Does a cartridge that has been in storage for an extended period need play time…

to mechanically (re)break in? Can I expect the character/sound of a Grado Reference Sonata I moving iron cartridge to change over time if its been previously used but then stored for a long period of time?

I just installed one in this situation on my tonearm and its seems a little flat in the high end and lacking detail. I just installed it for fun and its the only MI cartridge I have experience with listening too. I’m definitely putting my Dynavector 10X4 MK II back on the arm if the sound doesn’t improve in the next dozen hours or so.

Thanks for any input.


The materials that support the cantilever do degrade. It's a maintenance item. 

how long was it stored and where was it stored.   I'd send it back to Grado and have them take a look.  Grado's are very musical...  it should sound good

Everything sitting around a while needs time to come back. Happens overnight, happens when shipped, for sure happens when stored away for a long time. 

This happens in part because no dielectric (insulator) is perfect. They all absorb some small part of the signal which is then later discharged back into the wire. This is the main reason different dielectrics do sound different. This is also the main reason it can take so long to fully burn in certain components. Over time the dielectric gradually becomes saturated to equilibrium, at which point it becomes stable and the sound improves. Let it sit some time this discharges and we get to go through the same process all over again.

Phono cartridges have this but not to the same extent owing to the extremely thin dielectric. But phono cartridges also have a suspension, typically a little donut of elastomer. Stored at rest the cantilever is at zero load and so the suspension adjusts and conforms to this state. Playing a record VTF causes the cantilever to bend to a new angle. It can take some time for the suspension to fully adapt and equilibrate. This is a main reason we are told to put some hours on before fine tuning VTA. Tracking angle will change with use.

The sound you heard is pretty much what I would expect. Just look at the above factors. Your stored suspension is a little stiff, so not tracking quite as well. If it was stored a very long time the elastomer may be hard and never return to "as new" but that is a bit of a guess, plenty of people using carts for many years still loving them. I would put more hours on it and see.

Thanks for the replies.

I don’t have specific information about previous hours used or storage time - I need to ask better questions. I bought it on a whim second hand from a member here. I spent a good amount of time installing the cartridge and getting it set up correctly. The one piece of data I’m missing is on the recommended overhang.

I just listened to side one of my 2010 Columbia reissue of Kind of Blue and it sounded very good. That was the 5th album side I’ve played since installing it. I know the million dollar question is whether my ears are adjusting or if the sound is actually changing.

Thanks again for the replies.

To help with Cartridge Break In and loosen up to assist with optimizing a Suspension, I have in the past been given an advisory on a method to save the stylus usage during the process.

This requires that the the stylus when mounted on the Tonearm is placed onto a non rotating LP.

I have a Device that produces a vibration and I set it in a Position such that a very mild vibration sensation is transferred and able to be detected through the LP.         I then observe the Stylus to see if the part seems unaffected by the vibration being encountered. As long as the stylus is not showing any obvious movement to the eye, I continue with the level of vibration selected.

This will save the Diamonds User Life whilst gently transferring energy through the suspension, and assisting it to become pliant when in use.

I have done this on Two occasions, of which one was for approx' 4 Days on a New Cartridge and the other being a Half Day on a used but Long Term Stored Cartridge.  I am not aware of any unwanted effect on a Cartridge by using this method. 


Currently I am using two ’long stored’ cartridges, and surprisingly, they both sound great.

Played a few hours for a few days, then started listening critically. I assumed the rubber/whatever the cantilever passed thru would be dried out/hardened/inflexible. Perhaps oxidation of internals.

My MM, AT440ML, very lightly used, stored loose in a baggie in a drawer since Shure V15VxMR came out around 2003/2004. I had to use several spritzes of brake cleaner to get the aluminum cantilever clean. Luckily the tip was not glued on. I figured, it’ll work or it wont. Damn thing sounds great.

Friend’s New, never played MC, Goldring Eroica LX, new in box in the drawer for many years. Luckily it looked clean under microscope, I wouldn’t spritz someone else’s cartridge. Same thing, play a few hours a few days, then start listening for real. It sounds very much like my new MC AT33PTG/II. Perhaps differences, but I don’t want to wear it out. He listens to it here until he gets a SUT.

I will say, same LP’s, the Eroica’s Gyger II Stylus tip tends to hold onto junk more than any stylus tip I ever owned. I need to clean it every play. My other’s, SAS and ML might only get a speck of dust playing a/the same clean LP previously. I think the shape front to back must have surfaces closer to the edge that the ML profile, i.e. something to stick to rather than to fall away from.

Oh yeah, I have rubber restorer I use for rollers on tape recorders. My AT440ML: I put a tiny bit on the intersection of the cantilever into the body with a tiny brush, left a few minutes, then a whiff of compressed air... not to my friends.

I regularly wake up my cartridges by playing bands 2a,b, and c, of the original Cardas test LP. (The latest version does this at 45 rpm on side 1.) if that doesn’t help, you may have a problem with suspension. On the other hand, I own many 30+ year old cartridges and all but one have had no problem.

recommended overhang is determind by your tonearm ,

when I was using my sonata and master I had to raise the tonearm 

to keep the correct VTA .


The cartridge cantilever suspension is subject to perishing over time and it makes no difference if stored or played. Sometimes it gets harder and less flexible, sometimes it turns to a soft goo and the cantilever all but collapses.

Different materials are used by various manufacturers and some last considerably longer than others.

I've had pretty good luck with the wood body cartridges from Grado- I've had them last about 5 years so far. 

Atmasphere, Your experience runs counter to mine. One can never know if a cartridge we like in the present might have sounded even better when it was fresh out of manufacture, so I certainly would not claim that suspensions do not degrade over time. But nearly all but one or two of my cartridges is at least 5 years old, typically more like 20-30 years old, and only once have I found that the sound quality seriously degraded over time. This was for a Grado TLZ that I purchased new back in the 80s and used to like quite a bit. It was my only cartridge for a few years back then. These days it no longer sounds even "good"; I don’t use it. Otherwise, I’ve had no issues that I can knowingly ascribe to suspension degradation, given the point I made above, that we can’t know how any "old" cartridge sounded when truly new.

“recommended overhang is determind by your tonearm”

Thanks, I learn something new everyday.  I have overhang dialed in now and it altered/improved the sound.

Thanks again.

Some other advice not related to your question: the input impedance of your phono stage should ideally be 10X or more greater than the cartridge’s internal impedance.

The more use I’ve given the Sonata 1 over the past two days, the better its sounded but I still felt it was missing top end air.

I swapped my older Allnic H1200 phono preamp (new tubes and fully checked out in October) for the Ray Samuels Nighthawk i have been tinkering with (fully adjustable) and BOOM the Allnic brought the high end air and sparkle back. I’ve been using the Nighthawk since the Allnic started exhibiting tube noise including with the Dynavector lomc cartridge referenced above. Apparently the MM input of the Nighthawk is of much lower quality than the H1200.

My daughter gets the Nighthawk in her stocking tomorrow morning to use with her Spinbase and NOS integra 1057F table.

I’m a happy camper again.

the wood body Grado in the right system can be magic :-).. especially the midrange