5 Signs That A Turntable Cartridge Or Stylus Has Gone Bad

As vinyl sales continue to boom, more people look for convenient ways to enjoy music on this platform. While everyone realizes the superb quality and nostalgic experience of listening with a turntable, our tolerance for incessant beats weakens. Due to this, the demand for decent record players and accessories is on a continuous rise.


However, the best of the best is also subject to worn out and damage. When the time comes, you’ll experience some unpleasant hisses and skips that could ruin an afternoon reminiscing. Turntable cartridges and styli, including expensive ones, are bound to meet the sunset of their lives. 


When that time comes, wish that you have decent replacements ready. Broken stylus and cartridges could hurt the entire player and your albums. Thus, you’d want to buy spares and stock them up in cabinets rather than waiting for the dying parts to wreak havoc.


To help you prepare in advance, here are tell-tale signs of a failing phono cartridge or stylus.


The first thing that indicates an expiring turntable accessory is always the most obvious. A visual inspection of the cartridge or stylus will tell you if they need replacing.


When examining the needle, you may need a magnifying glass. Check the tip if it has grown dull, bent, or slightly raised compared to before. 


Also, look for signs of a damaged cartridge. It usually occurs after an accident, like when someone dropped the turntable or something fell over it.


If it seems off against the tonearm, it may be due to a cantilever failure. This problem results in a crooked form making the stylus off-kilter.

Read more: Wall Art Ideas

Brittle Parts 

For vintage record players having old parts, the cantilever rubber may dry out and become brittle. While they may work, it would require excessive tracking that could damage the vinyl.


Long-time owners highly advise replacing the cartridge and stylus for second-hand purchased or inherited turntable. Most of the time, you wouldn’t know how bad these parts are unless you played a record against them. No sane mind would risk destroying their precious vinyl collection.

Poor Treble, Thinning Sound 

While these are two different things indicating varying reasons, they both scream a damaged or worn-out cartridge. When the accessory finally reaches its limit, the treble will dip, and there’s not much bass or dynamic range. The emitted sound is just horrible, you would feel bad that you let the damaged tip touch your record.

Scratchy Sounds 

When you start to hear scruffy noises from your turntable, it may be due to a loosened metal strip. This part holds the needle in place and acts as a shock absorber. In time, it would weaken until the total weight of the tonearm lands on the record, producing scratches.

Dirt Build-up 

Yellow-brown substance accumulating on the needle is a good indication of a problematic stylus. If you clean the tip regularly, this build-up may be an easy task. Lightly touching the stylus against a specialized sponge or cleaner may do the trick.


However, the longer the crud stays, the harder it is to remove. You might be able to dissolve it, but that means damaging the needle in the process. Either way, you’ll end up getting replacement styli.