BUYING A PHONOGRAPH RECORD PLAYER NEEDLE
It can be quite complicated finding a needle (also called stylus) for your turntable if you don't have an identifying number for your needle, or the paperwork that came with the turntable. Also, the paperwork for your turntable may not identify the correct needle if the CARTRIDGE (holds the needle) has been changed.
The first identifier will be the brand name of your player. It is good to get a model number, usually imprinted or tagged on the bottom or back of the unit. However, each brand used many different cartridges and needles for their models. The model number can identify your needle in some cases.
The next identifier is the cartridge number. The cartridge holds the needle, and most of them have an identifying number on them. The older ceramic cartridges are usually held in the arm by a screw or two, which can be loosened to drop the cartridge (without disturbing the wires) so the number becomes visible. The magnetic cartridges usually unplug by gently moving back and forth and unplugging by pulling toward you out of the arm.
Turntable manufacturers used different cartridges even within the same run of model numbers at times. That is why the reference books are not always correct for finding your needle by model number.
The final identifier is the needle number. Manufacturers of turntables assigned a number to each needle. Then, after-market manufacturers assigned their own number to that needle. There were many, many after-market manufacturers, and there are still some today. Thus, there is some confusion about needle numbers...there are many for the same needle.
The needle originally sold by the manufacturer for their turntable is the best quality available. The supply of these needles is limited, and some are very rare. If possible, buy a genuine manufacturer needle. Most of the manufacturers have been out of business, or no longer making needles, for a long time. One day, the supply will totally run out.
After-market needles were and are made by many manufacturers. Most of the after-market companies are also out of business, but some made excellent quality needles.
If I were buying a needle, I would first look for the genuine manufacturer's needle. Next, I would look for a needle made by one of the older after-market manufacturers (a few are, Pfanstiehl, Empire, Transcriber, Electro-Voice, Fidelitone, Pageant, Walco, Recoton, Astatic). These needles will usually state "new old stock". In my experience, they are, 95% of the time, better quality needles than new stock manufactured today. There are some steel needles being made today in a magnetic needle casing that will not last very long at all. They are being called diamond needles. To avoid that problem, know your seller and look for "new old stock" . There are some excellent quality needles also being manufactured today, but it is difficult for the buyer to identify them.
The next thing important for the buyer is understanding the numbers and suffixes. The Pfanstiehl number suffixes are as follows: (From the Pfanstiehl Needle & Cartridge Guide)
Example of needle number: 164-DS73 is for an Astatic Cartridge; has a .7 mil diamond for Stereo-LP; and a 3 mil sapphire for 78. The same needle with two stereo diamond tips would be 164-DD77.
D = Genuine Diamond
S = Synthetic Sapphire
1 = .001 or 1 mil tip for 16, 33 & 45 rpm MONAURAL
2 = .002 or 2 mil compromise tip for all MONAURAL
25 = .0025 or 2.5 mil tip for Transcription & 78 rpm
3 = .003 or 3 mil tip for 78 rpm
5 = .0005 or .5 mil tip for Stereo 33 & 45 rpm
6 = .0006 or .6 mil tip for Stereo 33 & 45 rpm
7 = .0007 or .7 mil tip for Stereo & Mono 33 & 45 rpm
E = Elliptical tip for stereo or mono 33 & 45 rpm. Dimensions of ellipse(ex. .3 & .7) may appear under extra information column for magnetic cartridge needles.
"M" means needle is made for MANUAL professional type turntable--has the highest internal compliance.
"T" means needle is for single play automatic.
"C" means needle is for Record Changers --slightly firmer to activate record changer mechanism.
"Q" means specially shaped tip for Discrete 4 Channel.
G, L, V, X & Z indicate minor differences in tracking force and compliance.
The suffix tells whether the needle has one tip or two, what the tips are made of; and the tip radius, which determines the records speeds it will play.
The original Pfanstiehl needles were manufactured in Waukegan, Illinois, and will be packaged in a box with the Pfanstiehl logo or FINEST NEEDLES on the front in gold. A plain black box, (also may be a Pfanstiehl,) is new stock, manufactured much more recently. Some original Pfanstiehl packages contain original manufacturer's needles because of patent rights at the time. Other after-market manufacturers also sold original manufacturer's needles. This information should be stated in the listing. Many times Pfanstiehl numbers are used for reference for non-Pfanstiehl needles because the suffixes explain the needle so well and it became kind of a universal numbering system.
There is a reason manufacturers made synthetic sapphire needles. The material records are made of were very different between the 45s LPs and 78 RPMs. Some 45s made in the US were made of plastic, rather than vinyl. There are a few specially made .7 mil diamond needles made for these 45 RPM records, with adjustments made in the mounting of the cantilever. 78 RPMs are very fragile and not vinyl. A 3 mil diamond to play 78 RPM is a lot larger than a .7 mil, and therefore a lot more expensive than the usual synthetic sapphire. A diamond is harder on record grooves and causes more wear on them. Synthetic sapphire is less expensive, softer and lasts less time than diamond, but it causes less wear to your records.
Before I ship new old stock needles, I microscope 85% of them to be sure the quality of the tip has not been compromised by age. An un-opened new old stock package may contain a faulty needle. I will always verify the quality of what I ship, either by close inspection or microscoping. Thus the package may be opened.
My buyers at CAROLE'S NEEDLES have asked for much of this information. E-mail me and I will help you find your needle. No phonograph is too old. Get out that vinyl and listen to some great sound!!!!!
Remember: No needle lasts forever.
Osmium...........40 to 60 hours play
Sapphire..........80 to 100 hours play
Diamond LP.....800 to 1000 hours play
Diamond Stereo...400 to 600 hours play
To find your needle, go to http://stores.ebay.com/CAROLES-NEEDLES and check the search titles and descriptions box under the store search box. Then type in your needle number, cartridge number, or model number/brand in the store search box. If you need more help, email me and I will be glad to help you find your needle or cartridge.
Do your needle a favor and clean your records. Used a soft cloth dampened with denatured alcohol (available from your local pharmacist). Rub in the direction of the grooves. It is inexpensive and will clean fingerprints, dust and debris from the record grooves.