Denon DL103 Version Opinions

the thin end of the wedge
farmstar72
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Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by farmstar72 » 12 Dec 2018 17:05

If one were to purchase any variant of the Denon DL103 with the intention of putting it in a new body (wood, aluminum, whatever) AND with a willingness to have it re-tipped by Soundsmith or the likes - What would be the best version to start with?

Secondly, what would be the best ending configuration ? E.G. {DL-103R in a Paradox body with a Soundsmith Boron Cantilever with Nude Contact Line retip.}

I get it about the word "Best" - I'm just looking for thoughts, opinions and personal experiences.
I'm looking for

Thanks,
Scott

nat
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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by nat » 13 Dec 2018 00:47

Weird - you want to buy a cartridge and then change it completely. The 103 is a very nice cartridge, but there are better cartridges for more (often much more) money. You will be spending much more money to get it rebodied and retipped, but why not get a better cartridge right off the bat?

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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by BMRR » 13 Dec 2018 01:09

For me, the main appeal of the DL-103 and DL-103R are how they sound with their stock cantilever and diamond. They've got a big, rich, liquidy sound that in my opinion is very unique and a huge part of the DL-103's charm. Technically it could sound "better" with a more sophisticated diamond, but then it wouldn't sound like a DL-103 anymore.

Having said that... if I wanted to put an elliptical or line contact diamond on a DL-103, I'd be most inclined to choose a DL-103S or DL-103D, since these two variants were both originally equipped with elliptical diamonds and are designed for elliptical-friendly tracking forces (1.8g for the 103S, 1.5g for the 103D).

addicted-to-analog
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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by addicted-to-analog » 13 Dec 2018 01:56

BMRR wrote:
13 Dec 2018 01:09
For me, the main appeal of the DL-103 and DL-103R are how they sound with their stock cantilever and diamond. They've got a big, rich, liquidy sound that in my opinion is very unique and a huge part of the DL-103's charm. Technically it could sound "better" with a more sophisticated diamond, but then it wouldn't sound like a DL-103 anymore.

Having said that... if I wanted to put an elliptical or line contact diamond on a DL-103, I'd be most inclined to choose a DL-103S or DL-103D, since these two variants were both originally equipped with elliptical diamonds and are designed for elliptical-friendly tracking forces (1.8g for the 103S, 1.5g for the 103D).
Fully agree - the stock DL103 is my "go to" cartridge. IMHO one of the most beautifully polished styli ever made.

I also have the 103S and 103D and agree that they would best adapt to a line contact or elliptical stylus.

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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by farmstar72 » 13 Dec 2018 14:51

Weird - you want to buy a cartridge and then change it completely. The 103 is a very nice cartridge, but there are better cartridges for more (often much more) money. You will be spending much more money to get it rebodied and retipped, but why not get a better cartridge right off the bat?
The question was not intended to be a philosophical one : I do however agree with your point. The plan isn't to buy a new cartridge just to modify. My plan is to have a couple 103 variants in my stable and switch back and forth for comparison or if one needs re-tipping. If I were to retip a 103, it would be very difficult to resist the urge to "upgrade" the cantilever and stylus. Even the basic re tip by Soundsmith is a least different if not an upgrade (elliptical vs stock conical).
I currently have 2 stock 103's that both need re-tipping and a Zu-103 in service. I'm not sure the 2 broken cartridges are worth re-tipping for $200 unless that would get me something *better* than a brand new one, stock for $300 or less.
So, the point of my question is, if I were committed to the 103 family, and wanted to add to my stable something worth re-tipping as needed - what would be the best model to start with.

farmstar72
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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by farmstar72 » 13 Dec 2018 14:52

Having said that... if I wanted to put an elliptical or line contact diamond on a DL-103, I'd be most inclined to choose a DL-103S or DL-103D, since these two variants were both originally equipped with elliptical diamonds and are designed for elliptical-friendly tracking forces (1.8g for the 103S, 1.5g for the 103D).
Thanks, this is the kind of info I'm interested in. Difference in the cartidges that are baked into the motor and CAN'T be upgraded or changed with a retip or re-body.
I have a Stax UA-7 tonearm; My plan is to have a few cartridges mounted to headshells and ready for action with the least amount of fiddling with the rest of the chain.

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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by 33na3rd » 13 Dec 2018 16:03

I realize that this doesn't address your question about styli & cantilevers, but I'm considering getting one of the reusable aluminum DL-103 body caps from Canada. Users claim that it gets you to 80% of the performance of the different aluminum bodies without the cost and hassle of "nuding" the cartridge.

https://www.denonaluminumbody.com

I have a Zu DL-103 with a lot of hours on it. I've considered having it re-tipped, but haven't done it yet. I can tell you that the "basic" ellipticals that I have gotten from Sound-Smith for my Grace F-9 are very nice. I can only imagine what their more advanced profiles and cantilevers are like.

farmstar72
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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by farmstar72 » 13 Dec 2018 16:11

Hi 33,
That body does looks interesting, and I too like that you don't need to nude your cartridge to use it. The thing I don't like about it is that it still requires you to fiddle with the nuts underneath. One nice feature of the Zu and others is the addition of a threaded body.

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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by golgi » 13 Dec 2018 20:47

Here is another opinion for you to consider.

My path to where I'm at with my cartridges started with several Denon cartridges over the past decade. Starting with the DL160 and DL110, and then to the DL301MK2, and then finally the DL103R. The DL103R in stock form was fantastic. Unfortunately, after about a couple months of owning it, I broke the cantilever! So, I ordered another DL103R and had it potted into a Paradox Pulse body. That was a significant upgrade over a stock DL103R. I was honestly very satisfied with the results but I always had a nagging feeling about what a retip could do for even further improvements. So, I sent my older Dl103R with the broken cantilever for potting into a Paradox Pulse Guard body and then to phonocartridgeretipping.com for their sapphire cantilever with micro ridge stylus.

I now have many hours of use on the aluminum rebodied and retipped Dl103R.

Before I went this route, I read a lot online about others thoughts on these mods. It seems a lot of people initially worry about losing the original cartridge magic with the mods. But most are pleased afterwards. Here is what I can say with my experience. With the mods, good aspects of the original Dl103R have remained (balanced and cohesive sound and a bit of drama/magic to the overall sound). The little bit of unrefined midrange and graininess is gone. I'm getting a whole lot more information coming through about the reverbs in the recording venues and really throughout the entire frequency range. I'm truly rediscovering my music collection with all sorts of details that I've never heard before in very familiar recordings! Some of my audiophile 45rpm jazz titles such as Mingus: Ah Um, Miles Davis: Kind of Blue, Duke Ellington: Blues in Orbit are absolutely astounding! I've never heard these recordings this way before. The realism and depth have really amazed me. Another very familiar album to me since my teenage years is Iron Maiden:Live After Death, which as the name implies, is a live recording. I couldn't believe the details I've never heard before in this. I have had this album in many formats over the past 30 years and heard it on several different systems. What I can hear now with my modded cartridge is places where I thought there was just one person doing vocals, I can now hear there was a bit of backup. Where I thought a guitar was played in one way reveals the nuanced detail of the personality the guitarist put in. And then there is the acoustics associated with the crowd sounds and all the details contained in there. But what's even more amazing is that all this is there without feeling forced in any way. The overall sound is never in my face with detail and I can just sit back and take it all in.


To summarize, I would highly recommend going this route! Once you hear the modded cartridge, the stock one will be dead to you!

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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by Boltman92124 » 13 Dec 2018 21:22

addicted-to-analog wrote:
13 Dec 2018 01:56
BMRR wrote:
13 Dec 2018 01:09
For me, the main appeal of the DL-103 and DL-103R are how they sound with their stock cantilever and diamond. They've got a big, rich, liquidy sound that in my opinion is very unique and a huge part of the DL-103's charm. Technically it could sound "better" with a more sophisticated diamond, but then it wouldn't sound like a DL-103 anymore.

Having said that... if I wanted to put an elliptical or line contact diamond on a DL-103, I'd be most inclined to choose a DL-103S or DL-103D, since these two variants were both originally equipped with elliptical diamonds and are designed for elliptical-friendly tracking forces (1.8g for the 103S, 1.5g for the 103D).
Fully agree - the stock DL103 is my "go to" cartridge. IMHO one of the most beautifully polished styli ever made.

I also have the 103S and 103D and agree that they would best adapt to a line contact or elliptical stylus.
Nothing sounds like a 103. Even just dropping into the lead groove, you can hear the difference between the 103 and all of my $100 ish range carts.

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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by Boltman92124 » 13 Dec 2018 21:24

The Zu DL103 was critically acclaimed and started at $500. I think they sold out of all versions right now though.
https://www.zuaudio.com/turntable/zudl-103

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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by 2002afan » 14 Dec 2018 18:44

Just got a 103R, can't wait to hear it. :D Waiting on some non-magnetic brass screws to arrive. The aluminum (non-magnetic :roll: ) ones that I have were still able to be picked up every so slightly by my auto mechanic bolt retriever magnet. Didn't want to take any chances.
Initially, I will be using it on my Technics SL-1300 (with a 15 gram +or- head-shell including wires and screws) thru a recently acquired Creek OBH-9 MC phono pre attached to an a ADCOM GFP-715 pre's aux. jack. Looking to get a LUXMAN C-02 pre to match with my M-02 power amp sooner than later to provide more MC impedance settings.
Will give an update soon.

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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by Boltman92124 » 14 Dec 2018 19:03

2002afan wrote:
14 Dec 2018 18:44
Just got a 103R, can't wait to hear it. :D Waiting on some non-magnetic brass screws to arrive. The aluminum (non-magnetic :roll: ) ones that I have were still able to be picked up every so slightly by my auto mechanic bolt retriever magnet. Didn't want to take any chances.
Initially, I will be using it on my Technics SL-1300 (with a 15 gram +or- head-shell including wires and screws) thru a recently acquired Creek OBH-9 MC phono pre attached to an a ADCOM GFP-715 pre's aux. jack. Looking to get a LUXMAN C-02 pre to match with my M-02 power amp sooner than later to provide more MC impedance settings.
Will give an update soon.
Nice. Stay away from those 3g metal spacers too. The black ones. They attract to my 103.

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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by 2002afan » 15 Dec 2018 01:38

Update, Got the brass screws today. Must be using a super power-full magnet to test. Picked up the brass bolts a little quicker than the aluminum ones that I had. :cry: No ill effects so far. Boltman, Thanks for the advice on the black 3G spacers.
Easy set up (used Lofgren B) and install. I'm also using a level on top of the head-shell for proper VTA. Had to install the original rubber mat under my cork mat with the heavier head shell to get it level. =D> Man this cartridge rides low to the surface. I'll try it with some nylon screws at some point to eliminate some weight.
Now, for the great news. First listened to a live Wes Montgomery concert in my listening area. Now I have Kenny G warming up. What a nice sounding cartridge. Can't wait till this things really breaks in. I was skeptical of the Creek but it matches well with the ADCOM. The Luxman and the Totem Dreamcatchers are icing on the cake.
I bought this cartridge on the recommendations of VE members. I strongly concur, that this a very sweet sounding cartridge. :mrgreen:
Cheers,
WillO

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Re: Denon DL103 Version Opinions

Post by EdAInWestOC » 15 Dec 2018 03:56

When choosing a 103 model it is more a choice of what tonearm you will be using it on.

The standard 103 and most of the 103 models are low compliance cartridges spec'd at 5 x 10-6 cm/Dyne lateral dynamic compliance. That figure is relative to 100Hz so the actual compliance at 10Hz, which is the figure you want to consider, will be higher. The compliance would be around 8-9 x 10-6 cm/Dyne at 10Hz.

That is still a bit low, so you need to pair most Denon 103 models with a tonearm with an effective mass of 12 gm or higher. If you want a Denon DL-103 model with higher compliance your choices are the 103S, 103D and 103M.

The 103S has a lateral dynamic compliance of 8 x 10-6 cm/Dyne at 100Hz. The 103D had a lateral dynamic compliance of 12 x 10-6 cm/Dyne at 100Hz and the 103M has a lateral dynamic compliance of 13 x 10-6 cm/Dyne at 100Hz.

The 103S has a mass of 7.8gm and the 103D has a mass of 7.5 grams. The 103M is a lighter cartridge with a mass of 5.6 grams. The 103S and 103D have similar output voltages (103S - 0.3mv and 103D - 0.25mv) but the 103M is a very low output MC cartridge with an output of 0.12mv.

Both the 103S and 103D are good choices if you intend to retip them. They share the same 103 family sound that is transformed with a better cantilever and stylus. A stock 103S has an aluminum pipe cantilever and a "Special Elliptical" stylus and the 103D is spec'd with a tapered aluminum pipe and "Special Elliptical" stylus.

When it comes to retipping and changing a body on a 103 model, the 103D is the best of the breed due to its medium compliance and 0.25mv output. The 103M is the strange bird of the 103 family. It comes with a boron cantilever and 0.07 X 0.14 "Special Elliptical" stylus, plus a metal body.

When Denon states "Special Elliptical" you end up getting something like a hyper elliptical stylus but Denon isn't specific about what stylus you will get.

The 103D checks in with excellent compatibility with a wider range of tonearms, plus it has a slightly better frequency response 20Hz-65kHz and the suggested VTF is 1.3-1.7 grams. The 103D is a very good cartridge without changes but adding a better cantilever and stylus raises the performance to a much higher level. A body change adds some advantages but nothing like the cantilever and stylus upgrade.

I lived with a 103D for over 30 years and have had one retipped with many different combinations of cantilever and styli. IMO a boron cantilever and line contact type stylus is the best way to get that cartridge to perform. I still own a 103D with a ruby cantilever and optimized contact line stylus plus a I have a 103R with boron cantilever and contact line stylus. I also have a stock 103D for future purposes and a stock 103M.

All of the 103's, with the exception of the 103M, are excellent choices for retipping and possibly a body upgrade. The 103M poses a problem unless you have a very good phono preamp and/or stepup transformer. The 103D and 103S opens up your choices for a good arm match. If you have a tonearm with an effective mass of at least 12 grams you can use any of the 103 models but the models with 5 x 10-6 cm/Dyne lateral dynamic compliance perform best with tonearms with higher effective mass.

Some people worry about maintaining the sound of the cartridge but, in my experience, and I have 30 years of working with 103s, the 103 is not a cartridge you have to worry about ruining with a wrong retip choice. A good quality retip just improves any 103 while maintaining the midrange magic these cartridges are loved for.

If someone has problems with a retip on one of these cartridge they are likely missing a problem elsewhere in their system. They have been the darling of the retippers for a lot of years now due to the success you get from having them retipped. The 103 engine does not have a bad high frequency rise like some cartridges do, so you need not worry about a wrong choice.

The choice for retipping is just how much can you afford and what your particular preferences are. Other than that its a great cartridge to live with.

Ed

PS. The reason most people choose a DL-103 or 103R is due to availability. The 103S was discontinued long ago and replaced in the Denon lineup by the 103D. The 103D was discontinued over 20 years ago and the 103M was only available in small quantities. You might find a 103D if you don't mind waiting and you get lucky enough to find a used one in good shape.

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