The last thing we want to hear mid-performance is distortion and skipping. The energy and momentum keep getting interrupted. You hear the extra wear and tear on the vinyl and cringe.
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This situation is a nightmare and bad for our reputation. Would you rehire a DJ that had constant skips and distortion during a performance?
Don’t let worn-out or poorly made needles rob potential work from you. Here’s how to determine the best turntable needles.
What Is the Best Needle for a Record Player?
The best needle for your record player is the one that best fits your needs.
Things to consider:
- Sound quality
- Tracing quality
- Wear and tear (both on the needle and your records)
Record Player Needle Types:
This is the most common type of needle/stylus. Very affordable but due to their relatively large contact radius, many higher frequencies are missed. Also known as conical, this shape has the least wear on both the needle and record. The standard for DJs.
A step up from the spherical, the elliptical features a large bi-radial shape that makes better contact along the grooved walls. Improves frequency response by catching more higher frequencies than the spherical option. It also lowers distortion and improves the phase response. They tend to wear out faster than the spherical option, so keep an eye out for that.
3. Hyper elliptical
Excellent at catching higher frequencies. Longer tip life. Improved tracking. And lowers record wear. This option is designed to make better contact with the record grooves. The improved performance is noticeable once everything is aligned correctly. The cost is higher than the previous options, but the overall sound quality is worth it.
This is by far the best type of needle. However, the difficulty of manufacturing micro-edge needles makes them very expensive. Nearly the shape of the cutting styli used on master records, these turntable needles are best suited for professionals like producers or extreme audiophiles.
How Do I Know if My Turntable Needs a New Needle?
Look out for:
- Vinyl coming off on the needle
- Channel imbalance
If any of these signs start to become regularly noticed, that’s when you know it’s time for that turntable stylus replacement. To slow the wear and tear on your needle, make sure that both your record and needle are free of fingerprints or dust. Never drop a needle onto a record, place it.
What Stylus Do I Need for My Turntable?
If we’re lucky, your current cartridge/stylus will have a model number. This isn’t the case for every product, but it’s the first place to check. Using the model number of your turntable is unreliable if the original cartridge was ever replaced. On rare occasions, the manufacturer will change the stylus mid-production without changing the model numbers of the players.
Double and triple-check your current cartridge and stylus set up. If there’s no model number, do your best to reference the product catalog of the manufacturer. Depending on your needs, there are also universal setups that fit most turntables.
How Long Do Needles Last on Turntables?
Depending on your model, needles last anywhere between 200 and 1,000 hours. Professionals tend to keep note of the general amount of hours played per needle. Along with the manufacturer’s guidelines, tracking is the most accurate way of determining when to replace your needle before the sound quality begins to degrade.
Higher-quality turntable needles wear out quicker. In general, micro-edges are closer to the 200-hour mark while the spherical needles are closer to 1,000.
Our Top Picks for Turntable Needles:
1. Best in Durability: Titanium Technics SL 1200
Titanium plated and nearly immortal, this product will go the distance. Has clear instructions for setup.
- Best for domestic use
- High-quality materials
- Furukawa 5N pure soft annealed silver Litz cartridge wires
- Not for DJing
- Takes a few hours to break-in
2. Best Dual Moving: Audio-Technica AT-VM95C
This product is one of the most consistent cartridges out there for everyday listening.
- Dual Moving
- Crisp sound
- Wiring is sometimes reversed
- Audio profile lacks warmth
3. Best for Scratching: Ortofon OM Q.Bert
Designed for scratch and back-cueing, the Ortofon OM Q.Bert is on the top-shelf.
- Ultra-high output
- Low wear characteristics
- Tracking and sonic characteristics are unmatched
4. Best Plug-N-Play: Numark CC-1
Great for any DJ style, this product is designed for versatility.
- Full-range frequency response, 20 – 20,000 Hz
- Great channel separation
- Solid frequency response
- Not meant for 7in vinyl
- Not the best for vocals
5. Best Needles on a Budget: Zentect Golden Needle
Here’s a 4 pack to keep on hand for your older or entry-level record players.
- Easy to install
- Cheap and perfect for rugged use
- Low-quality materials
- Sometimes ruby instead of diamond tip
6. Best for DJs on a Budget: Gemini HDCN-15
We love this cheap cartridge, but it does often take a little more setup. It’s worth the extra hassle.
- Clear audio
- Carbon fiber cantilever
- Difficult setup
- Wires often come reversed
7. Best for Vocals: Ortofon OM Pro S
A general-purpose DJ cartridge with a very rugged cantilever, perfect for active DJ styles. The needle on this thing is nearly magnetized to the vinyl, that’s how good it is at staying in the grooves.
- Crisp vocals
- Excellent tracking
- Needle upgrade needed
- Better for practice than performance
8. Best Stunt Cartridge: PUSOKEI Tangxi
Old reliable. Any old or questionable records will get played on this product.
- Warm sound and easy setup
- Middle-of-the-road sound profile
- Mounting screws provided are magnetic
9. Best General Purpose: Numark Groove Tool
Sometimes general purpose is all you need. This product is simple and solid.
- Quick and easy setup
- Good tracking
- Clear audio profile
- Ugly looking
- Cheaply made
10. Best Classic: Audio-Technica AT81CP
You either love or hate the AT81CP. More often than not, it can make your 25+-year-old record player sound new again. Not meant for DJ use.
- Great for older record players
- Smooth sound
- Carbon fiber ABS cantilever
- Not for DJ purposes
- Some muffled sounds