You might get more of a response if you clarify which Denon cartridge you're interested in. There is no 106; I'd have to assume you're interested in comparisons to either the 160 or one of the 103 variants.
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I have owned the 110 and 160 and sold them on ebay after enjoying each for 120 hrs or slightly more. The 110 always struck me as slightly SUPERIOR to the 160, which should have been the other way around based on price. They were impressive, and I couldn't see keeping my Benz Micro ACE which cost hundreds more yet did not sound 4 or 5x better! I own the Maestro now, and also the Virtuoso. There is a true difference between the Maestro and the Denons, and I place the favor strongly with the Maestro. If I had never heard it, I would think I had achieved truly superb playback with the Denons. But the Maestro takes everything to a new level. Is it worth almost 10 times the price of a discounted Denon? I think so! As I said in a previous post, the Clearaudio Virtuoso, which is priced close to the Maestro, is audibly (I mean INSTANTLY) inferior to the Maestro, although it is a VERY FINE cartridge indeed. I won't be able to put everything I hear into words, but the best I can say is that you don't feel that ANY aspect of the listening experience is missing with the Maestro: soundstage is full and distinct; frequency balances are smooth and extended top to bottom, rather PLUSH and RICH, with a sense of air and space that makes listening to LPs so rewarding; very musical and non-fatiguing/non-harsh or bright. And every detail is there and it is a pleasure to listen to this cart. Makes me want to re-record all the LPs I transferred using the Denons, using the Maestro instead! The Virtuoso does about everything right but lacks the rich plushness that is so appealing when wed to detail, sound staging, dynamics, and frequency extension. That Maestro is awesome. If you send me your mailing address, I can send you a CDR made with the Maestro, vs. the Virtuoso: my pleasure.
Well without answering for Pisto Pete from 4 years ago but I will. I would say the Maestro by a long shot. Worth 10X the price of a discounted Denon says it all. I have a Benzm Micro Wood S L and would say its better than the Maestro on my system in my opinion but just got verification from a fellow audiophile that he prefereed the Maestro on my system to the Benz. Go figure. The maestro is not an entry level unit. Probably one of the best MM's you can get I believe whereas the DL-160 is basically scratching the surface in the realm of MC cartridges.
Based on Pistol Pete’s comments on what the Maestro brings to the table...
Maestro: soundstage is full and distinct; frequency balances are smooth and extended top to bottom, rather PLUSH and RICH, with a sense of air and space that makes listening to LPs so rewarding; very musical and non-fatiguing/non-harsh or bright. And every detail is there and it is a pleasure to listen to this cart. Makes me want to re-record all the LPs I transferred using the Denons, using the Maestro instead!- I would like to share my experience on a Soundsmith modified Denon 103.
I currently own both a standard 103 and the Soundsmith modified version. The original DL103 was exceptional value for it affordable price of $230, however, the spherical stylus has it’s limitations.
The Soundsmith’d version brings out details in the recording that the standard 103 lacks and adds much more detail, considerably more "Air" improved imaging and faster dynamics.
Sounds like it delivers everything the Maestro does?
The mods replaced the cantilver+stylus - my stylus type is an Optimized Contour Contact Line.
One "drawback" of this stylus type is it requires extremely precise setup using a very precise protractor. But once setup correctly the rewards are amazing!
In hindsight I should probably have chosen the Eliptical stylus - which would bring out more details than the spherical stylus, but is not as critical from a setup perspective as the contoured stylus types.
The mod’s can be applied pretty much to any cartridge.
The Maestro is a fine cartridge that is ready to go, whereas to have a DL103 or DL160 modified by Soundsmith can take some time - with possibly the exact same results and for less outlay
You might also want to take a look at one of Soundsmith’s own cartridges.
Some might question spending $300-$$400 on a cartridge that retails for $230 - but what you get in return is an extremely high performance cartridge that retains the original smooth sweet tones the DL103 is known for.
One last option - Soundsmith can also install the working parts of the 103 in one of their cartridge housings for additional benefits.
In my book it was worth every penny !
What about Zu DL103 versions? - well they still have the spherical stylus. But they are better than the standard DL103
Good luck with your quest :-)
Regards - Steve