Life of a cartridge

How long does a cartridge last, what is the life expectancy off one
Just curious as mine was part off the deck a rega p6 and it was ex demo apparently 50 hours roughly

Depends a bit, but 1000 hours give or take. E.g. Ortofon says 1000 hours without changes in sound, and up to 2000 with slight gradual degradation if the records are clean. Rega I believe says officially a bit less than 1000 for the MCs, but 1000 should be ok at least with clean records. The diamond, which should be similar between different manufacturers, is not the sole degrading part. Cantilever mounting and the wiring in MC cartridges is also a factor, so differences between manufacturers will exist. Best bet is to look up the website of your manufacturer


I think it principally depends on the quality of the diamond and the cleanliness of the stylus and records. I think that top of the line stylii and meticulous stylus/record cleaning should give you 3000 hours, plus or minus. That’s been my experience over the last 50 years.


It might help to think in terms of LP Sides, rather than Hours. I will assume an LP Side is 20 minutes. So 1000 hours is 3000 Sides - 2000 hours would be 6000 Sides, etc.

Its quite easy to keep a simple log of LP Sides played… :slightly_smiling_face:

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Yep. I keep a lap counter next to the turntable for this purpose. Once it gets to 3,000 the cartridge gets replaced, regardless of apparent performance.

By the time you can hear decreased performance it has long been damaging your records.


So is it the compliance in the cantilever that degrades? Or are we saying the diamond wears out?
Just trying to work out what drives the need to change a cartridge.

Due to use I’d expect stylus wear to the dominant factor.

Suspension however does degrade over time.

How does a hard material such as diamond wear out against a plastic surface?

Where I’m at!

It’s so variable, there’s no set answer. Quality of cartridge, diamond cut, tracking force, set-up, record cleanliness are just some of the diamond wear variables.

If it’s never used, 10 years and the suspension won’t be as good. Minimum 1,000 hours use, then use your eyes and ears.

I use a piece of paper… :grin:

Or like a razor blade against hair? A knife against meat? A drill bit against sheetrock? Rocks against water?

It’s not only the soft material that wears down when put in contact with the other - it’s just that the rate of wear is much lower for the hard one, but not zero.


A good point but in your examples each wear aginst more than the material you quote, knifes against chopping boards and other hard surfaces, rzors scraping skin, water carrying other minerals against rock etc.
Is there any picturs of wear rates vs hours? I would imagine the manufacturers would have some?

Skin is still softer than the blade, and knives wear even against plastic chopping boards. :wink:

Quite a few images here: link

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Many, many years ago, A level biology, we had a microtome in the lab, the blade was fresh each time we used it, a cut piece of glass. We were reminded every time to get our sections cut within 20 minutes or the action of air molecules on the fresh edge would blunt it. Certainly the cutting of leaf and stem samples deteriorated very quickly.


Asking how long a stylus lasts is like asking how fast does a V8 go? Ford or Ferrari?
MM have all ways seemed to have a short life say 1000hrs. When a cheaper styli is used the Rate of diamond dust deposited in the groove walls is greater, the styli then rubs against this accelerating the wear. If a cartridge maker wants to say his cartridges last only a 1000hrs why argue. But it does not have to be. A quality stylus can be orientated so the hardest zones of the diamond crystal are where the stylus contacts the groove, if it is also Line Contact the load is spread. This is when and how other manufactors say their product lasts 3000hrs or 8000 sides. How do you know when you reach a 1000hrs AND what your wear is? well you dont and never will. But if doubt has been sown and redundancy built in maybe you buy a new cartridge so both you and the maker benefit.

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It’s one of the vagaries of vinyl. The only real way to know is to inspect with a microscope.



And even that is really hard to do.

Not really, its getting easier and cheaper. Just search on a major online store, iPhone microscope. We use a 20 quid one for medical probes and the quality is amazing for the money. The interpretation is another matter i guess.

I asked Dynavector the same question about my XX-2.
I was told that providing the stylus and the records themselves are kept clean then it’s usually the hardening of the rubber suspension dampers that brings about the need for a cartridge change and not stylus wear. They said they have had cartridges back on the exchange scheme exchange at 8 years old where the stylus is still fine.
In fact I recently had a problem with my XX-2 and it was replaced by Dynavector FOC due to it’s young age - 18 months old.

I bought myself a portable microscope but can’t use it when the arm is on the deck.