Should an MC cartridge be replaced due to age?

That would make sense as the wearing parts, suspension and stylus, are the same. Possibly it’s slightly less bad in the case of MM/MI as the cantilever/stylus assembly tends to be lighter.

OTOH the suspension deterioration might just be age related, not use.

Thank you for all your thoughts on this. As commented above, I’m now convinced that my cartridge has completed many more hours than I had originally thought. I have considered other HOMC cartridges, but a happy combination of both reviews and P/E cost makes me the proud owner of a Dynavector 10x5 Mk2.
And the sound is definitely better to my rather damaged ears.
CONCLUSION: MC cartridges deteriorate with age - but not all that much!

This is despite being unable to level the tonearm to my complete satisfaction. A spacer is needed between cartridge and headshell. I have a question about this, which is perhaps better posed as a new topic

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Well done… Surprisingly I still have a DV10x4, but in an Ittok. Working fine… but… at some point, it will morph into a DV10x5… Like yours… :grinning:

PS. No setting problems in an Ittok - but that was a dealer job…

With modern day cartridges whether MC or MM the materials used should be an improvement over something 20 years old. Even if the 20 year old had not “aged”, then present day is likely to be better.

Ok… explain that to me… Don’t think I would necessarily agree, as an engineer.

Magnets, Elastomers, Wire, Metals…?

Unless a genuine new material has been used, IMO, not much has changed. I will believe in some degree of deterioration, with age, though.

Just my opinion obviously stylus wear can be both visually observed and usually heard.
A problem can arise due to the age of the components for example suspension in the cartridge can degrade over time becoming brittle but really if your cartridge is still sounding great and the tip is in good condition then simply enjoy unless you fancy a change.

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Its based on the general improvements in consumer goods over the years. Loudspeakers, the use of computers in design. Cars, white goods etc.
All down to my opinion and having been a hi-fi nut back to a 301 and Decca FFSS a long time ago.
Plus its subjective as a lot of things in hi-fi can be.

As a lapsed engineer, I am aware of two ageing processes.
The diamond stylus gradually wears with use. This process is directly related to the number of records played, not to age. First approximation is 500-1500 disc life. Fine line profiles last towards the 1500 disc life, simpler profiles nearer 500 discs. It is a very gradual process, so hard to detect until too late.

The second ageing process is that the cantilever suspension ages with elapsed time (not no. of discs) as the elastomer elements harden over time. I reckon on 5 years for this process but would welcome better informed guidance from others here.

Hence, I send a cartridge off for a service (including re-tipping) after 5 years or circa 1,000-1,500 discs, whichever comes first. After 9-10 years or circa 2,500 discs, I trade in the cartridge against a new one and reset the clock to start the process all over again.

Hope this helps. If others know better, I would welcome the advice.

Best regards, BF

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@Bluesfan - As a fellow lapsed engineer, I find nothing to disagree with in what you have written.

My own situation is having a circa 20 year old DV10X cartridge, with only around 500 sides of use on it. I plan to run it on a bit longer - maybe another 6 months to a year - and then swap it out for a newer DV10X. Seems like a plan…

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It’s generally said, in specialised vinyl forums, that expensive MC carts can have up to 2000 hours lifespan. Some however argue it’s more 500 hours.
Cheap cartridges have generally 200 hours.
Difficult to know precisely.

I bought a Linn Arkiv B about 20 year ago, and it is still in the box! Should I trade it in if I decide my next cartridge, or is it still in good shape after 20 years in the box?

Clean records extend the life of the stylus. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Just an update: I’ve now been able to set up the arm/cartridge alignment to my satisfaction, and the new Dynavector 10x5 cartridge has had a fair few hours of use.
The sound is a very definite improvement over that from the old 10x4. How much of that is due to the later model cartridge and its ‘running-in’, and how much due to the age of the suspension I cannot tell.
But I’m glad I did it!


Throughout decades of regular record playing I had never bothered to keep a log of the number of records I’d played. When the sound started to go “off”, and cleaning the stylus made no improvement, I’d usually just change the stylus/cartridge. Not a very scientific approach I know.
When I bought my current cartridge, a Hana SL, in January 2019, I decided to keep a log of its usage. It has now played 3700 LP sides, by my reckoning equating to (assuming an average of 20 minutes per album side, or 3 sides per hour) just over 1230 hours playing time so far.
So I’m wondering if it’s now time for a replacement/upgrade although it still sounds good to my ageing (and slightly failing) ears. Surface noise on most albums is astonishingly low and I would have expected an increase in this respect if the stylus was significantly worn/wearing?
I’ve recently changed the pre-amp (Nac72/HiCap for a NAC52/SCap) which has dramatically changed the system’s sound and therefore thrown in another layer of uncertainty (based purely on its recorded mileage) about the health of the stylus.

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The problem, as far as I have gathered, is that once it becomes audible it may already be too late and the worn stylus already may have caused groove damage.

Unfortunately, because if we could wait until it’s audible the whole question of stylus longevity and when to change would not even exist…

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There’s a lot of opinions out there on stylus life. 1000 hours seems to be the minimum. Longer, e.g 2000 hours, with good attention to stylus and record cleanliness and setup. I don’t think anyone wants to replace expensive items too often, but also styli are service items, so budgeting accordingly when you buy a cartridge seems sensible.

I’d do some digging around the forum and wider internet, and make your own informed decision.

Personally my current stylus has c. 162.3 hours on it (so my spreadsheet says X) ), probably a year of listening, and I’ll happily replace at 1000 hours for peace of mind.

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The problem with the Hana is that it’s so damned listenable!

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Any idea of turnaround time for a stylus replacement? Almost worth having a spare “cheap” (hah!) MC on hand whilst one is away being retipped

Hana do not offer a re-tipping service for their cartridges. From their UK distributor’s website; “Hana E,S and M series cartridges requiring a replacement stylus due to wear or customer damage will be swapped for a new (identical cartridge) at 80% the current retail price less UK carriage costs”.
The time taken to exchange will very much depend on the dealer’s stock levels. Theoretically, if you are able and willing to fit the cartridge yourself, you could take/send a worn cartridge to the dealer for an exchange/replacement there and then. I wouldn’t consider this for my deck as it would require base/tonearm removal to ensure no stress is put onto the arm bearings. I’ll leave that to a specialist.
I believe that most (if not all) MC cartridge manufacturers offer similar arrangements. Third party re-tipping specialists may be able to offer a cheaper option, but there’s no guarantee it’ll sound exactly like the original.

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