Another review of a tweaked Denon DL-103R ??? Oh no! Boring? Surely not! Please read it!

*First of all: I'm not affiliated with ANY of Companies mentioned in this post. Above all, I'm an enthusiast of state of the art audio analog components...*

This is my second post on Audiogon Forum and I would like to share with you, fellow audiophiles, my thoughs about a GREAT tweaked Denon DL-103R Cartridge: The "Paradox Pulse Guard R SMR Cartridge"

Being a Senior Electronic / Acoustic Engineer and worked with many Audio Companies in Germany and Japan, this led me to listen to all kind of analog components, from turntables to tonearms and cartridges since the 70's... the golden years of the analog sound!

Thanks to Siemens AG (in Germany) and Matsushita Electric (known as Panasonic) (in Japan), that I have worked for many years, I have had the opportunity to experienced all sorts of hi-end Cartridges, tonearms and turntables... for audiophile and professional purposes and although many components led me to great satisfaction, only a few them passed to my restricted test of building quality.

For tonearms, Fidelity Research (FR-66 and it's variants, made in Japan) and our own Technics EPA-100 showed perfect bearings... and Cartridges (EMT, made in Germany) among very few others that have the most perfect cantilever/stylus alignment.

For my surprise and great enjoyment, I ordered a modified Denon DL-103R (The Denon DL-103R is a venerable Cartridge in production for many years with a strict quality control), called Paradox Pulse Guard R SMR Cartridge, (from Terence Robinson), that has been tweaked to perfection.... (please go to for more details).

After removal of the original resonant plastic body, Terence mount the motor in an special aluminum body, including about 40 micro lead dampers and then finally fill all the gaps with a kind of epoxy to kill all resonances. After this, Terence do the "break in" process (for the wire and suspension of the brand new, selected DL-103R for matched channels) for about 100 hours. After that, he send the wholly cartridge to change the original aluminum cantilever/conical stylus for a Saphire cantilever/MicroRidge stylus. This is done by Andy Kim at

After years of triyng expensive Cartridges like Phasemation / Phase Tech (great cartridges!), Ikeda and many others, I mounted the Paradox Pulse Guard R SMR cartridge in the (very rigid) Ikeda IS-2T headshell in conjunction with the (also very rigid) Sorane SA-1.2 high mass tonearm and the results? OUSTANDING!

I NEVER heard piano notes with such lifelike realism! Vocals have palpable presence and the soundstage and depth above any criticism. The exceptionally perfect Saphire cantilever / MicroRidge stylus (made by Namiki, Japan) alignment (Thanks Andy and Terence, for your state of the art job) are so perfect that I ever seen only with such perfection on my EMT TSD15 (and a very few others), but the Paradox Pulse takes the sound reprodution to another level of refinement. Air between massed vocals and bass notes are to die for...This is the cartridge that satisfy me at a reasonable price, without breaking the bank!

This is Heaven & I'd die for it! The Paradox Pulse Guard R SMR Cartridge installed in the Sorane tonearm, Ikeda Headshell, through the fabulous Hashimoto HM-7 Step Up transformers, with a reflective load of 512 Ohms, took my System in another level of realism and satisfaction.

Would you like to share with me, fellow Audiogon members, your impressions and thoughs about your phono system?


Rebuild is correct word, right? There are so many companies that rebuild 103 for big $$$, but not Denon in Japan for some reason. It’s a good business model to buy something very cheap and sell it for much higher price with new cantilever and new cartridge body, sometimes only with new cartridge body (like those 103 from Zu Audio) or only with new cantilever (every re-tipper can do that).

Did you try all Denon cartridges? What about DL-1000 or DL-S1 ?

Why 103?
Dear @chakster : Thanks for the message sent. 

As I explanned in the review, I worked many years for several Audio Companies and this led me to audition hundreds of Cartridges. Among them, the 103 Series and the EMT 15 Series shared some of the most natural midrange and vocals with "palpable" presence. I have had the Denon DL-1000 and DL-S1 but both of them was surpassed by the Audio-Technica AT50ANV (the three cartridges shared the " basic design of non-magnetic core MC type cartridge"). Although these cartridges sports a kind of "natural sound" not found in conventional MC cartridges, they suffer from extreme low voltage output with a severe lack in dynamics, for my personal tastes.
My Best Regards,
@ultima700  Jose, I am not offended and no need to "unfollow." I apologize if I touched a nerve but I stand behind what wrote. Objectivity is one of the keys to believability. Again, IMO.

Ultimate, reading your description of its construction I was most struck by the notion that your modified Denon must be very heavy, since the DL103 is already in the heavy category to begin with. What does it weigh, and what is the effective mass of your tonearm/cartridge? Two more points: aluminum is certainly not nonresonant compared to plastic, and Namiki is one of only two companies that manufacture pretty much every cantilever/stylus in use in the world. So nothing unique about the Namiki bits, although I’m sure they work fine. Aluminum re-body on DL103 is also not new, I think.
$1100 for a tweaked $450 cart, and you'll need a phono amp with sufficient gain or additional step up/IC's- guess I'm not trying it anytime soon.

There are enough $1K, good sounding carts on the market.