Today, we tackle a seminal issue for all turntable enthusiasts, and one that even some seasoned record collectors are yet to embrace with wide open arms. I certainly did not get around to learning how to replace a needle on a record player until well into my tenure as a hobbyist record collector, spending years with the same stylus and wondering why my records were becoming more and more damaged and why my sound quality was exponentially just not cutting it.
Thus, today, we will be embracing this topic with wide open arms, hopefully leaving you feeling much more confident about replacing the needle on your turntable, and excited about the prospect of hearing some of your favorite records and music anew, with fresh ears and clean needle.
Why Should You Change Your Needle?
There are a number of reasons why you might feel inclined to learn how to replace a needle on a record player, though these can more often than not be boiled down to two primary factions: those regarding the actual wear of a needle or those pertaining to the development of the unit itself.
Those of the first category ought to be fairly self explanatory, as they are relating to the specific needs of a needle. Those of the latter might sound a little abstract, though they are likely in reference to upgrades and the like.
Decline in Fidelity
If you have not been keeping track of just how many hours that your needle has been in use, then this is likely going to be the main way you assess whether or not you need to learn how to replace a needle on a record player. It can be very easy to lose track of the time you have been using your record player and its needle, especially as you are more than likely going to be utterly rapt in the experience of listening to some of your favorite music.
This is not a car, after all – there isn’t a meter that assesses how many miles you have been using the needle, now how many hours you have been riding upon it for that matter! Thus, if indeed you have not been keeping an even rough track of how much you have been using the needle, you will have to resort to primordial means before you buy a new needle for your turntable and attempt to replace the old with the new.
The method for doing this is relatively simple. With your setup before you, source and have with you a record that you know to play well, whose overall condition will be a good judge of whether or not the needle is in need of replacing. Simply spin this record and assess the damage as it goes. A clear and audible hiss or static sound could lead to a record player sounding distorted throughout is more than likely a sign that the needle may be short circuiting and thus in need of replacement.
If, however, you have actually been keeping track of the amount of miles or hours that you have been using the turntable for, then you will have an easier time of assessing whether or not you need to learn how to replace a needle on a record player.
If the record player before you has been purchased second hand, then chances are that it will be a good idea to replace the needle straight off the bat. Who knows or would ever be able to tell just what the needle has experienced in its past life, the evil mounds of dust, dirt, grime, and static, that it has been subjected to like some sick version of tickle torture. No, it is far wiser to simply cut to the chase and replace the needle.
This is especially because the old needle can cause some serious damage to your records if left unchecked (as in the previous method) and / or unreplaced. Much as a human being subjected to various trials and tribulations early on in life is likely to repeat and inflict those past traumas on themselves and those around them later in life if left unprocessed or untreated, a needle uncleaned or unreplaced who has experienced similar things will hurt the records which it meets on its journey.
Not only can replacing an old needle on a second hand turntable with a new needle help you to keep your records as clean and undamaged as possible – ensuring the sanctity of your record collection without worries – but it will also allow you to keep track of the miles and hours tracked and listened to and the number of grooves scraped through in its tenure. This will no doubt make your life a whole lot easier in the future when it comes to knowing when and if to learn how to replace a needle on a record player in future, placing far more of the autonomy in your hands, and democratising the form for you once more.
Just as you might need to learn how to replace a needle on a record player for reasons relating to the sanctity of the needle itself and the way that it might impact the sanctity of the records that it meets in its lifetime, you might also seek to replace the needle on your record player on turntable for reasons relating to the present needle’s inadequacy with regards to audio fidelity.
Just as there are many options in terms of choosing speakers, turntables, record players, and the like, so too there are various gradations of turntable needle and stylus, all occupying various different points on the spectrum of price and value. The differences between various models of needle can be rather subtle, though depending on which you are comparing can be rather marked, obvious even to the most average music listener who has little to no experience in these sorts of things.
It is thus rather remarkable what a difference the upgrading of your needle can have on your entire listening experience. A Crosley record player, for example, is equipped with a less than adequate stylus and needle, which many audiophiles would suggest you replace immediately; most audiophiles would in fact suggest that you do not buy a Crosley whatsoever, but roll with me on this.
Such a record player needs a replacement, and can in fact be rendered into a fairly decent setup with the introduction of a new and improved stylus and needle into the mix. This will not only reimagine your listening experience with minimal effort and financial expenditure, but will also prevent your records from being damaged in the long term, meeting regularly a needle that treats them with respect in their various revolutionary peregrinations along their surface.
How to Replace a Needle on a Record Player: Step by Step
Now, without further ado, we will begin to dissect what can often be a rather overwhelming process in theory and put it into practise, wherein you will see that there is far less to be afraid than initially conceived. Since the needle is going to be the conduit through which our favorite music is appreciated, there is a hefty amount of gravitas placed on such a transition from needle to needle, though you really need not worry your head so much.
Step 1 in Replacing a Needle on the Record Player
Ensure that the record player is unplugged if it needs electricity to work so that no extraneous electricity is given the opportunity to shock you into submission. Once you have decided which of your hands that you consider to be your dominant hand, use the opposite hand to hold the tonearm still while you use said dominant hand to grip the metal or plastic casing that surrounds the needle / stylus.
Step 2: Pull the Old Stylus Out
With this casing gripped tightly between your index finger and thumb, pinch it as tightly as you can without doing yourself any damage, pulling the old stylus out from the tonearm.
You can easily avoid damaging the cartridge itself by sliding the stylus away from the situation, though keeping it parallel to the tonearm, just so you do not lose track of where it ought to be.
Step 3: Check the Series of Numbers and Buy a New Stylus
You should be able to see a series of numbers on the old stylus that, once searched online and the like, will enable you to purchase the same stylus again. This will only be relevant if you have not yet bought your replacement needle, and will no doubt be utterly irrelevant to those wishing to upgrade their needle as opposed to simply replacing the old needle with one of the same, as they might if the old needle had simply been worn down over the years. This is, however, a useful point to make sure that the new needle you have bought / are going to buy is compatible with your turntable / record player.
Step 4: Ready to Perform the Operation
When you have procured the relevant stylus / needle and are ready to perform the operation learning how to replace a needle on a record player, use your secondary hand to make sure that the tonearm stays as still as possible. You can avoid exerting too much pressure on the delicate tonearm and breaking it by instead exerting said pressure on the far more structurally sound headshell at the root of the tonearm, where it intersects with the body of the turntable / record player.
Make sure to position the new stylus with the needle downward and away from the tonearm. This is how the needle will read the grooves of the records it is bound to meet and translate them into vibrations that are then transmitted through all of the various parts of the stereo system and out through the speakers as sound. Thus, it makes sense that the needle should be pointing downwards and away from the tonearm, especially as this was how you should have found it before you began this whole operation of learning how to replace a needle on a record player.
Step 5: Slide the New Stylus
Gently and with as much care as you can muster, slide the new stylus unit into the cartridge and press it into the slot until you hear a clicking sound. This clicking sound should be satisfying and should not cause concern; there is a veritable spectrum of clicking sounds, all of which signal different things indeed, some good and pleasant (like the one you should hear when sliding this stylus into the turntable cartridge), and some not so pleasant or nice on the ears.
Thus, if you have followed the steps accurately and precisely all the way through this tutorial, you should be ready to start spinning your records again, able as you will be to hear them all anew with a brand new needle, unless of course there are various other issues that need fixing, in which case you will still be well on your way there!
So, there you have it! Hopefully this comprehensive step by step guide through the process of learning how to replace a needle on a record player has been of use to you, whether in psyching you up to replace the needle on your turntable with a new replacement that you have had lying around for ages, or indeed to spur you on to acquiring a new replacement for your steed. Perhaps, you are now even inspired to upgrade your trusted needle so you might hear your records anew and ensure a longer life for them!
FAQs How to Replace a Needle on a Record Player
Yes indeed you can, and in some cases it is actually encouraged. A Crosley record player, for example, is equipped with a less than adequate stylus and needle, which many audiophiles would suggest you replace immediately. Upon replacement, it can in fact be rendered into a fairly decent setup, with the introduction of a new and improved stylus and needle into the mix. This will not only reimagine your listening experience with minimal effort and financial expenditure, but will also prevent your records from being damaged in the long term.
This could be taken in one of two ways, though I have no doubt this question wants answers pertaining to the latter. The former would be regarding placing a needle on a record to listen to the music enshrined within, in which case you just simply lift it up and place it wherever and on whichever song you wish to hear, or better yet use the cue button most likely found on the front of the unit to avoid any shaky handed scratches on the surface. The latter will be regarding replacing the needle, in which case you will likely want to refer to a specific guide for the needle you are going to replace it with and the turntable you are working with.
As with anything of this ilk, the replacement of certain aspects of one’s technology with other, more superior additions, there is a whole spectrum of options and whole spectrum of prices that you might come across in your search. You can pick up a relatively cheap and still reliable needle for around $30, an Audio Technica needle, for example, which is much loved and revered by critics and consumers alike. These prices can soar sky high, however, as with any other add on of this kind, prices escalating to numbers and digits that are scarcely understandable by the measly human brain.
You might think the answer would be yes, but you would be surprised. Though most, if not all, turntables and record players make use of a needle and / or stylus based systems, in which the stylus or needle is placed on a record whose grooves it reads with a something tipped point, there are at least a few different kinds of these styluses and needles. Thus, not all styluses or needles can fit all turntables or record players, though with some careful research on your part, I have no doubt you will be able to procure a needle or stylus that will do the job and fit your turntable / record player without any problems.