Yes, many of us have done it. Here's an excellent reference site:
Yes, and many others as well. I've been using a wood bodied 103R for about 3-4 years now. You won't find many people that don't think it is a major improvement on the stock Denon (I believe Dave Pogue is the one person I know of that does not).
IMO it is a very significant improvement. If you go in stages, you can do the wood body and then do a Soundsmith retip with a line contact stylus and you will have a cartridge that can compete with some very exotic and very pricey cartridges. An aluminum body is another alternative and some have reported great results with those as well; be aware, though, that the aluminum will be a fair bit heavier. With an ebony body, you're looking at a cartridge weighing in around 11-12 grams, with the aluminum you are in the 14-15 gram range so be sure you are capable of balancing out a cartridge that heavy.
I'd suggest the Ebony body and that is Uwe's favorite as well (the man behind the wood bodies and he's had a chance to experiment with them all); I much prefer the ebony to a clavellin body I have and the ebony has a strong synergy with the Soundsmith retip if you go that way as well.
As noted, I wasn't fond of my Panzerholz pod. Put it on a Soundsmith-retipped DL-103 because of all the positive comments here and elsewhere and "assumed" it was an improvement. But a friend heard one in an ebony pod and pronounced it lifeless and worse, so I removed mine (not real easy) and am glad I did. In my system, the pod seemed to have a negative effect on openness and transparency, but nearly everyone loves these things, so YMMV. Dave Pogue
Mingles, it was Panzerholz, not ebony. I tried it on three arms -- JMW 10.5,
JMW 10.5i, and (don't laugh) that 12" cherry wood arm sold here on
Audiogon. Unpodded, it's now on the wood tonearm, since I have two other
carts on 10.5i armtubes. I'll probably switch the Denon to one of these
armtubes, one of these days. The Soundsmith retip makes it a great-sounding
cart, but I wasn't playing it much when I had the pod on it. Dave
My experience with the Uwe Panzerholz body was the exact opposite of Dave's above.
I have both Ebony and Panzerholz Uwe bodies and both have enhanced the openness and transparency of the 103R's I've installed in them. Both wooded 103R's sound beautiful IMO. The Panzerholz sounds a little more transparent, cleaner and neutral than the Ebony - perhaps it's a little less 'velvety' sounding, but wonderfully natural.
Both sound very dynamic and alive. The big panoramic 103R staging is enhanced further and imaging is more solid and focussed.
It's perplexing that Dave's experience was so different - but then he was using a SoundSmith retipped 103 where I am using stock 103R's (my arm is the Graham Phantom II).
The link above is to a review I wrote on the Ebony body about 3-4 years ago.
I've used both the stock 103R and Soundsmith retipped 103R in ebony and clavellin bodies and the benefits of the wood body are clearly apparent with both.
A rebodied 103R with a Soundsmith retip (can be done for around $800 in total, possibly less) is an astonishingly good cartridge that can compete with the very best at a fraction of the price.
I have both the Panzerholtz and ebony and both are potted.
Which I thinks again makes a difference. The Panzer is on a SS retipped 103: ruby + fine line. The 103 is stock cantilever. Now the Ebony /w stock cantilever is a might dull in comparison to the Panzerholtz. A dramtic difference between the two. I prefer the retipped Panzeholtz.
but not as much as a humble cherry wood bodied 103R. This 103R has been retipped by soundsmith with an elliptical stylus on an aluminum cantilever, non stock.
It is my opinion that the aluminum cantilever should be kept. Use whatever stylus you want, but that cantilever imparts timbre that is what the 103 is all about. to me at least. this 103R is not potted, btw.
It is soon time to get the ebony bodied 103 retipped and I will have him try putting the fine line on the stock aluminum or a new aluminum cantilever if he cant fetch it onto the stock. I will drop back to an elliptical if he can't fit the fine line.
The reason is that the ruby cantilever is fast fast fast. It outpaces the drama that the original 103 has. More detail, yeah, but no loss in drama, please. Let's have some DRAMA!
Pat: I had Peter Lederman pot my 103R in an ebony body when he did the line contact retip (I opted for the $250 retip as opposed to the really extreme $350 retip).
Ultimately, I think, the different woods offer different presentations, and whether one has a stock 103 vs. a 103R may well result in a preference for a different wood body depending on, subjectively, what a listener wants and also whether their system is drifting toward being cool and lean or warm and full. In the end, the whole wood body/retip thing with the Denons is kind of like wine: very subjective.
As the 103R is purportedly (I actually have no experience with the stock 103) more extended and detailed than the stock 103, I think the ebony (or a wood that imparts a warmer balance-perhaps your cherry fits that character) may be the better choice for the 103R. I definitely found that with Ebony vs. Clavellin with the 103R. Clavellin may be the better choice with a stock 103, who knows?
With respect to the Soundsmith retip, the ruby cantilever is, as you say, pretty quick and the LC stylus digs out an incredible amount of information that the stock concical stylus simply misses.
IMO, with the 103R, the weightier presentation of the Ebony is a perfect match with the speed and detail retrieval of the ruby cantilever and LC stylus from Soundsmith.
But I track at 2.6 grams, which is exactly what I tracked at previously with the conical. Took me 2 months to figure it out as there are all kinds of zany reports from guys with Soundsmith Denons tracking at 1.5, 1.8 etc.
I found that even tracking at 2.45 grams resulted in a bit of a screwed up tonal balance with the Soundsmith LC retip. Tons of detail and speed, as you say, but etched and without the drama. Lower than that and you get lots of audiophile wannabe attributes: detail galore, air, speed. The problem is that the music, or, as you put it, the drama, is gone.
At 2.6 with the LC, all the power and drama is there, along with a lot more information, at least for me.
I hear you. I got to really like what the ruby/fine line did. It transforms the sound away form the core 103 sound but it is still something that I really like. It was only after getting the elliptical on the aluminum that I became sure about the cantilever's importance. Do not discount what that humble aluminum tube brings to the game.
I will really test my opinion when I finally pack this ebony 103 off to SS. Now, with the elliptical I feel no loss of detail. I mean I do not crave for more. Very satisfactory.
It costs little to try out an elliptical. It's a thing hiding in plane sight.
I'm absolutely amazed at the level of detail available from the Panzerholz 103R with stock cantilever/stylus. At this stage I feel no inclination to investigate an exotic re-tip - and this is following about 6 months with the Ortofon A90 in my system.
Of course the A90 does things the Uwe Panzerholz 103R can't - mostly notably it's see into transparency and extreme clarity in the soundfield. The Uwe 103R still does well enough to satisfy (me) in these areas though.
What amazes me though - and has every time I've played a 103R variant over the last 5 yrs - is the musical rightness and engagement of the Denon. The tonal colours and textures capture some lifelikeness that is quite compelling. With the 103R in the panzerholz shell (on the Phantom II) I find the shortcomings of the stock 103R - somewhat bloated mid-bass, lack of mid-band clarity, lack of speed and 'snap' on transients, lack of HF refinement/apparent extension - are, at least to my satisfaction, gone. The Denon also sounds very dynamic and lively, with a great knack of reproducing instrumental 'action'.
The modded Denon still won't satisfy those who want to count individual players of an orchestra at the rear of the stage, but I think many would be genuinely shocked how good it sounds. I am.
Tobes: It's been almost 3 years since I replaced the plastic body on my 103R with an ebony and I still remember those improvments.
I have no experience with the A90 so can't say how it would compare, but I would say that, from my perspective, the SS retip improves things in a very big way above and beyond the wood body. In two areas in particular which you mention, mid band clarity and HF refinement/extension, the SS retip probably equals or exceeds the jump in performance you experienced moving to the wood body. The SS retip brings about a huge improvement in the "hear through" quality in the mid band. It's quite amazing how much information the conical is actually missing.
It's pretty astonishing how much more detail it digs out of the grooves and it does tend to move the cartridge well into the area of being able to "satisfy those who want to count individual players of an orchestra at the rear of the stage" without really giving up that "musical rightness" IMO.
Hdm, since I now have the panzerholz on my turntable and prefer it to the ebony, I suppose I could send the latter off to be retipped.
Here's the thing though: firstly I find the detail of the uwe cartridges more than adequate. Secondly, I strongly suspect that some of the special qualities that I admire in the 103R result from that conical tip/aluminium cantilever. I find the more 'relaxed' presentation of detail very easy on my ears, natural and unforced. Its like my brain isn't being over overwhelmed and I can more easily concentrate on the music.
Every fine line cartridge I've used is different in these respects - and in a way more overtly 'hifi'. I read somewhere that the distortion products of conical styli are different to elliptical/fine line etc - maybe this is some of what I am hearing.
I won't rule out getting a retip, but I'm not in a hurry to go down that path at present.
Tobes: I felt exactly as you did for a long time before I did the retip. In fact, I may well have posted almost word for word either here or at the vinyl asylum about my reluctance to lose that "Denon magic" by doing the retip.
If you have the ebony sitting around, I think that is the perfect one to send off. As I said earlier, the ebony has a darker, weightier less detailed presentation than many of the other woods that I think is a really synergistic match with the line contact. Kind of a yin and yang thing.
My clavellin body was a bit lighter on its feet and more detail oriented than the ebony but that combination (clavellin with line contact) may well be one that might be a bit over the top and a bit too hi-fi-ish in presentation.
I have a clavellin bodied 103R in a drawer here. Perhaps I should sent that one off to Soundsmith for a simple aluminum cantilever and elliptical as per Pat's suggestion.
I really like the ebony though; when the time comes I believe I'm just going to pop for another ebony body to replace the clavellin and then send that one off to Peter Lederman.
Hdm: I think we are on the same page here, time will probably tell whether or not I find the panzer 103R lacking in detail.
I've gone through the stages with the 103R. When I initially put the stock cartridge in my system I thought it was awesome - though eventually my enthusiasm tempered when I did further comparison with my Vdh tipped Crown Jewel. Which I wrote up in this review here: http://www.audioasylum.com/reviews/Phono-Cartridge/Denon/103R/vinyl/484083.html
Then I got the Ortofon Jubilee and favored it for a long time - even after adding the ebony wood body to the 103R. That chapter is recorded here: http://www.audioasylum.com/reviews/Phono-Cartridge/Uwe-s-Wood-Body-Denon-103-103R/Ebony-Wood-Body/vinyl/72/722633.html.
Then I upgraded to the Phantom arm and the ebony 103R regained the ascendency: http://www.audioasylum.com/cgi/m.mpl?forum=vinyl&n=858582&highlight=
The Ortofon A90 followed and blew me away - such clarity, transparency and liveliness. Sadly the A90 was sold (to pay some bills!).....but inserting the ebony 103R immediately after the A90 was not the downgrade I expected. I was really surprised how great it sounded - I didn't find myself wanting for anything, just enjoyed the music.
What had changed in the interim?
Well I'd upgraded my Harbeth speakers from C7ES-2 to the current ES-3. As it turned out everything about that change suited and enhanced the sound of the Uwe 103R.
The Panzerholz 103R was just icing on the cake, more revealing, airy and balanced in my system than the ebony (though in fairness this was a new 103R base cartridge vs my older sample in the ebony).
At the moment I don't want to mess with the magic in search of more detail - but like you say, my ebony 103R would be perfect candidate for a retip experiment.