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  • Pio2001
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
I listened to a vinyl that was a little worn out today, and wondered if my stylus was getting old.
I recorded the same LP with both the current "elliptical" (in fact a Stereohedron) stylus and a spherical one, that has not been used very much. Listening to the samples, I realized that the problem came from the vynil.

Now, if someone is interested, I've got samples of the same Lp read with the same Trackmaster catridge, but with a spherical (AL) and an "elliptical" (EL) stylus.

  • fewtch
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #1
I'd be interested in hearing about what you found.  Some say that spherical styli are better for worn or trashed vinyl, since the contact area is smaller and they don't read as deep in the grooves.  Others say that spherical is *worse* (for the same reasons) because most old vinyl was played with spherical styli and elliptical tends to read deeper areas of the groove that are undamaged by previous mistracking (something like that).

My experience (so far) is that spherical styli are less revealing of the music but just as revealing of surface noise (maybe more), and are an outdated technology (even many of the cheapest cartridges come with elliptical styli these days).

What format are the samples in?  I'm not currently equipped to decode FLAC files, but could download a decoder.  If available in LPAC, MP3 or .WAV format I'm definitely interested.
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  • Mac
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #2
Hmmm, I was lead to believe Shure cartridges & stylus's were one of the best to get, and they boast spherical needles...
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  • fewtch
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #3
Quote
Originally posted by Mac
Hmmm, I was lead to believe Shure cartridges & stylus's were one of the best to get, and they boast spherical needles...


Shure sells carts with microridge, elliptical, biradial and spherical styli (I think biradial and elliptical are the same thing, except biradial has a wider side radius).

http://www.shure.com/selectionguides/sel-hifiphono.html

I recently ordered a Shure M92E for use with my cheap P-Mount table (until a Thorens TD-160 someone sent me gets here, and I find a headshell for it).  If anyone's interested in SQ as compared to the Grado Prestige Black on the same table I'd be happy to post something about it, or even some samples  .
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  • Mac
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #4
Heh, I saw your original reply about one of shure's cheapest needles being biradial, so I found the one I've got, one of Shure's more expensive :

http://www.needlz.com/cartridges/m44-7.asp


It's spherical though!  Spose it's not designed for hi-fi use, I intend to practice some furious scratching with it

Quote
shure site
Sound Emphasis: big bass :love3:
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  • fewtch
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #5
Sorry, I keep updating my posts too much 

I heard that DJ carts generally use spherical tips... presumably because an elliptical tip will eat up records too fast.  It's hard to compare DJ & "Hi Fi" carts cuz the design goals are so different, but cartridge technology is so mature I doubt there are any bad sounding ones being sold.  Even the cheapest Audio-Technicas probably sound pretty good.

Edit -- the 9.5mV output of that M44-7 is amazing.  The only DJ cart. I've ever listened to was an old Stanton RS500DJ, and it was LOUD!
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  • Cygnus X1
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #6
The "spherical" styli that you speak of, are those the same things I often hear people refer to as "conical" styli? I've always heard that eliptical styli play the vinyl deeper in the groove than conical styli and are thus supposedly better, so that's why I went with elliptical.

  • Pio2001
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #7
There is much to say.
A quick search about stylus in the Internet returns these pages :

http://needleexpress.com/faq.htm
http://www.needledoctor.com/nd_stylus_types.cfm (good pictures of stylus shapes)
http://www.turntablebasics.com/advice.html (some more confusion in the naming)

A spherical stylus is the cheapest and the worst. It is used for back-cueing (playing backwards, when the DJ is searching the right point from which starting).

Then there are elliptical styli.

Then it becomes complicated : there is linear contact, and microline, though Microline is a registered trademark. Some papers put Shibata in the linear contact section, some in the Microline. Shibata and Stereohedron are registered trademarks too.

And to add to the confusion, spherical are sometimes called conical, and quite every "elliptical" stylus of nowadays is in fact a linear contact (or microline) one. By the way, the user manual doesn't say "elliptical", but "special elliptical", or "super elliptical", or something like that.
Example : Stanton provides spherical/elliptical styli.
Translated in French it becomes conical/elliptical, and in the technical specs, they add "elliptical (stereohedron)".

So one must never choose a catridge because of a superior linear contact stylus advertised while the other one has only an elliptical one, because this elliptical one might very well be, in fact, a Microline one not advertised !

But where I'm geting disappointed, is that I couldn't find an online explanation of why they work better. I'll have to try to explain what I've read. It was in the "Traité d'electromagnétisme de l'Ecole polythechnique de Lausanne" (or "traité d'electricité"), in the volume dealing with "Electroacoustique".

The original record is cut with a stylus that has a triangular section, viewed from above.
It runs in the direction of its bigger side, opposite to it's aerodynamics shape, if you see what I mean.



The two corners of this side of the triangle will cut each side of the groove.
In order to record music, the groove gets the shape of the waveform. This shape is drawn by the edges of the stylus moving perpendicularly (left and right) as it goes forth.
Ideally, the reading stylus should be the same, but I think it's not possible because it's edges would be as sharp as razor edges and would cut through the vinyl.
So let's consider the most basic shape : spherical. It refers to the top of the cone being spherical.
View from above, it's section it a circle. Both sides reads one side of the groove.

Now, the important part is when the groove has music recorded in it, it "turns" left and right, like a road.
What happens when the whole groove is running from left to right ?



As we can see, the two points of the circle in contact with the groove will not be where they should. One is early, the other is late.
That's why the elliptical shape was used. Replace the red circle in the picture with an ellipse more high than wide, and you will get less reading error.

The linear contact shapes, as their name points out, touch the groove in a line instead of just a point. It's a curved line as vertical as possible, in order to be close to the perfection.

Therefore it increases the contact surface, leading to less wearing and less deformation of the vinyl under the pressure. It also reduces the reading error.

__________________

As for the samples, I still have to cut some short parts of what I have recorded. They will be MP3, no need to go lossless.

  • Mac
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #8
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A spherical stylus is the cheapest and the worst. It is used for back-cueing (playing backwards, when the DJ is searching the right point from which starting).


I'd prefer to think the other peoples opinions, spherical dont read so deep into the vinyl, which would be why my scratch cartridge has one, because one of its design features is to keep record wear minimal


Also, I'm pretty sure when you produce vinyls you press them from a master, unless you're using one of the nastily expensive decks which record!  (a new one I've seen is ooooonly £6000)
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  • Cygnus X1
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #9
Pio2001: Thanks for the info!

  • Pio2001
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #10
Quote
Originally posted by Mac
I'd prefer to think the other peoples opinions, spherical dont read so deep into the vinyl, which would be why my scratch cartridge has one, because one of its design features is to keep record wear minimal


Well, I can just add that the "Traité" (that is a book for several-years students, like PhDs) confirmed what the links above say : linear contact has bigger contact surface than elliptical, that itself has a bigger surface than spherical, and the bigger the surface, the lesser the wear.

Now, in practice, I bought the elliptical stylus because I discovered that my spherical one increased the background noise of my records. It can be easily tested letting the stylus read the end loop of the record.
Unfortunately, the elliptical one behaves exactly the same, while a Grado ZC one didn't wear the record at all.
A French magazine tested about 10 or 15 DJ catridges, and reported if they weared the records or not by "scratching" them many times (playing forth and back by hand, like rap DJ). Though most catridges had spherical stily, the difference between them were huge.

In conclusion, the wear of the records changes more with the catridge than with the stylus shape.

Quote
Originally posted by Mac
Also, I'm pretty sure when you produce vinyls you press them from a master, unless you're using one of the nastily expensive decks which record!


By original record, I meant the very master that is cut in the first place, of course.

  • Pio2001
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #11
Here are the samples :

http://pageperso.aol.fr/lyonpio2001/sample...es/stylus/l.mp3

and

http://pageperso.aol.fr/lyonpio2001/sample...es/stylus/p.mp3

In Alt preset standard

One is recorded with the Stanton Trackmaster AL catridge, the other one with the Stanton Trackmaster EL, I just swapped the styli.

However, the quality of the vinyl is not very good.  I have in mind another record that would better show the difference, if you're still interested.

  • fewtch
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #12
I hear a certain graininess when she sings the word "in" (the night...) with both samples (more pronounced a little with the second).  I wonder if this is an MP3 artifact, a recording/mixing artifact, or distortion from the record.  Overall I like the sound of the second sample better (P), but I didn't ABX.  The differences are not huge though.

P.S. compared to some of the crappy vinyl I've gotten on Ebay (Moog synthesizer records, not much attention is usually paid to SQ as far as the original recording, bah), this sounded pretty good.
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  • JeanLuc
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #13
I think that stylus treatment during manufacturing is an important parameter ... not every consumer manufacturer (especially in today's digital times) will e.g. polish their styli in the same quality. I bought myself an Audio Technica AT120E 3 months ago and I am totally content with its sound quality (after it took me quiet a while to adjust its azimuth) ... AT says its geometry is "BiRadial" ... whatever that is.

If you take a look at tests and reviews, you will find that there is a mixture of all geometries in the upper class like Grado, Clearaudio, Van Den Hul (got their own geometry, though) ... this leads me to the conclusion that a vinyl pick-up always works as a complex system of stylus (quality), compliance, Magnet/Coil (in general: mass) and correct adjustment of antiskating/vertical force/azimuth ... stylus geometry is important but I really doubt that you can align certain sound quality distinctiveness to stylus geometry only.

Bye
The name was Plex The Ripper, not Jack The Ripper

  • Pio2001
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #14
Quote
I hear a certain graininess when she sings the word "in" (the night...) with both samples (more pronounced a little with the second).  I wonder if this is an MP3 artifact, a recording/mixing artifact, or distortion from the record.


It is definitely a distortion of the record. I spoke about it first, saying it was the sound of a worn stylus (but here caused by a worn record and a good stylus), but edited the post after a second listening, as it was not very represetative. I'm glad you picked it up.

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Overall I like the sound of the second sample better (P), but I didn't ABX.  The differences are not huge though.


The main difference is the volume, in fact.
P is the spherical (touches the record in a Point), and L the elliptical (touches the record in a Line).

Quote
P.S. compared to some of the crappy vinyl I've gotten on Ebay (Moog synthesizer records, not much attention is usually paid to SQ as far as the original recording, bah), this sounded pretty good.


Wait until I get home and record this Kraftwerk Maxi-45 RPM ! There the quality difference between styli should be clear.

By the way, I've got samples before/after cleaning stylus with the Stanton Stylus Cleaning Kit (with a special liquid). The sound difference is bigger... but lasts only for several minutes of playback ! I looked at the tip with a little microscope, wow  ! The pictures before/after shown in their documentation, taken with eletronic microscope, are not exagerated ! The amount of dust is impressive, compared to the perfect state of the stylus after cleaning (we can see through it). But this dust comes back after just one side of playback, even of a perfect state record cleaned with a carbon brush ! Impressive, but not that harmful, I guess

  • Pio2001
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #15
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I think that stylus treatment during manufacturing is an important parameter ... not every consumer manufacturer (especially in today's digital times) will e.g. polish their styli in the same quality.


My Stanton Trackmaster came out before they started improving (or advertising) their polish techniques "Super High Polish", and "Special High Polish".

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AT says its geometry is "BiRadial" ... whatever that is.


MicroLine, BiRadial, even Stereohedron (explained as "two major bearing radii 2.8 mil each" in the discontinued catridges specifications) relates to the contact between the diamond and the vinyl, that are two lines instead of two points. They are different kinds of "linear contact styli".

  • Pio2001
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Reply #16
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Wait until I get home and record this Kraftwerk Maxi-45 RPM ! There the quality difference between styli should be clear.


Here they are :

EDIT : right-click and save target as

http://pageperso.aol.fr/lyonpio2001/sample...lus/kraft2.flac

http://pageperso.aol.fr/lyonpio2001/sample...lus/kraft3.flac

About 1 MB each. They're from one of my cleanest sounding vinyls : it's a Maxi-45 RMP, Kraftwerk - Die Roboter, 1991.
As always, they are loopable. Since there are some sharp transients, I didn't try MP3 and went lossless.

Quote
By the way, I've got samples before/after cleaning stylus with the Stanton Stylus Cleaning Kit (with a special liquid). The sound difference is bigger... but lasts only for several minutes of playback !


I also made a third recording with the stylus cleaned, but there was no audible difference. So forget it (unless someone wants to take the challenge and ABX it).

These two samples, with spherical and elliptical (stereohedron) stylii, are quite frustrating : sometimes the difference seems very big, sometime inaudible.
I had 11/16 in ABX.

Realizing that I had performed better in the second half of the test, I restarted the test from zero, but listening more carefully, making bigger pauses, and especially never giving any answer just based on a feeling. This time I only gave answers when the difference seemed very big. Sometimes I had to stop listening for 5 minutes, then listen again during 1 minute in order for the difference to come back to my ears.

I finally had 16/16, after about 45 minutes of testing

  • Pio2001
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Reply #17
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I'm not currently equipped to decode FLAC files, but could download a decoder.

Oops, sorry, you can download Flac here : http://flac.sourceforge.net/download.html

the command line is just

FLAC -d kraft2.flac

(and the same for kraft3)

  • fewtch
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #18
Quote
I think that stylus treatment during manufacturing is an important parameter ... not every consumer manufacturer (especially in today's digital times) will e.g. polish their styli in the same quality. I bought myself an Audio Technica AT120E 3 months ago and I am totally content with its sound quality (after it took me quiet a while to adjust its azimuth) ... AT says its geometry is "BiRadial" ... whatever that is.

Biradial is the same as elliptical... Shure uses this designation on its lowest end ($40) cartridge, the M92E.  The cart is 0.4 x 0.7 mil (side x front radii), whereas better elliptical carts are 0.3 x 0.7 -- still, for the price I think the M92E sounds quite decent (specs don't tell the story).  It really is hard to find a lousy sounding cartridge anymore!

P.S. I also have a Stanton 500E MKII, which has a warm and very pleasant sound (not 'transparent', but I actually prefer 'warmth' over transparency on vinyl).  Pretty soon my Thorens TD-160 (original TP-16 tonearm) will be up & running with the 500E MKII, and it should be a great machine for pop/rock and most studio music, maybe not so great for classical & live music (but that's OK) .

Anyone interested in cartridges and wants to hear a sample of the Stanton 500E MKII sound (with a pretty good record) and/or the Shure M92E, just say the word...
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  • fewtch
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #19
Here is a comparison of two different cartridges (unfortunately in different turntables too, no choice in the matter).  Both of these are around 800k, so dialup modem users may want to be aware (I'll be removing these in a few days).

Stanton 500E MKII (Elliptical stylus, "bonded" (glued on)) -- Stanton is noted for "warm, laid back" sound:

http://home.attbi.com/~fewtchmon/stanton.mp3

Shure M92E (Biradial stylus, "nude mounted" (attached into the metal of the cantilever)) -- Shure is known for good transparency, but not as much warmth:

http://home.attbi.com/~fewtchmon/shure.mp3

Anyone with perfect pitch (but it will really need to be perfect) will notice the Stanton recording sounds a very slightly lower in pitch... because of the two different turntables used.  This music is from Synthesonic Sounds' "Ye Olde Moog."  The price point of the two cartridges is approximately the same (~$40 MSRP).  The volume should be identical, both were normalized *once*.
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  • Pio2001
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #20
You should have posted them in blind ! I think I would have recognized the Stanton sound at once 
Same as with the trackmaster : smooth sound and enhanced stereo, less treble than many other catridges (Denon, Grado, Audio Technica).

I prefer it over the Sure, though I wonder if it's not a bit artificial.

  • fewtch
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Spherical vs "elliptical" stylii
Reply #21
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You should have posted them in blind ! I think I would have recognized the Stanton sound at once  
Same as with the trackmaster : smooth sound and enhanced stereo, less treble than many other catridges (Denon, Grado, Audio Technica).

I prefer it over the Sure, though I wonder if it's not a bit artificial.

Sorry, you're right I should have posted them blind .

I think the Stanton sound is a bit artificial, but pleasant to my ears.  Maybe a good cartridge for amplified music, but I'd probably choose something else for classical, acoustic music, etc.  The sky is the limit with price though, for "transparent" cartridges (I don't think I'd ever go over $100).

Edit -- The Shure isn't broken in yet, it might sound better after some hours of playing time (hard to say, it's the cheapest model).
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  • Pio2001
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Reply #22
Quote
I think the Stanton sound is a bit artificial, but pleasant to my ears.  Maybe a good cartridge for amplified music, but I'd probably choose something else for classical, acoustic music, etc.  


Agreed 100% with the first part. However, I prefer the Stanton altogether. I think the Sure would have to be better to compete with it and win thanks to it's neutrality.


Quote
Edit -- The Shure isn't broken in yet, it might sound better after some hours of playing time (hard to say, it's the cheapest model).


Well, just post the same sample recorded again after the break-in, at last we will make this myth face the ABX !