What happens when the stylus tip wears out on a $12,000 cartridge?

There is no shortage of stereo phono cartridges with 5-figure price tags. What do you do when the stylus tip wears out? Do any/some/all manufacturers of these cartridges provide or offer a re-tipping service? Or do you just lay out another 12 or 15 grand for a new cartridge? Sorry for my ignorance - the Denon DL-103R/Lithium Audio Musikraft shell I currently use is the most expensive cartridge set-up I’ve ever owned. I’ve had a couple re-tipped by Soundsmith in the past for $200 - 300. What do you guys at the other end of the price spectrum do?


Before you buy it, check with Steve Leung at VAS, ask him if he can re-tip and/or rebuild suspension/cantilever/tip. Worse than wear would be bending or snapping the cantilever.

I sometimes buy broken cartridges that I know he can rebuild. I ask him first, he tells me which ones are bad choices to work on.


Atlas does exactly that. They have a $450 service fee which covers cleaning, stylus check and tune up. The problem is you lose your cartridge for 6 months.


Excellent answer. I have a feeling that in some instances the owner is give a "new" cartridge at about 1/2 price. The old cartridge is sent back, stripped and rebuilt given a new serial number and sold as new. I have no problem with this recycling as all the important parts the wear are new. Elusive disc offers trade ins for new cartridges. Instead of getting the same cartridge back you get a different one. This is a bit more expensive costing about 75% instead of 50%.  Soundsmith is easily the most reasonable offering rebuilds for about 10%.

@scott22 - good question. I don’t think there is anyone who would not prefer a factory-rebuilt cartridge to a retip, but as stated above, it’s not always possible, as the maker is  no longer around, as in the case of Transfiguration.  All I can say is this- I cannot recall reading one post here in 10 years where someone has had a cartridge worked on by Soundsmith or VAS that they were not delighted with.  I did have a problem with the suspension after a Soundsmith repair and they fixed it asap.  As far as the same exact sound?  I don’t think anyone will go in record as saying the sound was exactly the same.  Musical memory is too short to make an exact comparison.  But from what I can see, the crusty, picky audiophiles here are invariably satisfied with the cartridges when they get them back.

When one purchases a 10K cartridge they are stepping out on the ledge. No way around it. If you're actually looking and this is more than conjecture the solution put forth by tunes409 sounds pretty good. Phasemation is a very solid brand IMO.

I still wonder how you know your cartridge needs to have the stylus tip replaced? Other than the purchase of a $1200 microscope, how do you know. I don’t track the hours played. Plus, if a stylus starts to degrade, it is a gradual process and I would never know how the sound changed over that lengthy degradation process.

How do you all know when the stylus needs replacement?