Denon 103r ????

I have made some improvement to my 103r, but am still getting tonal imbalance with this cartridge.
It's too bright and edgy on some recordings!
At times it sounds incredible, excellent imaging and sound stage.
What do I do though to tame down the brightness. Change the tracking force a bit or tracking angle, change the loading, impedence or capacitance. Add more tonearm bearing fluid or remove?
Dump the Graham and get a SME 3012 S2.....U are matching the wrong arm to a wonderful cartridge.
What tracking force & loading are you using currently? Damping fluid would be easy to experiment with but I'd be inclined to max it out and try that.

Huge improvements can be obtained by contacting Uwe through audioasylum and purchasing a wood body compatible with your arm. IMO, tracking force should be around 2.6 grams (possibly a bit more in your situation?) and the cartridge should be loaded at not more than 40 ohms. My Aqvox phono stage "automatically" loads in the current mode and probably loads well under that. Sounds absolutely superb in a Premier FT-3 with the fluid damping fully engaged.
Pedrillo, the std DL103R is a edgy and harsh. A world class arm like the Graham will expose that.

Remember, you have $300 cart on a $3500 tonearm.

The big problem with the DL103 and DL103R is the very cheap plastic body that resonates. Once you get rid of the body you will be very surprised how well it sounds.

Hdm advice on the body that Uwe sells is very good.

Dear Pedrillo: +++++ " What do I do though ...?...."+++++

Who told you that you can have a stellar quality sound reproduction performance from this cartridge?

IMHO this cartridge was/is over-rated and IMHO too over-priced. There are several cartridges in the low 100.00-200.00 range even lower than 100.00 that beat it easy. Please read the Pauly post carefully.

Yes, I know that there are a lot of people that think different about and I respect to all of them and their opinion and if they are happy with that that is fine for me: enjoy it.

Pedrillo, make you a favor and try any of these cartridges: Sumiko Pearl, Ortofon FF15 XEMK2, Shure M97Xe, etc, etc

Regards and enjoy the music.
I thank you all very much!!
I heed your advice and will post my future changes.
Thank you again for putting up with my questions, I hope I can offer good advice in return some day.
But for now all I can contribute is some silly humor.
Hdm Pauly(from earlier post as well) Gadfly thanks for the suggestions. I plan on getting the wood body, and will try to change the resistance in the phono. Reason for posting, was in hope of finding an immediate solution.
Come on Raul. All you have to do with a 103R is put it in a metal body and pot it and it'll be worth $5K and right up there with an Allaerts!

The Shure M97XE is better than the Denon?
I've also struggled with the edginess of the 103R. I realigned it several times thinking it wasn't set up properly. I added mass to the tonearm to accommodate its compliance. I damped the plinth to death. I tried several phono stages (Phonomena, Wright WPP100c, WPP200c, EAR 834P). I tried different SUTs (Lundahl and Cinemag). I tried loading at 40 ohms, 100 ohms and 500 ohms. But after all this messing around, I still hear some edginess. What's a fellow to do? yes, yes, take the plastic body off and try an Uwe ebony body. That's not out of the question, but why not try something different altogether?

And that's what I did... I picked up a Grado Reference Sonata. It may not be the last word in high end carts, but you know what? It's so much smoother than the 103R. And there's no fussing with tonearm mass, loading, SUTs, extra ICs. Just get it aligned, sit down and relax. There's something about the Sonata that sounds very nice. The timbre is realistic. The bass is deep. The top end is smooth and free of glare.

I haven't lost hope for the 103, but I'm frustrated. It requires so much tweaking. FWIW, I strongly recommend reading Romy's rant: Denon 103: myths and the reality
How does the 103R compare to an aftermarket mod like the Zu DL-103 (or any of the wood body versions available)? It was rather annoying to read the Stereophile review of the Zu DL-103 and not see it compared to the 103R.
First, I disagree with some of the people here. The Denon has a well deserved reputation; sorry you can't get it to sing.

Second, reverse the phase on the cartridge pins and verify proper phase on your system. I have found the 'R' to reverse phase.

Third, do not tighten the headshell screws very much - just tight enough to hold and that's all.

Fourth, check and verify that the stylus does not have a problem with azimuth. Use a 10-20 magnifier and make sure it's 90 degrees IN THE GROOVE - use a mirror or cd to help show it.

As Edle suggested, the Graham is not a good combo with this cart. Email Graham for additional advice.
Thanks all.
Just thought I would add some observations on this matter.
Some times the 103r sounds great really does!
BUT, I have realized: I don't know how good it can get till I hear it better.
Yep, sometimes it sounds great! I forgot to mention that too.
Patrick: Regarding comparisons between the 103R and the Zu 103 etc., this would be my educated guess on it. Just so you know where I am coming from, I own a 103R which is currently in an ebony wood body made by Uwe; my wood body is a first generation body-current wood bodies have been improved further and are available for $150.

I've never owned a plain 103; all the research I did before buying a 103R two years ago indicated the majority of users who had compared both stock cartridges felt the 103R to be superior. More refined, more detailed and more extension at both frequency extremes. That is not to say that the 103 is not generally very highly thought of and is definitely more of a bargain than the "R". I lived with the 103R stock for more than a year before slotting it into a wood body.

If you do the research at vinylasylum for views on either wood bodied 103/103R's or those that have been nuded and used only with a brass top plate, the concensus (and I would agree) is that either of those tweeks radically improves the performance of the 103/103R. It is such an extreme improvement that I have no doubt believing that the Zu 103 would clearly outperform the stock 103R. As well as putting the 103 into a much heavier and less resonant aluminum body (be careful-the Zu 103 weighs 14 grams on its own so you have to have the right arm/counterweight even to balance it out) they also "pot" the cartridge to further reduce resonance, which apparently improves the cartridge even further as reported by tweekers at VA who have done this (I have not done this with mine).

You've read the Dudley review so you know what he thought of it. Those that have wood bodied 103/103R's have replaced cartridges like Shelter 901, Koetsu Rosewood and Benz Ebony L, so that is the kind of company the wood bodied 103R and Zu can keep.

So you can do a Zu 103 at $399 or you can do a wood bodied 103R for about $270 plus $150 for the wood body. The advantage of the wood body is that it is re-usable if you want to scrap your 103/103R at the end of its lifespan and slot in another one, or you could go for something like a Soundsmith re-tip with a line contact stylus for $250 which is supposed to even further improve the cartridge.

The Zu, and I believe the potted 103/103R in a wood body if you do the potting cannot be retipped so that is a consideration. In effect, Zu is a complete throwaway after the 1000 hour stylus life, so that may be a consideration.

Also keep in mind that Clearaudio and "Magic Diamond" appear to be selling nothing more than modified 103's for $800 and $5,000 respectively, the Magic Diamond looking suspiciously like a Zu 103 to most who know the cartridge well. While Raul disparages the 103R halfway up the page, he can be seen gushing about the qualities of the Magic Diamond here in the archives; hence my problem with his opinion of the 103R as a crappy cartridge although, admittedly, it's performance is greatly enhanced by wooding or nuding it.

Hope that wasn't too long for you!
Hdm, thank you for that wealth of information - a post that informative could never be too long. Looking into the future I'm looking forward to trying out a 103/103-R (my phono stage is MM-only at the moment but I'm planning to upgrade), and even if the Zu DL-103 can't be retipped $400 for 1,000 hours of terrific sound sounds like a great bargain to me. Now, thanks to the opinions of you and others on here I'll also be looking into tweaked DL-103Rs. Cheers!
load the cart @ 14ohms.

Otherwise Hdm has covered all the bases. That was just long enough! ;-)
Dear Hdm: Well you have to try one of those MM cartridges out there, are " inexpensive " and overall better than the over-valued 103. Of course that I'm not talking of the Magic Diamond but the 103/103R.

Look, one of my 60+ cartridges is the 103 that was my first MC cartridge and in those old times was the audio glory for me but through the time we are growing-up and learning about the whole sound/music quality reproduction at home. I try it several times ( in the last 12 months ) testing in different stages: tonearms, headshells, load impedance and the like and till today these cartridges performs only ok but there are many other cartridges ( low price, many of them MM ones. ) that for less price give you a lot better quality performance. This is my experience but I respect to all those people that " die for it ", they have to live with it not me, not any more.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Sorry you have dismissed the 103r so prematurely, Raul, especially because you have not even tried it. Your logic is flawed.

I have listened to alot of your 'choice' cartridges for many years- they are all in perfect condition. And while they are very good, the 103r in stock form is quite capable as well, and better than most.

I still have MF-100&200, F9e, Decca w/ Garrott retip, AC-2, Zyx r20, Stanton 991, AT-170, Grado Sig., B&O mmc 20cl, Astrion, Koetsu Rosewood, etc.

If you choose not to participate in the pleasures of a $270 music bargain, I can live with that. No disrespect intended, just criticism. Best wishes.
The stock 103R is a fine cartridge, lived with it for a year or so, but the Soundsmith retip with optimised line contact takes it to another league, not shamed in the company of multi-kilo buck carts. Both musically involving and detailed, able to throw a deep and wide soundstage. Best used with the arm tail-down and tracking at 1.9g.
If you have "Edge" from the denon, you have an issue with matching it to the Arm, the Phono amp.. or your system is simply "hot sounding" or your room needs some acoustic attention. No doubt ANY cart or combo can be made to sound wrong, but its very unlikely it is the Denon on its own in a nutshell, many other factors need to be looked at.

Care to share a few more impressions of the Soundsmith retip? This is one I have been seriously looking at, and I'm curious if you repotted it in the ebony body, nuded it, or simply retipped with the line-contact/ruby cantelever?

I tried the Zu103, and didn't really care for it all that much - it really brought out the hi-fi abilities of the cart and spruced things up throughout the spectrum, but I felt music sounded fragmented and disjointed through the cartridge. The Zu cart also wasn't the best resonant match on the Triplanar. I find the stock 103 to be a better music maker all around (warts and all). YMMV.

Dear Storyboy: First an only for we are on " stage ": other than my own 103 I already heard other three 103 in my system along two other 103R from friend's of mine, so I know 100% what I'm talking about.

Now, what I'm trying to say is that the 103's are overrated, for its price are ok but nothing more ( at least this is my experience with them ) and IMHO certainly not a " giant killer " like many people think about.
The problem with that, the 103 are over-rated, is that many people, like Pedrillo, are frustrated about because they bought/buy the 103 thinking that they will find a very high quality performance from these cartridges and when they can't well: frustration!!.
In other way if all of us give the 103's very clear its right " place " I can tell you that everybody will be happy, even Pedrillo.

Now, other subject is that my quality cartridge music/sound reproduction level performance is ( for what I see ) very different from yours and from other 103?s lovers.

Btw, from the ones that you own/named ( congratulations for it ) at least the Astrion, Astatic ( both ), the B&O and the great AT-170 in my own experience ( with the right tonearm/load impedance/capacitance/phonolinepreamp ) outperforms the 103's, but like I say it's only in view of my audio priorities that are different against other people.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Richard: With respect to the Zu 103, this is only speculation on my part as I have only experienced a wood bodied 103R, but reading between the lines at vinylasylum I get the impression that those who have experimented with both the wood body and the nude/brass top plate tend, for the most part, to prefer the presentation of the wood to nuding with a metal plate. My take on it is that, although they found the nude/metal plated 103 to be more detailed, they also found it to be a bit hi-fi-ish.

Most of the Denon fans (I believe) are drawn to its midrange and top to bottom coherence-I think the cartridge definitely leans to the warmer side of neutral and the wood body, in my experience, tends to give you more detail and slam without changing the overall impression in quite the same way that it appears nuding or metal bodying the cartridge might. Similar perhaps the sonic differences exhibited by metal and wood footers or support?

At the present, I haven't heard of anyone that has Soundsmithed in a wood body; there's a lot of speculation that might be the killer combo.
Raul, I can see we indeed have different ideas about music/sound repro, so I'll inform you and others from where I speak.

Music has been my love since childhood, both prerecorded and participatory. I play piano, guitar, percussion, trumpet, clarinet, flute, and just about anything I've ever picked up in my hands. I have owned a music store for more than 20 years and built a recording studio in the back to record myself and other people. I design and build my own tube amplification and speakers, and sometimes tweak my setup till I'm dizzy in the head.

I know what a Selmer Mark 6 Tenor sax, Guild D-40 acoustic, or Sabian medium thin 16" crash sounds like because I can walk right over to one and play it or have one of my teachers play it, anytime I want.

And I am fully aware of the limitations and intricacies of prerecorded music, analog or digital.

If I may, I would suggest you review and re-assess your 'audio priorities'.
Just to add another contraversial addition.

Try using the denon 103R with a cartridge man isolator. Works wonders.

I would like to try the wood body from Ure thou. hard to take off the standard body?

Any credance to the guy who said the 103r is phased reversed??
I'm not so sure that the cartridge is actually phase reversed so much as the pin arrangement on the Denons is different from other cartridges possibly resulting in incorrect hookup and phase reversal, but perhaps someone else can shed more light on this.

As to removing the body, this is a fun watch:

It's pretty simple. Tried to post it as a link but had problems.
Seems the link does work!
Hi Richard
RE:Care to share a few more impressions of the Soundsmith retip? This is one I have been seriously looking at, and I'm curious if you repotted it in the ebony body, nuded it, or simply retipped with the line-contact/ruby cantelever?

I did both the normal line contact and optimised line contact retips on the 103R. Both are serious upgrades on the stock 103R. The base LC retip gives it better extension while enhancing the mids of the Denon, giving a more liquid presentation. The optimised LC is another leap up. Whereas the base LC gives better definition overall, the OLC goes further in letting you hear more inner detail, like the initial strike of the key and its harmonics, and a more developed soundstage. Its also better at tracking the start/end of an LP.

Since the stock 103R is a conical stylus, VTA is not so critical, but once SS has put on the LC/OLC styli, VTA/VTF are much more important. I've found that it has to be tail down, VTF about 1.8-1.9g (tracks lighter due to the reduced moving mass of the ruby). Mounted on the Schroeder2, it gives an enveloping wall of sound with the soundstage extending from well outside the speakers & room walls.

While the stock 103R is a bargain for the sound it offers, and the key here is coherence, it doesn't have the detail at both extremes, but what it does, it does well- which is a lot better than most carts in, and perhaps about 3x that price range. The LC retip brings it up to the $1.5-3k price range, the OLC retip is in the major league, competing with carts >$3k.

As in all things vinyl, there are many variables here, especially the cart/arm/phono matching, so YMMV.
A member on the Vinyl Asylum has asked for someone to send him a modded 103 for comparison with his MagicDiamond and I have sent him an email saying that I will be happy to accommodate.

He posted a picture of the back of the MagicDiamond that looks no different from a normal unmodded 103 so not works has been done back there.

Well, I do think the MagicDiamond is in fact a modded 103 but we shall here what an owner of said cartridge thinks of the two. My modded cartridge has the Uwe wood body so I am betting it will outdo his.

I think an owner of a 103 whether it is called a ZU or a MagicDiamond or Clearaudio Talisman, needds to use the right arm and load the cart correctly. That means:

16+ grams effective weight up to 30grams
active stage 100ohms
transformer 103 = 40ohms, 103r = 14ohms.

If you have the MagicDiamond or the Talisman you body worries are teaken care of. Stock, you need to remove that ringing plastic body - or at the very least put some duct tape on the outside of the 103s body.
This may seem off-topic, but what tools and methods do you use to align your cartridge on your tonearm? I've been using the paper guide that came with my RB-300. Square carts like the 103 are easy to set up. Non-square carts like the Sonata are much more difficult. Would a protractor help align things more accurately? fwiw, I adjust VTA by sight.
Dear Storyboy: Your Story is " impressive " for say the least but that don't tell me nothing about the 103 quality performance that you support.

No, unfortunately I don't have to re-assess my audio priorities only because of you that are only one more person that loves the 103, my GOD!, it is not enough.

Look you are really happy with that Denon cartridge well stay with it, is up to you and up to your " impressive " Story audio priorities I can asure you that I can live knowing that fact and I'm sure that you can dream " calm " if I stay away from that Denon cartridge!!!, everybody happy and this is what count not who " win ", this is an open forum not a race car.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul, you sound alot like my wife, ascribing words that I never said. The 103'r' is a music bargain in today's market. I am not in love with it, although I do like it very much.

Your penchant for getting the last word is certainly not absent on this thread. You pontificate with a practised skill.

And like I said earlier, if you want to dismiss the 103r, then 'palma non sine pulvere'. I can, however, recommend it or the 103 to anyone who might have difficulty finding any of the better MM's of yesteryear that many of us reading these pages have long known about, and suggest it not as an alternative, but a primary consideration because of its price/performance.

Vroom, vroom.
Dear Storyboy: Last word?. certainly far from there and I'm sorry that the way I " speak " " sound " in that way, that was/is never my attitude/intention, my opinion ( like always ) is only that: just other opinion where I try to share my experiences.
Like any one opinion you can/could take what you like/agree and leave out what you don't like it: that's all.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Re Storyboy's post:

The 103 has been called the best moving coil moving magnet cartrdige that a certain someone has heard. The midrange is nicely populated with the addition of very linear but sweet detail and incredible presence.

I have what some think is a top tier old shcool MM cartridge, the Picketing TLS-2S and it is very nice. But the 103 is more detailed [not analytical], more extended, tighter more defined bass, but I guess that the the MM adds it's own sweetness to vocals and rock and roll which diverges from linear but is tasty so maybe I will toss that over to the Pickering.

Point is, that I and even Raul, because he uses a modded 103 called the MagicDiamond, do in fact recommend it highly. Raul just likes his better because it costs more. ;-)

The 103 in it's stock form is a target for critique, but modded it is another animal.
I think you might want to check with Raul. He does not use the Magic Diamond, although he has listened to one.

Rather than turn Pedrillo's post and question into another 103 vs. Magic Diamond thread, stick to the topic under discussion. Everyone understands your feelings on this. You have made it abundantly clear. I would hate to see this thread shut down because it went the route of the previous one.

As a response to the question, I own the Denon 103 (AND a Magic Diamond). I have never found it to exhibit the edginess you speak of, just the opposite in fact. During the first 50 hours or so, it seemed kind of dark and closed in, opening up more as I put hours on it. I used the 103 on two variations of the VPI JMW 9 series tonearms: the lower mass 9 standard, and the higher mass 9 signature. A wonderful cartridge for the money in my estimation. I have not had a chance as of yet to see how it would perform on the linear tracking tonearm I use now.

Have you played around with the VTA? Adjusting that may help with some of what you are hearing. I don't recall reading how many hours you have on it. They do require some break in time.
One thing he hasn't tried, Slipknot1, is to change the loading. I mentioned this in an earlier post but since Raul had some comments, well, I went with the flow.

There is no MagicDiamond vs 103; no contention at all. They are both the same.

Otherwise I agree that the 103 has some run-in time required to open up and show it's colors.

Really, a small trick would be to add some duct tape to the side of the body of the 103. Someone gave me this tip a while back, it is reverseable, and is revealing on several levels.
One thing I've noticed with this thread is that the discussion wanders from the Denon 103r to the basic 103 to the Zu103 and the Magic Diamond.

The original post was about the 103r and the tonal imbalance the poster was experiencing, especially excessive brightness and edginess.

Although the 103 and 103r are very similar, there are differences enough that what causes or cures harshness in the 103r may not apply to the 103. The first place to look would be load matching. Many LOMC aficionados agree that a purpose-wired transformer is a better-sounding solution than simply plugging into a higher gain "MC" preamp input. The 103r has far fewer windings and a lower internal impedance than a 103, and would most likely benefit from a transformer constructed to take this into account. The lower impedance may need a little higher capacitance to tone down the top end.

The second thing worth looking at is VTA. The higher the tonearm pivot relative to the record surface, the more forward, sibilant, and edgy the presentation. You can mellow out the sound by lowering the tonearm, perhaps to just a bit below dead level.

Thirdly, Pedrillo's turntable is extremely mass-loaded, to the tune of 400 lbs or so. Perhaps he should remove some weight and see if this lets the music bloom and breathe a bit more.

There are enough variables in this situation specific to Pedrillo's installation and the unique electrical characteristics of the 103r that go beyond broadly branding the 103 series "overrated" or not taking a closer look at Pedrillo's turntable and arm setup.
Thank you Johnnyb53 and all for contributing.
I really feel as though I am in good company.
Not only sincere, passionate but intelligent as well.
I think vinyl setup and appreciation should be a prerequisite to adulthood.
I do have a unique situation e.g. custom turntable modified tonearm and suspended speakers.
I am so curious as to where will I be in ten years, though I don't want to skip the journey.
I want to learn from experience but am not looking to do it alone just to prove something hence the posts here.
I don't mind giving up what knowledge I have relative to music playback or health as that is my first passion.
And I feel fortunate to be among those willing to share as well. Therefore again I extend my thanks to all.
I still welcome the passionate responses, it tells me how strongly one believes in what they are writing.
Ok, So now what do I do????
I can purchase another cartridge or make this one work. Funny thing as I was writing this response, I had 3 cornered hat(everest) on my table playing. I heard some remarkbly life-like orchestra in my room through the infamous 103r. Go figuree. The two things I changed today was I went from my heavily modified EAR 834p to my JLTI and the vta. I lifted the arm up.
Am I insane? Don't answer the last question only the preceding ones please.
I am thinking my next move will be to get a step up transformer, any comments?
Also I haven't gotten around to changing the resistors inside the EAR just yet. Feel like that should be done with experienced hands.

"Ok, So now what do I do????"

1. keep the cartridge and make it work
2. put duct tape on the body of the cart
3. get a CineMag transformer; wire it for 37.5 + 105 ohms
4. put a 14ohm resistor across the priamry of 150ohm and run the R thru that.
5. add mass to the arm
5. finally get a Uwe wood body and put the cart in it
6. enjoy it for a while then get a Soundsmith fine line retip

I should mention, the JLTI is set to mm. On mc it's not as involving.
Thanks Gadfly.
Well said, I needed that.
This was one of the most informative DL-103 threads I've seen. Thanks to all for the great information.

I pulled out my exacto knife tonight and it took less than 5 minutes to take off the case. It was surprisingly easy. Now I need an Uwe body. Without a body there's no way to mount this thing.

I performed surgery on a standard 103. I'll keep my 103R for comparison until I decide to do the same thing.
I'm looking for comments on this if anyone has info to share. Thanks in advance. -Mark

03-17-08: Mingles
what tools and methods do you use to align your cartridge on your tonearm? I've been using the paper guide that came with my RB-300. Square carts like the 103 are easy to set up. Non-square carts like the Sonata are much more difficult. Would a protractor help align things more accurately?
I performed surgery on a standard 103. I'll keep my 103R for comparison until I decide to do the same thing.

A std DL103R is not even close as good as a wood body DL103. I suggest you buy two bodies. You'll want to do the DL103R a few seconds after you hear the wood body DL103.

Another option is to run the cart nude. I believe Anumber sells brass plates that you can epoxy the nude DL onto and mount. I have not tried that, but a few that have tried says it sound quite good also.


I have the wood body on my 103 and plan to use the brass place anumber1 sells for the R.

I think I will fasten a small, 2mm, piece of wood to the brass to change the tone a bit.

Is it possible to remove the cartridge from Al's brass plate without damaging it? I'd like to try the plate first, then move on to the wood body.

Yes you can and i used super glue. the thing I learned about super glue is that it has a strong bond if you try to pull 'away' but if you twist, that is where super glue will let go.

Scarey though. I put a drop of super glue and ran that for a while. I had to set the plate down, hold the back of the cartridge and just exert pressure and it freed. I had to push though.
Thanks Gadfly. I appreciate the info. I have a plate on order. :~}

I also contacted Uwe. The wood body is 100 euros (US$150 delivered) which is a bit more than I thought it would be, but if it delivers as much as everyone says, then it's worth the cost.
IT WILL Mingles TRUST me it WILL, DELIVER, just make sure your ready for what it'll deliver.....
Just thought I would post: I got the 103r to sing!!
Maybe it needed to break in?
Maybe I am losing my hearing huh?
It does sound amazing.
I should mention I switched the phono stage to the newly arrived K & K. And that made a difference for sure!!

No going back now.