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  • yousuffer
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Cartridge break-in
Well, I've got an AT-44MLa which has about 11 hours of playing time on it.  I'm using it on this turntable to copy vinyl over to my computer.  I've read that it takes about 50 hours before the cartridge can be considered "broken in"...  That seems a little insane to me, but OK. 

What I would like to know, if someone could fill me in here, is whether or not the cartridge being broken in will affect the vinyl-digital transfer (I'm assuming it does?) and if leaving it in a locked groove like at the end of a record while I do something like take a nap or just letting it sit in the groove overnight with the record player off would help speed up this process a bit.  Perhaps you can tell I'm somewhat impatient, heh.

Cartridge break-in
Reply #1
Well, I've got an AT-44MLa which has about 11 hours of playing time on it.  I'm using it on this turntable to copy vinyl over to my computer.  I've read that it takes about 50 hours before the cartridge can be considered "broken in"...  That seems a little insane to me, but OK. 

What I would like to know, if someone could fill me in here, is whether or not the cartridge being broken in will affect the vinyl-digital transfer (I'm assuming it does?) and if leaving it in a locked groove like at the end of a record while I do something like take a nap or just letting it sit in the groove overnight with the record player off would help speed up this process a bit.  Perhaps you can tell I'm somewhat impatient, heh.


Sounds like 'urban legend' stuff to me. There are people in California who think the cables need to be 'broken in' too. Don't forget the signal has to go in the correct direction.

I'm not sure of the construction of AT but the Shure products had a tuned support wire to the sylus such that the composite response of the cartridge was flat. The only thing breaking in is to begin wearing out the stylus.  I say play the discs and capture into the computer - though for the life of me I can't understand why anyone would want to if there was a commercial CD available.

Merry Christmas


  • Axon
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Cartridge break-in
Reply #2
Cantilever suspensions are notoriously fickle and nonlinear devices - but so are speaker suspensions, and there's very good evidence that speaker break-in is also a myth. I can say that I've never owned a cartridge that sounded significantly better at the 50th hour compared to the first.

But given how fragile cantilever suspensions are, I could totally believe something important does happen. Naively, one would expect the suspension to become more "worn" as its range of motion is exercised, so that the compliance increases. This would result in a lower arm-cartridge resonance and potentially higher bass (albeit at the expense of reduced tracking ability). At audible frequencies, this should not be a big concern.

I'd recommend against running the cart out overnight. Any wear-inducing crap in the groove will repeatedly batter the stylus.

If you're concerned about this and don't mind some experimentation, run a needledrop now and then record the same record once an extra 50 hours is on the cart. Compare spectra in Audacity or your choice of analysis code. Or even better: grab a test record, measure the arm-cartridge resonance, then measure it again after 50 hours and see if it drops.

  • cliveb
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Cartridge break-in
Reply #3
Comments so far seem to be focusing on the possibility that the cantilever suspension might alter in some way during the break in period. But my recollection from back in the 70s/80s is that "break-in" for a cartridge was to do with the stylus receiving a sort of "final polish" during the first few dozen plays. I wouldn't like to guess whether it's actually true or a myth.

  • brownianm
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Cartridge break-in
Reply #4
I don't believe there is any beneficial wear to a stylus, neither do I believe there is any break in effect due to increased compliance either.  The contact area of a diamond stylus with the groove sidewall is so small, the effective pressure is several tons.  That should be enough to 'force' compliance ;-) - vee vill make you track!

Clean record, put needle in groove and record.

  • krabapple
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Cartridge break-in
Reply #5
Comments so far seem to be focusing on the possibility that the cantilever suspension might alter in some way during the break in period. But my recollection from back in the 70s/80s is that "break-in" for a cartridge was to do with the stylus receiving a sort of "final polish" during the first few dozen plays. I wouldn't like to guess whether it's actually true or a myth.


so...vinyl 'polishes' diamond?


  • pdq
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Cartridge break-in
Reply #6
so...vinyl 'polishes' diamond?

It's a little one-sided, but yes, the surface of the diamond is gradually worn down by the vinyl.

  • DVDdoug
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Cartridge break-in
Reply #7
Add me to the list of skeptics...   

I've never seen any test measurements showing improvements after burn-in/break in.
I've never seen any double-blind tests showing improvements after burn-in/break-in.
I've never seen any manufacturer's recommendations for burn-in/break-in.

...I can't say these things don't exist, but I've never seen 'em.

If break-in is needed (or if it helps), why doesn't the manufacturer do it at the factory?  I work for an electronics manufacturer (non-audio).  We burn-in our stuff for one full week, but it doesn't change the specs/performance.  We burn in to weed-out any early failures.

If burn-in does change the performance, how do we know it changes it for the better?  (Most things... especially mechanical things...  deteriorate over time!)

The cartridge (or speaker) is probably tested before it leaves the factory (assuming a high-quality manufacturer).    The manufacturer wants the product to meet the published specs when it's shipped, and they want to claim the best-possible specs for the particular design.  So, the cartridge should be at peak performance when it leaves the factory.

  • cliveb
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Cartridge break-in
Reply #8

Comments so far seem to be focusing on the possibility that the cantilever suspension might alter in some way during the break in period. But my recollection from back in the 70s/80s is that "break-in" for a cartridge was to do with the stylus receiving a sort of "final polish" during the first few dozen plays. I wouldn't like to guess whether it's actually true or a myth.


so...vinyl 'polishes' diamond?



Hey, don't shoot the messenger. I was just relating my hazy recollection of what some manufacturers and reviewers used to say about cartridge break-in. I too am skeptical.

(Mind you, stylii *do* slowly wear out, perhaps after about 1000 hours, so there must be something in the vinyl mix that's abrasive enough to have some sort of impact).

  • DVDdoug
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Cartridge break-in
Reply #9
Quote
so...vinyl 'polishes' diamond?
  I don't know if this relates to the diamond stylus & vinyl or not...

Let's say you have a hard metal and a soft metal rubbing aginst each other (some sort of bearing).  If you throw-in some contamination or abrasive, something surprising happens.  The hard material gets worn more than the soft material!  This is because the abrasive gets embedded into the soft material and grinds-away at the hard material.

Metal polishing is done the same way.  You apply polishing compound to a cloth or to a soft polishing wheel.  The compound is embedded in the cloth and the metal is polished.  (In this case the cloth gets worn away too, but not before some polishing takes place.)

Another factor is the total contact area of the diamond and the vinyl.  The small diamond surface is dragged over a very much larger vinyl area.  It's like a chain dragging from the back of a truck.  After 100 miles, the chain is going to be clearly worn, but the softer ashphalt will show almost no damage at all.


But again, I expect the manufacturer to polish the stylus or optimum performance before it leaves the factory.