Regards, and enjoy,
I could not agree more with your assessment of the 103R. Mine came in the form of a Zu Audio top-tier rated cartridge, which I sent to ESCCO in London, and had their white sapphire cantilever/Paratrace stylus modification. It would be interesting to listen to the two carts in a comparison, it would be a fine listening session in any case.
Regards, and enjoy,
May i ask why should anyone rebuild cheap Denon 103 Cartridge for as much as 800 Euro if many better cartridges available for the same price?
Where is the common sense here? Just curious.
The price for rebuild + the cost of the Denon itself is the price for the brand new Art-9 for example or equal to the price of many used cartridges that comes with advanced cantilevers (hollow pipe boron, beryllium, gold-plated boron etc) and advanced styli from the start (microline, micro ridge, frits gyger, stereohedron, paroc etc). All those are factory made and installed by the manufacturer, not a third party.
@islandmandan Dan, i have no idea why people buyin’ cartridge with spherical tip to invest 800 Euro more in upgrade for a better cantilever and better stylus etc, when decent cartridges available for the same amount of money (like the new ART-9 for example). Even 350 Euro + $250-300 (the cost of the original Denon) is enough for a perfect cartridge with best cantilever/stylus combo.
Everyone if free to "upgrade" whatever cartridge for whatever price, but why not just start with a better cartridge instead of the Denon 103 or 103R? What is the advantages of the 103 generator compared to other LOMC ? It’s conventional design, nothing special. I’m sure the upgraded version is much better, because the spherical tip is oldschool from the late 60s. But so many amazing cartridges were made in the 70s, 80s (includind much better models from Denon), even today’s carts like ART-7 or ART-9 are reasonably priced. Why low compliance Denon 103 ($250) + 800 Euro ? Just for fun?
the other poster is trying to hijack my thread. He has some sick fascination with my posts and follows me and always tries to hijack my threads. His questions are not sincere, they are a ploy to divert the intentions of my posts. I’ve lodged a complaint against him with Audiogon. Just an FYI.
I now have about 45 hours on the 103.3 and it has opened up quite a bit. One of the main differences I hear between the 103.3 and the stock 103r are primarily in the high frequencies with the 103.3 playing far freer and possessing a much more open top end. It actually makes my stock 103r sound muted or overly damped. The other big difference is in the area of intelligibility. The 103.3 sales through complex passages of music whereas the 103r can sound confused, especially if the complex riff contains a good deal of high frequency content such as flute.
I did compare it to my MC Anna. Well, even I was shocked at the result. As good as the 103.3 is, $9K does buy you something and in this case the Anna serves up a plethora of information and spatial cueing that the 103.3 simply can not duplicate (nor would I expect it to do so). I did note that where the 103r was sompletely missing the spatial cues the Anna so easily brought forth the 103.3 DID hint at them. The 103.3 does give you a small taste of that information. I am assuming this is due to the micro-ridge stylus vs the old style conical stylus of the 103r.
I still use my 103r for my less than pristine albums as it plays them well do to the stylus not being able to go as deep into the groove.
The London on jazz is just simply breathtaking. One of my female acquaintances asked me just last evening what makes the London sound so real :)
I was going to run 3 arms across my two tables as I was about have the Kuzma Air Line installed on my SP10Mk3 along with the 4 Point. Due to my being spoiled by the absolute supreme usablity of the arm on my SL-1200 GAE I changeed my mind on the Air Line. I want to be able to change headshells, VTA, VTF just as easily as I can with the GAE. I found and purchased a mint Technics EPA 100 mk2, so I will see how that goes. If that works out I will be happy with my SP10 MK3 and the two arms.
@chakster It's typical audiophile human nature. Not being able to afford or not willing to spend a lot of money. Read countless meaningless forum posts. Convince oneself that one is getting a giant killer for a fraction of the cost. Realization hits that the product is junk and one gets what they paid for. Spend additional money to make it acceptable. Which is now still not as good as if the same amount was spent originally on a better product. Rinse and repeat.
You are most welcome. I would say yes to your question. One of my buddies loaned me his Kiseki Purple Heart for a coulpe of weeks and I liked it very much. It is a more refined device than a stock 103/103r but I believe I would prefer my 103.3 over the Kiseki. Not taking anything away from the beautiful sounding Kiseki, its just that the 103.3 maintains all the verve and the fun factor the 103 is known for while retrieving more information (than the stock 103r) and top end air. It is a far more refined beast than a stock 103r.
I am using this with my SPL Phonos. One of the reasons I love that phono stage so much is well, it sounds incredible and it has front controls. So I just flip a switch and set it to 330pf/10k ohms and my London Ref is playing like a live jazz set is in my listening room :)
I use my AMR PH77 exclusively for my MC Anna.
Obviously at that price point you have a great number of options. Chris Thornton of Artisan Fidelity has told me that the Dynavector 17D3 Karat is a great sounding cartridge at a price point lower than what you mentioned. I may pick one up to for fun as I obviously trust his ears. He built my SP10 Mk3 and I have been to his place many times, so I know the quality of sound to which he is accustomed.
You guys are so blowing this out of proportion. 103.3 is an entry level low fi MC cartridge. It's not even a good option in the $400 range, yet alone $2000.
For one, OC9/II is in another Universe better for a cheaper end MC.
But as been mentioned before, ART9, 2M Black, van den Hul, Quintet Black, AT VM760SLC, etc.
$2000 can buy just about any state of the art cartridge, MM or MC. Forget that Denon.
Have you purchased the 103.3?
The CTO (Itani-San) of Technics liked it so much on the new SL-1000R playback system that he ordered a 103.3 for himself.
Its much much better than mid-fi.
I am not blowing anything out proportion, I own it. I own a London Ref and a MC Anna along with a stock 103r and a R2R with safety masters. I know what hi-end sounds like. I also know what middle of the road sounds like, the 103.3 is definately NOT middle of the road.
I am qualified to give my opionion.
According this logic any CHEAP plastic MC cartridge can be refurbished by someone at the garage with aftermarket parts, pretended to beat sonically some amazing cartridges made by respected companies and their very well educated engineers or by the legendary cartridge designers. The answer is always DENON 103 and additional 800 Euro on top to rebuild it? BTW i didn’t get how the cost of Denon and the cost of rebuild became $2000, but anyway i just don’t understand the logic.
First i don’t understand why it must be a DENON MC generator? This is the best generator in the world? The low compliace cartridges rules?
Second i don’t understand why the cantilevers from Namiki or Ogura are the best if they are not made for specific cartridge designer exclusively. Every retipper can buy them to rebuild any broken cartridge.
The difference is that for a big companies or well know cartridge designers those cantilevers/styli are made exclussively and they are different.
And i think it’s been said many times that some of the very best materials are not available anymore for anyone in the world, but still available with an old cartridges from the 70s/80s and that’s why they are superior to many new cartridges (imo).
For $2k i would buy some of the legendary carts from the 70s/80s, this is the price to find them NOS, even some extremely rare can be purchaced for this price. The cantilevers can be hollow pipe boron, beryllium, or even diamond for this price. Or maybe cantilever-less like Ikeda carts.
As for the low compliance new design the Miyajima Kansui is very close to this price tag.
For those of you who wanted to know how good the 103.3 is, I hope my first hand review (you know, from someone who has actually broken it in and listened to the item) was beneficial. It is a wonderful product and they do much more than just cantilever/tip/body change. They are the ONLY firm to correct the SRA for the more modern diamond installed.
If you try this wonderful cartridge I think you will be very very pleased indeed. I can answer direct questions for people really interested in the cartridge, other than that I'm dropping off.
As far as i know Francois was and still is a dealer of Thomas Schick tonearms and some other high-end stuff. Thomas Schick is a DIYer, who started "hot rodding" low compliance cartridges like Denon, EMT, SPU with passion for Cala Mighly Sound (later renamed to Anna Mighly Sound). Francois always praised T.Schick for his works.
I can be wrong, but i think it's Thomas Schick who's still refurbishing cartridges for Anna Mighty Sound. Correct me if i'm wrong.
I do not usually post on forums anymore as I am a professional and I do not want to tamper with end-users, but I feel that some of the questions raised here need some answers.
Thomas Schick did provided services for our company in the past. It is not the case anymore. We have now a team of engineers working around the repair / tuning / transformation and building of our own cartridges. We are still Thomas Schick dealer / distributor in France and we do still appreciate his works.
Our team is composed of broadcast engineers with our lead engineer having more than 40 years in broadcast and hifi cartridges repairs allowing us to have access to a wide variety of technics and the experience of repair ing ancient broadcast cartridges like Neumann DST but also the latest cartridges. We also have some tools and batches of original parts coming from main original European brands, Japanese parts as well as a selection of coil wires of different periods in order to use parts that are of the same quality and aging as original. We are also able to rebuild coils either by machines or on our high end models with a 100% hand winding process.
Just a few factual remarks on what was previously said :
- the compliance of the original Denon DL-103 103 is of 5.10^-6/dyne in static but we measure our on all of our La103 range of cartridges rebuilt at 12.10^-6 in dynamic… making it a medium compliance cartridge. But please check out the dynamic compliance of a standard Denon DL-103 (and it’s original tracking ability) : you might be very surprised.
- we do not just "glue in a cantilever" to realize our La103 range (or any of our repair works). And we have access to a wide variety of "standard" cantilevers and diamond tips, like most builders and rebuiders of cartridges. We also still have to follow vinyl engraving norms and much more... as other builders also have to do in order to provide a mechanically coherent phono cartridge. One thing we can tell you is that we do ask for specially tight tolerances on our batch of parts and that we do have some additional processes after receiving them (surface high polish is one of them).
- Installing a new cantilever/diamond tip is not enough to repair a cartridge. Even if it is the same exact models as original. A cartridge is affected by time and playback conditions. Dampers alter with time, fixation screws get loose, piano wire tension alters, coils can move on the coil former or even the coil varnish can migrate over time, magnetic flux can also alter (especially with AlNiCo magnet). We cannot repair every cartridges for instance we will never add additional mass on the moving assembly of a cartridge which means that we are never going to add a tube on the remaining part of the cantilever holder (or cantilever itself) in order to install a new cantilever. What we do is remove/drill out the remaining cantilever parts from the original cantilever shaft in order to adapt a brand new cantilever of the same exact diameter to the original one. Not a so simple process.
- In addition to installing a brand new cantilever in the original cantilever shaft with aim to keep the same or if possible even smaller moving effective mass of the coil former/coil/cantilever/diamond tip assembly. If it is not possible : we will rebuild completely the cartridge with a new coil former, etc... or simply refuse to perform the repair as we will not be able to provide repair specifications and rebuild that will suit our standards.
But back to our La103 range, we also perform different operations, of which I will name only a few :
- Coil re-adjustements and optimal centering of dampers + piano wire tension ajustements to optimize mechanical response (tracking, bandwidth, and enhancement of the position of the coil former in a as close to ideal position in the magnetic flux). For this we use technical procedures and measure instruments.
- Fine tuning each of our work by adjusting the setting of the cartridge in order to get get the overall best sound performance possible combined with best tracking measurements. This is absolutely crucial for us. Keep in mind that from our our La103 .deux range and above : effective tracking measured is of a minimum of 80micron at 315/Hz in both lateral and vertical.
As a reminder the Denon DL-103 is/was a broadcast cartridge that was indeed built for the first time more than 50 years ago, it might sound archaic for some of you but they do have something special that makes them not only an iconic item but also a standard cartridge in order to evaluate a system. Modifications on the 103 has been going on since the beginning of the cartridge production and... never stopped. I had, we had quite a few of thee iterations around the 103 and from these experiences we developed our own version.
I hope these few lines will have answered some of the question raised in this thread. I do realize that this post has some commercial content and intent and this is why (I repeat myself) I try to avoid answering on forums.
François Saint-Gérand - Ana Mighty Sound
@francoissg Nice to hear from you, Francois. Thanks for detailed answer. It's always importasnt to get the info directly from the manufacturers and you're not alone here (Lyra and Atmasphere manufacturers are always helpful on our forum and it's great), so don't hesitate to post.
I memeber another retipper who praised oldschool cartridge after rebuild, that was Northwest Analogue and the cartridge was a refurbished Goldring G800, classic British MM design. Many happy owners on audiogon compared refurbished Goldring G800 to some very best carts. What is questinable is the total cost of that work/investment compared to the price of the better carts available.
Obviously YMMV, but I auditioned (all at the same time) the ARC Ref 3, Sim Audio 610P or 810P (don’t recall exactly which Sim unit it was, I know it costs about $8K), the Pass Labs XP25. There were a few other lesser priced units I also auditioned.
I probably liked the Pass the least as I found it thin sounding but airy and ethereal. It just had no substantative presence with the music. I also noted that it seemed to pick up more ticks and pops than the others. I think this can be a sign of high negative feedback BUT not necessarily. Nothing wrong with feedback, I am just saying I heard more ticks and pops on the same vinyl with the Pass.
I did not care for the ARC, I found it overly (artificially) warm and soft sounding. The music also had a quality of sounding like it was not riding on a firm foundation. I also found the prat to be wanting to my ears. I could not get an identifiable rhythmic flow out of the phonostage.
I did like some of the things the Sim Audio did, specifically it’s resolution, quietness and relative dynamism. I thought the prat again, was not quite where I would want it be, my foot just did not tap.
The SPL Phonos took the best of all of the above and took it to another level. The prat was awesome as well the dynamics. With my London it is nearly unbelievable. I would not use it with a super low gain cartridge unless you had a step-up as it can present some noise if you really have to turn the volume up super loud (it is not a problem with my 103r/103.3 and even played very very well with my MC Anna which has an output of only .2mv). Not sure if some of the noise I hear when the volume is high (read too high for comfort) is due to my area in the city. The iPhono 2 is quiet like a tomb as is the PH77. This unit runs a proprietary 120v rail system and it sounds very alive. This is studio gear so the designer frills aren’t there like a good deal of the audiophile stuff, just outstanding perfomance. It really is exceptional. Actually shocked me as I had never heard of it before I went into my buddies audio shop, but I found that I kept going back to the unit.
The PH77 is simply better but the Phonos at this point is the second best phono stage I have spent an appreciable amount of time enjoying. It is certainly not embarrassed by the PH77. I could easily imagine that on some types of music I may prefer the Phonos to the PH77 much as I prefer my London on jazz over my other cartridges.
These are just my ears opinions, as I stated, YMMV.
Thinking of trying a Tsar DST to compare to the London :)
Hope this helps.
Not a problem. I play my .25mv rated 103's and they sound absolutely wonderful with black backgrounds at a very nice volume level, so a .5mv cart will be super quiet and smooth sailing. At 57dB of gain you are outputting .354 volts which is plenty. You can run it at 67 dB but I would suggest that is much more gain than you need. More than a few people, for whatever reason, use excessive gain on their phono stages and it always sounds bad to my ears. Sometimes less really is more. It probably has to do with how these items are marketed to people.
@audiofun It doesn’t matter if it can produce full output. From experience, cartridges with higher output, or phono preamps with higher gain just simply sound better to my ears and are more gutsy. This is partly the reason why MM cartridges have more drive.
0.25mV into a 57dB gain is just a very bad recommendation to members here. It may be okay for you, but this will sound pretty bad in most cases.
And with all of the good phono preamps available on the marke, why would anyone want to do this?
Then don't do it. I think most people on this forum undertstand "YMMV". If it doesn't work in their system, I'm sure they will try another setting.
BTW, I didn't recommend anyone copy what I do in my system, I was asked how I run my Phonos and I gave an answer. I suggested that 67dB may be to high for the cartridge under discussion and it certainly is in my system.
What's a "good" phonostage? What do you use?
So Ypsilon, Thrax Vitus, FM Acoustics???
You hear that Michael Fremer, STOP and DESIST immediately from reviewing new phonostages that are not from the approved list of Invictus005. What Mike? Some of them sound awesome you say? Doesn’t matter, they are not from the "approved" list.
Thanks for making me laugh. Really?
Well written, I have found that on some systems 60dB seems like it should work but that in fact 66dB is required. Why? Not sure, perhaps the stated gain of the phono is off, perhaps the cartridge is not as strong as the spec sheet states. Gain structure throughout ones system does play a huge roll in the results one receives.
Obviously if I set my phono gain to say 40dB (I'm being extreme to illustrate a point) with a 0.3mv cartridge, no amount of gain in the preamp is going to negate the anemic signal from the phonostage, garbage in, garbage out.
Either way, as you stated it is system dependent and your ears are the most important measuring tool, so to speak. I currently run a active / passive pre (Wyred4 Sound STP SE) and I never have to go into the active gain range of the circuit, yet the dynamics can startle, if the music is dynamic. I have a professional recording engineer coming over this afternoon to bring some safety master tapes because he likes my system and wanted to use it to hear some of his work.
Unfortunately I do not. I will say that in my discussions with Francois of Ana Mighty Sound, I have found him to be a connoisseur of good sound. That guy knows what he is doing and the equipment he deals with is TOP NOTCH (Neumann DST's, Tsar, EMT, Thrax, etc.), so I would venture that if he is representing it, you're probably safe.
Sometimes you just have to take a chance :) I did just that when I ordered an AT ART 1000 cartridge yesterday LOL, hope I love it :)
I would be super interested if you decide to move forward with the Le Phono.
Dear @audiofun : " hope I love it ". Well, the ART 1000 is really special and different to other top cartridge regarding its " presentation " of what we are listening. You will love it, can't do in other way.
Regarding your 103r up-graded cartridge and as @francoissg said the Denon 103 was modified almost just from the begining more than 50 years ago. The first modifications were made it by Denon it self with new models using the same cartridge motor.
There is no doubt that the 103 " motor " is an iconic one and not only used by today companies as Zu or Ana Migthy even in the past and I think they still do we have to remember the Magic Diamond cartridge that the original modifier try, with out success, to cover that the cartridge motor came from Denon 103 and that Magic Diamond was on sale for 5K big dollars in those times.
I had the opportunity to listen it in an agoner friend mounted in a Walker TT and performs very well.
I'm sure that yours is a serious up-date over the stock one. Make sense to me to use a well trusted and good quality executed cartridge motor as the 103 even to market a new cartridge out there because we don't have to " invent " almost nothing at all.
Obviously that the 103 motor can't makes or have the same quality performance levels as the cartridge motors and how are " surrounded " by the top manufacturers as Ortofon, VDH, My Sonic Labs or Benz Micro to name some of them.
So, your " new " cartridge is made it around a price point and that's why comes with some overall performance limitations but those French gentlemans can re-coil with silver too and other additional modifications.
Obviously that for any cartridge can performs at the Lyra Atlas or your Anna cartridges or the Colibri then it need it a new whole cartridge design and not a 103 modifications even that those modifications been " sophisticated ".
Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
@audiofun , I am going to have a chat with Francois today. If all goes well I will get the Le Phono. The other phonostage I am considering is the FM Acoustics 122 mk2. I can get it for about 60% more than the Le Phono but it is one of those phonostages which has a solid reputation for being in a top-tier system. I have heard the FM and I love it.
Dear @audiofun : I don't have doubts on what you posted on your re-vamped 103.
My very first LOMC cartridge was the 103 and after that I " fall in love " with Denon cartridges and bougth evry single model Denon had in those very old times, including the Dl-1000, I still have that 103.
My last experiences with re-vamped 103 cartridges was like 5-6 months ago when an audio friend lend to me his ZU 103 best ZU modification level and I listened by 6 days and compare it against a Lyra middle of its line the Kleos one and even that the Kleos is not the Atlas outperformed easily ( btw, I'm listening the Etna sl. ) and could not be in a different way.
The Kleos has a lot of research in its overall design ( the Atlas is a design with refinements over the Kleos but the same main design. ) when the ZU or your Ana Migthy still are the " venerble " 103 designed not for audiophiles.
So, the differences are huge true differences no matter what.
Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
@pani : Normally when each one of us bougth or try to buy audio items we choose the items that can fulfill in the best way our main targets.
My main target is to stay nearer to the recording and everything I do or want to do must fulfill that target or at least not " degrades " what I already have.
The FM Acoustic fulfill any system with that main target where the LE Phono can't do it in anyway no matter what: it's an inferior unit against.
Certainly that if you have interest on it your main target is way different from mine.