To replace the needle on a turntable, you need to remove the cartridge from the record player’s tonearm. Then you can gently pull out the old needle and replace a new one using clean hands and small pliers.
My name is Donovan, and I’ve been a music lover for nearly my entire life. I’m a big fan of listening to vinyl and have an extensive collection of records. I know through first-hand experience how to replace a needle on a turntable.
This post will show you how to replace a turntable needle. I’ll walk you through all the steps to make this happen quickly and highlight other related details. I want to ensure you have everything you need to keep your record player in excellent operating condition.
Let’s get rolling.
- Key Takeaways
- When Should I Replace the Needle on a Turntable?
- Replace Cartridge or Stylus?
- Record Player Needle Types
- How to Replace Turntable Needle
- Final Thoughts
- Replacing the needle on your turntable will help you get better sound out of your records while keeping them in good shape.
- You must ensure you use the proper needle for the cartridge on your record player. Not all needles are the same size and design, and these aren’t universal.
- Replacing the needle rather than the entire cartridge will save you money, as the needle on its own is much cheaper than the cartridge.
- Always keep your hands clean when dealing with delicate parts on your record players, like the needle and cartridge.
When Should I Replace the Needle on a Turntable?
There are several ways to know when it’s time to replace the needle on a turntable. Understanding what these are will help you keep your record player and your albums in better shape and help prevent damage to both.
The first sign is simply old age. If you have an older record player you found in the garage or bought at a thrift store, there’s a good chance it needs a new needle. Some needles can last a long time, but replacing one on an older turntable is always a good idea.
Another clear indicator that it’s time for a new needle is bad sounds coming from your records when you play them. If you hear a lot of crackles, pops, fuzz, or other sounds that aren’t part of the recorded music, a new needle is a must.
If you see your records getting grooves in them that aren’t the regular grooves, you need to replace your needle immediately. Any visible damage or scratches caused by the needle are signs it’s worn out and needs a replacement to prevent ongoing damage.
Replace Cartridge or Stylus?
There are several parts on your turntable that you can replace, and many people wonder whether they need to replace the entire cartridge or just the stylus (needle). The answer to this can depend on your goals with the turntable tune-up.
In most cases, the needle or stylus is the part that technically needs to be replaced. Even so, many people will replace the entire cartridge because it seems easier to do. But cartridges don’t really wear out that often, unlike needles which have a definite shelf life.
If you are looking for the most budget-minded solution, you’ll want to replace the needle. This is much more affordable than replacing an entire cartridge and not much more difficult.
If you are trying to improve the overall sound quality of your turntable, consider a cartridge upgrade. I’m not talking about fixing scratches and pops associated with a worn needle, but rather an improvement to the actual audio quality your turntable can produce.
Record Player Needle Types
In the world of record player needles, there are two main types to be aware of. These are elliptical needles and conical needles.
Conical needles are more common and used on less expensive turntables. These needles have a more rounded shape that picks up more from the grooves in a record.
Elliptical needles have a finer and more needlelike point. These generally produce better audio quality and are found on more expensive record players.
Regardless of which of these needle types you want to use, you need to match the proper needle with your cartridge. Some cartridges will only work with a specific style of needle or a specific size, and there are no universal turntable needles.
The first step to replacing a turntable needle is knowing the exact needle you need for the cartridge you have. You can find this information in the manual for the record player or by looking at the cartridge for its model number and researching online.
How to Replace Turntable Needle
Now, let’s dive into the details of replacing the needle on your turntable. This section will provide you with a step-by-step guide to getting this done and everything you’ll need to make it happen.
What you’ll need:
- The correct needle replacement for your cartridge
- Small pliers
- Small screwdriver (usually flathead)
- Clean hands
- Clean towel, rag, or small container
Step 1: Get the Correct Replacement Needle
You need to ensure you have the correct needle to replace the old one with. Needles are not universal, meaning you can’t use any option you find or want. You need to match the exact style and size of the needle you are replacing.
If you have the paperwork that came with your turntable, this should tell you what replacement needle to buy. If you don’t, you can research the correct option online based on the cartridge type you have.
Step 2: Unscrew and Remove Turntable Cartridge
This is a two-part step to help you remove the cartridge from your turntable in order to replace its needle.
Start by unscrewing the cartridge from the tonearm. You’ll want to use a small screwdriver for this, and most turntables have flat-head style screws. Be careful and go slowly so you don’t strip or lose any screws.
Be sure to place the screws you remove on the towel or in a small container so you don’t lose them.
Once you have the screws from the cartridge out, you need to remove the cartridge from the arm by disconnecting the wires. There will be four different colored wires connecting the tonearm to the cartridge.
Use a small set of pliers (needle nose work best) to remove the wires from the cartridge. Be very careful when you do this. They don’t require a lot of force to remove, and you don’t want to pinch them very hard.
Once the wires are out, place the cartridge on a towel or in a container for safekeeping.
Note: Remember how exactly how the wires you removed from the cartridge were installed. You need to plug them back in the exact same way, or else it will mess with the sound coming out of the turntable.
Step 3: Remove the Worn or Old Needle
Now is when you want to wash your hands well if you haven’t already done so. Before you begin touching the small components on your turntable cartridge, you want to ensure your hands are clean. Make sure they are completely dry as well.
Most needles will simply slide out of place with a little tug or pull. You’ll use your fingers to grab the needle near the base where it slides or otherwise fits into the cartridge. Don’t be too forceful here, but you might need to pull or tug more than you initially think.
Once you have the needle removed, keep it around for a minute before throwing it away. You’ll want to compare the new needle side-by-side with the old one to make sure it’s a match before replacing it.
Step 4: Put in the New Needle
Clean hands are even more crucial for this step. You don’t want to get any dust or debris on the new needle during the installation. Give your hands another wash and dry if you touched anything after washing them last time.
Grab the new needle and slide it into the cartridge. Some needles might need to be pushed more than slid into place, but it’s pretty intuitive how to do this when you remove the old one.
Try not to grab or touch the tip of the needle if you can avoid it. This is the part that touches the grooves of the records and needs to be kept very clean.
Step 5: Reconnect the Cartridge
Now that the needle is replaced on the cartridge, you need to reconnect that to the tonearm.
Begin by reinstalling the wires you removed from the back of the cartridge in Step 2. You need to put those wires back exactly as they were when you removed them, or else you won’t get the proper sound.
After the wires are secure, screw the cartridge back onto the arm using the small screws you removed. Don’t overtighten these screws but ensure you have them secured and solid.
Once you have the wires attached and screws back in, gently wiggle or tug the cartridge to make sure it’s not loose. If it’s loose, double-check that you have the screws tightened enough.
Step 6: Play a Record and Check for Sound
After you replace the needle, you want to ensure everything is reinstalled properly on your turntable. A quick test of playing a record is all you need to do to make this happen.
If an album plays and sounds normal, you’re all set and have a new needle that should last for another 500-1000 hours of playtime.
If you don’t hear sound or things don’t sound right, you may not have installed the wires properly or seated the needle in place as it should be.
If you have issues, go ahead and remove and install the cartridge again until you get proper sound from your turntable.
Here are a few short answers to some of the most commonly asked questions related to how to replace a turntable needle.
Can you replace just the needle on a turntable?
You can replace the needle on a turntable rather than the entire cartridge. This can save you money because a needle is much cheaper than an entire cartridge. You must always match the specific needle to your cartridge for it to work correctly.
Are record player needles universal?
Record player needles are not universal, so you need to research what specific needle goes with your cartridge in order to replace it. Your user manual for the turntable should have this information it, or you can research it online.
How long do record player needles last?
Depending on how often you use the record player and the conditions it’s operated, there can be a wide range in how long record player needles last. But you can typically expect about 500-1000 hours of use from a single needle.
Is it ok to touch the needle on a record player?
You should always try to avoid touching the needle on a record player. You don’t want the needle to get dirty because this can cause damage to the cartridge or your records. You’ll need to touch the needle to replace it, but keep your hands as clean as possible for this.
Replacing the needle on your turntable is a fairly easy task anyone can do from home. Knowing when and how to replace your needle is a must if you want the best audio quality from your record player.
Remember that you need to always use the proper needle for the cartridge you have installed on your record player. You can upgrade to a different cartridge at some point, but you must always use the correct needle when it’s time to replace it.
Have you ever replaced a needle on your turntable? How long did it last? Let me know in the comments below.