting my own cartridge brand with third party manufacturing to my spec. Without going into detail let's just say to do so is a lot harder than one might think.

patient_ot
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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by patient_ot » 25 Oct 2019 03:37

Erin1 wrote:
25 Oct 2019 01:56

If anyone thinks I'm being unfair, consider that you can buy a DVD player new for about AUD $30. A Bluray player is about AUD$99 (for the cheapest ones)
They have a lazer, motors, drawers, belts, microprocessors, opamps capacitors ,resistors, a circuit board, a power supply, chassis, polystyrene and cardboard printed packaging, a user manual, a power cable, a remote control and a free HDMI cable...

And a stylus costs $400?
Not at all comparable. Those DVD/BR players are made in sold in a vastly larger quantity than cartridge styli. They're also usually made in country with a command economy and tight controls on the labor market and currency. By contrast, styli are made in smaller quantities on specialized equipment in Europe and Japan. Sure, there are very low-end producers in South America for a bonded conical but that is not what we're talking about here.

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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by Erin1 » 25 Oct 2019 04:27

patient_ot wrote:
25 Oct 2019 03:37
Erin1 wrote:
25 Oct 2019 01:56

If anyone thinks I'm being unfair, consider that you can buy a DVD player new for about AUD $30. A Bluray player is about AUD$99 (for the cheapest ones)
They have a lazer, motors, drawers, belts, microprocessors, opamps capacitors ,resistors, a circuit board, a power supply, chassis, polystyrene and cardboard printed packaging, a user manual, a power cable, a remote control and a free HDMI cable...

And a stylus costs $400?
Not at all comparable. Those DVD/BR players are made in sold in a vastly larger quantity than cartridge styli. They're also usually made in country with a command economy and tight controls on the labor market and currency. By contrast, styli are made in smaller quantities on specialized equipment in Europe and Japan. Sure, there are very low-end producers in South America for a bonded conical but that is not what we're talking about here.
Not directly comparable, but the example shows that when there are many suppliers of parts, prices come down. When there are only perhaps 3 or 4 sources of a component, they can charge what they want. Perhaps cartel is the correct description?

Erin1
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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by Erin1 » 25 Oct 2019 04:28

patient_ot wrote:
25 Oct 2019 03:34
Erin1 wrote:
25 Oct 2019 01:51
patient_ot wrote:
24 Oct 2019 17:07
I can tell you that if you were to order the minimum quantity (20 or thereabouts?) of Microridge diamonds mounted on boron cantilevers (no magnet or plastic housing, just stylus + cantilever) they would cost you ~$200 each.
.
Yep, but as you already mentioned, AT gets better pricing than this.....
Which is what I was saying... When things are ordered in bulk the pricing usually comes down.

So...with a higher volume of cartridge and stylus sales, the prices should actually be coming down, not going up.
Capitalism and the free market at work. 🙃
Yep, it's capitalism. Before anything else, it's inflation. And even though AT like most big companies sells direct and through big box online stores, they sell to dealers as well and all third party retailers (even big box) have margins they want. So when Ortofon raises prices they do the same. They're still cheaper than everyone else.

Like it or not it's what we're dealing with. Awhile back I look into starting my own cartridge brand with third party manufacturing to my spec. Without going into detail let's just say to do so is a lot harder than one might think.
Because you're dealing with a cartel?
Last edited by Erin1 on 25 Oct 2019 04:39, edited 1 time in total.

patient_ot
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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by patient_ot » 25 Oct 2019 04:38

Erin1 wrote:
25 Oct 2019 04:27


Not directly comparable, but the example shows that when there are many suppliers of parts, prices come down. When there are only perhaps 3 or 4 sources of a component, they can charge what they want. Perhaps cartel is the correct description?
Not comparable at all for the reasons I stated, especially scale. But anyway, it's not a cartel because they don't offer the same products. Apples to oranges.

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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by patient_ot » 25 Oct 2019 04:38

Erin1 wrote:
25 Oct 2019 04:28

Because you're dealing with a cartel.
More complicated than that. If you don't believe me, go ahead and try it yourself.

Erin1
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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by Erin1 » 25 Oct 2019 04:40

patient_ot wrote:
25 Oct 2019 04:38
Erin1 wrote:
25 Oct 2019 04:28

Because you're dealing with a cartel.
More complicated than that. If you don't believe me, go ahead and try it yourself.
I would sooner design my own cartridge from ground up than deal with the existing mob.

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Re: Opinion: stylus prices are a rip off

Post by wolfie62 » 25 Oct 2019 13:55

You can’t compare stylus assemblies to electronics. To do so, one would have to admit that they don’t know what they are talking about.

Electronics are mass produced using pick and place robots. They are fed by rolls of mass produced SMDs. The boards are then mass soldered using wave soldering or other Technics. Very little human element involved.

Styli are so small and delicate that a great deal of human interaction is involved.

As for nude styli, the diamond has to be cut into square or rectangular rods first. Try doing that at home! Then many polishing steps to get the tip to the right shape and surface finish. Then it has to be mounted precisely into the end of the cantilever. Much easier to bond a small diamond chip to a solid wire and then shape and polish it. Don’t have to make a square or rectangular diamond bar first.

OEMs go through great lengths to design and design the manufacturing of styli, to get right. Aftermarket mfrs don’t spend R&D resources to exactly reverse engineer a stylus. They make something that LOOKS and FITS like an original; if they can cut a corner, they do! No tension wires, no tapers, no telescoping cantilevers, no tuned damping system, no micro-machined components, and you’re luck if they even bother to get the cantilever length correct! Sure, Jico does a few of these things, but not all by a long shot!

But even aftermarket makers use a lot of human assembling of even cheap styli.

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