The cartridge is the rectangular receptical at the end of the tonearm into which the needle plugs or snaps. (The Needle in the cartridge link above is the red plastic and the little tiny black pin)
The cartridge only needs to be replaced if:
A) It's missing.
B) It's clearly physically damaged.
C) You feel a need to upgrade.
D) You are unable to locate a replacement needle.
They virtually never just go bad by themselves, only needles (are supposed to) wear out.
The term ' needle ' or 'stylus', both refer to the same thing. Which is the pin (cantilever) with the (diamond or sapphire) tip AND whatever plastic is required to secure the 'needle' or 'stylus' to the cartridge. You could most accurately call it the 'needle assembly' but no one ever does.
TIP: It's preferable to replace only the needle because:
A) It's usually cheaper & easier to replace.
B) You won't have to worry about all those adjustments like tracking weight nearly as much (generally not at all) like you would when changing the entire cartridge/needle combo.
HOWEVER if your replacement needle turns out to be signficantly higher than you want to spend, due to rarity or the original setup being very 'high end', then you may prefer to 'step down' to a more reasonably priced cartridge/needle combo.
The tonearm is the tube which carries the cartridge, headshell/head (if applicable) and the needle across the record.
The head is the receptical portion of the tonearm which has the socket for a P-mount cartridge.
The headshell has the same function as a head but is for a 1/2 inch cartridge mounting system; most commonly found on the "S-shaped" tonearm.
Don't follow the 'primrose path' of needles!
Most people would naturally expect that all they have to do is search for the needle they require by simply
having the model number of the turntable. However cross referencing your needle by model number alone is very dangerous for the following reasons:
A) Sometimes a manufacturer changed the cartridge/needle combo 'mid production' without changing the model number.
B) Sometimes a turntable was sold without a cartridge at all, thus forcing/allowing the customer to choose one at time of purchase. So the original customer could have chosen almost anything.
C) Often someone changes the cartridge/needle combo after the turntable/phonograph was originally purchased, in an effort to upgrade the sound, and so again it could have almost anything installed.
Any of the above conditions will destroy the much hoped for model-to-needle cross reference.
If you have a super old stereo that has a ceramic or crystal cartridge, say 1960's or earlier, then matching a needle by model # is 95%+ reliable. However, if you have a turntable from the 1970's or newer with a magnetic cartridge, then searching for a needle by just the model # becomes only about 70% accurate.
That being said, we offer the following conclusion which is the supreme focal point of this article.
In ALL cases, the
foolproof way to get the right needle the 1st time is to focus completely on the number of the cartridge or needle that is currently installed, not necessarily the model
number (tho that still may help). But beware the two stumbling blocks:
A) Often there is no part number on the needle or cartridge. (or it may be hidden under the headshell on top of the cartridge)
B) The part number in the owner's manual is still valid ONLY if the cartridge has never been changed!
If you suspect A or B is true, continue below!
The top secret scoop to selecting the right needle the first time.
#1) If you can find a number on the cartridge
or needle, type that into the search window in the upper right! If there is a space in the number, remove it.
I.E. you see "abc 123" on your cartridge, type in "abc123" (excluding quotes) If there is a "-" (dash) try your number both with and without the dash if needed. The shorter your part number, the more likely you are to receive multiple confusing results. If you get all kinds of different needles, remain calm.........breath..........now, if available, hold up old needle to your screen and try for a visual match. If most/all of your multiple matches start with the same (usually 3 digit) prefix, that's good news! Virtually all needles that start with the same prefix (click for sample search result.) are interchangeable on your cartridge! That means you have a bunch of quality level choices you can select based on your budget vs. fidelity requirements. Note: In the sample given the "4-" in front of the "200-" prefix means that this needle is generic and is "for" the genuine version(s) of the original needle. The '842' needle is a totally different product that just happens to have "200-d" (our search term) in one of the part numbers for that needle. Hence part number 1st, followed up by visual match is the ideal method.
#2) If you cannot find a number on the cartridge or needle:
Now is the time to type in the player model number in our search box. Often you will get a result(s) that, if also matched visually to your original needle is a reliable cross reference & you are done.
#3) If no model/cartridge/needle number typed in the search box turns up your needle: Don't worry be happy, that's where we shine! We have setup our site so that within just a few clicks, you can visually find your needle if you still have the old one to go by. If you don't have the old needle, skip to step "E" below.
A) Gently attempt to remove your old needle from the cartridge by grasping the (usually colored) plastic needle 'grip' on both sides with your thumb & index finger and carefully, gingerly, no tools required, pull it straight forward or straight down or possibly a combination of the two depending on your particular needle. If you have the flip type needle hold the flip handle as near the base (center) as possible.
B) Click on
NEEDLES - Styli
under "Category" in the left navigation column.
Following that, we suggest " by Cartridge Maker" as your next choice if you can find at least the brand name on the cartridge. (this may just be 3 letters like 'ADC' or 'BSR').
Failing that, choose " by Set Maker's Model Number " to find needles catagorized by ones most commonly found in your brand. However this may be rendered ineffective if your turntable should happen to have had another cartridge installed after it was originally sold. If you suspect this possibility then try selecting "by visual match - For Magnetic Cartridges " or " by visual match - Top Sellers" if you're feelin' lucky :)
D) Still can't find a match, then email us with make/model AND any numbers or markings you can find on the cartridge and/or needle, we have loads of brand specific cartridge/needle numbers not yet on the web.
E) Still nothing, please email us some CLEAR/CLOSEUP pictures of whatever you have left at the front end of the tonearm, or...
F) Snail mail us the old needle in a padded envelope.
G) Got a curve in your tonearm, just select a complete plug-n-spin kit here.
G) Don't wanna hassle trying to find a needle? Just click on Cartridges: Magnetic or Cartridges: Ceramic under PRODUCTS in the left side column on our site.
still lost? call us toll free 1-866-235-8728 or Int'l 1+541-754-3664