When Should you Change your Record Player Stylus

Written by Ben W

I love vinyl since the first day I discovered an old record player at my grandparents attic. Now, I own over a dozen record players and I am always looking for gems like albums of vintage models.

Most record players are built in such a way that they’re able to withstand quite a lot of punishment, but the truth is, some parts are fragile and prone to malfunction if not maintained properly. One of those parts is the record player stylus.

The record player stylus is the turntable needle, the small part which “scratches” the surface of your vinyl records which in turn creates music. Since the process of how record player needles track and create music is quite long, let’s just see what turntable stylus is, how to maintain it, and how will you know when you need to upgrade and change it.

Record Player Stylus – what’s the worst that could happen?

Before we jump to the section where we will explain how to know when to change the stylus on your turntable, we have to stress the importance of doing so. Now, not only your record player stylus is at stake, the entire record player and your vinyl records could be damaged as well.

  • The best case scenario – only your turntable stylus gets damaged. Since there is a manifold of replaceable parts (which are usually pretty cheap), the best thing apart of no damage whatsoever could be damage on the stylus.
  • The situation would be more delicate if the stylus ended up damaging your record player too. This can easily happen if the stylus damage is neglected. There’s a possibility of some small parts sticking in the construction of your record player.
  • If you’re a real music enthusiast who loves his (or hers) vinyl records, the worst case scenario would be their ruination. As all needles are sharp, record player stylus is not an exception, and it can damage your records if you do not act in time.

When should you replace your turntable stylus?

There are many indicators that something’s wrong with your turntable stylus, but we’ll name only the most common causes of record player needle malfunctions:

Record player skipping parts

This is definitely the most common red alert signal that indicates that there’s something wrong with your turntable stylus. If your turntable skips any song part when you play it, the odds are that it’s the stylus that’s bugging you.

If you have no experience with these problems, let’s be clear on the point. The frequentness of this problems is not important. The parts are also irrelevant – whether it’s the beginning of the song, the middle part, or the ending.

The stylus scratches the surface of the record player, and, if all is well, the song should play out smoothly. However, once the record player needle gets damaged or defective, it will fall out of place. Actually, the only thing you need to know is that every record player needle follows a pre-determined path. The skipping indicates that your record player needle has strayed off the path it was meant to follow.

Odd, irregular sounds and tones

The quality of sound output is usually determined by the quality of the record player itself, but there are cases when defective turntable stylus lowers the overall quality of the reproduced sound. The main method of operation of any record player involves actual scratching, so you might experience odd and peculiar sounds (especially if your record player doesn’t usually hiss or hum).

Again, this is a cause for alarm, and you should definitely consider replacing your record player stylus. Even though this problem appears less frequently when compared to record player skipping parts, it’s one of the top indicators of mild to serious stylus malfunctions.

Peculiar volume shifts

Basically, every turntable comes with a special knob (button, or other settings) that allows you to easily manipulate the volume intensity. If, by chance, the volume shifts, your record player stylus, cartridge, or any other hardware piece might be defective.

This problem is quite peculiar, as there are several possible culprits (which excludes the educated presumption that your record player stylus has malfunctioned). If you want to stay on the safe side, you should take your record player in for repairs.

The turntable stylus scratches the surface of the record at a correct angle. To do so, a proper record player stylus remains balanced by special weights. If the angle is off (possibly due to weight), the stylus could run deeper or shallower, which, in turn, results in unpredictable volume shifts.

How to avoid these problems?

A bad record player stylus could easily ruin your day in as much as a few seconds. Imagine that you just woke up fresh. Now, all you have to do is just put on your favorite record.

Scratching sounds, skipped parts, unpredictable volume shifts – you will have these problems if your record player stylus is defective.

There are various reasons why people want to prevent these problems from happening rather than fixing them when they occur. If you’re that type of person, we offer a solution. Feel free to consult the list of our tips and tricks for general prevention:

  1. Always have a spare replaceable turntable stylus. These replacement parts are usually quite cheap. Most importantly, they would spare you the trouble of taking your record player for repairs
  1. Never stop your records until the song has completely finished playing
  1. Always check the weight ratio of your record player stylus
  1. Use the buttons and locks for your record player rather than forcing the needle
  1. Never, ever use force


We’ve gone through the possible scenarios, listing what could happen if you’re not careful with your record player stylus. If you’ve been paying attention, you will definitely know how to change your record player stylus. You will know when to change it. Most importantly, you will know how to prevent the damage altogether. We hope that this short instructional article was helpful, and we wish your record player all the best.

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