What Does Stylus Wear Look Like?

When it seemed as if my Lyra Titani had at least 1000 hours on it I figured it was time for a re-tip. I took a USB digital microscope image and posted it on this site. I thought it showed some wear but before sending the cartridge back to Lyra, I sent it to my friend Wally, who produced much better and more definitive images using an optical set-up.

The picture heading this story shows my Titani and the wear on either side of the stylus. The evenness of what's been worn away indicates the anti-skating had been ideally set using Wally's Anti-skating device. Wally has superimposed a groove likeness to help indicate the wear. While this kind of wear probably wouldn't damage record grooves, clearly its ability to trace the grooves has been diminished

The photo below is of a brand new stylus with the same dimensions are a Titan's (r=7, R=30µm). The differences are clear.

Here's a stylus with "some" wear:

Finally, here's a Dynavector XV-1s with about 1500 hours of use. Again, the wear is apparent.

The audible symptoms that led me to believe both the Titan i and the Ortofon A90 were in need of re-tipping were mostly of the 'crackling' variety on records that sounded pristine using other cartridges.

Rob's picture

Thanks for this post, Mikey. 


It still amazes me that they can accurately grind diamonds at this micron level and successfully install them onto a cantilever. .. and have been doing so for decades


Michael Fremer's picture

And it's all been done by one man locked in a tiny room in Japan! (just kidding)....

He's actually in Taiwan.

mauidj's picture

Is 1000 hours about normal for a cartridge to need retipping? Does it differ with manufacturer and/or shape?

Every day I learn something new here and my system sounds better for it...mahalo Michael!

Michael Fremer's picture

1000 hours is a good "average" regardless of manufacturer since most styli/cantilever assemblies are sourced from but a few companies. I would imagine the more severe styli shapes would wear faster, certainly that "bread and butter" elliptical styli, but I'm not really sure.<p>

Wear is very dependent upon stylus and LP cleanliness. The cleaner you keep both the longer both your records and your stylus will last. Records should outlive all of us if properly cared for.<p>

Martin's picture

That's the big question. Everyone seems to have a different answer.

For Lyra cartridges, since that's what I've got, I've been told about 2,500 hours before I have to replace the thing or get it re-tipped. If only my own body parts could be so easily renewed.

If you're playing dirty, crunchy records, I would guess you could halve that. With apologies to the Beach Boys, "We're a' sandin down our Styluses"

But for clean, washed records, it could go up to 3,000 hours on a stylus, right?
Before you really notice the deterioration.

J.D.'s picture


Thanks for doing just this kind of article, the exact kind of thing that's needed for learning Lp setup. 

I've often thought that someone should do a "Sound Effects You Don't Want" kind of album, basically a compendium of what it sounds like when something specific is specifically wrong.  Whether with the setup or with the Lp itself.   And I think the auteur / artist for that should be you.

  You get at that, when you mention "mostly of the 'crackling' variety on records that sounded pristine using other cartridges".    I'm sure you can pick out subtle differences in mis-aligned, under or overweighted, pro or antiskated, etc etc sounds, just by listening.  And the rest of us could use the tutorial.

A Cd or soundfile with carefully catalogued variations on errors, as well as common combinations of errors, would seem to make sense.  A sound-fx-faq.  And I think there may be quite a few categories-- eg, a track like "Nude Elliptical Dredging The Bottom Of A Pre-Microgroove Pressing"  ---which might sound really hopelessly wonky, could save some tragic missteps by users....

A WikLPedia.  

Anyway, great articles, thanks for the site,


amhifi's picture

I have owned a Shure stylus microscope since the '70s and find the images from it to be much more instructive than these.

Similar images are posted at


although what I see in my 'scope is even sharper. The reflected light clearly shows up any wear as a flat spot on the stylus.  I always recommend to my customers to change the stylus at the first appearance of a significant flat spot rather than waiting until the spots converge. Shure used to recommend changing the stylus when the area between the flat spots was roughly square, but that varies with stylus shape.

dbowker3d's picture

Great little tutorial Mike. Many thanks for all the useful tips collected here on your site.

So I have a MC Grado wood body that I think is around 5 years old. For better or worse, I don't get to play it enough to probably add up to more than a 1000 hours. It's probably right around a 1000, but some weeks when I get really busy I get less than few hours in. Sad I know.

So bascially what I'm wondering is, would there be anything else to wear out just having it sit there?

turpalibragimov's picture

Whether with the setup or with the Lp itself. And I think the auteur / artist for that should be you. cool training