How to Change a Record Player Needle

By Michael Francisco

There has been a recent resurgence in the popularity of vinyl records, as younger consumers have come to appreciate the full spectrum of sounds that analog can provide. Many new vinyl releases come with a digital download code, so the iPod crowd can enjoy the album in digital format in their headphones. However, record player needles wear out over time and will eventually need to be replaced. The process for changing a record player needle is relatively simple.

Things You'll Need

  • Replacement needle
  • Canned air

Step 1

Turn off your record player and speakers. If your turntable has a built-in preamp, it may be easier to switch it off, so you don't have to get up and turn off a set of speakers that may be hard to reach. Remove any lock or lever that holds the tone arm in place. Carefully lift the tone arm and grip the worn needle. While holding the arm in place, pull out the worn needle.

Step 2

Place the worn needle away from the new needle, so you don't get them mixed up. Take the compressed air and spray the area of the arm where you just removed the needle, to make sure it is clean. Insert the new needle into the cartridge opening, with the point down. Gently lay the tone arm back into position.

Step 3

Play a record to test your work. Listen for popping, snapping and skipping, especially if your old needle barely produced those sounds in the first place. Adjust the counterweight on the tone arm that is at the opposite end of the needle, if you record player has one. If popping and skipping still occur, you should bring your record player to an authorized repair shop.

Tips & Warnings

  • When replacing the needle and/or cartridge in an old, neglected turntable, be aware that the belt may also need to be replaced. With the recent popularity of vinyl, you may want to consider purchasing a new turntable from a popular manufacturer, instead of fixing up an old belt-driven turntable.
  • Some turntables use needles that cannot be removed and replaced without removing the entire cartridge. In this case, you will need to need to buy a replacement cartridge with the needle already inserted. Check the model number of your turntable and consult a record store that sells replacement cartridges if you need more assistance.