How to change the needle on your Clearaudio MM for 30 euros

dimkasta

Member
2010-05-20 11:14 am
Athens
Disclaimer...
This applies to Clearaudio Virtuoso. Possibly for Maestro and the other MMs as well as some other guys report, but I cannot verify this...
This is strictly personal experience. Not at all professional. And it will probably void any guaranty on you cartridge, although I doubt it can be detected...
I am not responsible if you burn your house, your turntable, your aunt or anything around you while trying to perform this.

On to the fun part...

Clearaudio sell their MM cartridges as "non user stylus serviceable" as in "you cannot replace the stylus yourself".
Well this is partly true because you cannot find any Clearaudio replacement needles on the market. At least not for a reasonable price... But as it seems, and thanks to neobop from audiocircle and a few other clever people, we now know that it is possible... if you can override a few really minor obstacles...

First of all removing the stylus... I don t know what they mean "not user serviceable", but if you catch the black plastic stylus with some pliers and pull it, it just comes off... that easy... I don t mean pulling it like a moron.. carefully so that the small magnets do not scratch the walls coming out... although I would not worry too much... it seems pretty easy and straightforward.

Now that we got it out, we need a replacement. As it seems, Audio Technica is the OEM for at least some of the parts of the cartridges, including the stylus. The magic part number is AT95e and costs about 30 euros from ebay. You need the replacement stylus, and not the entire cartridge

[IMGDEAD]https://www.a1-sound.co.uk/data/extras/625lg.jpg[/IMGDEAD]

Now if you have already removed the clearaudio stylus, you have probably noticed that that thing is much bigger...
This is where the most minorlly tricky part is... we need to do some minor surgery to the AT95e.
If you compare the AT95e with the clearaudio, you can see that the AT95e is the clearaudio one with some more plastic attached to it. Basically you just have to get an exacto knife and cut the extra plastic right next to the needle carrier, so that you get a part that is identical to the clearaudio in size and shape. I don t have a photo, but if you look at it, it is pretty clear what you need to do...
You just need to take your time and do this patiently and you can get a pretty nice looking part. If you do it fast and sloppily it will still work (provided that you do not damage the needle suspension or the needle of course...), but it will look ugly...

And now that you have your brand new part, just push it gently in the cartridge body..
The thing fits so nicely that it will click in place, as if the parts were designed for each other... If you do it properly, you will have something like that...

attachment.php


You can see the original black stylus, the full AT95e replacement carrier with a pretty obvious idea of where you need to do a clean cut, and the new green stylus installed in its new home...

Sonically the audio technica stylus sounds amazing. I would not say that it sounds better or worse that the clearaudio one, but I can say with confidence that even if I had 600 euros burning my pockets, I probably would spend it on something else... like boose or women :p

The only issue is that if you have a maestro, you will be replacing your boron cantilever for an aluminum one... But from what I read, you can also get a Shibata replacement part for around 100 euros.
The really interesting part, is that the audio technica carrier has a compliance screw... this means that the needle can be replaced...
And this opens a completely new world for your cartridge...

enjoy :)
 

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dimkasta

Member
2010-05-20 11:14 am
Athens
It s the screw on the carrier/suspension that keeps the cantilever in place. The original part does not have one, so you cannot change it to lets say a boron cantilever with a ruby tip. But you can do it on the AT one :)
Provided of course you have hands that can handle delicate parts and screw them properly and aligned without bending or breaking them :)
 
Hi,
Thanks for your idea. I have a Virtuoso with a broken cantilever I'd like to bring back into service but I'd rather not spend 300$ for a repair job.
I've tried pulling on the black plastic part of my Virtuoso stylus but it won't budge. Any tips on how to do it? What type of pliers did you use and does the part come straight up or at a slight angle? Thanks
David
 

chromenuts

Member
Paid Member
2008-12-27 7:27 am
Connecticut, USA
I did this a few years back. I used some pliers from a standard Craftsman mini plier set. The ones that worked had a lightly knarled gripping surface and shorter straight tips. If I remember correctly, the plastic assembly at the base of the stylus needs to be rolled or pulled slightly toward the front of the cartridge in order for the tiny magnets mounted on either side of the back end of the cantilever to clear a slot that they nestle into inside the cartridge body. I have a few pics, but I don’t think they are high resolution enough to see what’s going on.
 

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chromenuts

Member
Paid Member
2008-12-27 7:27 am
Connecticut, USA
I was perfectly happy with the standard AT95 replacement. It was a relief to have the cartridge working again. I was so upset that I had damaged the original after what was a low number of hours. I would say that like the OP I noticed no gain or loss in sound quality.

I carry a bit of a grudge concerning Clearaudio and their apparent hoodwinking of consumers with the Virtuoso. After all, it is basically an AT95 stuck into a wood body. But I suppose that’s on me for not figuring it out ahead of time through more research.

I have an extra AT95 black I picked up at Music Direct at the same time I got the standard stylus replacement. I don’t think there is any difference in the cantilever or diamond, but I wanted to compare it to the Virtuoso and even try making my own bodies for it to see what the results would be. Then there’s the Vivid Line and Shibata replacements I’d like to try.

Haven’t gotten to any of that as I was bitten by the MC bug and am currently finishing a project of modifying an old Stax 12 inch arm to try with a Denon 103 and Shelter 501II I have collected.
 
Hi chromnuts and dimkasta,
I just got an at95 in the mail. I actually ordered the stylus but they also sent me the cartridge, all for $30.
Instead of cutting away most of the stylus' plastic carrier I just cut out that small piece in the front that prevents the carrier from clearing the front of the cartridge. This will allow me to use the stylus guard if needed. It took me about 5 minutes. Haven't mounted it yet so can't comment on its sonics. Thanks again for the mod.
David
 

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hello all,

just wanted to say a huge thank you for this tip! :cool:

The original needle got broken and i definitely didn't want to spend so much for such a small thing. This small customization really saved me!!

I don't know if it's all objective since i couldn't listen to my LPs for some time but it seems now they have never sounded so good! I believe the Aurum is definitely good but Clear Audio's policy is really despicable.

I've been really careful, alternating with a bit of cutting through pressure and a bit of sawing while keeping the stylus always protected in the transparent part. You have to be careful not to slip or damage the two small side metallic parts, better go slowly but even like that it didn't take me no more than 10 minutes. Though the small surgery doesn't look perfect it looks really neat when it's mounted. You could barely tell the difference, especially if it were painted in black (not even worth it).




 
When I had my audio store, I never advised to replace a MM stylus, try other ! The price difference between a complete capsule and only a replacement stylus was never justified. Only in case you are very in love with a cartridge. What does this special cartridge have to justify such an odyssey? I'm curious, it's low or high output, its sound resembles perhaps an MC?
 
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Why would you want to buy a new expensive cartridge? Replacing the stylus cost me less than $30. This "odyssey" took me no more than 15mn! Even a kid could do it. The hardest was just to find the information. For sure Clear Audio would make everything to block this and force you to spend money for nothing. This is a total disgrace.

There's no chance you would find an equivalent quality at a similar price, even a very basic cartridge would cost the double for the least. The Alpha Aurum price tag was around $250-300 if i remember well but it's discontinued so i don't know the equivalent now. A used one goes around $100, but even in that case it would be worth starting with a fresh new stylus. The operation is worth any penny! This also opens up for many other customization and combos.
 
Besides the joy of performing and the satisfaction on it's outcome, an operation like this one can only be justified if the host generator body's value and/or it's sonic performance are higher than the donor's.
OTOH and as it has yet been said before, a cart's main value is in it's stylus assembly. Hence I doubt that an expensive cart can be restored to it's original properties with the stylus of a cheaper one.
Remains joy and satisfaction, and this is DIY after all ;).
Best regards!
 
Yes the host (Clearaudio Alpha Aurum Wood) is way better than what the potential donor would be (AT95E). But in our case the donor is not even a cartridge on its own, it's just a replacement stylus sub-part (ATN95E) that we adapt here for fitting.

In general i agree that a cartridge design should be holistic, from body to stylus. But here let's be pragmatic, it's a question of OEM components. Is the stylus is the same? I can't tell 100% for sure, but everything tends me to believe so. It seems pretty clear Clearaudio don't build the stylus themselves. Maybe Audio Technica also have another supplier in common with Clearaudio, this i can't tell.

Sorry for the poor quality pictures, i did quickly with the phone. But here they are together before the operation. They look really the same, apart from the plastic (green) part before cut. But this should have no impact in the sound. What does matter is the stylus obviously and the 2 small metallic side connectors. All the rest with the green plastic (same green in the original!) is only meant to hold the stylus in place in the pickup body and this fits really perfectly.

IMG_5380c.JPG

Original stylus part from the Alpha Aurum (with broken stylus!):

IMG_5427c.JPG

Now the part extracted from AT95, if the cut were perfect you could not tell the difference. But once mounted if you paint the bottom part in black they would look literally the same, no one could tell the difference!

IMG_5386c.JPG
 
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If I had knewn of these possibilies very much earlier, I would have not discarded my old Clearaudio Type Z cart with it's worn stylus, but instead would have tried to substitute it. It's stylus construction was another one, though, rather resembling Shure styli with their diamond shaped brass tube. Thus I indeeed tried the body with a M75 type stylus prior to discarding, but it didn't play as loud as with the original one.
Best regards!
 
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Can't thank you guys enough, so so happy to come across this thread! I was so sad to find my stylus broken in under a year of having the turntable, and thought I'd in for a hefty bill. Just swapped my CA Virtuoso stylus with the ATN95E (apparently replacement for AT95E) after cutting it out and inserting into cartridge...it looks identical but is green - fits like a glove and sounds identical - $54 CAD.