A stylus tip will touch the record groove walls at only two points. The entire weight of the stylus and the structure which holds it is concentrated at these two microscopically small points. The pressure is significant at approximately 2200 psi with tracking force having a slight effect too. This is about the same pressure that a professional pressure washer generates. Just think, the same pressure that cleans your patio is applied to your precious records each time you play them - pretty good huh?
In reality, the walls of the record grooves see this pressure application only for the fraction of a second required for a section to move past the tip as the record rotates. Typically, a stylus tip will travel approximately 1 km in tracking just a single side of an LP record whilst being caused to vibrate by the record pitch at up to 10KHz – yes, 10,000 times per second. When you consider the forces and distances involved you can appreciate that wear of record – and stylus can occur!
The type of wear the stylus suffers is known as flatting where ‘flats’ appear at the bi-radial contact points. Effectively, using a stylus that has pronounced flats is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Using such a stylus causes two problems, firstly, because the misshaped stylus is unable to follow the pitch of the record groove accurately, the reproduced sound is distorted and may appear lacking in high frequencies , secondly, the flats ‘carve’ their way into the record groove, masking fine detail and increasing surface noise as the stylus tip tracks an enlarged groove, the base of which is filled with dust and detritus from pressing as well as damage artefacts in the form of micron sized swarf and pressing release agent from when the record was made.
A typical question as a consequence is …” how long does a stylus last?” Which, conversely is a rather difficult question to answer. As a rule of thumb, provided that your LP records are stored well and kept clean, your stylus is kept clean along with the stylus azimuth, cartridge alignment, tracking weight and centrifugal bias or “anti skate” are set as per manufacturer’s guidelines and used in a tonearm of the correct compliance match to your cartridge then a good rule of thumb us 1500 – 2000 hours of usage.
If you are a little wary of cleaning the boron cantilever's Shibita super profile bald shank mounted diamond on your Koetsu Black then there is an alternative...... You could enlist the help of Nancy! Let Nancy service your needle, she's ever so good with gramophone thorn needles and made a superb job of the needle of my Acos GP96 cartridge so I am sure she can handle any other stylus she is presented with:-
To contact Nancy just click on the photo link shown below:-