Needles & Cartridges
The turntable is one of a DJ's most important possessions, and like anything else you value, taking good care of it is crucial. Thankfully, analog turntables are fairly straightforward machines, so most of the maintenance you can expect to do will be simple cartridge and stylus replacements. Staying on top of the condition of your cartridges and styli doesn't just keep sound quality high, it also helps to protect your vinyl records from wear so they'll last longer. While styli have been around as long as music has been recorded on vinyl, that doesn't mean they've gone unchanged through all that time. New techniques for cutting and shaping the diamond tips were being developed right up through the 1980s, leading to the spherical and elliptical tips available today. Both types of stylus work very well, and you can actually swap them to extend the life of your vinyl. If a record starts to wear out after lots of play with a round tip, switching to an elliptical stylus will make it sound like new again.
When picking out your styli, consider what you'll be using them for. Some are made specifically for scratching, while others are 'club' designs for straight playback and mixing. The cartridge also has a big impact on the performance of your turntable. Whereas the stylus is the reader that "feels" the record's grooves, the cartridge contains the electronics that turn the results into the beginnings of an audio signal. You might look for cartridges as upgrades for the stock one or to have multiple identical cartridges each with its own stylus so you can swap between needles more easily. As with styli, there are a number of purpose-built cartridges—like Ortofon's Corncorde Arkiv, which is built for ripping analog tracks to digital. Others are designed for scratching and back-queuing. Ortofon also makes a series of "DigiTrack" cartridges, specially created for timecoded vinyl records. Regardless of the way you play and the kinds of records you use with your turntable, you have a good selection of cartridges and styli here to work with. Start by narrowing it down to ones that will fit your equipment, and then match the type of performance you need against the available kinds. After that, all that remains is to load the headshell with your chosen cartridge and stylus and you're good to go.