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The Universal Part Number System - "Pfanstiehl®"

Needles stocked on the website are organized where possible using the Pfanstiehl® aftermarket part number system. This allows grouping needles by "families" where customers can select a needle based on what needle tip material (diamond or sapphire), needle tip size and style (conical versus elliptical, sizes for 16/33/45 rpm records or larger size to play 78 rpm records), and needle tracking force (for magnetic cartridge needles). In general, for ceramic and crystal cartridges, any needle within the family can be chosen and it will work fine. For magnetic cartridges, tracking force differs and in a few cases, the needle mounting style even differs within the family. If the latter is the case, this will be noted on the needle page (example, Pickering 609 series).

The needles themselves may be any brand - Astatic, Electro-Voice/EVG, or other brands, depending upon availability.

Needles not included in the standard part number system are assigned unique part numbers. Use the Search by Specialty Category search box on the Needles/Styli page and choose the Hard to Find option to see examples.

Why do we call this the universal part number system? Some history now on its origins

Back in the early 1960's, representatives from the major needle manufacturers developed a standard part number system. At the time, it was hoped that all manufacturers would adopt it, but only Pfanstiehl® did, in 1963. A block of numbers was set aside for each cartridge manufacturers' needles. Only one number is applied to each basic kind of needle. Differences in tip materials and radius are described in the uniform suffixes. This was later expanded to include different cuts (conical, elliptical, shibata, etc) and tracking forces (for record changers, manual turntables, and semi-automatic turntables).

This system made it possible to add new numbers to any given brand, and still keep all of that brand in numerical sequence. This helped dealers organize their stock.

Meaning of Blocks

The starting numbers for each block originally contained manufacturers of needles sold in other countries. Today, the starting numbers for each block are as follows, keep in mind these are cartridge manufacturers, not record player brands (some are both if they also made some of their own cartridges):

100 ADC
110 Acos
135 American Microphone
150 Astatic
200 Audio Technica
230 Audio Empire (Empire)
260 B & O
270 BSR
290 CBS Columbia
300 Dual
325 Elac
350 Electro-Voice
460 Euphonics
490 Garrard
500 General Electric
525 Grado
  530 Goldring
535 Jensen
538 Ortofon
550 Lesa
556 Magnavox
560 Perpetuum Ebner
570 Micro Accoustics
580 Philco
585 Philips
600 Pickering
610 Japanese
640 RCA
660 Japanese
700 Ronette
703 Japanese
725 Seeburg
  750 Shure
790 Japanese
800 Sonotone
814 Japanese
820 Stanton
840 Telefunken
850 Teppaz
853 Tetrad
860 Varco (Vaco)
880 Webster Electric
896 Zenith
900 Japanese
910 Astatic plug-in
940 E-V plug-in
980 Sonotone plug-in
990 Zenith plug-in

In the above, the ADC and Acos blocks overlap. Newer ADC needles were assigned with the same part number as older Acos needles. To separate them, V-M Audio Enthusiasts has added 1000 to the old Pfanstiehl® Acos part numbers. Hence, 114 is a family of ADC needles and 1114 is the new family for older Acos 114 needles.

Originally, each new Tetrad needle was given a new number and it soon became apparent that the block would run out of unassigned numbers. So they were reorganized by relative cantilever length (853 are the shortest, 856 the longest) and a pre-fix added to indicate the length of the handle:

Single tip needle - no turnover handle
Extra long

The growth of the Japanese manufacturers was also not foreseen, and so there are various blocks for those, scattered wherever it appeared that unused numbers were available. As original equipment needle manufacturers ceased production of needles, aftermarket manufacturers stepped in to make "generic" replacements, and this further put pressure on the Japanese blocks - soon all the numbers would be gone if something wasn’t done! Pfanstiehl® decided to put a "4" in front of the needle part number as a prefix for subsequent release of replacement needles still popular with the public, including less expensive versions of needles still in production:

For example,
     206-DET is a genuine Audio Technica needle
     4206-DET is an aftermarket made replacement

Whereas before this system was put in place:
     200-D7C and 200-D7T are genuine Audio Technica needles
     629-D7 is an aftermarket made replacement for both

Meaning of Uniform Suffixes

Some combination of the following will describe both single tip and double tip needles:

D Diamond (industrial diamonds appear dark in color, not clear).
S Sapphire (usually synthetic, may be clear, red, or blue).
1 Conical needle tip radius of .001 inches or 1 mil tip for 16,33,45 rpm MONAURAL records.
2 Conical needle tip radius of .002 inches or 2 mil compromise tip for all speeds of MONAURAL records.
25 Conical needle tip radius of .0025 inches or 2.5 mil tip for transcription and 78 rpm records.
3 Conical needle tip radius of .003 inches or 3 mil tip for78 rpm records.
5 Conical needle tip radius of .0005 inches or .5 mil tip for 33 and 45 rpm stereo records.
6 Conical needle tip radius of .0006 inches or .6 mil tip for 33 and 45 rpm stereo records.
7 Conical needle tip radius of .0007 inches or .7 mil tip for 33 and 45 rpm stereo records.
E Elliptical needle tip for 33 and 45 rpm records. Size of ellipse may show in listings, where known.
BE Biradial elliptical needle tip for 33 and 45 rpm records. SE is believed also to be a another variation on the elliptical needle concept.
HE Hyperelliptical needle tip for 33 and 45 rpm records. Also called parabolic elliptical. These were originally developed for quadraphonic records, see the "Q" suffix below.
M Manual turntable needle, has highest internal compliance.
T Single play automatic turntable needle.
C Record Changer needle, firmer to operate record changer trip mechanism.
Q Special tip for playing discrete 4 channel (quadraphonic) records. Tip may be hyperelliptical, parabolic elliptical, or Shibata. The Shibata tip was of Japanese origin with a nude parabolic type diamond, rather than a bonded one. Audio-Technica referred to theirs as linear contact diamonds.
G, L, V, X, and Z     Indicate minor differences in tracking force and compliance.

700D7 A 700 family needle with one tip, 0.7 mil in diamond.
800DS73 Sonotone 800 family double tip needle. One dip is diamond 0.7 mil for 16,33, 45 rpm records, mono and stereo and the other is a sapphire 3 mil tip for playing 78 rpm records.
4208DE A 208 family needle, the "4" in front indicates this is an aftermarket replacement not a genuine Audio Technica needle. The D is diamond and E is elliptical so this has a diamond elliptical tip.

In the 1970's and 1980's, many needle suppliers switched over from making double tip needles with LP and 78 tips to making these needles with both tips for LPs. They were not always careful about updating their needle packaging and many still claimed needles with LP and 78 tips were inside.

At V-M Audio Enthusiasts, when someone buys a needle with LP and 78 tips, they get a needle with LP and 78 tips, because each needle is removed and inspected before shipping. The needle package description of the needle inside, if bought else where, may not be accurate!

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