Does Playing Scratched Records Damage Needle? Find the Truth

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The needle, also called the stylus, is composed of hard precious stones, while records are made from plastic. Since these stones are a great deal harder than the plastic, they can tolerate an uneven surface’s roughness. Thus playing a scratched record will not damage the needle on your record player.

However, there are some things you need to know about damaging your record needle, your records, and the effect of playing scratched records on your record player.

Properly Caring For Your Needle

Although there seems to be much concern about record player needles, the truth of the matter is that they are, in fact, the most overlooked part of your record player. If you consider the complete record player system, the fact of the matter is that the needle is the part that has to endure the most continuous pressure. It is also the aptest to be mistreated.

The odds are that, in general, listeners are unknowingly doing severe damage to their collections of valuable records by the persistent use of needles that are worn out. All record player needles need a bit of maintenance now and then, and while it’s essential to clean your stylus, it’s equally important to learn how to clean your vinyl records.

Vinyl records are infamous for the various sounds they can produce, such as pops and hisses, which have nothing to do with the music on the record. This surface noise is usually avoidable with just a little care. For the sake of your record and your needle, you need to make sure that your records are clean before you try to play them. Cleaning your records is easy. All you need to do is utilize a record brush every few days or so.

If you take the above advice and clean your records, but find you are still experiencing problems, then the problem is most likely a dirty needle. Because the diamond tip of the needle is virtually the only part of the cartridge that touches the record, any dust or debris that has accumulated there can seriously affect the quality of your sound.

Ultimately, while playing scratched records will not damage your record player’s needle, it is still essential to keep your records clean and free of dirt, so that you do not end up clogging your needle.

How to Clean a Stylus

There are many products available for cleaning a stylus, as well as many techniques you can use to do so. Below is a list of three methods that are fast, easy, and inexpensive. When cleaning your record player needle, do yourself a favor and remember that the stylus is very fragile and needs to be treated with great care.

Onzow Zerodust Stylus Cleaner:

This is the only stylus cleaner you will ever need. It claims that the “mysterious material” used in this product will never damage a stylus. It is amazingly easy to use and does the job correctly.

All you need to do is lower your stylus onto the gel pad, then continue to lift and repeat this process until your stylus tip is free of dust and debris. If you want to clean your Zerodust once you have finished, just run warm water over it. It will virtually last forever. Furthermore, it comes with a magnifying glass to enable you to better look over your stylus.

Stylus Brush:

This is essentially the most common way of cleaning your stylus and is Ortofon, the cartridge manufacturer and brush maker advises that you use this method. Here’s how to go about it. Just glide your stylus brush across the stylus from back to front — the exact same direction in which a record spins. Now beware, some brushes come with cleaning fluid, but you’ll be better off not using it. According to Ortofon, “using liquid cleaners can dissolve the glue that binds the stylus to the cantilever…interior parts of the cartridge can be affected seriously by the intrusion of solvents.”

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser:

This is yet another inexpensive way that has become commonplace. Just purchase a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which you can find at nearly any hardware store. You begin by cutting off a 2″ square. Then you put that square on either the platter or the plinth, anywhere that will be easy for the tonearm to reach. Next, you carefully lower the stylus onto the eraser and keep repeating the process until the stylus no longer leaves any residue behind.

You should be aware that some types of the Magic Eraser have a blue side which has cleaning agents on it. Don’t use this side. It may damage your needle or the records you play using it later on. Only use the white, untreated side. Also, do not wet the eraser before you begin. There’s no reason to do this, as your needle will come clean just fine using the eraser dry.

How Often Should You Clean Your Stylus

If you make regular use of your record player, then you should clean your stylus once a week. This isn’t set in stone, however, and the rate that dust accumulates upon your stylus depends on how clean your records are as well as how often you play them. Frequent cleaning of your records before each playing is the best way of guarding against a dusty needle.

Examine your stylus after you listen to your records several times to establish how fast dust builds up and where it accumulates the most. Pay extra attention to the area right behind the tip of the stylus. When dust gathers there, it will cause distortion.

It’s important to remember that in playing scratched records, your biggest enemy to your record player needle isn’t the scratches themselves, as much as any debris that has gathered on the needle, or may collect there from the records.