How to Tell if Your Turntable Stylus is Bad

record player stylus

Stylus Needle Replacement

Knowing how to tell if your turntable stylus is bad is an important step in protecting your vinyls from damage. When the stylus (or needle) on your turntable or record player goes bad its important to replace it sooner than later. A bad stylus can damage your records and scratch them. A bad stylus is usually pretty easy to identify. We’ll go over a number of symptoms that will help you reach a conclusion of whether your stylus is bad or not. If it is, replace it. If its not then maybe you just need to clean it, we’ll go over that too.

Visual Inspection

First and foremost, visually inspect your stylus! Look carefully at the tiny protruding point (or needle). It should look clean and have a noticeably sharp and pointed tip. If your stylus is dull or the tip appears to be rounded, flat, or missing then it’s bad and should be replaced immediately.

A visual inspection may also reveal that your stylus isn’t bad but simply needs to be cleaned. Cleaning a dirty stylus is necessary once in a while. If you don’t use a dust cover on your turntable or clean your records regularly, the stylus will collect dust as it moves around your records.

There are a few ways to clean a stylus but the most common methods are to use a special stylus brush, or stylus cleaning pad. If you’re going to clean your stylus make sure you know what you’re doing as the stylus is very fragile and improper cleaning techniques can damage the stylus.

Sound Inspection

Another way to determine that your stylus is bad is to play a few records and listen closely for telltale signs of a bad stylus. If the audio is low like you can’t turn up the volume it’s likely a bad stylus. If the audio volume is there but the sound quality is poor, for example a tinny sounding record it’s likely a bad stylus.

If you’re hearing any extra scratchy sounds and sure that your records are clean, it could also be a bad stylus. Ensure that your records are clean and free of scratches. A scratchy sound could indicate that the stylus has lost some of its spring in the suspension of the cantilever which holds the diamond tip of your stylus. If the suspension is bad it could now be putting too much weight on your records. If this is the case, replace it immediately.


If you’re hearing anything that could be described as a drop in audio quality with your record player, regardless of which vinyl you’re playing, it’s could be a bad stylus. Take a close look at the tip, see if you are able to identify any damage, dust or debris. Clean it or replace it, and don’t let it cause damage to your records!