Conical Stylus for Old/Inferior Records

As we all know not enough care is taken when pressing too many modern records and unfortunately many ‘better’ stylus shapes do not deal with these records to well so I’m considering going for a conical shaped stylus to clip on so that I can still play and enjoy these records for what they are.

My first thought was the VMN10CB as I already use a VM body for my other Audio Technica stylus it’s a very inexpensive stylus that’s supposed to deal very well with many of the problems you find with modern mass produced records and it’s also supposed to sound pretty good with older badly pressed records too.

Does anyone have experience of conical styli and if so any advice comments would be great.

At the risk of being controversial, I’d be thinking of going t’other way, i.e to microlinear? I had an elliptical stylus on my AT cart which of course is one-up from conical and it was fine but apart from trapping muck like you wouldn’t believe, any material with a lot going on or with less than perfect production values, such as 80’s pressings sounded harsh. So harsh in fact as to render them unlistenable. I mentioned this to my dealer (Cymbiosis) who recommended I swap out the stock stylus for a ML and get a RCM. The RCM made a massive difference as it gets in the grooves like no manual cleaning can. The lower profile stylus got deeper into the groove and dug out more detail. Problem solved!!!

I tend to agree with @Jonners , based on my own experience.
Certainly depending on the size of your record collection it is where a changeable headshell becomes a boon. Multiple turntables may not be domestically friendly.
I have four turntables, two in storage so that is a faff, but Regas happened to be available. The worse case scenario is a Stanton DJ cartridge that seems to deal with cyclic clicks/scratches better.
Otherwise I would agree that AT is a good option.
An RCM, even a Spinwash is beneficial.
So having then gone with ML as an option, I will report that my brother in law keeps a Rega 3 with the Rega Carbon as his poor condition option. That being an AT cartridge of course.

I agree. It’s amazing what a really fine micro-line stylus can do with either a shallow cut groove or one cut very close to the label.

A spherical stylus can work really well on early LPs, especially mono LPs. The DL103 is a great choice for someone with a good mix of early mono and stereo LPs who doesn’t want to have to either swap better different arms or decks or swap out the cartridge or headshell. However, a mono button on the pre-amp or phono stage is a must.

Thanks for your reply Jonners I supposed I confused the issue at the end of my post by mentioning old vinyl because my main issue is with brand spanking new records that are pressed badly not dirty.

I do use an RCM and already have an Audio Technica VM60SLC which is a Special Line Contact stylus and AT’s top of the range supposedly better than the microline and I also have an AT 150 EA which is an elliptical and a Goldring 1012X which is a fine elliptical so I’m pretty much covered at that end.

What I’m trying to negate are pressing issues such as non fill on new vinyl which very fine profile styli like the SLC are ruthless with put on a Tone Poet, Mofi, Acoustic Sounds or Analogue Productions reissue and everything is beautiful with deep bass and bags of detail but the problem is I’d like to buy and play any record not just those.

After research I’ve read that the same types of cartridge shape that are good with older mono records like the ones Richard mentions are also good with new badly pressed records so I’m really looking for anyone who has tried the same as sadly it’s getting to the point with lots of pressings where a digital file is actually preferable.

Just a thought. Do you have a vta shim on your P8? I notice that the AT cart I have just installed is about 1.5 mm deeper than the Grado I removed. It affects the bad pressing LP’s I have but doesn’t appear to affect the perfectly flat and clean ones.

Yes I’m using a 2mm shim supplied with my P8 and I fitted the cartridge with a SMARTRACTOR alignment tool which is about the best alignment tool you can buy and is incredibly accurate.

I’m really very grateful for all your answers but this isn’t a set up issue this is an issue caused by mass produced badly pressed records if it wasn’t then why are we all obsessed with who cut a record and where? How many records are pressed per stamper, the composition of the vinyl and which pressing plant did the work?

These things are all hugely important to us because we all have spent quite large amounts and have put lots of time and care into putting together our vinyl replay systems but unfortunately if the companies producing records don’t put an equal amount of care into it then it’s all to no avail.

Yes a properly set up microline, shibata or special line contact stylus can pick out every last bit of information out from a record groove but it will equally pick out the bad stuff too. I think probably the best thing for me to do is to buy a conical stylus and try it myself as it’s a relatively cheap experiment and if it fails I’m afraid it’s a new Dac to go with my Aries Mini.

I’ve just bought a VMN10CB Conical stylus to go onto my AT 150 body it’s less than a 10th of the price of my VMN60SLC and a fifth of the 150 EA but if it allows me to play those difficult records who cares.

I’ve just been reading that Art Dudley was a big fan of the Conical stylus on the AT95 so it’s worth a try I’ll let you all know how it goes.

I agree. I was merely trying to point out a possible solution to try. I have ordered a 2 mm shim for the P3/AT combination.

The quality of pressings is a concern wit the re-issues.

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The AT VMN10CB Conical Stylus clipped on to the AT150 body easily and I have to say I’m very impressed the few new records I tried that had sounded muddy with the VM760SLC sounded much better noticeably much better when I’ve tried some ‘audiophile’ pressings I’ll let you know how they sound but so far so good.

This hobby can be strange I have a reissued copy of Protection by Massive Attack which has sounded pretty awful on the numerous record players I’ve owned but I’ve just played it on my P8 with the VMN10CB Conical stylus which cost me no more than £100 inc the AT150 body and for the first time it sounded very good I then played one of the discs from my Blue Lines box set which has sounded very good on all my previous decks and it sounded horrible.

After further reading it seems that the use of these Conical styli are indeed very popular when playing older used or ‘beater’ records that suffer from a lot of surface noise so I suppose it’s no surprise that new slightly inferior records will also benefit.

I’m not sure about the rest of you but the thought of only being able to listen to Tone Poets and Acoustic Sounds reissues or the very few records pressed at QRP, RTI or Optimal is just to limiting for me but with this stylus I’m still able to enjoy those records my expensive stylus rejects.

Of course sometimes a streamed or ripped option is preferable but for some records I’m finding even a beater vinyl copy played using my Conical Stylus is better sounding than the digital equivalent.

I have a Columbia Mono Six Eye copy of Miles at the Blackhawk the 2xLP version which I bought unseen and very cheap and though there are no skips or scratches it does suffer with a lot of surface noise even after a good clean I played just one track last night with the Conical and that noise was reduced by at least 50% it’s now much more enjoyable and so much better than the streamed version.

Next up is my box of early Reggae and Rock Steady 7" singles if I can sneak back down from the loft perhaps just 10 at a time.

I found the replicant 100 stylus, with minor/major radii of 5μm/100μm, on my SPU Royal N much quieter than the conical on my mono London Decca Maroon. I’ve not heard the other replicant equipped cartridges so don’t know if it’s an inherently quiet profile. Unfortunately the >£1000 Royal N is the cheapest cartridge it appears on.
The Maroon can play some records in a more involving manner and makes a complete mess of some other mono discs which the stereo SPU shines on. It’s possible these are cut for a 25μm rather than 18μm conical.

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