Retip your cartridge? Not so fast…
The best of today’s MC cartridges are very fine performers, in fact probably better than has ever in the long history of the phonograph record been available. But they are also expensive, in fact way so. As a reaction to this sticker shock, it can be very tempting to look to the best cartridges of a few years back and let the original owner take the first depreciation.
This can be a great way to get excellent, if not at the very top rank performance, at a relatively keen price. Assuming, of course, that the cart is in excellent condition and working up to spec. The combination of a stylus inspection microscope and careful listening can pretty much tell the tale here. Unfortunately, not many folks have a stylus scope. I have often thought that an enterprising audiophile could obtain a scope, work out how to take pictures of the stylus, and offer a stylus inspection/evaluation at a nominal fee. The buyer and seller could work out how to handle things (say, split the inspection fee/shipping) and both be protected. Another Audiolog exclusive, a free money-making idea!
But many see the issue of potential stylus wear in another way, just replace the stylus. And that’s not a bad solution, if the rest of the cart is in good shape (clean, coils good and rubber parts up to snuff) and an equivalent stylus shape is available. Unfortunately, many of the “retippers” (recantitippers?) do not actually just replace the stylus, they replace the entire stylus/cantilever assembly and to me, this is problematical. Let’s say you want to refurbish a Koetsu Rosewood. Unless the stylus/cantilever is essentially identical to the original, in my view, you no longer have a Koetsu Rosewood. You may have something you like and you may even possibly have something better than a Koetsu Rosewood, but it’s not really a Koetsu Rosewood anymore and certainly not what Koetsu intended.
These days, it seems all the rage to “retip” with ruby stylus/cantilever assemblies, seemingly just on general principles. Unless you’re retipping a cartridge that started with a ruby cantilever, this leaves you with a frankencartridge and no possibility to get it properly retipped in the future (the original cantilever is gone). It’s a bit strange that I haven’t heard much chatter on the normal audio channels about this.
I have been looking for a particular vintage cart for a while and enquired on leads only to have the owner proudly announce it had been “retipped” with a new ruby cantilever as if that’s a selling point. I end up mumbling to myself under my breath and moving on.
I say, just say no to recantitippers…