Friday, January 25, 2013

Putting a New Fang on the Tone-Arm Cobra

I haven't often thought about the styli in my turntables. My first two turntables were of the 1980's variety when vinyl was going out and nobody cared about making a decent tone arm anymore, so a good stylus wouldn't have really done anything for them.

My current turntable (Pioneer PL-115D for you gear heads out there. It's simplistic, but a total workhorse) is a significantly better piece of machinery. I bought it from a guy who hits up yard and estate sales and refurbishes the things he finds (I got my Marantz 2252B from the same guy). He had equipped the turntable with a brand new Audio Technica ATN3600L, which is a nice-sounding low-budget stylus. I had been meaning to get a new stylus for a long time, but never got around to it for whatever reason. Then I was on one of my audio forums, and a guy talked about replacing your stylus every 4-5 years. I hadn't replaced the stylus on the Pioneer for about 8 years, so I bit the bullet and picked up a brand new Audio Technica ATN3600L for two reasons: 1) I already knew that it would fit my cartridge and 2) it also fit my budget (under $30. Yeah, I'm poor).

When I pulled the old stylus out, I noticed a couple things were off. First of all, the arm which holds the diamond was bent. I never noticed it because I always saw it from an angle. The other thing I noticed was that the diamond on my old stylus was worn down significantly when compared to the new one.

Anyway, I popped the new stylus on, and immediately noticed an improvement in the clarity. It's ridiculous that I didn't get around to this sooner. Now I'm looking online for other styli, and other cartridges as well. I plan on changing every 2-3 years from now on just because it's the audio equivalent of getting new glasses and realizing that you had the option of seeing more clearly all along. If any audiophiles come across this post, feel free to suggest cartridges and/or styli.

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