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First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

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First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby BMRR » 11 Dec 2017 22:38

I'd like to try a moving coil cartridge for the first time. I'm considering the DL-103 for several reasons:

• It's legendary

• People love it

• Reviews suggest it has a distinct personality and character, which I guess means that it will sound different than the MM/MI/IM carts I currently own, and that would be part of the fun

• AFAIK it's the most affordable MC currently on the market

Are there others that I should be considering in the same price range? I'm not really interested in the DL-110 because most of the reviews I've read seem to indicate that it wouldn't be better enough, or different enough, compared to the better MM carts in my collection. Ditto for the Ortofon Turbos.

I would be using it with a Technics medium-mass S-shaped tonearm, and I have several heavier headshells and auxiliary weights that I can use if needed to provide a more DL-103-friendly environment.

I have a receiver that has a built-in MC stage, although I have no idea how good or bad it is. The receiver's MM stage is excellent, so I'm hoping the MC stage is at least OK, but I won't know until I try it. Alternatively I could get one of these and plug it into the MM stage: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Harmonious-Aud ... 1438.l2649

(Anyone tried that?)

Anything else I should know or be aware of before I embark on this experiment/adventure/fool's errand?
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby Snead » 11 Dec 2017 23:01

BM, I think you're right, at the low end, there's nothing better than a 103(non-R). You can find them for as little as $175 if you shop carefully. Many good MM styli cost more than that!

If you're willing to spend double, ($375-400) an AT33ev is a nice step up. Some (including me) find no reason to go higher. Primary weakness here is it's quite smooth -- lacks a bit of dynamic fire. But nothing better for non-headbanging use.

Honorable mention to the OC9-2&3.

Really, at the primary MC level, it's tough to beat AT and Denon. So why try?
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby Boltman92124 » 12 Dec 2017 00:55

BMRR wrote:I'd like to try a moving coil cartridge for the first time. I'm considering the DL-103 for several reasons:

• It's legendary

• People love it

• Reviews suggest it has a distinct personality and character, which I guess means that it will sound different than the MM/MI/IM carts I currently own, and that would be part of the fun

• AFAIK it's the most affordable MC currently on the market

Are there others that I should be considering in the same price range? I'm not really interested in the DL-110 because most of the reviews I've read seem to indicate that it wouldn't be better enough, or different enough, compared to the better MM carts in my collection. Ditto for the Ortofon Turbos.

I would be using it with a Technics medium-mass S-shaped tonearm, and I have several heavier headshells and auxiliary weights that I can use if needed to provide a more DL-103-friendly environment.

I have a receiver that has a built-in MC stage, although I have no idea how good or bad it is. The receiver's MM stage is excellent, so I'm hoping the MC stage is at least OK, but I won't know until I try it. Alternatively I could get one of these and plug it into the MM stage: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Harmonious-Aud ... 1438.l2649

(Anyone tried that?)

Anything else I should know or be aware of before I embark on this experiment/adventure/fool's errand?


I went for one and not looking back. Even on my cheap AT 1200 clone, it is remarkable how great it sounds. Of course I had to get a MC phono section too. I also picked up a heavier headshell and needed the heavier counterweight for the arm. It is a larger cartridge. Weighs around 8G I think. Tight squeeze on regular Technics/AT headshell. The LP Gear Ultimate Headshell is a nice combo (in my profile pic). More real estate to maneuver. It is also not fussy about alignment with it's spherical tip. But there is magic in that tip for sure! I like how it comes with the hand bench measurements from Japan.Mine actually measured around 0.35 mv.
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby Legrace » 12 Dec 2017 02:09

If you can stretch a bit the Hana EL.
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby Sunwire » 12 Dec 2017 06:42

Coincidentally, I just put my DL-103 back on my tonearm after a long interlude.
I'm really enjoying it.
I drilled two holes in a penny and used it as a 3 gram headshell weight between the cartridge and headshell. This is on a Jelco SA-750E tonearm.
The penny may be overkill, but I've read so many comments recommending extra mass for this cartridge, I thought I'd give it a try.
I haven't checked it with a test record to see where the resonant frequency is, but it sounds quite good.
Imaging is very good.
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby gullkeoby » 12 Dec 2017 11:06

hana el too....similar like 103 but more open sound (very pleasant too).
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby johnnywalker » 12 Dec 2017 14:02

I would say go for it. I keep my DL-103 (and it's more expensive stable-mate the R) mounted on my SL-1800 MkII all the time, while I frequently switch cartridges on the SL-1200M3D. I use an LPGear Zupreme headshell (re-badged Jelco HS-25), which weighs about 12 grams, plus the auxiliary weight for the tonearm, and a 2 MM spacer. BTW, KAB now makes an auxiliary weight that weighs 17 grams (the stock one weighs 10 grams).

One thing you might consider in your choice, though, is that - at least in my experience - the DL-103 is not a typical MC. It sounds different from most other MCs, in that its sound is rich and full, rather than detailed and etched (although it has plenty of detail in the absolute, just not compared with, say, a DL-301 II). But an unexpected bonus of the cart is that it makes less-than-ideal records sound quite pleasant and listenable. As an example, my copy of Bill Withers' Just As I Am (bought new way back when) has always sounded rather dodgy, but the DL-103 makes it a very pleasant listen.

The DL-103 is my default cartridge for jazz recordings, especially Blue Notes. I also use it for any recording that to my ear sounds rather thin or wiry. IMO, the DL-103 (if your equipment can accommodate its special needs) is an absolute steal.
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby jusbe » 12 Dec 2017 19:30

"IMO, the DL-103 (if your equipment can accommodate its special needs) is an absolute steal."

You, sir, are absolutely right. I will always have one around. Several, in fact.
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby BMRR » 12 Dec 2017 22:49

Thank you all very, very much for your thoughts and suggestions!

johnnywalker wrote:One thing you might consider in your choice, though, is that - at least in my experience - the DL-103 is not a typical MC. It sounds different from most other MCs, in that its sound is rich and full, rather than detailed and etched (although it has plenty of detail in the absolute, just not compared with, say, a DL-301 II). But an unexpected bonus of the cart is that it makes less-than-ideal records sound quite pleasant and listenable. As an example, my copy of Bill Withers' Just As I Am (bought new way back when) has always sounded rather dodgy, but the DL-103 makes it a very pleasant listen.


Your description of the DL-103 is very similar to what I've read elsewhere, and the way you described it is precisely why it appeals to me. I currently have some extremely good MMs in my collection — AT150MLX, VM750SH, V15 III HE, M95ED SAS — and these are capable of providing an exceptionally high level of detail and intricacy. That's why I feel like I have no need at this time for the audiophile-oriented MCs. The DL-103, being a professional broadcast cart, apparently has a different character that is quite enticing. Granted, I already have several broadcast carts in my collection, including but not limited to SC35C, Stanton 500, and Stanton 680 — but what I've gathered from reading dozens of reviews and forum posts is that the DL-103 is capable of doing things that those MM/MI broadcast carts can't do, specifically in terms of resolution, transient response, space/air, and tracking.

Do you folks agree with that? Or would I not hear much of a difference compared to those MM/MI broadcast carts?

(By the way, I'm really not fond of the SC35C at all. It bores me to tears. I love the Stantons though.)
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby Boltman92124 » 12 Dec 2017 23:48

BMRR wrote:Thank you all very, very much for your thoughts and suggestions!

johnnywalker wrote:One thing you might consider in your choice, though, is that - at least in my experience - the DL-103 is not a typical MC. It sounds different from most other MCs, in that its sound is rich and full, rather than detailed and etched (although it has plenty of detail in the absolute, just not compared with, say, a DL-301 II). But an unexpected bonus of the cart is that it makes less-than-ideal records sound quite pleasant and listenable. As an example, my copy of Bill Withers' Just As I Am (bought new way back when) has always sounded rather dodgy, but the DL-103 makes it a very pleasant listen.


Your description of the DL-103 is very similar to what I've read elsewhere, and the way you described it is precisely why it appeals to me. I currently have some extremely good MMs in my collection — AT150MLX, VM750SH, V15 III HE, M95ED SAS — and these are capable of providing an exceptionally high level of detail and intricacy. That's why I feel like I have no need at this time for the audiophile-oriented MCs. The DL-103, being a professional broadcast cart, apparently has a different character that is quite enticing. Granted, I already have several broadcast carts in my collection, including but not limited to SC35C, Stanton 500, and Stanton 680 — but what I've gathered from reading dozens of reviews and forum posts is that the DL-103 is capable of doing things that those MM/MI broadcast carts can't do, specifically in terms of resolution, transient response, space/air, and tracking.

Do you folks agree with that? Or would I not hear much of a difference compared to those MM/MI broadcast carts?

(By the way, I'm really not fond of the SC35C at all. It bores me to tears. I love the Stantons though.)


Buy one now!! =D>
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby Boltman92124 » 12 Dec 2017 23:51

David Wilson (of Wilson Audio fame) uses a 103r as his reference cartridge in the manufacturing plant. Considering he makes speakers costing hundreds of thousands of $$, that is a pretty nice referral!
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby johnnywalker » 13 Dec 2017 03:25

Granted, I already have several broadcast carts in my collection, including but not limited to SC35C, Stanton 500, and Stanton 680 — but what I've gathered from reading dozens of reviews and forum posts is that the DL-103 is capable of doing things that those MM/MI broadcast carts can't do, specifically in terms of resolution, transient response, space/air, and tracking.

Do you folks agree with that? Or would I not hear much of a difference compared to those MM/MI broadcast carts?


I am not familiar with the Stantons, but I also have the SC35C. I've tried it with the stock stylus and with an N35X. I got it thinking I might be finding a DL-103 with a replaceable stylus, but alas, not to be. There is a mile of difference in them, for the reasons you mention - there is just no comparison, in my opinion. The SC35C sits in my drawer.

Since you are seeking a richer sound than the excellent MMs in your stable, I can offer a simile. Some would see it as being politically incorrect, and I apologize in advance if this offends anyone, but . . . most MCs (and the MMs you mentioned) are like Brigitte Bardot, but the DL-103 is like Sophia Loren.
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby Sunwire » 13 Dec 2017 03:38

I also found the SC35 to be boring.
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby Snead » 13 Dec 2017 04:19

I kept my SC35 for two days. And yes, the 103 does sound different than other DJ carts. For one thing its distortions are 20db lower than even the best MMs.
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Re: First MC cartridge — DL-103, or something else?

Postby Sunwire » 13 Dec 2017 17:33

What makes you say: "its distortions are 20db lower than even the best MMs"?
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