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If you recently purchased a record player or have been collecting for years, knowing when your needle is broken is a difficult thing to determine. Afterall, it could be tons of different things that need fixed or replaced and how do you know whether it is the needle or something else?
In this article we will try and answer how you can tell as give you some tips on how to make sure your needle doesn’t get to that point.
So, how do you tell if your needle is broken? The easiest way to know if your needle is broken is to use it to play a record. The sound quality will become a little bit “off” and the musical notes will often become less clear. This is the best way to know that your needle/stylus needs replaced.
Most experts recommend that you replace your needle every 1-2 years to keep the sound quality of your records as good as possible. Some people even say you should replace them more often than that if you play records all the time!
Normally the needle won’t “break” like into pieces or something like that. It will become worn out and will have to be replaced however. If your needle is actually broken off from you dropping the player or another similar accident thankfully it isn’t too hard or expensive to replace the needle.
You can find some instructions on replacing the needle in the video below. If you want to find the best accessories for cleaning and storing your vinyl records just click here.
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Signs your needle needs replaced
As mentioned above the sound quality of your records degrading is a good sign that your needle or cartridge needs replaced, but how do you know which it is?
The first thing that you want to do is rule out the record as the culprit. Records themselves do degrade over time so its possible that your needle and cartridge are fine and that your favorite record is beginning to wear out.
The best way to know if this is the problem is to try a few different records. If the sound quality on all of the records is poor then you know it is a player problem and not an issue with your record itself.
Most of the time it is just the needle that will need to be replaced and not the cartridge. Needles will normally last between 1,000 and 2,000 hours of playing while cartridges could last for many years.
If you have an older record player that the cartridge has never been replaced on then replacing both the cartridge and the needle is a good idea. If your player is newer than the needle is probably the only thing that needs replaced.
Look at the needle
If you listened to the record but aren’t quite sure if there is anything that sounds wrong then your needle is probably just fine. You will normally notice the sound quality degrading long before any issues with the needle are visible.
But, what if you hear something wrong and you don’t want to replace the needle until you are sure that it is the culprit. This is when inspecting the needle carefully can be useful.
You will want to look for jagged edges or needle head that is slightly bent. Normally this is easier to do with a magnifying class of some kind as it is hard to see the needle very well with the naked eye.
You can also check out the needle for some cracking and wear and tear with the magnifier. If you notice a lot of excess black junk on your stylus then the needle might simply need to be cleaned. Your needle needs to be cleaned on a regular basis to make sure it stays in as good of shape as possible,
The video below gives some further information about the best way to clean your needle if you see this issue while you are inspecting it.
If you just purchased a used record player and aren’t sure the age of the needle or cartridge then it is a good idea to start fresh and just replace them both. Then you will know for sure that your stylus and cartridge are in the best possible shape and you can keep them that way by regularly cleaning them.
Other possible issues
As mentioned earlier in the article the sound quality issues might be coming from your record and not be a needle issue but there are other possible issues that could be causing your records to not sound good.
One common issue that people have is problems with the speakers. This is especially true if the speakers are quite old or if they are super cheap. Low quality or old speakers will not allow your records magnificent sounds to carry through and might make you think something is wrong.
If you have replaced the needle and cartridge and still don’t have the sound quality that you remember or expect the next place to look is the speakers. Most players will have a spot where you can connect speakers to the player so buying a new set of speakers and trying them shouldn’t be too difficult.
If your record player has built in speakers then replacing them would obviously be much more difficult.
Another thing to check is to make sure that all the wiring inside of your player is properly connected and isn’t frayed or damaged. A frayed or damaged wire could cause the player to still work but the sound quality to be “off”.
If all else fails and you still can’t locate the issue you are left with two things to try.
First, you could buy a new player. Obviously this is the more expensive option but rather than spending any more time on trying to locate the issue it might be your best option.
Second, you can hire an expert. There are many people who work on record players that can be found in many towns and cities. This will also be an expensive option and might cost you more than the player is worth so that is why I wanted until now to mention it. I would only go this route if the record player is an extremely rare or expensive model or if it is a family heirloom.
How to know when to replace your needle
Most people will just wait to replace their needle until the sound quality starts to degrade or the stylus shows some signs of wear. If you have an expensive record collection however another option is to keep track of how many hours you have played on that needle and replace it after a certain number of hours have been passed.
This method will ensure your listening experience never degrades but it will also mean that you will spend more time writing down your hours after every use as well as spend more money on replacing your needles as you will end up replacing them when they still have some life left.
This isn’t something that needs to be done but it is something that you can do if you don’t want to ever have to worry about accidentally damaging your records.
The easiest way to know if your record player needle needs replaced is to simply pay attention when a record is played. Very rarely will a stylus “break” but they often will become dull or misshapen and need replaced.
Most needles will need to be replaced after 1,000-2,000 hours of playing but some needles can last considerably longer. Ultimately, only you can decide how often you want to replace your needle.
Some people even replace their needle after a year or two no matter how much it has been played. This will certainly ensure that your sound quality never gets worse but you will also replace your needle more often than it needs to be most of the time.