New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

the thin end of the wedge
UsableThought
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New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by UsableThought » 22 Nov 2019 20:19

I recently posted a query (see "Yet another 'crooked cantilever' question") about whether to seek a replacement stylus for my old Ortofon FF 15 XE, Mk II - part of a what I hoped would be a fairly straightforward vinyl transfer project.

I decided to go ahead & buy the new stylus. Went onto Amazon simply because I get free shipping from them; ordered what was purportedly a genuine Ortofon part from an outfit whose name I won't give here. It got here today & I looked forward to trying it out to see if it would sound better than the old stylus.

The new stylus assembly was labeled correctly & looked to be the same shape & design as the old assembly. However it was quite a tight fit going on - much tighter than the old one coming off. If I had any experience in this sort of thing, I might have recognized that as a warning sign & stopped & sent it back for a refund rather than mess with it.

I did a test recording & discovered that although the audio reproduction was good, my setup now had a 60Hz hum it hadn't had before. I have a fair amount of experience troubleshooting audio hum; in this case it was easily narrowed down to the vicinity of the tone arm/cartridge - not a surprise since the only difference between the previous setup & the new one was switching out the stylus.

First step after narrowing down was to inspect the cartridge's connection to the head shell. Everything looked normal - no damaged wires or disconnected pins. I then removed the stylus assembly . . . only to discover that the stylus & its little brass connection tube hadn't come out with the assembly, but were now stuck deeply in the cartridge. Even if I had the tools to remove that tiny tube, the cartridge innards have surely been damaged. I don't quite follow how the grounding scheme works for this Dual CS 530 turntable - from testing w/ an ohmmeter, it didn't seem to me that the ground wire to the phono preamp had connectivity with either the L or R audio shield braids; yet on the other hand, clearly the cartridge & tone arm had in fact been grounded via that same ground wire, prior to the cartridge getting damaged. Maybe what is normally getting grounded is the metal of the tone arm & also some metal bits in the cartridge itself.

All that aside, it would seem that "ill-fitting stylus in hands of newbie = dead stylus & dead cartridge". Amazon customer service is good about backing up refunds for defective products (which is why I tend to buy a lot there) so I will probably get my money back on the stylus. The cartridge though is another story - it looks like I will have to do some unexpected shopping for a completely new one. Next time I won't push to make a tight fit "work."

P.S. Have sprung for an Ortofon Super OM10. Hopefully will avoid killing this one.

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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by lenjack » 22 Nov 2019 23:15

I'm guessing that when you removed the old stylus assembly, you didn't get it all out. I think part of it remained in the cartridge body, which is why the replacement assembly was so difficult to get into place.

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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by UsableThought » 23 Nov 2019 02:43

lenjack wrote:
22 Nov 2019 23:15
I'm guessing that when you removed the old stylus assembly, you didn't get it all out. I think part of it remained in the cartridge body, which is why the replacement assembly was so difficult to get into place.
Interesting conjecture. If so this would mean that it was the old stylus that was somehow defective, not the new one; and it would be a way to explain the increased physical resistance.

However it's hard for me to see how such a problem could develop & go unnoticed during cartridge swapping. There would have to be a small part that (a) accidentally got detached from the old assembly, (b) wasn't visible as either present in the naked cartridge or missing from the old assembly, and (c) didn't interfere with the old stylus being removed for inspection & then replaced again w/out loss of function, which I did last week. It seems more likely that if even a small piece of the old assembly fell out deep inside the cartridge, then removing & replacing the old assembly would have resulted in a problem w/ mechanical and/or electrical function then & there.

The assembly is pretty simple anyway - a plastic frame with a guiding extension, a swinging guard, the stylus proper, and the brass tube. See photo, below, as well as a diagram from the FF15 manual. New & old stylus assemblies looked identical to me when I compared them prior to inserting the new assembly in the cartridge.

But I suppose it's not impossible - clearly something happened that wasn't meant to happen, and a defect of some sort was probably involved.
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Erin1
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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by Erin1 » 23 Nov 2019 06:16

UsableThought wrote:
23 Nov 2019 02:43
lenjack wrote:
22 Nov 2019 23:15
I'm guessing that when you removed the old stylus assembly, you didn't get it all out. I think part of it remained in the cartridge body, which is why the replacement assembly was so difficult to get into place.
Interesting conjecture. If so this would mean that it was the old stylus that was somehow defective, not the new one; and it would be a way to explain the increased physical resistance.

However it's hard for me to see how such a problem could develop & go unnoticed during cartridge swapping. There would have to be a small part that (a) accidentally got detached from the old assembly, (b) wasn't visible as either present in the naked cartridge or missing from the old assembly, and (c) didn't interfere with the old stylus being removed for inspection & then replaced again w/out loss of function, which I did last week. It seems more likely that if even a small piece of the old assembly fell out deep inside the cartridge, then removing & replacing the old assembly would have resulted in a problem w/ mechanical and/or electrical function then & there.

The assembly is pretty simple anyway - a plastic frame with a guiding extension, a swinging guard, the stylus proper, and the brass tube. See photo, below, as well as a diagram from the FF15 manual. New & old stylus assemblies looked identical to me when I compared them prior to inserting the new assembly in the cartridge.

But I suppose it's not impossible - clearly something happened that wasn't meant to happen, and a defect of some sort was probably involved.
Does the old Stylus still have the brass cylinder shank attached?

If not, there is the answer.
If both have the brass attached, then measure the diameter of each brass shank.

Closely inspect all parts for correct size.

Upload photos of both if you're not sure.

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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by UsableThought » 23 Nov 2019 07:17

Erin1 wrote:
23 Nov 2019 06:16
Does the old Stylus still have the brass cylinder shank attached?
Yes.
Erin1 wrote:
23 Nov 2019 06:16
If both have the brass attached, then measure the diameter of each brass shank.
As I stated, the new stylus assembly no longer has the brass piece attached - it is inside the cartridge. I could probably get it out by destructively taking apart the cartridge, but it's all moot at this point. Moving on.
Last edited by UsableThought on 23 Nov 2019 07:23, edited 1 time in total.

Erin1
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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by Erin1 » 23 Nov 2019 07:21

Since the stylus was new old stock, perhaps it survived until this day because it didn't fit properly when it was first installed in 1984 and got put back into its box?

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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by Collux » 23 Nov 2019 17:13

Maybe the remnants of the brass stylus guide can be 'fished' out of the cart with the use of some sort of made up hook?

Notwithstanding, your purchase of an Ortofon Super OM10, is probably a far better and more satisfying, long term investment in the circumstances.

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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by UsableThought » 23 Nov 2019 19:04

Erin1 wrote:
23 Nov 2019 06:16
If both have the brass attached, then measure the diameter of each brass shank. Closely inspect all parts for correct size.
Collux wrote:
23 Nov 2019 17:13
Maybe the remnants of the brass stylus guide can be 'fished' out of the cart with the use of some sort of made up hook?
Collux got me wanting to take a second try at removing the broken-off brass piece from the cartridge. I was able to do so quite quickly & easily this time around - maybe earlier I had been too impatient. And per Erin1's suggestion, I have after all found it worthwhile to measure (via calipers) & compare the brass shank for the original stylus, vs. the same for the replacement stylus.

Problem turns out not to have been width - they are both ~1.6 mm in diameter - but length: the original shank is slightly less than 5 mm long, but the replacement shank is nearly 7 mm long. This extra ~2 mm made the shank jut out further in the rear of the assembly - i.e. the portion of the shank to be inserted into the cartridge was that much longer.

The problem being the length, and not the width, would explain the peculiar nature of the extra resistance I felt when inserting the new assembly. I didn't mention it in my original post, but here's how it went: the initial insertion was easy for the first few millimeters of travel - but then it tightened up even though the rear plastic face of the assembly wasn't yet flush with the cartridge face. I figured "hey - it's an exact replacement part - it's got to fit" and so I increased my finger pressure until the assembly slid all the way in & was flush.

That few mm of extra length in the brass shank must have been what broke the cartridge grounding - thus resulting in a 60Hz hum. The hot/ground audio outputs for the L and R audio channels weren't affected - just the use of the green terminal for grounding the metal cartridge housing, per Ortofon's cartridge FAQ: "Green terminal will always be used for grounding the cartridge housings or motor-system, whenever connected inside the cartridge."

I wouldn't have thought to measure the dimensions of new vs. old stylus assembly - I just assumed I was getting "the real thing." The only obvious visible difference between the old assembly & the new was the color of the plastic frame: the old was yellow, the new one was black. But the model number on the new assembly was correct, so the difference in color didn't seem significant.

QUESTION: The Om10 is on its way to me - but does anyone know whether it's possible to disassemble one of these old FF 15's in a way that would allow possible repair (by fixing whatever connection was broken) followed by reassembly?

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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by lenjack » 23 Nov 2019 20:07

That's not fair. If it was 2mm longer, then it was not an exact replacement. Even though you got it from Amazon, you should complain to the original seller.

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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by UsableThought » 23 Nov 2019 20:17

lenjack wrote:
23 Nov 2019 20:07
That's not fair. If it was 2mm longer, then it was not an exact replacement. Even though you got it from Amazon, you should complain to the original seller.
I did write the seller a polite but firm email via their contact link on Amazon. In addition to describing the damage done by the longer shank, I more or less suggested they look into the sources they use for obtaining this sort of item. I suppose it could be a screw-up by an otherwise reputable manufacturer; but these days one hears so much about counterfeiters and just plain badly done aftermarket parts. It's especially rife in electronics, I know - not just consumer goods but things like professional soldering stations are apparently often counterfeited. And Amazon is not going to vet this sort of thing, nor will most high-volume online retailers. I would expect specialty shops to be more trustworthy.

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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by lenjack » 23 Nov 2019 20:30

Let us know if you get a response. Ortofon may want to know about it as well, since it was represented as an oem product, and if you do, let the seller know.

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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by Collux » 23 Nov 2019 23:07

Re Cartridge disassembly/repair

There are 3 main elements to most common cartridge types (excluding the stylus)
1. The generator itself
2. The housing/body/shield
3. The mount

(Some method of retaining all these elements together, also being present: mechanical/adhesive whatever.)

The generator assembly usually being put into the body by:
(a) insertion from the rear
(b) dropping down from the top

Understanding these aspects are useful in proceeding with any disassembly operation.

Looking at the Ortofon FF 15 XE Mk II, it appears as though the generator and mount may be integral as an assembly and fitted into the metal body?

Note for this cart, it could be either a 'slide in' or 'drop down' construction method.........

If you wish to attempt a disassembly of this FF 15 XE, I would concentrate on trying to separate the cart with this in mind.

These comments are speculation on my part, with no responsibility taken!
-my experience with disassembly of carts is limited to only a couple of instances.

Others with far more experience may care to comment?
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UsableThought
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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by UsableThought » 24 Nov 2019 09:34

On further examination of the cart, I don't think I could manage a non-destructive disassembly - the pressed metal body would be difficult to open up with ordinary tools - e.g. the large tabs that comprise the front face would inevitably have their creases distorted, and thus restoration of the original clean angles would likely not be possible. No big deal.

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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by markcass » 24 Nov 2019 10:42

UsableThought wrote:
24 Nov 2019 09:34
On further examination of the cart, I don't think I could manage a non-destructive disassembly - the pressed metal body would be difficult to open up with ordinary tools - e.g. the large tabs that comprise the front face would inevitably have their creases distorted, and thus restoration of the original clean angles would likely not be possible. No big deal.
I dismantled a VMS cartridge once, and put it back together, working. The key is to open up the four metal tabs on the top of the cartridge so they point up vertically and then, after turning the cartridge over, gently prise the metal screening can upwards. The generator is indeed attached to the plastic mounting bracket, and the metal can is just there to protect it and screen out electro-magnetic interference. It must have been pushed on after assembly and then secured by bending the four tabs down. You can just see the cut-outs into which they are pushed on the image up-thread, though they are partly concealed by the edges of the paper label.

I don't have any more details to offer as I did this several decades ago!

HTH anyway

Mark

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Re: New stylus kills 36-year-old Ortofon

Post by UsableThought » 24 Nov 2019 11:05

Thanks for the info.
markcass wrote:
24 Nov 2019 10:42
The key is to open up the four metal tabs on the top of the cartridge so they point up vertically and then, after turning the cartridge over, gently prise the metal screening can upwards. The generator is indeed attached to the plastic mounting bracket, and the metal can is just there to protect it and screen out electro-magnetic interference. It must have been pushed on after assembly and then secured by bending the four tabs down.
I have to confess, I actually did get as far bending up the four tabs. And I was able to get the metal casing to start coming down a bit from the plastic frame into which those four tabs fit. But then I started thinking I might have to open up the two front-facing metal tabs, which are much bigger; and that is where I got concerned about distorting metal.

What was really hanging me up (leading me to wondering about the front metal tabs) was actually the plastic block in the rear that holds the 4 channel pins - I couldn't tell if this pin assembly was attached (either by a plastic weld or some mechanical means) in a way that meant it would be reluctant to move in sync with the metal casing if I kept pushing. On the other hand, I have nothing to lose by trying, so maybe I will just see what happens.

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