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 Post subject: Cactus, fibre and wooden needles are unsatisfactory
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:28 am 
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Victor II
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:52 pm
Posts: 256
I saw this item for sale on ebay :

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Marie-Killick-Sapphox-gramophone-sapphire-stylus-subject-of-famous-lawsuit/163106183147?hash=item25f9e2d7eb:g:IGQAAOSwsBtZ90fu

and noticed what was said about Cactus, fibre and wooden needles.

I presume that 'The Gramophone' was a respected and independent publication (I guess) so could their findings be correct ?

I was just surprised to see what they thought about these needles ...


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 Post subject: Re: Cactus, fibre and wooden needles are unsatisfactory
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 4:42 am 
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Victor III
Joined: Sun Mar 15, 2009 6:18 am
Posts: 860
poodling around wrote:

I presume that 'The Gramophone' was a respected and independent publication (I guess) so could their findings be correct ?


By 1946 the record modulations were too taxing for such needles, creating premature wear out in the middle of one play. I presume this is the basis for the claim. And the quote may also be out of context, as it comes from the advertisement of a jewel needle, it might be worthwhile to read the whole article, if it is available.

I bought one of such needles, more because of its history, which is quite interesting, see
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Killick


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 Post subject: Re: Cactus, fibre and wooden needles are unsatisfactory
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 5:02 am 
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Victor III
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Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:57 am
Posts: 559
Location: Hampshire, England.
Here is the full article referred to (Technical talk--page 39)---many thanks Paul.

As Carlos says, the prejudice may well have been due to greater post-war record modulation where needle points sometimes broke down towards the end of a disc, particularly on the cheaper poorly-tracked gramophones.

It is interesting to note that no tests on "Cactus, fibre and wooden needles" were actually carried out---hardly scientific !

My playing experience with Burmese colour thorn needles is that sound reproduction is first class with very low surface noise and minimal record wear. So long as tracking and levelling are properly organised, points hardly ever break down. However, from time to time, some "hot" worn jazz discs can require steel.


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 Post subject: Re: Cactus, fibre and wooden needles are unsatisfactory
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:29 am 
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Victor I
Joined: Fri Jul 28, 2017 6:55 am
Posts: 162
Location: Vienna/Austria
We must not forget, that all these tests are made with lightweight, crystal pickups and are not applicable to acoustic instruments.

I do own 2 of those ruby needles posted. They are to be used only with lightweight pickups. Juwel tipped needles for acoustic machines by that company would have also existed. Those would look like the "trailing-type" needle, but I have never seen one.


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 Post subject: Re: Cactus, fibre and wooden needles are unsatisfactory
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 7:11 am 
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Victor III
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Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:03 am
Posts: 693
Location: near Utopia, South East England
Good to discuss this! Everyone has their opinions - including various "experts" back in the day... (By the quotation marks I don't mean to denigrate any such person's expertise, just to indicate the vast diversity of tests, conditions, findings, conclusions and hence widely differing opinions possible - so the term "expert" should sometimes be taken with a pinch of salt!)

As emgcr has pointed out, under good conditions, fibres/thorns give consistently excellent results. This was the sustained opinion of The Gramophone Magazine's Expert Committee over many years, and indeed the BBC used thorn needles for a time.

I've put some advice on my new website (which I'll announce properly in the Yankee Trader section soon): http://www.burmesecolourneedles.com/ - see the 'Using' and 'FAQs' sections.

It's interesting to conjecture that high quality new pickup designs in the early 1950s might have been less compliant than EMG/Expert soundboxes under optimal conditions - we still find that thorns are perfectly capable of tracking extreme modulations such as the high note near the end of Kathleen Ferrier's Che Faro, given an unworn copy. Maybe not late 50s rock'n'roll 78s though, admittedly! :shock:


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 Post subject: Re: Cactus, fibre and wooden needles are unsatisfactory
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:06 am 
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Victor II
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:52 pm
Posts: 256
emgcr wrote:
Here is the full article referred to (Technical talk--page 39)---many thanks Paul.

As Carlos says, the prejudice may well have been due to greater post-war record modulation where needle points sometimes broke down towards the end of a disc, particularly on the cheaper poorly-tracked gramophones.

It is interesting to note that no tests on "Cactus, fibre and wooden needles" were actually carried out---hardly scientific !

My playing experience with Burmese colour thorn needles is that sound reproduction is first class with very low surface noise and minimal record wear. So long as tracking and levelling are properly organised, points hardly ever break down. However, from time to time, some "hot" worn jazz discs can require steel.



Most interesting ! Thank you for posting the original article.

I had to smile when I saw two subtle differences between the packaging notes and the article.

The 'packaging' states:

'… unsatisfactory with respect to quality and reproduction …'

'….their durability is extremely low ...'


but the article stated:

'….unsatisfactory with respect to quality of reproduction ...'

'…. their durability is very low ...'

Very clever word substitution me thinks !


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 Post subject: Re: Cactus, fibre and wooden needles are unsatisfactory
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:08 am 
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Victor II
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:52 pm
Posts: 256
Orchorsol wrote:
Good to discuss this! Everyone has their opinions - including various "experts" back in the day... (By the quotation marks I don't mean to denigrate any such person's expertise, just to indicate the vast diversity of tests, conditions, findings, conclusions and hence widely differing opinions possible - so the term "expert" should sometimes be taken with a pinch of salt!)

As emgcr has pointed out, under good conditions, fibres/thorns give consistently excellent results. This was the sustained opinion of The Gramophone Magazine's Expert Committee over many years, and indeed the BBC used thorn needles for a time.

I've put some advice on my new website (which I'll announce properly in the Yankee Trader section soon): http://www.burmesecolourneedles.com/ - see the 'Using' and 'FAQs' sections.

It's interesting to conjecture that high quality new pickup designs in the early 1950s might have been less compliant than EMG/Expert soundboxes under optimal conditions - we still find that thorns are perfectly capable of tracking extreme modulations such as the high note near the end of Kathleen Ferrier's Che Faro, given an unworn copy. Maybe not late 50s rock'n'roll 78s though, admittedly! :shock:



Most interesting - very interesting website too ! I will be emailing over the next day or two.


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 Post subject: Re: Cactus, fibre and wooden needles are unsatisfactory
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:10 am 
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Victor II
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:52 pm
Posts: 256
CarlosV wrote:
poodling around wrote:

I presume that 'The Gramophone' was a respected and independent publication (I guess) so could their findings be correct ?


By 1946 the record modulations were too taxing for such needles, creating premature wear out in the middle of one play. I presume this is the basis for the claim. And the quote may also be out of context, as it comes from the advertisement of a jewel needle, it might be worthwhile to read the whole article, if it is available.

I bought one of such needles, more because of its history, which is quite interesting, see
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Killick


Very good point - I hadn't thought of the change in record modulations.

Interesting link too.


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 Post subject: Re: Cactus, fibre and wooden needles are unsatisfactory
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:11 am 
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Victor II
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:52 pm
Posts: 256
Teak wrote:
We must not forget, that all these tests are made with lightweight, crystal pickups and are not applicable to acoustic instruments.

I do own 2 of those ruby needles posted. They are to be used only with lightweight pickups. Juwel tipped needles for acoustic machines by that company would have also existed. Those would look like the "trailing-type" needle, but I have never seen one.



Very interesting and I did not know that.


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 Post subject: Re: Cactus, fibre and wooden needles are unsatisfactory
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:18 pm 
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Victor IV
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Those who were seen dancing were thought insane by those who could not hear the music. Nietzsche
Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:55 am
Posts: 1306
Location: Tucson, AZ
poodling around wrote:
Very good point - I hadn't thought of the change in record modulations.


I have used Cactus and Bamboo for years and love them.
They will hold up to digs and scratches just fine, but failure of a point has happened and is an rare occurrence.

Condition and intensity are important factors for needle wear.
• For example, I have used the same point for 3 or 4 sides of 12" classical discs (E condition and quiet selections) before noticing sound quality falter.
• Hot Jazz will wear a needle down faster that a Violin Solo.
• A Hot Jazz record that's in G condition will wear a needle down faster than the same recording in E.

James :coffee:

PS: re: Floating Downstream... Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void ... It is shining, it is shining. :ugeek: trippy


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