Influence of stylus shapes on distortion

since we do all things analogue, I think stylus-shape, round, eliptical, fine-line, etc. is yet another salient subject.
At least according to some experts it has quite some influence on play-back distortion --- as well as related criticality of 'the perfect' alignment set-up.

I'm sure Raul with his experience of MMs from some earlier vintage might be of help to gain some insight on this subject.

I agree with this and this is why after many catridges I am now convinced that line contact styli are the optimal playback shape; Lyra being my choice of cartridge brand for the foreseeable future.
Hi Stevecham
interesting, I see where you are coming from.

I had a 'special' Dorian (re-tipped with a Gyger Special, boron) and it was very highly resolved.
Now some experts would say --- too much. Giving you some 'information overload' not considered to make it so musical...
Me, I'm not sure, since I have not really heard e.g. some SPU 'Meister', 'Classic' etc. considered to be more musically involving, though NOT due to higher resolution. Now, these would sport round or elliptical styli at best. You also NEVER hear anyone using these asking about distortion!
I had issues with my Dorian. Using an SME V, I feel pretty certain it was not misaligned.

Any comment from some specific listening experiences, you mentioned having gone through quite a few carts, right?

Dear Axel: You point out one of the distortion sources: alignment set-up, and we have to add VTF-matching tonearm/cartridge resonance frequency range-AS-load impedance-and the like.

A stylus shape between its shape design has no self distortion other than the one generate for the tracking it self. What generate distortions are poor alignment, poor recordings, poor matching, poor cartridge design/suspension, poor, poor, poor, etc, etc.

A well cartridge design ( either stylus shape ) with the whole correct set-up makes no other distortion that the " natural " one of its work.
Of course that different stylus shape ( everything the same ) give us different information range level.
Of course too that the distortions generate for different stylus shape are different but the important subject is what we can hear about those distortion differences.

I have some same cartridges with in the same model different stylus shape: spherical-elipthical and eliptical-fine line.
In the last case the cartridge sound with the elipthical stylus seems to me a little more relaxed than with the fine-line and I almost can't heard/hear more information through the fine-line.

The distortion subject on stylus different shape that we can hear is very dificult to be precise and absolute on it from the point of view ( like I say ) of what we hear and depends on the whole cartridge design and excecution of that design.

A ML-Fine Line stylus design can give us more information but its whole set-up it is more " delicate " and if it not right on target we can have higher distortions than in a elipthical one. So it is not easy to be " absolute " on the subject.
There are differents ML-Fine Line shapes as different Elipthical ones ( on dimensions shape. ) .

Then we have to be very experienced to say " that is a stylus shape distortion " and " that is part of the recording " even to know when a " sound " is higher or lower in distortion, this is very dificult to discern and only if you are at a very high position on that learning curve you can discern it and obviously with the right audio system: a very low overall distortion system.

Of course that everything the same it can be measure that " natural " each one stylus shapé distortions.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Axel: That was an answer from a " music lover ", I think that the cartridge designers can give us a more precise answer. Maybe JC could help us.

Regards and enjoy the music.
please give me the answer from your " music lover " point of experience about using (always well set-up) a Windfeld with 'Nude Ortofon Replicant 100' stylus (fine-line, yes?); 16CD compliance, or a SPU Royal with the same stylus but 8CU compliance on the same SME V arm.
Cart weight is 13g in the former, 12.8g in the latter. VTF 2.6g and SPU 3.0g

What is your take?
Dear Axel: Here I give you some info about:

was not an in deep sessions and maybe at my place the precise/exactly tonearm/cartridge set-up was not right on target but anyways give us a " clear idea about.

I try " hard " with the Ortofon MC 7500 ( same stylus shape that the Windfeld and very close cartridge characteristics.) and is a very sensitive to VTA/SRA changes, it likes to run almost flat/parallel to the record for you can achieve its top quality performance.
It runs good on the SME IV but works better in other of my tonearms. Now, we can take in count those differences on cartridge quality performance only if we have on hand other tonearms to make a comparison, its the only way to understand its true performance.

Sometimes I or some one else say " that tonearm is not a good match with that cartridge " or at the inverse and this kind of stateent not necessary means that that cartridge will perform bad NO.

Usualy a top cartridge performs good in almost any " decent " tonearm and for many of us that " performs good " is enough to enjoy it.
In the other side there are other people that are looking not only for a good cartridge performance but for its best on that cartridge and here is where our tonearm " hunting " begin trying to find the " magic " match.

Btw, I don't have any experience with the Royal. Which yours?

Regards and enjoy the music,
Hi all,
I think on getting back to the subject.
So Frank (forum alias, Berlinta), has brought up a VERY good point.
HOW, do different stylus shapes INFLUENCE the HARMONICS of the INEVITABLE distortion we have (at least with arms describing an arc, 9", 10", 12", etc.)?

We will have distortion, of course minimised as best, and according to our preference of alignment, if applicable, i.e. not SME stock-alignment.
Now, we know (do we?) that odd-order harmonics are great for Rock&Roll -, air-guitar, etc. and even-order harmonics more on the smoother side of it all (at least as perceived) -- think of a lot older tube-gear.

Listening to classics, instruments etc. etc. might just be better with a more even-order distortion ---- our ear can handle loads more before it becomes too much.

So theorising in this way, will give us a small trade-off in detail, but a truly interesting option. It might get us more discerning about WHAT stylus shape(s) to pick.
Of course there is, as always, more to it:
Compliance, cart weight, cantilever material, etc.
But the stylus shape is a good point to start.

Next I might also want to try and look into cantilever materials, alu, hard-alu, boron, ruby, sapphire?, etc.

Since we are amplifying EVERYTHING, the least bit of a materials specific resonance, ALL can be perceived in a reasonably resolving audio chain.
Correct me if I'm wrong.

It might be just the case that, in more recent times, I've become more picky with setup. However, I do have the impression that cartridges with fine line profiles are extremely sensitive to VTA change. I have seen the charts that show that even fairly large changes in VTA should have only small impact on sound, but, my listening experience is that that is NOT the case. I can easily hear the difference when I move the tonearm up or down less than .5mm with my Lyra Titan cartridge.

Since I have no intention to adjust VTA for different records and record thicknesses, I know that the VTA I am listening at for any particular record is not optimal. This is something I just accept. But, I have been tempted to look into 12" arms, in part because VTA changes less with changes in record thickness. To me, this is at least as important as lower tangential error.
Hi Larryi,
well said, and exactly my very own experience also.
A 0.3mm change in VTA makes a difference (as I mentioned in a reated thread) --- but should that be so critical?!
It makes a case for non-optimal VTA for many another record, depending on thickness.

I have a suspicion that neither elliptical nor round styli will behave that way, plus the possibility of a more 'pleasant' distortion behaviour as eluded to above. Have we pushed the envelope too far in search of ultimate resolution?
What would JC have to say to this heretical thought?

Best regards,

Often, it is a big factor, particularly with used records. When records are played and damaged by a stylus, that damage tends to be located at a certain depth of groove. Another stylus that rides at a different height may avoid the damaged area.

One would expect that profiles that fit the whole groove more tightly, like the microridge and other narrow profiles with a wide vertical contact patch would be more prone to noise (cover a larger area that could be damaged, reaches toward the bottom of the groove where dirt collects). But, I have found that not to be the case in practice. Most of the better narrow profile styli cartridges I've used are LESS prone to picking up surface noise. Is this because of the profile or is it because better cartridges do a better job of controlling resonance, or some other factor? I have no idea. I just know that noise is less of an issue for me with the micro-ridge type of cartriges I've used.
some ideas goes like this:
The SMALLER the stylus the more it would use information deeper down in the groove and more away from the surface damage.

Additionally a smaller stylus has less weight = less inertia = better tracking.

It also goes like this:
A smaller stylus goes deeper into the groove and picks up more debris at the bottom where some less 'pointy' one never gets in the first place and therefore produce less groove noise...

Want to take your pick?

Also, a sharper / fine line et al, stylus seems a lot more critical to set-up than round or elliptical one. BUT it will retrieve more detail to the point where VTA gets more critical in terms of the treble getting more ahead in time by a steeper angle (lifting the arm base) or more delayed in time by lowering it, thereby producing the difference in sound one can hear.

Again I'm sure JC can shine some light on this, since I speak under correction here.

Best regards,
Dear Axel: Everyone can have its own " ideas " about as are their know-how and experiences on the subject.

In your thread you want to " aisle " the stylus shape against distortion and here like in other audo devices the stylus shape is not an aisle factor, there are several other factors that contribute directly/inderectly to that distortions, so in someways is useless.

IMHO I think that the only way to realy satisfy our curiosity on the subject will be to make distortion measures everything the same but the stylus shape.
From what I know ( maybe I'm wrong ) those kind of " scientific " studie does not exist ( even with cartridge/stylus designers. At least no one that I know publish on the subject. ) yet and IMHO only this precise information realy can help to fulfil our curiosity about.

Regards and enjoy the music.
please explain...
>>> In your thread you want to " aisle " the stylus shape against distortion and here like in other audo devices the stylus shape is not an aisle factor<<<

aisle = gangway, passageway, walkway
aisle factor = ?
What exactly you actually try to say?

As to having --- own "ideas" based on ones knowledge and experience ---- isn't that what gaining 'understanding' is all about?
Unless we subscribe to the higher wisdom of such as the inquisition did. (Even they enquired as their name suggested, whether that added to their knowledge and experience is a story different entirely)
Dear Axel: That there are other several factors that contribute to distortions related with the stylus shape.

Now, I posted: " IMHO I think that the only way to realy satisfy our curiosity on the subject will be to make distortion measures everything the same but the stylus shape. "

This coud be the only way to have aisle the stylus shape subject.

+++++ " As to having --- own "ideas" based on ones knowledge and experience ---- isn't that what gaining 'understanding' is all about? " +++++

in this case an according with the thread title it is not enough we have to measure those distortions that comes from the sole stylus shape differences, well at least is the way I understand that: but you are your own boss.

Axel, do you realy want a true precise/absolute answer or only to have an idea?, what do you want?

Anyway that's my point of view.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Hi Raul,
you say:
>>> Axel, do you realy want a true precise/absolute answer or only to have an idea <<<

This sounds like bad some rhetoric to me, as you know that we can't have any enquiry -- "true precise/absolute" -- according to scientific method proper in this forum, or?

So then I say: I just want to have an idea... so then that's just pie in the sky.
I might as well have a cup of coffee rather, hm.

In any event, experiment (listening in this case) always precedes scientific explanation(s). Part of my method, go call me on it.
So there might just be some members that have experiences to share, which might be helpful.
I trust my ears first, and scientific examinations after that. This by the way includes all kinds of measurements. Measurements are facts, but facts seldom tell the whole truth. Measurements need to be interpreted, that's where the truth often misses out.

So, in case your question was truely NOT rhetorical, and you want to share your own listening experiences --- this was the place meant to do it.
Could get interesting for some 'end-user' sharing his impressions with e.g. a 'cart-designer'.

Dear Axel: No it is not rhetorical. I already posted my " ideas ".

The point, I think must be critical for cartridge/stylus designers. I can tell you that when we ( Guillermo and I ) will in deep in our cartridge design ( we are on the first steps now. ) some way or the other we will make the research about till our resources permit.
Maybe some one already do it and I hope that could share with the audio community.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Hi Raul,
thanks, I'm genuinely relieved. But as you can see, the way to ask a question can create a sort of "idea" already.
So, I guess you are on the same page, that useful findings (trial & error, experiment, listening) CAN help, as in your case with a design. In some other case to help make up your mind on which cart to spend your money. We still will have to synthesise different inputs, but at lease we precede from a more informed position, that's my idea.

I just had a case were some SPICE model of frequency / impedance behaviour of a crossover tells a 'scientific' fact. As it turned out there where yet some more facts not considered i.e. not known/noted/perceived. Now we add those into the mix and EVERYTHING changed, so we a a new fact.
I'm not going to bother you with the details. But the ear was NOT fooled, it was in fact the one that made use look everything over. So once again scientific explanation followed experiment i.e. the listening experiment.

I guess you are not a liberty to share your design ideas, that is a pity, but I guess understandable.

PS: I have a notion that some of this bantering that went on some other related threads, ticked off some valuable contributor, that would be a great pity. So let's see what gives...
I have posted about this briefly in another thread. The Soundsmith Strain Gauge cart system allows one to interchange different stylus profiles within a few seconds. Changing between the Optimized Contour and Nude Line contact styli with the same cart is extremely revealing of the different ways the stylus contact the groove wall.

Now before I continue, I must state that I have now transitioned from mere audiophile hobbyist, to being a dealer for a few brands, the Strain Gauge being one of them.

With the Optimized contour, you literally feel like you are riding down that canyon of LP groove - there is so much information and intimacy.

But this is obviously for LP's in good shape. Groove damage is evident.

Switching to the nude line contact glosses over some of the information, but sometimes this is quite a blessing. With less than ideal LP's (both noisy used LP's and poorer recordings) at times this profile can be more musical.

So to answer the question posed by this thread, I feel that on certain LP's yes, going to less of an extreme profile can result in lower distortion. But on the majority of LPs in good shape, I prefer the Optimized Contour and am not getting distortion.
Excellent Emailists!

Thank you. That's the sort of feedback that is of interest.

You mention stylus swapping, which sounds like MM, is that the case - just to know for interest?

Raul, his holding some of this information off, I think :-)
He has loads of MM experience and with these styli, swapping is quite easy. I hope he is going to give us some of this sort of insight as well.

Many thanks,