Denon DL-103 vs. DL-160?


Hello...

I have a Technics SL-1210M5G with a Denon DL-160 cartridge and quite happy with the combo, however, I'm itching to try another cartridge. I have read good things about the Denon DL-103 and can acquire one at a relatively reasonable price.

What would I gain or lose switching from the DL-160 to the DL-103? Are there significant differences between the two cartridges aside from output level? I'm interested in the sonics and soundstage.

Thanks and regards,

Jan
jsmoller
it is my understanding based on my online research that the DL-103 is a fantastic cart, but only really shines well with heavy arms. i am not familiar with your arm, yet the DL-160 works well with lighter arms in general.
This has been discussed ad nauseum.

The DL-103 is not a good match with the Technics SL12xx tonearms. This will be confirmed by researching www.cartridgedb.com.
The 103 is a better cartridge than the 160, but it's not a good match on that arm. The effective mass of your arm is 12 grams. If you plug the numbers into the formula, you'll find the resonant frequency is 15.5 Hz. 10 Hz is considered ideal, but the usable range is between 8-12 Hz.

resonant freq. = 159 / sqrt [(eff. mass + cart wt. + fastener wt.) * (compliance)]
rf = 159 / sqrt [(12 + 8.5 + 0.5) * 5] = 15.5 Hz

If you're looking for a good cartridge that works with your table, check out the Audio Technica AT150MLX for $249. Here's a recent forum discussing it:

I just went up two notches in resolution
The alternative is to add weight or change the headshell to a heavier one, to get the resonant freq <12hz.
07-02-08: Cmk
The alternative is to add weight or change the headshell to a heavier one, to get the resonant freq <12hz.
The resonance frequency chart on cartridgedb.com for the DL-103 states otherwise. No matter how much weight one adds, the resonant frequency is never close to acceptable.

Perhaps I'm missing something?

I encourage everyone to read the chart.
07-02-08: Tvad
The resonance frequency chart on cartridgedb.com for the DL-103 states otherwise. No matter how much weight one adds, the resonant frequency is never close to acceptable.

Perhaps I'm missing something?
Evidently, we all are missing something. The Cartridge Database also states that the DL-103's compliance rating is done at a different frequency (100 Hz) than is typical (10 KHz), which would raise the compliance as typically stated.

In Art Dudley's review of the Zu-103 (which weighs more), he states:
Measured in the Naim Aro, using the excellent Hi-Fi News & Record Review test LP, the Zu DL-103 exhibited a lateral resonant frequency centered at 11Hz, with significant residual jiggling at 9 and 13Hz. In the vertical plane, it went off at about 12Hz. (I didn't measure the cartridge's resonant behavior in the RB300; if anything, given the Rega arm's marginally higher effective mass, those numbers might have been very slightly lower. Which is still fine.) Tracking was acceptably good, but it was apparent while viewing the cartridge head-on during record play that the Zu would have liked a little more antiskating force than the Aro could provide at even its highest setting.

The RB-300 shows a resonant frequency of 14Hz with a cartridge the weight of the Zu-103, and the Naim Aro is a lighter arm still, yet the actual resonant frequencies aren't that extreme.

My conclusion is that you can't take that dynamic compliance figure of 5 too literally.

Still, having just migrated from a Denon DL-160 to an Audio Technica AT150MLX, I think that's a good migration path. The tonal balance of the two cartridges are very similar, and the AT150MLX simply provides more speed, detail, ambience, and image specificity without giving up *anything* to the DL-160.

And once you make the initial purchase, the AT150MLX replacement stylus is the same price as an entire DL-160.
07-03-08: Johnnyb53
The Cartridge Database also states that the DL-103's compliance rating is done at a different frequency (100 Hz) than is typical (10 KHz), which would raise the compliance as typically stated.

Yes, that's true, and it clearly affects the the chart's acceptable resonant frequency limits.

I'd like someone to explain how to adjust for Denon's compliance rating at 100hz versus the standard 10Hz. This would be a good lesson for the week.

I agree the AT150MLX is a better value because of the replaceable stylus, as long as one likes the sound as much as the Denon. I gave it a try for this exact reason.
Denon's 5-mm/N compliance number for the 103 is specified at 100 Hz. That is dynamic compliance and can't be compared to the lower static compliance specs from other manufacturers. The 103's static compliance at resonance appears to be in the range of 10 to 12-mm/N. That's been confirmed by observations using the resonance test bands on test records and arms with known mass. The widely used resonant frequency formulas use static compliance, so any calculation performed with compliance = 5 is wrong. There's been a lot of discussion about this subject on Vinyl Asylum; a search there on "103" and "compliance" will return dozens and dozens of posts, if not hundreds.
07-03-08: Tvad
I agree the AT150MLX is a better value because of the replaceable stylus, as long as one likes the sound as much as the Denon. I gave it a try for this exact reason.
In my case, I think I got lucky--the AT150MLX fed into the Cambridge Audio 640p phono stage is an excellent match, especially at the price. I didn't experience the surface noise problem you did; one thing I noticed is that the 640p drops the surface noise compared to what I was running before.

Any chance the extra surface noise you encountered in the AT150MLX vis-a-vis the Benz Micro Ace is a VTA issue? Maybe the arm needs to be lowered a little bit for the AT?
The surface noise was not the issue.

The arm was already at it's lowest possible position.
I'm curious, if one removes the 103 from the stock body and puts it into a different body, how does that affect the formula?

Do you simply weigh the difference of the two bodies and adjust?
James, the compliance remains the same. The weight difference plays a minor role in the final resonant frequency. Plug the numbers in and you'll see.
How do you figure the DL-103 is a better catridge than a DL-106? Aside from the DL-103 being a low output, it's a conical stylus design which is far from ideal, compared to the eliptical design of the DL-160.
I have heard both and the Dl 160 has much better depth and sounstage. You might prefer the Dl-103 if you like a foucused, almost two deminsional sound.
Never have gotten the enthusiasm for expensive conical, heavy trsacking designs, perhaps for shellac discs.