Is your cartridge tired?

We’ve discussed in detail how to tell, or test, if your tubes are tired. But how do you know if your cartridge is ready for retirement? And there must be more to it than a re-tip. For example, has the rubber in the suspension lost it’s elasticity?

Has you chewing gum lost it’s flavor on the bedpost overnight?


Without warning last year my stylus just broke off one day on my Ortofon 2M Black cart. They sell a replacement stylus at a discount, but it would not properly mount on my cartridge. In the end, I was stuck buying a new cart.

Good question. I confess I’ve never retired a cartridge because of suspension wear out. Those I know who have did so because of outright collapse. Fortunately that hasn’t happened to me (fingers crossed). Stylus wear different story. That can be assessed directly via a high power loupe (my method) or a microscope. Most of us I’d guess have a line contact stylus cartridge. The wear of that low contact ridge is readily obvious when it’s excessive. When it’s too excessive for me to feel comfortable continuing to use the cart, out to pasture it goes. Or a retip if I really love it.

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One thing you can do is send it to a “rebuilder” for analysis. I can’t speak to who the good guys are, but I just sent my Shelter 901 to SoundSmith for inspection. The cost is $75 so no big deal if they find it is Ok. SoundSmith has a real good reputation, as such their work takes a while (lots of customers), I was quoted one week or so for the inspection and eight weeks if they have to rebuild it. The rebuild with a boron cantilever and line contact stylus is $450 (the inspection fee is waived if you do the rebuild). While not cheap, it’s cheaper than a new comparable cartridge.

Somewhere I read it the well cared cartridge diamond tip is good for 3000 hours?