How to Replace a Turntable Cartridge: 7 Easy Steps

Published Categorized as Vinyl 101

Are you in doubt as to whether your turntable cartridge is up to scratch in bringing you the sounds of your favorite records as they ought to be heard? Or, perhaps you know you have been in doubt for a long time and now want to do something about it, to learn how to engage in a turntable cartridge replacement?

Whatever your reason for being here, join us today as we walk at a polite pace through the turntable cartridge replacement, showing why we might consider changing the cartridge on our turntable, how it can be done, and how it can completely revolutionize the sound of our favorite music, old and new.

Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge

Replacing the Turntable Cartridge

In most modern models, the process of turntable cartridge replacement ought to be fairly straight forward, like so:

1. Make sure the new cartridge is compatible and unplug the electricity

2. Use nondominant hand to hold down the tonearm while using the dominant hand to grip cartridge casing

3. Pull out cartridge using the pincer grip of forefinger and thumb

4. Hold down the tonearm with nondominant hand on the headshell at the base

5. Position cartridge downward as it was found beforehand; slide on the new cartridge, waiting to hear a characteristic click

Why Bother with Turntable Cartridge Replacement?

It stands to reason that we ought to understand why we might bother contemplating turntable cartridge replacement before we proceed to understand the process of changing the cartridge itself, even if it is one of the most important turntable setup ideas.

There are a number of reasons which, whether acting alone or in tandem with others, might prod you in the direction of replacing the cartridge on your turntable, in essence dealing with a) the wear of the needle and b) the health of the turntable etc.

Fidelity

Some audiophiles take fidelity to the next level, and personally make notes on the amount of hours they have used certain pieces of equipment. For most listeners, however, it will be enough to simply use one’s ears to decide whether or not a turntable cartridge replacement is necessary.

Even if we were to try, it is all too easy to lose track of time in such circumstances, especially when you ought to be totally rapt and giving your full attention to the musical experience.

To do so would be rather difficult, as a matter of fact. Unlike cars, a turntable does not have its own meter that gauges how many miles have been traveled nor how many revolutions of the turntable platter have been exacted.

The only thing that can thus be relied upon wholly here is the human ear. Unless you seek to involve a professional or even a friend to help you be the judge, you must trust your own ears and your own instincts, a sentiment that I feel many people could heed a lot more, even more generally and in other walks of life, so drawn are we to flock.

The methodology of sussing out whether a turntable cartridge replacement is necessary ought to be relatively simple, and you should only need yourself, a record of your choosing and the turntable in question. Preferably using a record that you know well enough to tell the difference between how it is supposed to sound and how it might sound if compromised and/or distorted.

Simply spin the record and assess the damage. If there is a more than audible hissing sound or static hum in the background regularly and / or consistently, then the needle and cartridge could be in need of replacing.

Time

On the other hand, your work in assessing whether or not a turntable cartridge replacement is necessary might be made even easier if you have, in fact, been keeping track of the amount of time that you have been using the turntable in question and/or the cartridge that is installed upon it. The same goes for replacing your record player needle.

A good rule of thumb that just about any audiophile will throw your way for free is that, if you have purchased your turntable second-hand, you ought to replace the cartridge straight away anyhow.

There is really no way of telling what might have occurred in its grim and chequered past, nor telling how much dirt and/or dust and/or grim and/or static it has come across. And even if you were to ask the previous owner, they might not even be the original owner, and might even be lying!

No, no, no, this simply will not do. An old needle and cartridge can cause some serious and potentially irreparable damage to your record collection that you have been handling with care if left untended.

how to handle a vinyl record on the outer edges

A needle that has been subjected like so to the various trials and tribulations which a needle is usually subjected to, as well as some of those that they are not (e.g. accumulating rust and the like from being stored in a dank and damp environment), is far more likely to inflict this pain on others, those others being your own precious records.

In addition, using a brand new needle will also help you begin to keep track of the amount of miles and revolutions that your cartridge has been used for like a good little audiophile, making this whole process a whole stretch easier in the future. All this on top of the fact that it will quite simply make your listening experience sound infinitely better!

Upgrade

In equal measure it is worth considering why else a turntable cartridge replacement might be necessary, for it could indeed be a good idea to do so even if the sound quality is unmarred with distortions from dirt and dust, as well as if the cartridge is relatively new (if not brand new). The grass is always greener, and there are ever better turntable cartridges over the horizon.

There are about as many options of customising the cartridge as there are for any of the other parts of a stereo setup, including speakers, stereo, amplifier, preamp, cables, and turntables. And just as there are varying gradations and a gradual spectrum of quality and price points for all these pieces of equipment, there is the exact same for the turntable cartridge itself. If you are someone who enjoys the finer details of a piece of music, then a cartridge that is going properly represent the music you listen to will really be a must have.

Any audiophile will tell you that a portable turntable made by Crosley, for example, will need its cartridge changed almost immediately, for they equipped in the factory with inadequate and ill equipped needle and cartridge. Similarly, any audiophile would tell you steer well clear of the Crosley altogether.

These audiophiles will have you believe that any record player, no matter how cheap or small, can be rendered into one worthy of spinning your favorite music with a few changes. The cartridge being one of the only parts of a turntable that actually comes into contact with the grooves of the disc, as well as being the part which acts as conduit and translator of the vibrational data imbibed within to the sound produced without, it is not hard to see how a turntable cartridge replacement could be vital in revolutionising one’s setup.

Final Tones

So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are feeling somewhat the wiser about how best to engage with a turntable cartridge replacement, and are thus feeling wiser about why we might want to change our turntable cartridges, how we can go about doing it, and how it can completely change the way we hear our favorite music as represented on vinyl.

FAQs Turntable Cartridge Replacement

Will any cartridge fit any turntable?

While there is admittedly a few more universal approach to turntable manufacture in this modern era of record collecting, there is still no single type of cartridge that fits every single kind of turntable. The main two kinds are the Half Inch and the P Mount, and it is fairly easy to determine which your turntable needs. That being said, the Half Inch cartridge can be relied upon to be found on most modern turntables manufactured today.

Do I need to replace cartridge on turntable?

This remains to be seen, and there are several ways for someone to assess whether their turntable needs a cartridge replacement. If they have not been keeping track of how many hours of music they have been listening to, then the easiest way to tell is with their own ears, making sure to trust them and their own judgment as much as possible. If, when listening to a record that they know well, they feel that it does not sound right, that it sounds unclear or distorted, then either the record or cartridge is in need of replacing.

When should I replace my turntable cartridge?

There is no universal and ubiquitous amount of time that one should consider letting pass before considering a turntable cartridge replacement. We all listen to music differently, and the use of the turntable is no exception, and is in fact sometimes even more personal, even if only for being so physical and intimate an exercise between man and machine. Using one’s ears and common sense is a sure fire way to get to the bottom of things and thus to decide whether or not you need to consider a turntable cartridge replacement.

Should I replace a turntable needle or cartridge?

This remains to be seen, and there are several ways for someone to assess whether their turntable needs a cartridge replacement. If they have not been keeping track of how many hours of music they have been listening to, then the easiest way to tell is with their own ears, making sure to trust them and their own judgment as much as possible. If, when listening to a record that they know well, they feel that it does not sound right, that it sounds unclear or distorted, then either the record or cartridge is in need of replacing.

Published
Categorized as Vinyl 101

By Robert Halvari

My name is Robert Halvari - audio engineer and a total audiophile. I love vinyl because it has that natural character which brings music to life. I've been using and testing vinyl record players for around 15 years and I'm sharing my love and knowledge of vinyl by publishing all I know at Notes On Vinyl

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *