Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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BMRR
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Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by BMRR » 06 Dec 2016 14:29

Pfanstiehl styli have a reputation for being "hit or miss" — that is to say, you might get a stylus that is good, great, bad, or terrible. I thought it might be helpful to have a topic where members can post reviews of the Pfanstiehl styli they've used. I noticed that there are some threads about individual Pfanstiehl styli but they are locked, making it impossible for members to add new information or ask new questions. Perhaps a unified thread would prove helpful.

Questions/comments about the history of the company would also be an interesting topic of discussion.
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BMRR
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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by BMRR » 06 Dec 2016 14:39

I'll start us off with some comments on the Pfanstiehl styli I've used:

4213-D6 — replacement for Audio-Technica ATN3472P and ATN3482P
I recently purchased one of these for less than $10 (shipping included). One of the first things I noticed is that the dual magnets, which together form a V shape, are not aligned in the same position as the AT original, which results in a slightly weird stereo image. The cantilever looks pretty good, and is the same length as the AT original. The suspension is stiffer than the AT, requiring a higher tracking force. It's listenable at 1.5g but it really needs 1.75g or 2g to eliminate most of its distortion. This isn't a problem if you're using it in a half-inch mount adapter, but it could be a big problem if you're using it in a P-mount turntable that can't be adjusted higher than 1.5g or can't be adjusted at all. If you simply need an inexpensive stylus for worn or unimportant records, and you're using it in a half-inch mount adapter, it's probably not a bad choice for the price.

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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by BMRR » 06 Dec 2016 14:45

4540-DEL — replacement for various Ortofon FF and VMS cartridges
I've owned two of these in the past, and I recently ordered one for a friend. The first one I purchased, which was manufactured before Pfanstiehl became part of LKG Industries, had some sort of thick black goop caked all over the diamond. Once I removed the goop (using a stylus brush and liquid stylus cleaning fluid), the stylus performed beautifully: rich, full sound; punchy bass; smooth clear treble; no distortion; and it tracked severe warps with the greatest of ease. I ran it at 2g VTF.

The second one that I purchased was also from the pre-LKG era, and it performed just as nicely as the first (but it didn't have any black goop to deal with).

The third one, which is current LKG production, should be arriving today. I paid $16 for it, which included shipping.

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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by BMRR » 06 Dec 2016 14:50

688-DQ — replacement for Pioneer PN-Q1
This one was very old stock. The packaging didn't claim to be Pioneer OEM, but it did say that the stylus was made in Japan (rather than Switzerland). I found this stylus for less than $40 and decided to try it in a Pioneer PC-30 cartridge, which is similar to the Pioneer PC-Q1 cartridge that the stylus is designed for. The Shibata diamond tracked very well, as expected, and even handled the hottest inner grooves with ease, including on some records that had a lot of wear on the inner grooves.

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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by BMRR » 06 Dec 2016 14:58

710-D7 — replacement for Audio-Technica ATN3400 and several others
Pfanstiehl had more than one source for this stylus. The ones I purchased were old and said Made in USA on the packaging. (Current LKG production is from Switzerland.) Quality is actually slightly better than the original ATN3400; instead of the thick, stiff, carbon-plastic cantilever of the original, you get a thinner alloy tube cantilever with a slightly softer (but still firm) suspension. The magnets are rectangular rather than cylindrical but the alignment is exactly the same as OEM. Audio quality is similar to the original but with ever so slightly less distortion, and tracks well at 2.5g (as opposed to 3g with the original). I found these for $10 each and would purchase them again at that price.

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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by BMRR » 06 Dec 2016 15:04

718-D7 and 718-DE — replacement for numerous Technics, Panasonic, National, Yamaha, and private label styli
I know several people who love these. Unfortunately I've had nothing but trouble with them. I own at least four of them at this point. I've purchased old stock as well as new LKG stock, and all of them have had sibilance, channel balance problems, reduced stereo separation, and lack of bass. I think I paid $8 or $9 for the D7s and $14 for the DEs.

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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by calgarysaurus » 06 Dec 2016 15:47

My main experience with Pfanstiehl is with a stylus for Shure V15 Type IV. It was a complete miss. The sibilences were extremely messy. The stylus was quickly abandoned.

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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by analogaudio » 06 Dec 2016 16:20

BMRR wrote:4540-DEL — replacement for various Ortofon FF and VMS cartridges
I've owned two of these in the past, and I recently ordered one for a friend. The first one I purchased, which was manufactured before Pfanstiehl became part of LKG Industries, had some sort of thick black goop caked all over the diamond. Once I removed the goop (using a stylus brush and liquid stylus cleaning fluid), the stylus performed beautifully: rich, full sound; punchy bass; smooth clear treble; no distortion; and it tracked severe warps with the greatest of ease. I ran it at 2g VTF.

The second one that I purchased was also from the pre-LKG era, and it performed just as nicely as the first (but it didn't have any black goop to deal with).

The third one, which is current LKG production, should be arriving today. I paid $16 for it, which included shipping.

The "black goop" immediately "rang a bell" for me. About ten years ago I purchased a 78rpm stylus for a Shure M75 and it turned out to be a Pfansteil. It was unusable, seen under a magnifying lens the "stylus" was a blunt stub, it didn't work. The cost was so low I could not be bothered to return it. It now seems likely to be another example of what you encountered.

My personal opinion is that only the original cart maker can be trusted to make a replacement stylus (with a very few exceptions that are not cheap) because the quality control requirements for the materials to make the diamond tip, the cantilever and the suspension are costly and when compromised by cost cutting lead to audible problems. I only purchase replacements from the original manufacturer. If they have stopped making replacements it is time for a new cartridge.

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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by BMRR » 06 Dec 2016 20:34

BMRR wrote:4540-DEL — replacement for various Ortofon FF and VMS cartridges
The third one, which is current LKG production, should be arriving today.
It arrived and I immediately checked it with a bright lamp and a 40x loupe. It LOOKS really good. The cantilever and the diamond are perfectly aligned, and the diamond looks like it has actually been polished. Frankly, it looks significantly better than any of the diamonds I've seen on current-production Shure styli over the past few years. It also appears to have a nicer shape and a lot more polish than any of the current production Grado Prestige Series diamonds I've seen in recent years, too.

I'll report on its audio quality once I've had a chance to listen to it for a while.

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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by ScooterMcTavish » 06 Dec 2016 23:13

4760-DE Replacement stylus for an old Realistic turntable with the Realistic R47EDT cartridge (Shure N75). Visual impressions were ok (macro photo) but the tip looked a bit dark. Better than an EVG stylus I had used on an old AT cartridge, but not by much.

Sound was OK, though there was sibilance on female vocals. Tracked well.

Useable in a pinch, but will not buy again. This stylus actually has convinced me to start buying more modern cartridges so that I can still source OEM styli for them.

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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by BMRR » 27 Feb 2017 18:33

In another topic which is now locked, someone said that none of the aftermarket stylus manufacturers offer .2x.7mil diamonds. Unfortunately no one corrected him, so his claim still stands and there is no way to reply in that topic.

I wanted to state for the record that Pfanstiehl does offer a small number of styli with .2x.7mil elliptical diamonds. I have no idea how good or how bad they are, but they are available. Here are some examples:
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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by BMRR » 27 Feb 2017 18:38

Related question:

Is it true that Ed Saunders' styli — widely known to be manufactured by Pfanstiehl — are built to better specs and perform better than the ones that Pfanstiehl sells under their own brand name? Or is this just marketing hype, rumor, urban legend, audiophile superstition, etc.? Has anyone ever tried a Saunders-branded stylus and a Pfanstiehl-branded stylus and compared them?

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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by Snead » 27 Feb 2017 19:53

Re: your last question, if you examine the eBay "purchased items" of the Saunders proprietress, you'll find where she ordered quantities of Pfanstiehl styli from other sellers. Need I say more?

Moving on to actual experiences, my last purchase was a 4213-DE for an a-t pmount. It sounds ok, has decent workmanship, good channel balance etc. But oh my, the dynamics were just sucked right out of the cart! It's now the flattest, most boring cart I have. I'd compare it to listening to a rural, low-power AM radio station. If it was the only cart available, I'd abandon vinyl and listen to digits.

Other experiences involved a pair of styli for a-t 10-11-12-13-14-15 models. They're advertised as .2 ellipticals and sounded pretty good, if a bit grainy...until they fell apart.

Prior to that, a 4760 for a Shure M75, and an Empire 2000 stylus were highly successful. I'd buy those again.

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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by BMRR » 27 Feb 2017 19:56

Thanks, Snead! Especially for the bit about Saunders, which speaks volumes.

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Re: Pfanstiehl Stylus — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Post by BMRR » 15 Mar 2017 17:36

I recently encountered a strange issue with a Pfanstiehl 4771-DE (replacement for the Shure N97ED).

The bushing — the piece of steel that the diamond is bonded to, which is inserted through a hole in the end of the cantilever — is extremely long. It's almost as if they forgot to trim it or something. I'm not sure if that description makes sense, so I've attached a drawing to describe it. The drawing on the left is what a normal stylus looks like, with just a very tiny portion of the bushing poking through the top side of the cantilever; the drawing on the right is the 4771-DE I received recently. I'm perplexed. I've never seen anything like this before. I'm curious to know if anyone else has encountered this, particularly with the 4771-DE (which is one of the select few Pfanstiehl styli that claims to have a 2x7 elliptical diamond).
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