Why? Vinyl is a soft material that almost liquifies itself under the pressure exerted by the stylus, which is made from the hardest material known to man - diamond.
It is more than advisable to let the vinyl cool off and allow to return to its former state before being tracked by the stylus. That takes at least half an hour or so - so replays of a single song can wear out a record in no time and side after side after side does relatively little to no damage.
How much does the vinyl get liqufied and permanently deformed depends on the actal pressure - which is force per area. There can be only so much maximum area if tracing the small undulations of high frequencies while still allowing for some geometrical mismatch - and that ultimately means vertical tracking force does have its maximum beyond which at least high frequencies at the innermost grooves will no longer be reproduced at the correct volume ( there can be as much difference by 20 kHz as 6 dB at the outer and inner grooves - by the same cartridge ! ) - and what is worse, high tend to get shaved away. There is an opposite effect of wear and tear, again measurable and audible in the highs - treble can go UP by more than 6 dB by 20 kHz, but it is heavily distorted at the same time. Remember scHfShSSsrS on some hot recorded sibilants/vocals ? All of the above is "included" in that most unsatisfying sound.
Solution? Light enough tracking to stay well within elastic deformation of vinyl while capable of tracking high level low frequency signals, low effective mass of the stylus to have as low mechanical impedance as possible - so that resonant frequency of effective mass of the stylus yielding against compliance of the vinyl groove is appreciably above the audible range - at the very least at 30 kHz, preferably far higher. That should really make sure 99% of records can be safely tracked while insuring minimum wear. Trouble is - today rare, therefore very expensive.
Compliance : http://www.theanalogdept.com/cartridge___arm_matching.htm It is not ONLY about matching cart to arm - you can have infinite mass arm/cartridge, a really stiff suspension will not allow for the full dynamic range in low(er) frequencies - it will sound compressed - no matter what. Vinyl simply gives way to too stiff suspensioned styli. After a cart capable of tracking superbly around 1 gram, about to max 1.5 gram, is heard, going to something requiring more vertical tracking force while constricting dynamic range is very hard indeed.
Edited by analogsurviver - 12/12/13 at 1:10pm