Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

the thin end of the wedge
feldman
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Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by feldman » 12 May 2019 05:15

I've decided to upgrade my beloved Denon DL-103 and ordered this refurbished DL-103 with re-tipped stylus: https://www.ebay.ca/itm/392266858460

After installing it earlier today, I say down in excitement, expecting to be blown away by the improved sound. My heart sank when I realized that the elliptical stylus is giving me stiff, timid, claustrophobic sound. The exact opposite of what I'm getting from my vaniall comical stylus DL-103.

So what gives? Does the re-tipped cart needs additional break-in? Or is the DL-103 magic really down to the legendary high quality comical stylus?

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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by balky » 12 May 2019 06:17

Must be a really bad re-tip job... is it just the conical tip that was replaced, or was it grafted with another cantilever + tip?

The original Denon conical tip will be superior in sound quality to "almost" any average elliptical tip you can find around, so you can expect the Denon "charm" to be gone.

abs1
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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by abs1 » 12 May 2019 16:29

This is what I worry about.

I own and enjoy several 103 cartridges. None have been retipped. When the time comes to consider having a retip done to any of them my goal would be not to change the basic characteristics of the 103 sound, just to maybe "improve" upon it, even if just a little bit.

I thought that perhaps a high quality elliptical jewel mounted on my stock aluminum cantilever might give me what I'm looking for but now I begin to wonder. I really don't desire a grafted cantilever of any sort, nor do I need (or want) an exotic stylus shape of any kind.

Do any of the retippers out there offer the kind of service that I'm looking for (a high quality elliptical mounted on my factory 103 cantilever) or will I be better off just replacing my worn 103's with a complete new cartridge?

I don't mind replacing a standard 103 or 103r considering the relatively low prices, but it hurts a bit when I consider my Zu Audio DL-103 SeriesII grade2.

Please keep us appraised of your situation with the new retip.

Cheers,
Al

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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by patient_ot » 12 May 2019 20:03

Did you try contacting the seller? Besides the retip the sellers says they increased the mass of the cartridge. The latter can certainly affect performance if doing something like that is a bad match for your tonearm.

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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by Bob Dillon » 12 May 2019 20:25

patient_ot wrote:
12 May 2019 20:03
Did you try contacting the seller? Besides the retip the sellers says they increased the mass of the cartridge. The latter can certainly affect performance if doing something like that is a bad match for your tonearm.
The Denon 103 cart the thread starter had refurbished with the ellip, I purchased direct. It comes with a metal plate bolted to the top for added mass. I like the cart better without the plate. I don't think it sounds at all timid. With the plate I did think the cart sounded more congested and grainy, at that I was also intially somewhat let down. The plate is a bit of a PITA to get off though. With the .2 x .7 elliptical it also needs to be aligned very carefully. I like the ellip 103 now, quite a bit.
Last edited by Bob Dillon on 12 May 2019 20:38, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by Geof777 » 12 May 2019 20:36

Way back 'in the day' I had a Denon DP2500 TT with a Denon DL 103S cart on it - this was lovely - we also had 103D in the shop I worked it which was also very good. The basic 103 did have a certqin something but I rejected it at the time as I preferred the S (eliptical, but a Denon one!) The orig 103 changed noticably as it approached the centre of the record - it had less top end - but still had 'The Sound' The 103 D was supposed to be superior and was very detailed and musical - but could sound a tad chesty and grainy at times. For me the 103S was my favourite.

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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by blakep » 13 May 2019 01:06

Bob Dillon wrote:
12 May 2019 20:25
With the .2 x .7 elliptical it also needs to be aligned very carefully. I like the ellip 103 now, quite a bit.
I used modified Denon 103R's with line contact styli (and different bodies) for about 5 years or 6,000 hours before moving on to other cartridges.

I will defer to Bob D with respect to the plate on the versions both of you have and would certainly agree that the elliptical will be much more demanding in terms of setup than the conical. You will probably need to reduce VTF slightly (by .1-.2 grams), reduce anti-skating, and also spend a lot more time with alignment and VTA/SRA and azimuth than you would with the conical. All of these settings will be different in terms of obtaining top sound quality than they would be with the conical.

And the re-tipped cartridge will likely start to sound better and open up after about 15-20 hours have been put on it as well.

But (for the OP) focus mainly on your set up. The Denon conical, as good as it is, is a source of weakness, not magic. If you're having problems, they are most likely related to poor set up.

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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by Bob Dillon » 13 May 2019 01:28

I'm running the ellip 103 (sans plate) at 2.75 grams, which is maybe a little heavy for the fact that's it's ellip, not great for record wear, but I'm only using it on and off. Sometimes, I've been pretty gobsmacked by how good it's sounded with some records. No regrets about the purchase at all. And if you get the setup right, it gets through the inner grooves like a champ.

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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by feldman » 13 May 2019 06:33

The seller replied to my inquiries and mentioned that the cartridge needs 20 to 35 hours of break-in time.

I find the sound of this cartridge not satisfactory, not by any stretch. There is a vast, almost unbelievable difference in how this cartridge sounds compared side-by-side with my vanilla DL-103. It is almost unfathomable how can two Denon DL-103 cartridges sound so much apart. The original DL-103 with conical stylus sounds excessively luxurious, incredibly sweet, liquid and effortless (sounds better than any cartridge I've ever heard in my life, actually). The refurbished and re-tipped one sounds tedious, straining, almost as bad as a CD playback. There aren't the slightest traces of any sweetness, effortlessness or liquid character found in the spherical DL-103. In other words, any, even the slightest traces of that elusive DL-103 magic is completely missing.

I took painstaking precautions to set the new cart with re-tipped elliptical stylus on my Jelco SA-750 10 inch tonearm. I know that elliptical styli need more careful setup. I kept experimenting with VTF and VTA all day long today, to no noticeable avail. The sound remained boomy, stiff, strenuous, the soundstage claustrophobic, the highs sound like the highs sound during digital playback. In contrast, the highs from the original DL-103 sound mellow, lush, sweet, and pleasant to the ear regardless of how much I crank up the volume.

One of the reasons I've ordered this refurbished cart was that it came with the attached spacer (amounting to 12.5 grams with the cartridge), which I thought was supposed to improve the sound. But I'm getting the opposite results (i.e. bad, unlistenable sound quality).

I guess the only thing left to do is to put some more hours on the cart to see if its stiff demeanour will relax a bit...

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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by feldman » 13 May 2019 06:39

Bob Dillon wrote:
12 May 2019 20:25
The Denon 103 cart the thread starter had refurbished with the ellip, I purchased direct. It comes with a metal plate bolted to the top for added mass. I like the cart better without the plate. I don't think it sounds at all timid. With the plate I did think the cart sounded more congested and grainy, at that I was also intially somewhat let down. The plate is a bit of a PITA to get off though. With the .2 x .7 elliptical it also needs to be aligned very carefully. I like the ellip 103 now, quite a bit.
It was somewhere around its third-fourth hour of break-in that this cartridge stopped sounding timid. It opened up a bit, and the sound became bold, brash, pushy. But the character of the sound remains stiff, harsh, lacking mellowness, softness, sweetness and liquidity that my original DL-103 has in spades.

I played with VTF and VTA a lot, to no avail. This cart on my Jelco SA-750 10 inch arm does not sound good.

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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by abs1 » 13 May 2019 15:32

Advise the re-tipper as to what's going on, give it 35 hrs. of break in, then if it still disappoints you send it back to the seller. See if he'll send you a replacement or just refund your money.

No matter what, please post to let us know how it's working out.

Cheers,
Al

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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by Bob Dillon » 13 May 2019 20:21

I don't think I've even reached 20-35 hours with mine yet, as I posted, I've been using it sporadically. If it does start sounding better with run in, I'll be a happy camper. I think it has a hint of softeness, a rounded kind of quality to the sound, but too much of that wouldn't be to my taste, personally. I'm probably not loading it optimally through the Puffin phono stage, which has limited options for MC loading. Parks Audio recommends the 200 ohm setting for the 103.

feldman
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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by feldman » 13 May 2019 23:23

Bob Dillon wrote:
13 May 2019 20:21
I don't think I've even reached 20-35 hours with mine yet, as I posted, I've been using it sporadically. If it does start sounding better with run in, I'll be a happy camper. I think it has a hint of softeness, a rounded kind of quality to the sound, but too much of that wouldn't be to my taste, personally. I'm probably not loading it optimally through the Puffin phono stage, which has limited options for MC loading. Parks Audio recommends the 200 ohm setting for the 103.
After a lot of fiddling, I finally settled on 250 ohms for my Denon DL-103. Which probably indicates that the cart output is around 0.25 mV (rule of thumb is output times 1000).

At 250 ohms, the cart sings. Any other load makes it loose its charm. That is into MC stage of iFi Micro iPhono 2.

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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by jagermonster » 14 May 2019 01:06

my 103 is loaded at 200ohm. what is the effect, generally speaking, or increasing the load rating? I have 400 and 1000 ohm resistors laying around...

feldman
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Re: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding very disappointing

Post by feldman » 14 May 2019 02:48

jagermonster wrote:
14 May 2019 01:06
my 103 is loaded at 200ohm. what is the effect, generally speaking, or increasing the load rating? I have 400 and 1000 ohm resistors laying around...
In my experience, increasing the load to 1,000 ohms results in the sound that is very strident, almost unbearable. On the other hand, lowering to 100 ohms produces wimpy, lethargic sound.

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