Ah, complacency. Things sound ok enough, so you go along. Then BAM, that ok-enough sound takes a dive and you can’t figure what happened. That’s what happened to me. I was recording a Contemporary LP, Hampton Hawes: Four! and was sure that the LP was pretty damaged. I was hearing lots of odd distortion out of the right channel, a weird, hazy noise, almost like the stylus was covered with dirt and couldn’t get down into the groove. That right channel seemed less loud, too. Damn, a $5 LP down the drain. (In case you’re wondering, I clean my stylus pretty often, with a cleaner made by Nagaoka)
I had a brand new Grado Prestige Gold 1 and decided to replace my aging Shure V15. Whatta diff. I think the stylus on my V15 was worn to the bone. So on went the Grado and voila, everything has great clarity and smoothness. Seems like I’m getting less clicks and pops and hash, too. The clarity is extraordinary. It wasn’t the LP at all. The Grado is also hotter than my Shure, it puts out more gain.
I noted some low frequency hum coming thru my speakers that wasn’t there with the Shure. As I moved my tonearm from its resting place onto the record, the hum got louder! What the ??? Turns out the Grado is susceptible to picking up RF. I have a Furman power conditioner on a shelf directly below my turntable. When I moved it away, the hum basically disappeared. The stuff you learn.
Changing the cartridge was a pain. Attaching the tiny nut to the tiny screw, to secure the Grado to my Infinity tonearm head took time. Even with small needle nose pliers, holding the nut below the screw didn’t work. Instead I used a tiny flat head screwdriver with a dab of putty on it to hold the nut flat, so when I turned the screw, it would attach. There isn’t much room next to a cartridge to maneuver with tools, so try this if you’re having trouble.
So. when your sound has got you down, look to the tiniest piece of your system, and see if replacing your stylus brings the joy back in your vinyl heaven. Got 26 seconds? Check out the difference between my completely worn out Shure, and the new Grado.