Marc Henshall,

It's difficult to give a simple answer to this question. The truth is, it's rather like asking "how long will my new car tires last" and like most things, it depends upon many factors, such as: road conditions, tire inflation, driving habits, environmental conditions, ect.


Just like your car tires, the life of a diamond stylus tip depends upon the cleanliness and condition of the records, the tracking force, the care used when playing a record, and environmental factors. Under normal conditions, a diamond stylus tip will typically last between 500 and 1000 playing hours. However, here are some key points to consider:

  • Records with debris in the grooves will wear the tip much faster.
  • Heavy tracking force will wear the tip faster.
  • Careless positioning of the tone arm can damage the stylus shank.
  • Ozone pollution in the atmosphere can harden the elastic bushing that supports the stylus shank.

How can you tell if a phono stylus is worn out?

Stylus tip wear happens so gradually that it is impossible to hear it happen. By the time audible distortion is heard, the stylus tip will be well worn and could be damaging the record grooves. A stylus tip can be examined using a 100 to 200 power microscope with proper side-lighting to illuminate the stylus tip. As the stylus wears, flat spots are created on opposite sides of the tip, where it contacts the two sides of the record groove. The larger the flat spots, the more wear on the tip.

Test records are another method to determine stylus wear and performance, but the test record must first be used with a new stylus to determine a baseline performance. Occasional use of the test record may then provide evidence of stylus wear and degradation when compared to the baseline results.

Interesting Fact from Shure Applications Engineering: Stylus tips were not always diamond. Before 1960, stylus tips were also made of sapphire, ruby, osmium, steel, tungsten, bamboo, and cactus.

Look after your record player and records. Invest into a low wear, great quality stylus

The simple message here is, look after your records and turntable, and you'll ultimately be rewarded with great sound quality for much longer. Investing in good quality equipment is also key, and as many hi-fi enthusiasts will tell you - your sound quality is only ever as good as the weakest point in your signal chain. In other words, there's no point in buying great speakers or the best amplifier money can buy if your stylus is substandard.

For a complete range of high quality, low wear, stylus from Shure - visit the website

Marc Henshall

Marc forms part of our Pro Audio team at Shure UK and specialises in Digital Marketing. He also holds a BSc First Class Hons Degree in Music Technology. When not at work he enjoys playing the guitar, producing music, and dabbling in DIY (preferably with a good craft beer or two).