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A basic seminar on needles
The topic is: How do I know when to change my needle?
When I hear: My needle still works fine, I don't need change it. It makes me wonder just how long has it been since they changed their needle? And when I ask, most people have no idea. They can't ever remember changing it and the general feeling is, if it's playing then it's fine.
So exactly why should you change a needle even if it seems to be working just fine? The answer is simple, worn needles cause damaging record wear. So just like the farmers horse, they don't last forever.
You see, when a needle is kept in use past it's life span, and that point occurs before you'll notice any visible or audible problem, it's already well on it's way to ruining your records. Some folks scoff and don't buy into this kind of stuff. They never change the oil in their car either, scheduled maintenance is for chumps apparently... These are the same people who replace fuses with higher ratings rather then fixing the problem. You know the type. Anyway, needle wear is like gaining weight, it happens just a little every day, so slight you don't notice it. But at some point you step on a scale and then it's all to obvious. So it is with needle wear. It is happening with every play and left unchecked, it's guarantied to slowly but surely ruin your records.
Now when I say worn needles will ruin your records I don't mean something dramatic, although it can be if the tip becomes damaged rather then worn. Most of the time it's very subtle. Signs that severe damage is occurring; You may have noticed the sound getting a little fuzzy, some loss of sound quality, or a slight background hiss that seems to be increasing. Maybe the surface of the record doesn't have a sheen or looks hazy, you may also notice a fine white dust or the playing surface. This is what record damage looks and sounds like, the effect of a needle grinding off the sound groove. At that point a new needle will prevent any further damage, but it will not heal your records.
Your jukebox will keep playing records right up to and past the point of causing permanent damage to the records. It's all about scheduled maintenance. The lesson: It's better and far less expensive to change a needle then not to. Figure the cost of one new record then multiplied by 50 or 100 times, and compare that to the cost of a needle and the answer start to become obvious.
So how long does a needle really last? The technical answer is about 2000-3000 plays for a diamond needle and about 600-800 plays for a sapphire tipped needle. This of course depends on the condition of your records, worn records wear needles faster. That plus the tracking pressure and a several other laws of physics. In the end, use the total play numbers mentioned above as outside intervals and you should receive maximum life and enjoyment from your records.
Side note, the above does not apply to heavy weight tone arms that track well about 10 grams
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Site Last Updated 2/18/2023