blakep, and others,
When you say "this cartridge rivals more expensive cartridges" I am lost. If you describe what goes on, then I am oriented.
What does your modified cartridge DO? Could you describe what it DOES, instead of WHO is its rival?
Treble extension, sibilance. general tracking, staging, depth and width, image focus, tonal emphasis or suckout, separation of images, image height, movement onstage such as in opera recordings, reflections from the rear stage wall, emphasis of image placement as frontal/ mid/ deep or no emphasis? What do you mean by "treble refinement"? etc...
One particular red flag I have about "pirate's leg" post-factory cantilevers is an intrusion of new high frequency resonance, audible as a slight added brightness.
My concern is for natural sound. Not for features nor cost. How it compares with sound in nature, instead of the bling and overcoats it wears at the stadium (that's what led Frank Lucas to jail)
It's NOT about LOGIC. You can have beautiful logic following a false premise. Death is not in the logic but in the premise. The premise would be: Modification improves quality. The ensuing logic can employ as much energy as the sun (analogous to many postings in VE) and as much beauty as the universe. But the initial premise is not proven. The proof is in hearing, NOT in which rival is beaten.
Thanks all for sharing. I am living my DL-103R as it comes from the factory. I KNOW it now and will live it for the 1,000 hours span. And will THEN look into repairs/mods existing at that time. It IS that good.
B50: Here is a link to a review I wrote about 4 years ago on one of Uwe's ebony bodies. At the time I was using the stock conical stylus so the improvements are related to the body change only.http://www.audioasylum.com/reviews/Phon ... 94577.html
In short, with the ebony body, the bass tightened up and became less wooly but still remained very full, there was increased midrange resolution and treble resolution and refinement. Increased smoothness and refinement while still retaining the "boogie factor" that I believe the 103/103R are also famous for.
Let me STRESS this: I really like the Denon 103R and what it brings to the table, particularly relative to some of its more modern counterparts. And in my view that is a kind of holistic approach to sound reproduction. It sounds natural, like real music and its real strength is probably more of a "sum of its parts" thing when comparing to more modern designs. Less hi-fi, more music. More of a sense that you are listening to a band playing together than a lot of individual instruments being reproduced by a system. A top to bottom coherence that a lot of other modern and more expensive cartridges don't seem to get right.
Let me also STRESS this: the improvements brought about by the body change were not brought about with the loss of the strengths of the basic cartridge as I describe it above. If they were, I wouldn't be interested in the modded cartridge, period.
I had already rebodied the cartridge and used it for more than a year when I went to the level 2 retip by Soundsmith. The retip improved bass performance very slightly (I'd say the body mod may do more for this) but the improvements in information retreival in the midrange, as well as treble extension and refinement are really where the line contact sings. Particulary with dense and complex recordings, it becomes apparent to you very, very quickly once you replace the conical with a quality line contact that the conical is missing a lot of musical information. You will hear (dramatically with some recordings) better separation of instruments, in addition to instruments and vocals that you have never heard before (there's a bit of that with the body change, but more with the stylus change). As a result of the increase in information retreival, there are also improvments with soundstaging, particulary front to back depth, and spatial information in general in many more complex recordings as well.
Once again, these improvements are achieved without sacrificing the overall character and appeal of what makes the 103/103R the great bargain that they are. That is what is so appealing to those that have modified these cartridges and why there has been a veritable cottage industry spring up with respect to the aftermarket bodies (the retippers were already out there doing other cartridges)
for the 103 series.
In the hi-fi world you cannot make everyone happy. There's always a possibility of someone not taking to/or liking the modifications. But I think you would find that to be a very, very small minority of users out there with experience modding the Denons. With a great number of mods available, though, you have the issue of some being preferable to others depending on system synergy and subjective listening preferences. For example, while I preferred a clavellin body to the stock Denon plastic body, I much prefer the ebony body and aluminum bodies I have to the clavellin.
I would never go back to the stock cartridge after modifying and I wouldn't consider using either the stock body or stylus with the cartridge. It is simply too cost effective to achieve such a radical increase in performance that it doesn't make sense not to do it as far as I'm concerned. Rebody and retip and it's not even close. But I put 800-1000 hours on the Denon conical before retipping it-I had fears (unfounded as they were) of losing that Denon magic by doing the retip and I actually kept a 2nd 103R with the stock stylus in the event I did not like the change. I certainly have no problem with someone doing that and the stock cartridge is enjoyable enough to listen to, and certainly more enjoyable than a lot of other stuff out there.