Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

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Max N
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Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by Max N » Sun Jan 19, 2020 6:16 pm

Does anyone use a microscope to examine cartridges?
Just wondering if the cheap USB ones are any use - or what would be the cheapest option that would be any use?
Reason for asking is I have a few secondhand p-mount mm cartridges, and even a replacement stylus is quite expensive. If the tips are still good, then I'll just go ahead and use them. OTOH, I don't want to damage records......

JohnG
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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by JohnG » Sun Jan 19, 2020 6:37 pm

The USB Microscopes are not commonly referred to for the task you are wanting to carry out.
Before commencing, a cleaned Diamond is essential, as when in use, these are ploughing through microscopic contaminants that will adhere to the surfaces and as a result, can show a defined cut as looking rounded off.
A used stereo Analogue Microscope with a eyepiece and lens set up, that will achieve 200x will be a very good method to carry out a inspection.

Max N
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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by Max N » Sun Jan 19, 2020 9:14 pm

Thanks John, I'll keep my out for something along those lines

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Greg
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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by Greg » Sun Jan 19, 2020 10:57 pm

Stereoscopic microscopes even second hand look expensive to me unless you have a further need beyond cartridge inspection. Unless you have a mate with one or a link into an organisation such as your local university, surely there must be companies out there that offer a simple service for payment.

Ant
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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by Ant » Mon Jan 20, 2020 12:43 pm

I just use a 60x jewellers loupe with an led light in it to look at them, about a fiver.
Good enough to tell if there is damage to the tips, you can see the facets well enough to assess wether you want to use the cart.
Assessing is the difficult bit, you need to look at a known good low hour stylus first so you know what it looks like, then look at a buggered one so you know what to look for. Clean them first though, the Hana and dynavector carts I got for peanuts has been assessed as knackered by their previous owners. They weren't, the were just filthy, looked like lumps of coal. Left the stylus stood in a piece of magic eraser sponge soaked in vodka for a couple of minutes and it took all the crap off. The alcohol won't hurt the epoxy that holds the stylus to the cantilever, and it shouldn't wick up the cantilever because its captive in the sponge. Only the stylus is actually contacting the sponge.
Doing this once in a blue moon won't hurt the cart, I think I've only done it twice with the Hana but it's used for a couple of hours every day
Hey, wait, I got a new complaint
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Max N
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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by Max N » Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:38 pm

Greg wrote:
Sun Jan 19, 2020 10:57 pm
Stereoscopic microscopes even second hand look expensive to me unless you have a further need beyond cartridge inspection. Unless you have a mate with one or a link into an organisation such as your local university, surely there must be companies out there that offer a simple service for payment.
I don’t know, Greg. Maybe not expensive compared to damaging vinyl, or replacing a cart that’s actually ok?

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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by Max N » Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:39 pm

Ant wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 12:43 pm
I just use a 60x jewellers loupe with an led light in it to look at them, about a fiver.
Good enough to tell if there is damage to the tips, you can see the facets well enough to assess wether you want to use the cart.
Assessing is the difficult bit, you need to look at a known good low hour stylus first so you know what it looks like, then look at a buggered one so you know what to look for. Clean them first though, the Hana and dynavector carts I got for peanuts has been assessed as knackered by their previous owners. They weren't, the were just filthy, looked like lumps of coal. Left the stylus stood in a piece of magic eraser sponge soaked in vodka for a couple of minutes and it took all the crap off. The alcohol won't hurt the epoxy that holds the stylus to the cantilever, and it shouldn't wick up the cantilever because its captive in the sponge. Only the stylus is actually contacting the sponge.
Doing this once in a blue moon won't hurt the cart, I think I've only done it twice with the Hana but it's used for a couple of hours every day
That’s a good suggestion, cheers Ant. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by JohnG » Tue Jan 21, 2020 6:09 am

Ant' has shown the real value of a usable magnifying tool.
He has been able to assess the true condition of a Stylus/Diamond and as a result bagged a few bargains that are now, as a result of the cleaning deemed necessary, performing at a level much closer to the original spec, other than need a specialist overhaul.
If one has the correct tools on board, and one chooses to mimic Ant, there are more of these experiences similar to Ant's to be had, and if adopted, one might even create a route to acquiring a Cartridge that one thought might not be achievable in their set up.

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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by Ant » Tue Jan 21, 2020 8:23 am

Exactly John, the Hana is an sl so a 600 quid cart which isn't in my budget. Taking a punt on it cost me 35 quid.
There is nothing wrong with it.

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that not cleaning the stylus degrades performance to the point where it can sound broken, and even less surprising given all the opinions online that you should never ever use cleaning fluid on a stylus, that it was so filthy in the first place.

That isn't to say that there isn't some truth to the idea that cleaning fluid will ruin a cart, I have a mk1 denon dl301 here that is completely buggered because of the use of cleaning fluid. The suspension bush looks like chewed toffee and is completely deformed.
It appears that it was 'cleaned' with something regularly, to the point where the bush was saturated

But they do need cleaning properly every so often which people seem unwilling to do which is understandable, and without doing this it's not possible to assess the condition of the diamond itsself
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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by JohnG » Tue Jan 21, 2020 7:41 pm

Ant
I like the idea you have used to clean the Diamond and Stylus, especially as you have evidence of the effectiveness.
If I were to put a Cartridge to be cleaned on a Detachable Head Shell, then put a piece of Magic Eraser Sponge in a small holder like a fisher mans BB weight container, and give the sponge a swig of Vodka, I could then align this with the Head Shell let the Arm Lift control the descent of the Cartridges Diamond onto the Vodka Soaked Sponge.
Does this method sound OK ?

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DSJR
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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by DSJR » Wed Jan 22, 2020 5:21 pm

I use a proper simple microscope as my loupe only shows if the tip is dirty or not.

Dual used to make a splendid thing, with little turntable mount and illumination, so you could centre up the stylus assembly and then rotate it under the lens. Shame I couldn't take photos, as the best tips I saw back then (Dynavector 'Diamond') were beaufully done and the worst (Shure N55Emk2) were like grubby buts of coal and barely formed, let alone polished...

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Greg
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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by Greg » Wed Jan 22, 2020 8:17 pm

DSJR wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 5:21 pm
I use a proper simple microscope as my loupe only shows if the tip is dirty or not.

Dual used to make a splendid thing, with little turntable mount and illumination, so you could centre up the stylus assembly and then rotate it under the lens. Shame I couldn't take photos, as the best tips I saw back then (Dynavector 'Diamond') were beaufully done and the worst (Shure N55Emk2) were like grubby buts of coal and barely formed, let alone polished...
Get that. What microscope magnification do you work with, Dave? As for the last bit of your reply, gamble on the punter not being able to check it properly and then market crap. The dishonesty of commerce (most of the companies, most of the time). Quite demoralising really, but then we all already knew that.

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DSJR
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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by DSJR » Wed Jan 22, 2020 10:10 pm

Apologies, I can't remember the exact magnification, but I've had this thing from primary school days and have to hold the stylus under the lenses. It's worked well for me in the past and I used it at work for some years to check for wear, which it used to show clearly.

Back in the 70's, cheaper cartridges just didn't allow in their budgets for decent diamond grind and finish. I mean, later AT95E's (maybe computer/robot created?) have a grind and polish on their shank mounted diamond chips that cheaper cartridges of old just didn't have.

Max N
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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by Max N » Sat Jan 25, 2020 4:17 pm

So I decided to dip my toe in the water with one of these:
s-l1600.jpg
Less than £3 on ebay with free postage from China. :shock:
When it arrived I was surprised how small it is. But it actually works pretty well.
Definitely good enough to show if the diamond needs a clean. Not good enough to properly assess the wear IMO. Its a bit fiddly, and the depth of field is shallow, but the LED lighting works well. The shallow depth of field is probably inevitable?
If you're considering getting a microscope I think this is a good place to start. You'll get a feel for what 60x magnification gives you, whether you are comfortable with something hand held, why you need lighting from above or to the side (definitely not from below). If you decide to get serious, and you want to assess wear, or anti-skate adjustment, or anything more than just cleanliness, then you'll need to spend more IMO. But at least you'll have a bit more idea of what you're looking for.....

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Re: Microscope for cartridge diamond tips

Post by Max N » Sat Jan 25, 2020 4:50 pm

So far I've looked at 3 cartridges. Here are my observations. Just intended to illustrate further what can & can't be seen through this tiny 'microscope'. Hey maybe the micro refers to how small the 'scope is?

1. Ortofon stylus 10 MM - bought on Ebay because I wanted the OMP p-mount cartridge it was mounted to, which is now out of production. (The full range of OM stylii are still in production and go all the way up to the stylus 40 which is a nude FG, so the OMP cartridge is worth nabbing second hand if you need a p-mount. You can fit any OM stylus to any OMP cartridge). The stylus 10 is an elliptical with a claimed FR up to 24kHz. Through the 'scope, the tip looks immaculately clean. I think I can just make out a couple of shiny flat surfaces either side, but I would need more magnification to make any judgement as to wear.

2. Technics epc-310mc. Came fitted to an SL-10. I paid a good price for the SL-10 so the cartridge owes me nothing. Would really love to use this cartridge but have no idea of age or condition. Looking through the 'scope, I'm pretty sure it has the original cantilever (boron pipe), and there is a diamond on the end, but it's going to need a clean before I can say any more.

3. Technics EPC-P22 MM. Came fitted to an SL-7. The original stylus was a 0.3 x 0.7 mil elliptical on a boron pipe, with a FR to 35kHz. As far as I can see, the stylus on there now is conical, so not the original. It also has a tiny hair stuck to the tip, which no amount of brushing will shift, and which is totally invisible to the naked eye. Without my little scope, I would never know it was there. The good news is, I have an original NOS P22 with stylus - but I don't know if I can bring myself to break the seal on it! There is also a range of JICO stylii available for the P22, including a SAS tip on boron cantilever.

Next step is to try my hand at cleaning, probably starting with the after market conical on the P22. Right, I'm off to re-read Ant's tips on cleaning!

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