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Denon Dl-103r Any Users Here?

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Denon Dl-103r Any Users Here?

Postby bauzace50 » 30 Aug 2011 23:30

Hi,

for several weeks I have been contemplating my neglected MC transformer (Denon AU-300LC) with no cartridge to espouse. A little extra money came my way, and I investigated the altenatives around $300.00.

The many owners' testimonials in the Internet took me to the Denon DL-103 R, reputed with neutral tone, smooth treble and notable staging. The down-side being 2.5-gram tracking and round diamond tip. A manageable price at Needle Doctor, and a professional opinion of value in the $1,000. range tipped the scale and it will be arriving in about one week.

My question: does anyone here use this model? What has your experience been? It's too late for my leap of faith, but your comments will be most welcome.

Thanks,
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Postby EdAInWestOC » 31 Aug 2011 14:06

b50,
I have a DL-103R that I use as a backup cartridge. I cut a sample with this cartridge some time ago that can give you an idea of how it sounds. You can find this on my website at http://www.edsstuff.org/#HowItSounds. The track in question is Billy Joel, Baby Grand. This was recorded while my DL-103D was out being retipped.

The equipment used was my modified Denon DP-62L turntable with an OEM RB-300 tonearm that has Incognito wiring and a Mitchell Technoweight. The arm is mounted to the DP-62L on a custom cut acrylic armboard and it is in a Riggle VTAF. The phono preamp is an Acoustech PH-1P and the line preamp is an Audible Illusions L1 with Russian NOS Type 3 6922s from Upscale Audio. All ICs are Kimber Heros with the exception of the Phono leads which are the Incognito leads.

The LP is Billy Joel The Bridge and it is the CBS Direct Metal Mastered version of the LP. If you are not familiar with the cut in question it is Billy Joel and Ray Charles in a piano duet. Very cool stuff.

There was no equalization applied to this recording and it was recorded directly to a TEAC RW-CD22 CDR recorder. The resulting CDR was placed into my laptop and I used MS Media Player to rip the track in question to a 320kb MP3. No further processing was applied.

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Postby Hanuman » 31 Aug 2011 14:35

I have one but it's not on an arm that often. I generally use it for digitising. That said, either of my two '103s (the other being a pimped-up standard version) is my automatic choice when I want to give the Koetsu or SPU a rest for a while. Compared to those two cartridges the '103R is quite a bit less civilised in the treble but what is there is well extended. The bass is less well extended but there's nothing really wrong with it but for me it sounds just a tad less than full at the bottom end - this could easily be a speaker issue as much as anything.

For "golden age" recordings of jazz it's really great, not bad at all for rock but is not my personal 1st choice for classical which shouldn't surprise considering my alternatives. But it's not bad at all at classical and other acoustic, don't get me wrong. The '103R has almost given me the shivers on Neil Young's Massey Hall album, it's that convincing!

I think a transformer is just the perfect way to load it. My first listen to the standard '103 in my recent travails was via the Ortofon Verto and I never quite thought that my subsequent use of it, and then the '103R, via an Audio Research PH3 had quite the same impact and dynamism. Never-the-less I did run the '103R into the PH3 at a load of 200Ω at one point and the top end balance approached the Rosewood Signature somewhat, without getting anywhere near the refinement of course. I've always used the '103R on my FR64s tonearm, mounted in either of the FR-S3 or Orsonic AV-101 headshells.

One of the great "features" of any DL-103 is the very active "hot-rodding" culture that follows them. This allows for a genuine upgrade path which you don't see with many other MCs. After a re-body and advanced stylus and cantilever update you have for yourself a serious piece of analogue hardware for a ludicrously small outlay.
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Postby bauzace50 » 31 Aug 2011 14:55

Hi EdAInWestOC, and Hanuman,

Both your posts are strong statements! Listened once to Billy Joel/Ray Charles just immersing myself in the music. Great! No "audiophile" considerations to spoil the song. Wow. What a song! And, no detectable artifice to spoil the appreciation of it. Thanks, Ed. I will be doing subsequent virtual visits to imbibe. Great stuff!

Hanuman, great sharing. I suddently got the feeling that I may have crossed a threshold, entering a mysterious world for the 103 uninitiated. Lots of stuff to discover. :shock:

This leaves me with new questions to investigate. It looks like it's more than just a "cartridge purchase".

To be continued, and thanks,
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Postby Zeppelinn » 31 Aug 2011 20:27

EdAInWestOC wrote:You can find this on my website at http://www.edsstuff.org/#HowItSounds.

Great examples. Perfectly done. I wish VinylEngine has similar collection with more cartridges.
DIGITAL is specs; ANALOG is poetry
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Postby Wire Nut » 31 Aug 2011 20:48

I just put a 103r in a King Wood body. I wanted to see what everyone was talking about on the forums as well. It is an outstanding cartridge and replaced a Shure V15 IV with a Jico stylus, which replaced a Grace F9e. All the buzz was true... and it looks great to boot with the rosewood body on the AR XA.

18632

The only issue is that my old PS Audio phono preamp didn't have enough gain so I got a Jolida... boy am I glad I did:
http://www.vinylengine.com/turntable_forum/viewtopic.php?t=39598
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Postby OneyedK » 31 Aug 2011 21:23

Another happy user here...
What people tell you about the 103R is true 8)

Don't know if the Denon AU-300LC is a good match (it's made for the regular 103), maybe with some extra loading on the secondary...
Technics SL-1200 Mk2 recapped / MN bearing / Funk Firm Platter / Denon 103R / Lundahl LL1681
Thorens TD 126 MkIII / SME Series III / Ortofon SME 30H // AT-OC9ML/II
Thorens TD 160 / TP16 / Stanton 681SE
Denon DP-1200 - WIP -
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Postby blakep » 01 Sep 2011 00:19

I've been using 103R's for more than 5 years now, starting out with the stock cartridge and ending up embracing the hot rod culture that Hanuman describes.

The 103R that I have in use currently is in a Uwe ebony wood body and has been both retipped by Soundsmith (Line Contact stylus and ruby cantilever-the $250 retip) and potted by Peter Lederman as well (an additional $75 charge) as Zu does with the cartridge.

The stock cartridge is IMO very good matched with the right arm and phono stage (both of which can be a lot more expensive than one might think of using with a cartridge in this price range) to really maximize its potential. Not necessarily better in all aspects than $700-$800 cartridges but more enjoyable in many ways.

Deal with the limitations of the plastic body and the conical stylus (and once again match the cartridge up properly with the right arm and phono preamp-I cannot emphasize how important this is) and you have a cartridge that can compete with some very exotic units (as in $3K-$5K cartridges).

The rebodied Denons like mass, and lots of it, with their tonearms. 25 grams works very well and a lot better than 20.
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Postby bauzace50 » 01 Sep 2011 00:46

Hi,
and thanks for the substantial information! You are right, there is a subculture about the 103's! :D Vewy Intewestingh! :!: :wink: For the moment I will wait for the cartridge to arrive, on or about Sept. 8,or so. Then it will be used as it comes, and will be compared with several other favorites of differing sonic flavors.

My first concern about retipping with an elliptical is that the experiment might NOT be succesful. That is, the sound MIGHT get some exaggerated treble. :roll: :?: I would hate to lose the expected Denon smoothness. Any thoughts about this?

Regards,
b50

PS- Oh, almost forgot! One Dynavector 17D3 I used to have became an entirely better performer by one single little modification. I added substantial extra mass (about 9 grams! :shock: ) to the headshell, and voila, it was a different monster altogether! Same refinement and silk gloves treble, but packed a wallop in the bass. Maybe this would bear some experimentation with the 103R. :idea: :?:
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Postby blakep » 01 Sep 2011 01:02

bauzace50 wrote:Hi,
and thanks for the substantial information! You are right, there is a subculture about the 103's! :D Vewy Intewestingh! :!: :wink: For the moment I will wait for the cartridge to arrive, on or about Sept. 8,or so. Then it will be used as it comes, and will be compared with several other favorites of differing sonic flavors.

My first concern about retipping with an elliptical is that the experiment might NOT be succesful. That is, the sound MIGHT get some exaggerated treble. :roll: :?: I would hate to lose the expected Denon smoothness. Any thoughts about this?

Regards,
b50


When you retip the cartridge with something like Soundsmith's line contact stylus or Expert Stylus' paratrace you'll very quickly realize how much information the conical is not capable of retreiving. That's not to say that it doesn't sound pretty darn good, because it does. It's errors, as they say, are more of ommission than commision.

I had concerns similar to yours but the cartridge with a retip becomes both much smoother and more extended in the treble as well as the bass so there is an offset to a certain extent which retains the Denon sound. The change in the midrange, particularly on dense/complex recordings can be astounding with a more extreme stylus profile digging out layers and layers of info that you just don't hear with the conical. With certain records you'll almost wonder if you are listening to the same pressing.

One thing to consider though is body material on the rebody. I've used both ebony and clavellin wood and the ebony is much more appealing to me. Much warmer and full bodied. I would not go back to the clavellin. I have a 2nd 103R here which will be moved from that clavellin body to an aluminum body I picked up on E-Bay and then sent to Soundsmith eventually.

I would expect that the aluminum might be a bit more aggressive and/or clinical than the ebony. With the ebony I'm currently using Nordost Valhalla headshell leads-I think with the aluminum I would go back to a more traditional copper headshell lead that might flesh things out a bit more and compensate for any aggressiveness that the aluminum might impart.
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Postby bauzace50 » 01 Sep 2011 02:51

Hi,

the Internet shows several possible body modifications, plus retipping and cantilever substitution. There are some examples on YouTube which are very hair-raising!

I have not seen anybody try laminating the original body [i]in situ[/i] (in its original place).

Laminating the original body would introduce damping and extra mass, depending on the material used. And this would probably mean less risk of damage to the motor. Wonder why this has not been shown? But it would imply much promise depending on the laminating material.

Regards,
b50
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Postby OneyedK » 01 Sep 2011 08:49

Enjoy it as it is for a while.
Retipping with at least a shibata will be a great improvement.
Other "upgrades" are less predictable and most of them involve the risk of damaging the cart.
Technics SL-1200 Mk2 recapped / MN bearing / Funk Firm Platter / Denon 103R / Lundahl LL1681
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Postby avole » 01 Sep 2011 10:27

Often they're not upgrades at all, in fact. However, few do side by side testing, and even fewer blind testing, so they're relying on memory which, for sound, is surprisingly unreliable.

The difficulty is, of course, that few of us have the resources for duplicate setups to do side by side testing, and fewer still the instruments to demonstrate that what may seem an upgrade is, in fact, introducing distortion.

Me, I'm happy with what the manufacturers of cartridges give us. They have resources undreamt of by the amateur, and have twiddled, tweaked, and measured in ways the amateurs cannot.

The DL series are fine-sounding cartridges, by the way, and need no modification.
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Postby Hanuman » 01 Sep 2011 13:33

avole wrote:Me, I'm happy with what the manufacturers of cartridges give us. They have resources undreamt of by the amateur, and have twiddled, tweaked, and measured in ways the amateurs cannot.

Hear hear! Those amateurs at Soundsmith, Expert Stylus & Zu need to be exposed. Complete charlatans!
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Postby bauzace50 » 01 Sep 2011 19:41

@ avole,

of course, I have always reserved some caution in regard to post-market modifications. Even though I have performed various modifications myself. There is the ultimate concern about the lack of measuring equipment, in order to detect the effects of a modification apart from one's idea of the sonic result.

We are all aware of the deceptions one can induce in one's own mind. I've ordered several tip replacements from Expert Stylus with complete success. But the Paratrace on the Sumiko EVO III brought an audible increase in the lower treble, which is not entirely to my liking.

Another modification which did not work out well: ruby cantilever and extreme tip from Sound Smith on my Stanton 500 EE Mk II. This introduced a slighty emphasized color on the treble, which was not to my liking.

Those are two mild misfires among several happy retips. Good average!

But that's enough to introduce concern on the discontrol over such experiments. If they meet with success, we celebrate! But if they fail, the personal budget suffers.

Oh, there is absolutley NO concern over the quality of the handiwork from off-market practicioners. Expert Stylus and Sound Smith perform absolutely exquisite operations! But that does not guarantee the audible results. Those are entirely at the risk of the owner...and it's only fair.

So, I will use the DL-103R "as is" for many weeks, and will compare with several ellipticals in my collection (including the JICO SAS M97xE and the XLM/Astrion). Perhaps my AU-300LC Denon transformer has sufficiently low resolution as to render potential improvements moot :oops: We'll see!

Thanks, all, :wink:
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