Is this stylus worn out?


I own a Lyra Delos. After several years, it began to sound a bit off. I think I was detecting some distortion in the high frequencies. As I had a 2nd cartridge in a similar price/quality/performance category (Transfiguration Axia), I switched to that one and put The Delos in the box for a while. Recently I began to play with a USB microscope and took some photos of the styluses on both cartridges. I was wondering if you would look at my photos of my Delos stylus and comment on its wear. I do not know what it looked like when new. Actually, I would love to see an image of a Delos stylus at the beginning of its life!  (I also attached one photo of the transfiguration axia for comparison.  Apologies in advance for the poor photo quality.  my microscope is not great.  Not sure if the image is attaching properly.  if you click on it, it will take you to a page with both shots that I have.








The distortion caused by worn fine line contact edges causes linear distortion of a type that is not annoying, but works to decay the soundstage, imaging, detail, overall intelligibility and high frequency extension. The high frequency distortion can be several other things, but I don’t think it is a sign of a worn stylus and is NOT a sign of a misaligned stylus. The two most likely culprits are a very dirty stylus (happens sometimes if you use gel cleaners, extended use of the magic eraser in a humid environment or never wet clean your stylus) and problems with your tonearm (either not enough or too much anti-skating, horizontal forces generated by twisted wires or bad bearings). Third most likely cause is that you are listening to groove damage.

I’ve never seen a USB scope capable of resolving well enough to show fine line contact stylus wear - and I’ve experimented with many USB scopes. You need an optical scope for that.

In any case, "several years" suggests you passed the 1,000 hour use mark a while ago if you listen for a few hours a week. It is probably time for a re-tipping.

Moving coil carts should be cleaned quite often. I find that after about 2 weeks or about 20 hours of play, enough debris accumulates on the cantilever that it begins to deaden the sound a bit.

I use a 50/50 mix of distilled water and isopropyl alcohol to gently brush the stylus. MC cantilevers and output are so delicate that you’ll notice an improvement.

Also, you’ll be better able to see what’s going on with a clean stylus.

@sandthemall , that is too much alcohol! 10% will do fine.

wally is correct, no big surprise. You need an optical microphone to see it and you have to know what you are looking at. At higher magnification depth of field is limited making stylus wear difficult to evaluate. At 3 hours weekly that is only 300 hours. 

I agree about the microscope. My cheap usb microscope is not easy to use and even at maximum magnifying power, I cannot see much…

Thank you all for your input!

I am a long time Lyra Delos user (and before that Lyra Argoi). These are superb sounding cartridges if set up properly. There are a few points to consider here:

(1) the photos that you have shared are both labeled "Delos" so its not obvious what we are looking at ! .....I am surprised no-one else has noticed this.

(2) both photos show considerable cleaning needed. Lyra has a special Stylus cleaner (SPT). the easiest way to safely use is to place a drop on the red stiff stylus brush that comes with Delos and gently brush back to front. You could also use the brush that comes with SPT but be carful you don't get too much liquid on the cantilever. 

(3) As you probably know all Lyra cartridges are extremely sensitive to setup. It is worthwhile to recheck all parameters (VTA,VTF in particular) once a year as these may go out by just the use of the cartridge.

(4) last but not least make sure your records are clean. Nothing damages sensitive stylus as much as dirty records. 

If all fails contact Lyra (or the distributor) to evaluate the stylus. It may mean that you will be without Delos for some time but you have other excellent cartridges to keep you listening!

Good luck and let us know how you get on.