When you think of playing a great record, you might not keep in mind all the critical components in play that must be set up perfectly to ensure that the sound is created in just the right way. This is, perhaps, the biggest part of the development of records along side record players, and the smooth tipped stylus, or needle, was a huge part of those developments. Without the creation of a smaller “microneedle” with the advent of vinyl records and microgrooves, how else would people have been able to achieve their record playing goals? The needle is the single most important part of a record player because of the way these needles are important for playing the music on the record. Without the developments in the record player stylus, vinyl records with microgrooves would not have been possible. Without the chiseling stylus used to engrave the records in the first place, it would have been impossible to create the sound that was sought after in the early days of phonographs. Styli are, perhaps, one of the single most important components in the record player system.
The stylus itself gets a lot of hard wear in playing records on the record player. It is really only a tiny part of the needle that comes in contact with the record, so proportionally speaking, the stylus has to hold a significant amount of weight in order to play a record. There are three very important qualities that should be looked for in a stylus and have been kept in mind throughout the creation of styli. The first thing to bear in mind is that the stylus should follow the contours of the grooved record to a tee: you cannot afford for the stylus to deviate from the grooves, lest the record itself get broken. Second, the stylus should be carefully constructed so that it does not hurt the recorded disc in any way. Some things that can contribute to this happening is if, for example, the stylus you are using is meant for a different kind of record than the record you are about to play. Third, the stylus should be resistant to wear and tear. Styli will be used constantly to play vinyl albums, and the ones you purchase should be of high quality so that you can use them for a while. Higher quality and wear resistant styli will also help you prevent damage to your records.
Over the years a few different materials have been used to create styli. For example, sapphire was used by Thomas Edison in 1892 and then diamond in 1910 for his phonographs. With a material like diamond being used as a stylus, the stylus rarely had to be replaced. This is the kind of quality you can hope for when working with a stylus. Many styli for vinyl records have also been made from sapphire or diamonds, though the most popular materials have been steel, copper, or tungsten for other early machines. Always keep the three qualities of styli in mind when selecting the stylus for your records.