DL103 vs. DL103R

Yes, yes , yes... I KNOW this topic has been sort of DONE TO DEATH. However - there's one thing I kind of need to know. I was going to jump on one as a preliminary pickup for my new analog rig (SOTA Star, no tonearm yet) - I'd kind of decided already against it becuase the 103R supposedly had a really hot top end. My Linn Saras are just about at the threshold of comfort on the top end for me anyway - and I didn't want to put them over the edge. From what I UNDERSTAND, the 103R is much hotter (peaky) in the treble regions than the regular 103. But then I'd read a vague mention of the OPPOSITE as well. Can anybody relate the character of these to eachother in this regard? Or in absolute terms? Thanks so much even though there's so much out there on the subject already.

TWI (Tom) is the authority on Denon carts.
I was going to get 103R but ended up with a 103S (silver) instead.
There was never a hint of brightness.
I've read the 103 is somewhat inferior to the R or S.
I've never read of any Denon cart.being 'hot'fwiw.
I've got a 103r, and it behaves nothing like that. Read TWL's review.
I also own the 103R, and find the top end very smooth, not overly bright at all.

Same experience here with Jphii and Armstrod! Loaded properly, I do not experienced any brightness.
Okay hmmm... I found the article - and it was on AUDIOGON, of all places!


Here is a direct quote;

For the down-sides, there is a hint of edge on some vocals, especially ones that are already edgy voices. It is not the last word in "smoothness" but it is certainly not bad here. It could be a little better though. There is a very slight hint of some upper midrange coloration, like the standard 103 has, but much less. The lighter coils create a slight rise in amplitude over 15kHz, that the standard DL103 does not have. I did not find this to be problematic, although those with a "hot" tweeter may not like this. The low compliance of this cartridge is not compatible with all tonearms. It likes a heavier arm, and really does perform better with gimbal arms. Heavier unipivots, or ones with damping and stabilizing may work, though.

I was all set to get one - but this kind of threw me a bit - since my tweeters tend to be a bit on the spikey side.

Cartridge comparison is one thing, system performance is another. That is why loading is very important as well as what preamp you will use etc.,etc. For the price of the cartridge, it is very difficult to resist not trying it in your system and see what happens.

I respect Tom (TWL) greatly. Who I believe made the comparison. In fact he was my mentor when I jumped to the Teres camp. But you have to realized that what he offered was a picture of what he hears and what it sounds in his system between the comparison. He made the comparison to project an idea of what he thinks about the differences of the cart in his system. Believe me, and I am sure he will tell you, that take his words with a grain of salt because it is by no means a gospel. Yes, he knows what he is doing and what he was looking for but it maybe different from what you want to hear.

In the end, it is only you who can tell if the cart works in your set up or not. Besides, you can turn around the cart and not loose a lot of your money invested in it if it did not work out for you. At least you learned something from the experienced and made a decision by yourself to keep it or let it go. So why don't you try it and decide.

Just my opinion of course!
Ok, the bottom line here is that the DL103R is definitely the better cartridge. The comments that I made which were quoted above were meant to reflect the comparison against not only the 103, but other excellent cartridges as well.

While there may be a slight rise on the top end, it is quite small and can be loaded down to your taste. If you load it a little too high, it might get a little bit hot if you have a hot tweeter.

The advantages of the smoother and more detailed treble, and also the better tracking, make the DL103R a "no brainer" choice over the regular DL103, in my opinion.
Thanks for all the info. I am very well aware that the sound of these things is 1) massively subjective in general and 2) completely dependent on what lies downchain of it - all the way to room acoustics, etc. etc...

However, inthe case of a direct comparison in a given constant system, I think that one can, and will, be objective (the object here being the 'constant' or system it's hooked up to) and therefore the most meaningful of comparisons. Having a VERY peaky tweeter, I am very inclined to be VERY cautious about which other components I pick - and especially in an era of the impossibility of A/B ing any number of pickups at a dealer - I'm putting MUCH more weight on words. Yes, I could buy one. And then swap it for something else. That would kind of suck, though... to have to go through all the effort - and buy an arm that would match this cartridge and then decide you don't like it. I AM rather hoping, to use my analytical skills and read between the lines and figure out for myself (foolish maybe) what might work for me - now having read a few score articles/reviews in depth. This should be interesting at least - to see what I end up with!
I'll tell you this: If you decide to try it, and don't like it, I'll buy it from you. I can always use a spare, and it would take some of the hassle out of it. I know it stills sucks having to go through all that crap, but either way, you'll come out OK.
When I do my listening reviews, I always try to point out some potential shortcomings, even if the item is exhibiting extraordinary performance for its price range. It is of no use to just rave about a product's performance, and give no "down sides". Everything has a down side, no matter what it costs.

In the case of the DL103R, which I got to replace my DL103, the improvement was very significant, to the point that I would only consider purchasing another DL103R for my system, but not a regular DL103. The DL103R in my system was replaced by a Shelter 501, and they seem to have very similar character, and the performance gap between them doesn't seem wide. Considering that the Shelter 501 is a superb bargain at its price point(competing with +$2k cartridges), and the DL103R is not far behind, it is easy to see what a bargain the DL103R is at only ~$270.

From my "hands on" experience with both the DL103 and DL103R, I would heartily recommend the DL103R over the DL103, and it is worth every extra penny spent for it.
What's the 103R stylus life? Thanks
My issue was simply that I was trying to see the BIG picture - even if a given piece of hifi is proven to be objectively FAR superior than another, don't make it right for you. In this instance - I STILL might get one. But if the R model made my treble even hotter than it is now, it would render my music UNLISTENABLE - and in THIS particular context - the regular 103 would become a FAR superior choice in MY system - if it comes down to the diff. between being able to listen and not. Makes sense, right?

I had speakers with peaky treble, and ultimately I had to get new speakers. It was just to tough trying to find synergy with speakers whose treble response rests of a knife edge of being tolerable. I would get a grado cart in your case.
Letranger, I really don't think so. The loading of the DL103R can affect the top end, and you can adjust the loading at your phono stage to get the top end you want. Just load it at 80 ohms instead of 100 ohms, and you are going to drop that rise on the top end.

Also, the small rise at the top end(which I don't think is as much of an issue as you seem to) is not the only difference between the DL103R and the DL103. The DL103 does not track as well, is not nearly as smooth on the high end, and generally is not as good as the DL103R.

If you are worried about this cartridge being hot on the top end, God help you if you ever try a European cartridge!
My experience of the 103R mirrors Twl, it may exhibit some upward tilt in the upper registers, but this will largely go ahead once the cartridge is run-in and with proper setup - VTA slight tail down. Actually I attribute the highs to treble extension.

It is a terrific bargain anyway you look at it. What you get with the 103R is not just the extension, you also get a highly musical cartridge at what can be best described as a steal. The extension at the top is coupled/matched with a slightly rounded mid-bass, but one which is highly listenable. A friend once remarked it was a poor man's Koetsu. I think that says a lot.