Experiences buying used cartridges

Most of us who belong to this forum have at one time or another purchased a few used cartridges. I wanted to start this post to discuss our experiences.
Would you do it again? Was it a good experience with an honest seller or was it a nightmare?
The only time I would buy a used cartridge is if I planned on replacing or retipping the stylus. Other than that forget it. As a matter of fact that would be the last thing I would buy used!
I've bought and sold well over 100 used cartridges. Never a problem on either end.
I have bought a number with no problem. Do a search. This is not a new topic.
I had what you term "a good experience with an honest seller." Got a very gently used Ortofon Jubilee about 15 months ago for a great price. I've used it almost every day since and have no regrets.
I paid BIG money for a used Dynavector 20X low output mc cartridge. Turned out the suspension had collapsed and the body of the cartridge would drag on the record. Between what I paid used for the cartridge and sending it to Soundsmith for repair would have cost more than buying a brand new 20X.

Never again will I buy a used cartridge.
I am fan of old 50ties and 60ties Ortofon SPU cartridges...so I have no other choice but used....and yes most of the time they need to be re-tipped.
Have sold quite a few of my earlier cartridges to help fund the purchase of an
upgrade. They have all been in perfect working order, one or two had been re-
tipped and I always made that clear.
Never had a problem, one buyer even sold the cart on for more than I sold it for!
I tried buying a couple of used phono cartridges and both were defective. One had a badly worn stylus (was offered as "nearly new") and the other had a bad suspension (cantilever would drift to one side when lowered). I lost money on the first cartridge and was able to return the second cartridge.

I wouldn't buy another used cartridge unless I was VERY sure of the seller's integrity and they were selling me a cartridge that they had purchased new.

I've bought over 40 used or NOS cartridges and styli with only a handful of disappointments.
Of course some of those cartridges did not impress or appeal to me and I on-sold them at virtually no loss.
I find that many classic MMs of the '70s and 80s sound more cohesive and emotional than modern designs and even some noted LOMCs of the same era can compete with their current brethren.
I've had many more disappointments with 'new'' cartridges and it would take some serious word-of-mouth for me to outlay again for a 'new' current model.
And then there's the cost differential đź‘…
I've bought and sold pre-owned cartridges on Audiogon many times. Never had a bad experience. Of course, I check member feedback pretty carefully.

My current cartridge is a pre-owned Lyra Kleos, ... which I bought lightly used a while ago. Still works like a charm.

Buying preowned cartridges is a higher risk proposition, but if you buy from a reputable member with a good reputation, it may be a risk worth taking considering the potential savings.
Here's a question for those who are considering a used cartridge...how do you really know how many hours on that piece? Therefore, how much wear has the diamond incurred...because just a few playings of a worn diamond and your LP's are toast.
Fair push back from Ebm and Daveyf.

If you check my feedback, you'll see that I sold some used cartridges a while back on buyer's approval. No payment up front. At some point, trust comes into the picture.
Tried it only once. Bought a $2,000 LOMC used for $800. Advertised as < 50 hours, but it arrived with a seriously off-center cantilever. It seemed to me then and now that it would have taken much longer than 50 hours to do that.

Others have been luckier, obviously. In the end, you assess the risk vs. the reward (savings) and make your own choice.

I've sold a couple of used cartridges here on the 'Gon. The cartridges were a couple of years old. I sold them because I just never played my turntable. Sold them for 50% of the cost of new. They probably had less than 25 hrs each on them. The cartridges sold pretty quickly on the strength of my sales feedback. However, I doubt if I'd ever buy a used cartridge.
It's a good experience, you can not buy top cartridges from the 80s in NEW condition anyway. Used cartridge in very good condition can be a good find. Some of them still sounds amazing even compared to new, but for a lot better price (used normally cheaper). Anyway it's better to have NEW stuff as well to test them nose to nose with top vintage stuff. I'm totally find buyin used if they are reasonably priced (especially MM/MI/MF). It's a part of the hobby after all.
I've bought two used cartridges, a Linn Troika and a Linn Arkiv B. Both purchases were flawless. Both looked and worked great. I still have the Arkiv B

But I can see how buying a used cartridge can be very risky. Over the years I've bought much used gear. Only once did I get a dud, and that was a tuner (FM3). Seller refused to take it back.
Five or more years ago, I would have come down heavily against buying a used cartridge. About that time, I got interested in vintage MM and MI cartridges, thanks to "the thread". At that point, I started buying used and NOS vintage cartridges with alacrity, always after careful selection of sellers, as far as that can ever be done. I must be lucky, because I have never received a cartridge that did not "work", out of the box. One can never say that an aged NOS or used cartridge is working exactly as well as it otherwise could work, but I only have detected subpar performance with one of my oldies, and that is a Grado TLZ that in fact I bought new about 35 years ago.The caveat here is that I have not listened to all the cartridges I bought during that spree. One of those that I have yet to audition, and which is clearly not NOS, is an AKG; these are notorious for losing signal on one channel, and visual inspection of my sample reveals that the cantilever is deviated to one side and may be sagging as well. However, if I never listen to the AKG, I may be able to say my record is perfect. Nevertheless, this adventure has given me many hours of pleasure for relatively little cost, and I don't regret it for a minute. In fact, with less zeal than before, I am still looking for certain models. Anyone got an Astatic for sale?

I've had very good luck buying used cartridges. My current primary is the Lyra Kleos, which has performed flawlessly since I bought it. I even sent it to Lyra/Japan a year or so ago for a check up and adjustment.

The obvious advantage of buying used is that one can get into a higher grade cartridge for a much more affordable price. Of course, the downside is the risk that the cartridge condition does not meet seller reps.

Obviously, I've been careful in choosing the seller from whom I bought the cartridge (member feedback is key) and have just been plain lucky.


I have purchased two used cartridges and both were positive experiences. I do avoid any cartridge that has been re-tipped unless the manufacturer was the one who did the work.
I purchased a used cartridge from grgaudio who often sells a ton of cartridges, all with less than 300 hours. Apparently nobody in California runs Their cartridges over 300 hours. Anyhow I bought a Benz reference one from him in the ad it said new retail price was 3K. Well I learned after the fact that retail is $1200. But I should've done my due diligence my bad. So then I install it and it's obvious the cartridge is just worn right out. So I sent him three emails telling him about it and never receive a response. Then six months later I have it looked at and yes it's worn right out. So I respond to four of his ads asking him if he's going to ignore these folks as well when they discover their cartridges are worn out. So he sends me a message asking me what's up the last he heard from me was when he sold me a cartridge. So I tell him I'm upset because it was totally misrepresented and it's worn out and I want my money back. And believe it or not he says I can't refund your money now if you had of notified me right after I would've done so. He says my policy is always your satisfaction or money back. I guess that works good if you totally ignore people's attempts to tell you they're dissatisfied. Complete crook stay away from this guy. And the worst thing is it was past the time to leave feedback so I couldn't tell others of my experience on his feedback.
Wow I bought a used Sumiko cartridge from graudio and was very happy with purchase. He even offered to mount it on my table for gratis. I mean he was right about this cartridge it is one of a handful of HOMC cartidges that do everything right and I bought it without knowing it's sound. He has to be doing something right,his feedback is over 98%.
I had one very positive and one very negative experience buying used. The bad one was for a cart that (sounds like the stock description) had "low hours" and "functioned perfectly". It couldn't make a clean sound to save its life. I made the mistake of going back and forth with this guy until I was past the point of return (although I'm not sure if I would have ever really gotten my money back, given the way this guy was slipping his way through the email back-n-forth). The thing is he had a perfect rating up to that point.

I wound up sending the cart to SS. The stylus was shot and it also was in need of a serious cleaning. In the long run it cost me well beyond what I was planning to spend on that go around, but it now works beautifully. The other purchase could not have been more different - that cart was received in exactly the condition advertised, but based on my bad experience I'm not sure if I'd buy used again.
I have bought lightly used cartridges directly through the distributer
Fantastic ZYX service from Mehran at Sora Sounds
Qdrone the problem is that if a certain amount of time goes by you cannot leave feedback for a transaction. I believe this is why GRGaudio ignored my first three or four emails.  By the time I had it looked at and verified that it was toast I could not leave feedback. And I'm sure he's pulled this on quite a few others as well. I don't know the guy personally but I just want to warn others about him so they don't get burned. Right now he has a Linn archiv b up for sale. Supposedly has 250 hours on it. It is 25 to 30-year-old cartridge with only 250 hours on it??!!  Come on give me a break, that's only 10 hours a year. And this is not an isolated example. Pretty much all of his cartridges he has ever sold have been listed as 300 hours or less. And a lot of them have been 20 to 30 years old. 
Sold several on Audiogon, but would never buy used!

Never had a buyer complaint.
I just heard from another CAM member who was sold a defective cartridge from GRG audio. He was sold a different cartridge then was pictured in the ad, it had a different serial number, and it had a totally defective suspension. He sent it back and received a few emails over a few months that Greg was going to fix it and send it to him but he never got anything back and Greg stopped responding to his emails.  Thankfully CAM has moderation that review the case and booted GRG Audio off of CAM.  However this a small consolation to the gentleman who is now out almost $1000 and has no cartridge.  If you do not want to get ripped off do not buy from this guy he sells hundreds of cartridges and apparently none of them have over 300 hours.  This stretches the logical bounds of credibility in and of itself.  Then he has a track record of completely ignoring people when there is a problem.  I'm sure only one out of 20 cartridges is completely defective but still do you want to support someone like this?  And if you are the one out of 20 then you have been completely ripped off for thousands of dollars and have absolutely no recourse.  
Well I am that Guy that bought a EPC -100 Technics cart from Greg / Victor or whatever his name is this week at GRG. Here is how this guy works. First off, if you have a problem he pulls the stall tactic until you are past the point of a pay pal refund and feedback on this site. (so if you have a problem with GRG right now, you better dispute your pay-pal ASAP) Then he does the old I did not get your emails, I sorry I was in Russia at the Olympics. Then he says, send it back and I will have it repaired. Then he never answers your emails ever again. He has your money and his defective cart back, then he then resells again to some other poor schmuck. I actually saw the cart I sent back to him advertised with the same serial number 2 weeks later. Meanwhile he answers all of my kids emails about other carts while he is supposed to be in Russia. When I finally did get him on the phone he threatened to have someone to pay me a visit to give me a beating. So I jumped on A-gone and posted questions to all of his adds saying stay away, he burnt me for $500. All he did was block me. Stay away from this guy unless your in driving distance to give him a personal refund, if you catch my drift.
I have had him banned from Canuck Audio Mart and US Audio Mart. He would not even make contact with the moderators over this dispute.
His tactics prevent users from getting their money back and leaving negative feedback.
He also goes under the handle ViraUSA
GRG Audio are thieves, run for the hills and never look back.


  The same thing happened to me as what happened to analogluvr.  grgaudio sent me a faulty cartridge and wouldn't answer emails.  I sent the cartridge to Soundsmith to see if they could help and they said it was broken beyond repair.  Finally grgaudio answered an email, but said they wouldn't even discuss a deal that was done four months ago.  My initial emails asked about who did the retip, how many hours, etc.  The guy is a crook.  Of yeah, he sent me one cartridge that had one channel out.  I sent it back and he sent me the replacement...that was broken beyond repair.  Steer clear of this one.
I've bought 2. It seems to me it's OK  only if the price is low enough to pay for the cantilever replacement if bad.
I have purchased several used cartridges over the years.  I'ld say about 80% of the cartridges were fine.   Shure V15-III HE / Empire 2000Z / Empire EDR 9 / AT 33 ML OCC  /  Ortofon CG25DI MKII  /  Denon DL103D.  

I purchased the Denon knowing it was bad, and I eventually sent it to SS for a ruby level rebuild.  Excellent cartridge at a total cost of less than a new comparable cartridge.

Just my experience.

WOW, had an Empire EDR 9 once, won it in a Audio salesman contest run by Empire. 
I would give a thousand bucks cash right now for a genuine NOS one in a box.
It’s the same way I instructed a friend to look at buying used CRT projectors.

Take well analyzed and well considered chances. do your research and buy MANY (over time).

trying it just once with no real research and too much trust extended, is a recipe for disaster.

No one learns to box on the first punch.

Buy many and the average is that there will be a few dogs and the rest will be jems. If well done, which you will learn to do, over time....they will come in at a low average price. (with the dog purchases being the speed bumps)

And all your bandits will be making out spectacularly.

This gentleman followed this rule with CRT projectors, which are 200+ pound ridiculously complex beasts..and ended up finding that one of approx 7-8 were not good deals, but the other 7 were spectacular bargains.

And he made out very very well, overall. It’s a numbers game and you have to play it well and play it often -- in order to beat the odds. Ie, you gamble it all the time and make it a house odds game, with you as the house.

simple, when you look at it correctly.

Oh yes: buy yourself a 100x power stereo biological scope, for stylus, cantilever and cartridge inspection. That’s about $300 these days, max. Or get the set-up that Fremer recommends, which can do dual duty.

Reading two posts back...I’ve got a nuded AT-33ML here, with a blown suspension but perfect stylus. Getting the dampers for the AT’s can bring many of the old ones back to life.
Agree with teo_audio. Think things through, do it often, and you can explore a wonderful range of high-end cartridges that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford.

My two biggest used cartridge purchases were a Koetsu Onyx Platinum and Jade Platinum right here on audiogon (different sellers). Both were awesome buys; the cartridges were in great condition and sounded amazing. The Onyx provided years of top-quality enjoyment until an ex-gf broke it. The Jade is still kept mostly in reserve with very occasional use.

I’m working class, so even with deep used discounts, a Koetsu is a big purchase. The risk was worth it, though. You can enjoy champagne on a beer budget (kinda).

I’ve also bought a couple Benz woods, and a few Ortofons. Only problem was once I bought a 10/10 rated Cadenza Bronze that the seller described as new in box. Since it was intended as a backup, I didn’t inspect it until many months later -- and while it was truthful that this cart has never been mounted, the cantilever is not on quite straight. Not pictures in the ad, of course. Though it’s my fault for not checking things immediately -- I would’ve definitely disclosed this upfront as a seller. With careful alignment it’s probably not going to be an issue, but it definitely affects the value of the cart (I paid a premium for it being unused).
Have bought four used carts, three were fine.  The forth one had a bent cantilever but the seller was great and made things right.  I would buy used again from a reputable seller. 
I would recommend to buy used cartridges from ebay to get buyers protection for those who’re not sure about the seller reputation. The price may be 15% higher than in the private agon listings, but at least there is no chance you will be ripped-off.

Why not ask the seller about suspension condition or to ask for additional pictures of everything if there is no clear statement in the listing? I would avoid the oldschool sellers who can’t even take a good pictures of the cartridge, cantilever, stylus tip.

But there is no reason to avoid used cartridges!

As Halcro said:

I’ve had many more disappointments with ’new’’ cartridges and it would take some serious word-of-mouth for me to outlay again for a ’new’ current model.

Exactly, that’s why buying vintage cartridges (NOS or Used) is great experience compared to overpriced new high-end models. Most of us buyin and selling cartridges, i do that just to try something different searching for "my sound". I hardly imagine someone trying to full people on ebay, bacause it’s a nightmare for the seller if the buyer is not happy about purchase. Pretty easy.
I've bought and sold a few.  I think a fair batting average is about 75%, but in the worse case scenario, I think if the motor is in good shape, Peter Ledermann (Soundsmith) can literally fix any cartridge and make it sound better than new.  I sent him a used Maestro which lost its diamond, and he sent me back the cartridge with a ruby cantilever and a shibata type stylus.  Best MM I've ever heard - much better than even the Maestro V2.

Used cartridges I've bought that were perfect - a Miyajima Shilabe and a Shelter 90X.  Used cartridges with problems - a Koetsu Black and the afore-mentioned Clearaudio.  You pays your coin and you takes your chances, but it usually works out in the end.
Buying a used phono cartridge for me would be like buying a used Tooth Brush!  The used cartridges I do have were included with used turntables I'd purchased. If I liked them I changed the stylus or had it retipped. 
When people talking about SoundSmith retiping service It sounds like his cartridges/cantilevers are "the best in the wolrd" and if you retip your original cartridge you will get a better one, but it is not true. This statement is very strange and shows only disrecpect to the original manufacturers, who developed so many unique cartridges over the years. It might works for your Denon, but it is not always works for truly High-End cartridges. It make sence to retip cheap cartridge with the most advanced cantilever and stylus tip, but you can’t rebuild, retip or recantilever ZYX (for example) expecting to get a better cartridge, you are foolling yourself! You will get a very strange hybrid cartridge that no longer ZYX, same with so many other top class cartridges. Otherwise SoundSmith own carts would be better than anything else on the market, but they are not! In so many cases you don’t need Ruby cantilever on certain cartridges, also take it count the stylus moving mass compared to the original. Some cartridges sounds much better than Ruby or Sapphire just with the aluminum or beryllium cantilevers (beryllium is restricted long time ago). For the price of SS retip anyone can buy a used, fully original cartridge in perfect working condition. Also if you will look how the top class cartridge manufacturers (like Technics for example) placed and fixed nude diamonds throught the boron hollowed pipe cantilevers you will realize that NO ONE can do that today the same way at any price. Modern retippers can only glue the stylus tip to the cantilever which is way different method.
Buying a used phono cartridge for me would be like buying a used Tooth Brush!
That's very well said!

@vegasears untill you will find a used vintage cartridge that outperform your new $5000 cartridge for 1/10 of the price. Or do you believe NEW is always better performer? Sadly new products from the legendary cartridge designers like Takeda San is no longer available and it's impossible to find NOS. Ignoring vintage (used) cartridges you miss a lot, not to mention the fact that if you believe in burn-in theory your new cartridge is not performing well in the first 200 hours (what a waste of time).  
Most of my best cartridges are used, vintage HQ thirty or more years old. 
The best I have heard are from the 80´s, one is modern (MC). One costed me 150 dollars + postage. I will never buy new $2000 cart.

I bought 3 HQ MM carts from V. Simakov of grgaudio, very happy with all.

I bought 3 HQ MM carts from V. Simakov of grgaudio, very happy with all.

Bought two as well, no problem with communication, used to talk over the phone a few times, my cartridge is still OK after 4 years, but the one i bought for a friend turned to be deffected pretty soon (Sony XL55). My friend shipped it to SoundSmith and they said the stylus is worn out and the coil is dead and must be fully repaired, the cost of the service alone is about $450-500. As always (confirmed by many agon buyers) Victor’s statement was like "200-300 hrs of use" in the listing which is not true. A bit tricky seller when the listying is not on ebay.

Buying a used phono cartridge for me would be like buying a used Tooth Brush!

Do you feel the same about used records? 
Buying a used phono cartridge for me would be like buying a used Tooth Brush!
Except that versus a good toothbrush: a good cartridge is 100s of times more expensive, 100s of times more durable (if properly used), can often be completely rebuilt to factory specs for 50-60% the cost of new (depending on manufacturer), and you don’t stick it in yer mouth (depending on your listening habits) -- so bacteria/hygiene isn’t a health issue there.

Buying used is a high risk/ high reward scenario, but buying from a trustworthy hobbyist minimizes the risk. Unlike buying a used toothbrush, it’s not altogether senseless. That said, there needs to be a significant discount in play -- it doesn’t make sense to buy an ubiquitous "50 - 300 hours MAX" used cart for only 35% off list.

I am willing to gamble, lets say 5 bucks on a used LP or CD but not hundreds. I have close friends who buy used cartridges and they have never had an issue. It’s just not my cup of tea.

You can buy an original Uriah Heep UK Vertigo LP or UK Castle reissue. Your money your choice.