Antique Phonograph Steel Victrola Needles
Victor, Silvertone, Columbia, Brunswick, Sonora, Many Others
300 Brand New Needles
100 Loud, 100 Medium and 100 Soft
(see my other listings for different needle tones and package deals)
Premium Quality - Manufactured in The USA
The needles that I am selling are manufactured to the same specifications that The Victor Talking Machine Company developed nearly 100 years ago. These needles are appropriate for use with most thumbscrew type reproducers like the Victor Exhibition, No.2, No.4, Concert, and Orthophonic, as well as hundreds of others. They are suitable for playing records of the same era. If you are not certain that these will suit your application, feel free to ask questions. Loud Tone needles are suited for most listening environments. Use Soft Tone needles if you prefer lower volume to keep peace in your home or apartment complex.
A steel needle, whether nickel plated or not, regardless of the claims made by vendors to the contrary, should be used one time and then discarded. As a person who obviously enjoys and cares about the present and future condition of records, you need to be equipped with simple science that will help you see through the misinformation that plagues the antique phonograph hobby. Never believe claims of "multi-play" or that nickel plating on a needle allows it to be used as much as 7 to 10 times. Misleading information such as that has one thing in view: the destruction of your records. I have tested several of the needle types that are presently being sold on venues like eBay and I have compiled data for them. With the aid of a digital camera and a microscope I have provided pictures of some of these in this article for your own evaluation. Even if you don't buy the needles I am selling I encourage you to study the information and educate yourself. Although it is not against eBay policy for me to publish the brand names of the competitor's needles that I have tested and found inferior I am presently withholding that information. If you would like to know the specific names of the brands I refer to, please contact me.
During my testing I fully expected the competitor's needles to exhibit the same amount of wear as my needles after a single play, but to my surprise the competitor's needles had much greater wear than anticipated as shown in the picture to the right. This is the result of a much softer (too soft, in fact) grade of steel in the competitor's needles. Based on the measurements provided it can be seen that the competitor's "multi-use" needle was actually worn beyond safe use before the end of one side of the record and it would be irresponsible to use them more than once, let alone 7 to 10 times as is claimed. The naked eye cannot adequately estimate this wear and that is the reason that I provided actual data for your benefit. My needle is pictured in the far right view and it also shows the wear after one play. This wear is exactly what you should anticipate and is consistent with the original design of both the records and the needles.
The needle shown to the left and near right is one of my brand and it is new and unused. Note the rounded tip which is shown magnified 200 times. Needles actually start out as round tips; albeit compared to human skin they feel quite sharp to the touch because of their small radius. Once the needle tip is worn by the groove it becomes chiseled as shown above. As the tip wears, it develops a sort of shoulder. By the end of just one play this shoulder is sufficiently worn such that it actually approaches the top of the groove wall as the needle tip actually starts to approach the bottom of the groove. The picture above shows both a side and front view of the same worn needle. Continued use of the same worn needle will cause this shoulder to further widen, cut deeper, and ultimately plow into the sides and top of the groove wall literally scraping away sound. See that black dust? That was Enrico Caruso's voice. Wear, call it normal, call it abnormal, is a fact of life and it cannot be avoided altogether: the very physics of the device in question show the reasons. But this is a call to the intelligent to take reasonable precautionary steps and do what is responsible to preserve antique recorded sound and at the same time make use of the records. If you objectively consider this information and realize that it is not a mere personal opinion, but a genuine presentation of some simple physics, you will do much to conserve the records you own and help keep them available for the next generation of collectors. The notion of discarding a needle after one play is a fact of life and not a marketing scheme as some have suggested: it is simply part of the overall design scheme. It does not matter how long someone claims to have been selling supposedly multi-use steel needles, the fact of the matter, based on irrefutable scientific evidence, is that all steel needles without exception, whether plated or not, should be used once and then discarded.
The picture to the left shows a microscopic view (60 and 200 times magnification) that I captured of an actual record groove of a typical acoustic record. The shellac composition of early records is designed to wear the needle. Yes, you read that correctly. Early records must bear the mass of heavy acoustic reproducers (120 to 150 grams or more of tracking mass). This mass cannot be substantially reduced because in order to generate acceptable levels of sound strong mechanical force is necessary. Fact: either the needle takes the greatest beating or the record does. This is of paramount importance to remember. Manufacturers long ago decided that needles were much cheaper than records. This abrasive is designed to essentially wear away the needle point as shown in the pictures above. This is the normal expected result. A record groove is about .006" wide or less (See Note 1 below) in most early Victor type (i.e lateral) records. The groove, while it appears to the naked eye as a nice smooth continuous spiral, is actually a wavy line as shown. The side to side (lateral) variations, also called groove modulation, are what cause the needle to move and ultimately vibrate the diaphragm to produce sound. These pictures are intended to help you see what the naked eye cannot and assist you in developing a more informed understanding of exactly what is taking place when the needle rides in the groove.
Note 1: On a related and pertinent matter, in the case of a Victor Tungs Tone needle, the tungsten wire used in the tip is .0055" to .006" in diameter. This diameter is critical because as the stylus wears and ulltimately gets shorter it must not develop a shoulder or it will gouge the top of the groove and plow into the groove walls as it wears. Victor never used .007" diameter tungsten wire for a tungsten stylus. The .007" wire is about 16% too wide and this leads to damage of your records. If you intend to experiment with the technology use the correct material. Just because the wrong material may be easier to obtain does not make it a viable alternative.The modern nickel plating that is typically found on steel needles is applied using a thermoelectric nickel deposition process. This allows a thin layer (literally several molecules) of nickel to be deposited using a heated thermal bath of nickel electrolyte. The nickel is not applied to add mechanical strength to the needle so that it is able to resist wear. The nickel plate is not thick enough for such stress. It is applied to resist oxidation (i.e. prevent rust from forming) while the needles are stored. In the early days needles were often not plated and this is why you see so many heavily rusted parts inhabiting the crevices of your machines and even in otherwise unused needle packages. Problems with early nickel plating processes (and even worse, chrome, by the late 1920's) caused the plating to be deposited in very thick scale like layers which had a propensity to fall off during play, lodge in the groove, and wreak their own form of havoc. Nickel is extremely hard and brittle and this is why in modern processes it is controlled and applied in molecular layers. In this manner there is no danger of nickel scales damaging the groove. In a good steel needle like those I am selling the amount of carbon present allows the needle to be very strong and then as the nickel wears to expose it, it does so uniformly. In the case of the competitor's aforementioned needle, the steel itself is much too soft. And in this case, the nickel plating does nothing to provide strength as is implied by the advertising because it is only .0001" thick or less (that's 10 to 100 micro inches in reality) . Be informed and only buy the right stuff.
|I am Walt Sommers and I own and operate Gettysburg Antique Phonographs on a full time basis. I have been collecting and servicing antique phonographs, radios, and other mech-antiques for about 30 years and full time for the past 6 years. My shop is a full service shop, so if you need some advice or help with a broken motor, missing knob, damaged reproducer, damaged cabinet finish, etc., I can help.|