The stylus (or needle) is a crucial component of a turntable. It picks up the texture of a groove, which causes it to vibrate, and this it’s this that translates into sound. When it comes to the part that’s barely visible to the naked eye, only one distinction really matters: the shape. In this blog, we’ll tell you what the perfect needle is for you; spherical or elliptical.
Making the Rounds
So yes, the needle of your record player actually has a different shape than the tiny triangle that you see sticking out. There are two types: spherical and elliptical, or, to put it more simply, round and oval needles. To get a better idea, let’s take a closer look at some vinyl. When you look at the grooves on a microscopic scale, you’ll notice that it’s basically a physical waveform; you can ‘see’ the music. And unlike what you might expect, music is picked up from the sides of the groove and not from the bottom. However, the fact remains that the deeper that the needle slides through the groove, the more details it’s able to register.
Back to the different shapes. If your record player has a spherical stylus, the contact surface between the vinyl and the needle is smaller, meaning there’s less friction. This is what you want for scratching because the needle isn’t pulled towards the middle of the record as much, something otherwise referred to as (anti-)skating. This keeps the vinyl in good shape for longer when you use it to scratch. When a spherical needle does eventually break or wear out, it’s good to know that they’re easy to produce and are generally cheaper than elliptical ones.
If you consider yourself more of an avid listener of your old vinyl records, regardless of whether you bought them yourself or found them in your parents’ attic, an elliptical or oval needle is the best choice for you. Thanks to its shape, the contact surface is larger, which means that the needle sits deeper in the groove and is able to follow the waveform more accurately, and ultimately pick up more details. As you may have figured out by now, oval-shaped needles are less suitable for scratching than round models. They’re also more sensitive to any dust that falls deeper into the grooves, but at least that can be fixed pretty easily: if you want to know how, check out our blog on how to keep your vinyl and needles in great shape.
What kind of stylus do you use and why? Feel free to leave a comment below!