How to Replace Your Phonograph Needle

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Phonograph Needle

Have you recently purchased a vintage phonograph, or do you own a phonograph that is in need of repair? When a phonograph or vintage record player is showing signs of wear and tear, or isn't playing at all, the prospect of having it repaired may be a bit intimidating. However, more often than not the problem with a phonograph is a very easy fix.

Most problems that phonograph owners experience with their players are related to the needle. Whether it is broken or simply worn down by age, a damaged needle can cause a number of problems. Fortunately, replacing a phonograph needle is a relatively easy job that most individuals can do with just a few basic supplies.

Signs a Phonograph Needle Needs to Be Replaced

The first step in replacing a phonograph needle is determining whether it needs to be replaced at all. A phonograph that isn't working may have a damaged needle, but it may also have another issue that is causing it to work improperly.

The biggest indicator of a damaged or worn needle is a reduction in the sound quality coming through the phonograph. When a phonograph needle is in good working order, the sound from the phonograph should be rich, warm, and clear. One of the first indicators of a needle that is wearing down is a loss in the highs that you are able to hear while playing a vinyl record. After that, small skips or jumps in sound may become apparent. If the problem is allowed to continue, the phonograph will eventually begin to emit harsh scratching sounds.

The other indicator that something is obviously wrong with the phonograph needle is the appearance of scratches on the surface of the record. By the time a phonograph begins emitting scratching sounds, it is often too late to salvage a record, so it is important to stop and replace the needle before it gets to this point.

Do You Need a Needle or a Cartridge?

Another important thing to consider before purchasing the materials needed for a phonograph needle replacement is whether it is actually necessary to replace the needle. In many cases, especially with more modern phonographs, the entire cartridge that contains the needle is removable. This makes replacing the needle easy, as all buyers will need for the job is the replacement phonograph cartridge. Only after determining whether or not this might be possible should a buyer move on to begin purchasing the items that they will need to complete their phonograph needle replacement.

What You Will Need

There are only a few phonograph parts, accessories, and tools needed to replace a phonograph needle. It is important to have all of these materials on hand before beginning the process.



Small, soft-bristled brush

A soft brush is necessary for clearing the needle and the mounting from dust. A good artist's quality brush works well for this purpose.

Strong magnifying glass

A magnifying glass may be necessary for seeing the finer details of the replacement process. Searching jewelers' supplies can turn up many good options.

Small standard screwdriver

A screwdriver will be needed to remove the cartridge and the needle from the phonograph. The needle should be 1/4" or smaller.

A thick needle or thumbtack

This will be used to perform basic prying tasks. Ensure that the item used is clean and free of dust.

Replacement phonograph needle

It is important to choose the phonograph needle carefully. Avoid lower-quality phonograph needles or those that are not optimal for use with your phonograph.

Choosing a Phonograph Needle

The first and most important item to purchase is the phonograph needle itself. Choosing the right phonograph needle is crucial for ensuring your phonograph will continue providing you great sound for many years to come. In addition, it is important to choose the right needle to ensure you do not damage your vinyl records.

There is great variety when it comes to the phonograph needles available. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks. Consider them carefully when making a decision to ensure the needle is right for your player and your needs.

Choosing a Needle Material

Throughout the years, needles for phonographs have been made in a variety of materials. While shopping for a replacement phonograph needle, buyers will encounter many of these options. However, most buyers will find that if materials such as steel and osmium are available, the needles themselves will be antiques.

This is because most modern replacement needles for phonographs are either diamond or sapphire tipped. These materials have been chosen because they are much more reliable than other needle materials, and because they will offer much more play time in the long run than other types of phonograph needle replacements. Both diamond- and sapphire-tipped needles are considered to be of very high quality - the one the buyer chooses will ultimately depend on two factors.

The first factor is the price the buyer is willing to pay. Sapphire-tipped phonograph needles are more affordable than diamond-tipped phonograph replacement needles. Buyers who do not use their phonograph often, or who are only looking to repair a phonograph for casual play, may find this to be their best option when searching for a replacement.

The second factor is how important longevity is for the needle they want to purchase. A diamond-tipped phonograph needle is often able to last upwards of ten times longer than a sapphire-tipped phonograph needle, for an impressive one thousand hours of play time. Additionally, the fact that a diamond-tipped phonograph needle is not likely to wear out as quickly means that buyers offer their vinyl records a little more protection by going this route.

Picking the Right Needle for Your Phonograph

The second step in choosing the right needle is to begin searching for needles specifically made to play with your model and brand of phonograph or record player. Whether you have an Edison phonograph, a Victor phonograph, a Columbia phonograph, or one of the many other brands that have been released over the years, it is always best to find a needle that has been optimized for use with your particular machine.

Replacing the Phonograph Needle

Once the materials have been gathered and the right needle has been chosen, then it is time to begin the replacement. Surprisingly, this is the easy part - at least, when compared to finding and buying everything needed for the process. One final thing to remember before you begin is that each phonograph has a different type of cartridge assembly. Determine the type of assembly your phonograph uses before beginning.

For Needles Mounted by Screw

1. There should be a screw located near the base of the needle. Loosen this screw, and then pull the needle down to remove it from the cartridge assembly.

2. Use the small brush to remove any dust from the assembly, as well as from the replacement needle.

3. Insert the new needle into the cartridge assembly and retighten the screw.

For "Push Up," "Slide In," or "Snap In" Needles

4. Use a thumbtack to gently lift the needle from the assembly.

5. Clean the area with a small brush and gently snap the new needle into the place of the old one.

6. Attempt to move the new needle. If it has any give, then remove the needle and repeat the process until it is firmly locked into place.

For Crank-Type Needles

7. There should be a handle on the needle. Grasp this and lift the needle to remove it from the cartridge.

8. If there is a spring in the way, this may need to be lifted up in order to access the needle.

9. Holding the handle, gently push the replacement needle into place. Drop the handle back, ensuring that it is centered.

As always, remember that steps may vary slightly depending on the type of phonograph you own. If you have the original user's manual, there may be information available to help you with the needle replacement. Additionally, you might be able to find a phonograph user's manual available for purchase if you feel you need one in order to complete the replacement.

Buying Replacement Phonograph Needles on eBay

The two most important things to know when you set out to purchase a replacement needle on eBay are the material you would like the replacement needle to be made of and the make of your phonograph. Enter this information into the eBay search bar, and begin searching the listings to find the needles that are required for you to complete the repair.


Whether you are a music lover, a phonograph aficionado, or a fan of vintage electronics, you will likely need to replace a phonograph needle at some point. Fortunately, it is a fairly easy task. Just ensure you have the right materials and you will be ready to listen to some great vinyl in no time at all.

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