Cartridge Substitution Help! - Replacing Cartridges No Longer Available
Way back when, there were 800 or so different ceramic and crystal cartridges available for replacement use
with varying mounting styles, tracking forces, pin/plug connections, and outputs. Today there are only
a handful of low output ceramic cartridges still being made. If the cartridge you need is no longer available
as new old stock, it becomes necessary to use / adapt one of the available cartridges.
Ceramic (and low output crystal) cartridges were the most diverse in terms of mounting styles and pin/plug configurations so physical modification to mount a replacement is the primary consideration. Here, we are talking about cartridge outputs generally in the 0.2 to 1.3 volt range, and tracking force 10 grams or under.
The principles to keep in mind for substitution are as follows:
1. Output voltage - A 0.5v cartridge can substitute for most with acceptable volume. For cartridges at the upper end of the range (1.0 volt and higher), an experienced technician can sometimes modify the amplifier to get a little more gain, and better bass response. We cannot advise on how to do this.
2. Tracking force - Cartridges today are available tracking in the range from 3 to 8 grams. Select one that has a range that is closest to the original cartridge's tracking force requirement. Adjusting the tracking force on a record player or record changer is easy on some models, and more difficult on others. We cannot advise on how to do this for brands other than V-M so get the service manual. Sometimes weights can be glued in the tone arm to increase weight. Making a model track a little lighter may be more difficult, if there is not a counter weight spring in the design.
3. Needle tip placement - the principle is to mount the cartridge in such a way that the tip of the needle that actually touches the record is approximately in the same position (in all three dimensions) in the retrofit, as it was in the original installation. Exactness is not required. In the example shown at right, the replacement tip is a little farther towards the end of the tone arm than the original and that is acceptable. Replacement ease depends on the mounting style of the original, discussed as follows:
c) Cartridges with special mounting designs - Many Telefunken, Grundig and other European designs, along with some RCA models may have original cartridges that snap-in or are on a floating bracket type arrangement, or have some other mounting style that does not involve using two screws. These require some creativity. It may be necessary to remove bracketry and glue in a mounting "pad" made from scrap pieces of plastic that the replacement cartridge's mounting bracket can be glued to. A Telefunken example is shown below.
Three stages of Telefunken modification to accept P226 ceramic cartridge
The following are the cartridges that we believe will be around for awhile. Replacement needles will also be available for the foreseeable future.
All of the following can be found on the Cartridges page. Use the Search by Cartridge Brand menu, select Pfanstiehl® and click GO:
• Pfanstiehl® and EVG varco replacements sold under various numbers, on this website sold as P132, P226 and P228. These are all the same cartridge today, the only difference is the P228 which is sold with short 4 conductor tone arm wires with clips for use in replacing monaural cartridges. These have flip over needles which makes them very popular.
• Chuo Denshi P188BR with half inch mount bracket. Although listed as 0.35v output, this cartridge tends to "overachieve" and sounds as loud as the rest in this list. It also does the best job of tracking modern records, and a needle with a 3.0 mil tip can be ordered on the Needles/Styli page for playing 78 rpm records.
• Pfanstiehl® P51 with half inch mount bracket. This monaural cartridge is popular with juke box owners and is also available in versions with 0.7, 2, and 3 mil single tip needles.
• Tetrad replacements. See the next section.
Ceramic Cartridge Replacement - Tetrad Brand
With either choice above (EV5632 series or Pfanstiehl® P400 series), the output voltage is the next consideration. With the Tetrads currently available, the output voltage can be determined by needle choice as follows:
Default is to supply with an M853 needle, but if you advise that you want a different needle, and include make and model information on the shopping cart order page, then the order will be filled with that needle. Be sure to click SAVE/UPDATE button below the box containing this information before proceeding to checkout, or the information will be lost!
For the technically inclined: Tetrads in the past were available in capacities ranging from 550pf to 7000pf. Today, only 700 and 1000pf versions are expected to be available long term. If seeking a higher capacity replacement, Contact Us for current status of availability.
Crystal Cartridge Replacement
The situation here falls into three groupings.
• If the cartridge to be replaced is a one volt or less model, tracking under 10 grams, then follow the guidance given in the Ceramic cartridge section.
• If the old cartridge has a higher output rating above a volt and suitable replacements have sold out, and if the tracking force is 10 grams or less, a ceramic cartridge can be used if the amplifier is modified with an additional amplification stage. Some professionals can do this. We cannot advise on this further, except to say that magnetic phono preamps sold on this website and others, cannot be used for this purpose.
• In early 20th century models with record changers and crystal cartridges of any output, the issue here becomes the tracking force requirement. Some of these require an ounce or more of tracking force or the record changer will not "trip" and perform automatic functions. In this situation, rebuilding the present cartridge with a new crystal would be the choice. We do not do cartridge rebuilding . Another alternative would be to disable the automatic functions, lighten the tone arm and follow one of the situations above to replace the cartridge. The player would then work in manual mode only.
Example of old style heavy tracking cartridge - there may be no modern substitute
Magnetic Cartridge Replacing a Crystal or Ceramic Cartridge
This is the most problematic situation of all and we really cannot advise on the feasibility of doing this by model. We only have experience with certain V-M changers with metal tone arm and headshell designed to accept a half inch mount cartridge. The issues are many, and detailed below:
• Hum. Models with magnetic cartridges generally have 4 pole motors, better suited to keeping magnetic fields away from the cartridge. Models built with ceramic or crystal cartridges generally have 2 pole motors. Installing a magnetic cartridge can result in a high level of hum. In some cases, a ground loop can be installed that will use the metal base plate and metal tone arm to greatly diminish the amount of the magnetic field reaching the cartridge. This can result in hum levels nearly as low as with a 4 pole motor. An example is shown in the pictures where a ground wire is installed that connects the left and right ground connections from the cartridge together, and then ties them to a metal portion of the record changer base or mechanism.
• Tracking force. Many modern magnetic cartridges track too light to use in a record changer. The record changer, depending on its age, requires more or significantly more tracking force to operate the automatic functions. The amount of tracking force required must be known in order to determine the feasibility of a magnetic cartridge conversion.
• Output voltage and equalization. Magnetic cartridges require a special preamp to be used in place of a ceramic or crystal cartridge. These are sold on this website and others. These typically have an output voltage of between 0.5v and 1.0v and this is not sufficient to replace crystal cartridges originally having outputs of 2 volts and above.
• Mounting considerations. Since most magnetic cartridges available today have half inch mounts, this restricts the record changers that might be converted. A model with a thin headshell and Tetrad cartridge is not a candidate for conversion.
As just discussed, this type of conversion should only be attempted by someone with a fair degree of technical prowess.
Stereo Cartridge Replacing a Monaural Cartridge
Playing Modern Records on Vintage Gear
Vintage record players have a style and sound all their own but its important also to understand their limitations before spending money on a repair or restoration. Older players from the 1950's even if outfitted with modern cartridges, may not have the refinement in the rest of the mechanism to play the most recently made records without some skipping. Later era record players, those that were in the higher price ranges when new, and those with magnetic cartridges will do better.