What You Need To Know About Turntable Headshells


Are turntable headshells universal? Headshells may play a minuscule part in record players, but you wouldn’t be able to listen to music from your turntable without them. This article will give you the headshell guide you need to understand and care for your turntable.

This article will guide you on the following aspects regarding headshells:

  1. What is a headshell?
  2. What materials are headshells made out of in the turntable industry?
  3. What are the properties of a headshell?
  4. Can you clean the headshell?
  5. Can you interchange headshells?
  6. Are headshells universal?

With answers to all the questions above, this article will also provide you with additional information that you need for your turntables. Be sure to keep reading this headshell guide to learn more on how to care for your turntable. 

The Ultimate Turntable Headshell Guide 

What Is A Headshell?

A headshell is a connecting piece that holds both the cartridge and stylus in place while also connecting these two pieces to the tonearm. You could think of the headshell like a rubber band or some perfect duct tape that can quickly come off. 

What Materials Are Headshells Made Out Of In The Turntable Industry?

In the turntable industry, most turntable headshells consist of aluminum. However, you may find that newer versions of turntable headshells consist of unique alloy material. 

The purpose of this alloy material is to make sure that the connection is uniform and structured. It’s also a good material for preventing imprecise resonance.

In other instances, headshells consist of magnesium. Magnesium is lighter than aluminum, which may come across as an added advantage; however, magnesium becomes softer when mixed with other alloy materials. 

Not only that, but some headshells consist of carbon. Specifically, they consist of carbon-reinforced polymers (CRFP). The CFRP produces a rigid and fiber-enforced type of plastic that manufacturers use in the headshells.

Lastly, some headshells consist of wood. Wood is a natural material that is held together by an organic polymer called lignin. 

What Are The Properties Of A Headshell?

Turntable headshells consist of the following parts: 

  • two 2.5mm bolts. A 1.5″ spacing separates these two bolts.
  • Some turntable headshells will have screw-in weights. These weights can weigh between 2-4g.
  • A standard H-4 Bayonet mount. The bayonet mount comes with a standard barrel. This barrel can either have a length of 8mm or 12mm. It also comes with four connective pins that are attached to four color-coded headshell lead wires. 

What’s The Relationship Between The Turntable Headshells And Tonearms?

The turntable headshell connects the cartilage and the tonearm. The tonearm, on the other hand, supports the headshell. But why is the tonearm important at this point to mention?

Well, there are two types of tonearms:

  • Straight tonearm 
  • The curved tonearm, aka the S-shaped tonearm

Why is this important? Well, the standard H-4 Bayonet mount on headshells will fit any S-shaped tonearm. It won’t apply to the straight tonearm.

Straight tonearms have different types of mounts available in the market. However, S-shaped tonearms are more common. You will likely find that majority of turntables use S-shaped tonearms. 

Why? In my experience, many people believe that the curved tonearm produces a much more superior sound. 

Allegedly, the tonearm will fit much better in the smaller areas of the record. The result? There’ll be less of a tracking error while the turntable is playing. 

This assumption is yet to be proven, so it’s best to take it at less value. Both straight tonearms and curved tonearms will achieve the same result, and that is to listen to your favorite record at your convenience. 

Can You Clean Turntable Headshells?

Yes, you can clean your turntable headshell. Like any other part of the turntable, it is prone to dust or even micro dust. Cleaning your headshell could also play a part in managing your cartridge and stylus. But how do you clean it?

The quick and easy solution to cleaning your headshell is alcohol wipes. However, they might not work if your headshell is in a corroded state. If your headshell is in a corroded state, then experts recommend using DeoxIT.

DeoxIT is a product used to treat corroded connectors and other metal surfaces. You can buy one on Amazon at an affordable price, or you can check your local hardware store. 

They will most likely have the product stocked. If not, check your local store. You have nothing to lose but your headshell. 

Ensure to use a thin cotton bud to clean the connector and be gentle during the cleaning process. 

You don’t want to damage the connective wires in the headshell. 

One final and odd thing to add to the cleaning of headshells is to please (please) do not lick the headshell. Your spit will not save your headshell from corrosion, nor will it miraculously clean it. Keep your saliva to yourself. 

Are Headshells Interchangeable?

Yes, headshells are interchangeable. Remember that one of the parts of a headshell is a standard H-4 Bayonet mount. If you have another turntable with a similar mount, the entire process is relatively easy and fast. 

However, if you have different mounts, it’s unlikely that you will change the headshells. Be sure to check your mounts whether you are purchasing a new turntable or a used turntable.

When you’re purchasing a used turntable, be sure to remove and examine the headshell. You want to check if the previous users overused the turntable. An overused turntable whose cartridge and stylus have undergone wear and tear. 

Are Headshells Universal? 

Unfortunately, headshells are not universal. Different turntable manufacturers will have different tonearms and different mounts that make the headshells specific to their turntables. 

So it’s pretty likely that if you have two different types of turntables with two different mounts, the headshell will most likely not fit into place. If you’re to turntables and record players, you may not know this fact, and you’ll stumble trying to change your headshell should you need to change it. 

Headshells are just as important as any part on a turntable. They require constant care and maintenance. Be sure to use the right products when cleaning your headshell and take note of the mounts on your headshell. 

You don’t want to have a worn-out headshell.

Lastly, please don’t lick the headshell; you’ll do more bad than good by sticking your tongue in there. It’s not for your sake but for that of your headshell. 

Are You Interested In What Other Turntable Owners Are Asking? Here Are Some Helpful Faqs.

Audio-Technica AT-VM95E/H Turntable Headshell/Cartridge Combo Kit Green

1.When purchasing a turntable, does the headshell make a difference?

Yes, headshells make a massive difference in how your turntable will function and the sound it will produce.

 The better manufactured the headshell, the pricier the turntable. However, it also depends on whether you’re looking for a collector’s turntable or not. If not, double-check your budget and buy a turntable within your means. 

2.Does the type of headshell matter?

There lies no scientific proof that different headshells produce different results. So technically, the headshell doesn’t matter—however, the type of mount matters. But still, the material used to make the headshell will count for something. 

Nevertheless, the shape of the headshell won’t count for much, whether it’s a straight headshell or a curved headshell. It’s just a wive’s tale that an S-shaped headshell gives the best results. 

3.How do you choose a headshell?

You can choose your headshell based on your personal preference, budget, and overall sound it produces. Choose a headshell that fits your style or the style you want to see on your turntable, the amount of money you want to invest in it, and the results you get from it. Headshells are entirely interchangeable. 

Sources

1.Jenna Miles, The Beginner’s Guide to Vinyl Records: How to Build, Maintain and Experience a Music Collection in Analogue (Massachusetts: Adams Media,2017) 256.

2.Wikipedia, Headshell, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headshell Accessed July 28th, 2021.

3.Pspatialaudio, The (Removable) Headshells, Pspatialaudio, http://pspatialaudio.com/headshell.htm Accessed July 28th, 2021.

4.Record Head, The Basics of your turntable cartridge and stylus, Record Head, http://recordhead.biz/stylus-and-cartridge-basics/ Accessed July 29th, 2021.

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