Turntable needles, sometimes referred to as styluses, are an integral part of a turntable. While some turntables are sold with needles already installed, in most cases, you need to purchase one separately. You will also eventually need to purchase replacement needles for your turntable, as needles tend to wear down with use. No matter the reason for your purchase, it is important to take the various needle types into account when shopping. You should also ensure turntable and needle compatibility.Needle Replacement
Over time and with use, turntable needles require replacement, because playing records with a worn-out needle can cause permanent damage to your records. If you hear fuzziness, channel imbalance, sibilance, static or blurring when listening to your records, this is a sign that it is time to invest in a new needle. The same holds true if your records begin to skip or bounce, or no longer fit properly in the record grooves. There are also some physical signs to look for, such as a bent, coated, damaged or misshapen needle head.Needle Shape
Needle shape is responsible for audio performance. There are three common needle shapes: spherical, elliptical and Shibata. Spherical needles are the most affordable and easiest to use; however, they offer subpar sonic performance when compared to elliptical and Shibata needles.Needle Quality
Turntable needles vary in quality. When shopping, it is important to opt for a high-quality needle from a reputable brand, since doing so helps to ensure a long lifespan. Lower-grade needles require replacement every 100 hours of use, while those of a higher quality should provide you with roughly 500 hours before requiring a replacement. The quality of the needle is also responsible for record-player sound, so opt for the best one that your budget allows.Turntable Needle Brands
Turntable needles are made by various manufacturers, including Goldring, Audio Tech, Shure, BSR, Pioneer, JVC, Sony, Panasonic, Sansui and Technics. As you shop, it is imperative that you opt for a needle that is compatible with your turntable cartridge. As such, be sure to have your cartridge brand and model number close at hand.