Had some fun earlier this evening with a new stylus on our record deck. Apparently the DN165-E it came with has only had around 50 hours playing time on it, but it seemed to be sounding a little scratchy and I wondered whether it had been damaged either in transit or during the initial setup and testing phases since getting the deck home.

The replacement stylus is unfortunately not a branded ‘original’ part – I guess the old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ applies here, but it would have been nice if the online store had set expectations more plainly.

Nevertheless I thought to try the new unit to see what we get from it. First the bad news: it wasn’t a ‘night and day’ difference in the way I had expected.

The good news is that the new stylus does sound better than the old. It’s tracking female vocals much more effectively and has turned my rather worn copy of Suzanne Vega’s “Solitude Standing” into a very entertaining experience. Her solo delivery of “Tom’s Diner” showed a much-reduced tendency to sibilant distortion while revealing much more detail than I’ve previously heard in either CD or LP recordings. The sound is more immediate, more involving and more believable. Further, there was now a defined ‘sweet spot’ between the speakers that I’ve not noticed before.

Other recordings showed similar improvements in detail retrieval and control of sibilants. All except what appears to be a badly mastered/manufactured copy of Bryan Ferry’s “Boys and Girls”, whose treble seems way too hot on the disc, resulting in distortion of sibilants and even cymbals.

Another problem disc in my collection was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. The sibilant delivery of vocals in “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” are now much improved, while the surrounding synths and drums have much better definition and impact.

Generally drums and other acoustic instruments sound cleaner, vocals are presented more realistically, and synth instruments take on more timbre and impact. The soundstage of all recordings I tried is more defined and reveals yet more space.

So all in all I’m very pleased with the new stylus, and will keep the old one ready for backup, or for playing the *really* worn or dusty LP’s where cleaning has not made any appreciable difference to their condition. I would have preferred knowing from the start that I was buying a generic unit, but the results speak for themselves so it’s hard to be at all disappointed.