Denon has always had an upscale cartridge that was mostly available in Japan or special order. I have been using one for years and it is more of the general values of the typical 103. There is quite a mystic quality to the buzz about these cartridges. More research will lead you to several sources. Most believew that for the price, it is about as good as it gets. I am very happy with mine.
The Denon DL-103 were used by advanced/experienced audiophiles through out Europe and Japan for a long time. I'm using mine since year 2000. It is a super sounding cartridge. I also using a Denon DL-102(mono) in my mono system with great result.
Hype is not always untrue ;-). The extra $500 is for the colour "blue", and well worth it in my estimation, as it will lend the 103 a tad more coolness to temper it's fiery character :-).
The 103-SA costs money 'cause it's a limited-edition, numbered, wooden box type deal (personalized with your name on a plaque) to commemorate Denon having shipped 500,000 units of the 103 cartridge.
The extra weight is probably due to the blue fibreglass casing.
Note: the cartridge itself is really a 103R, with 6-nines copper in the coil and an internal impedance of 14 ohms instead of the regular 103's 40.
Also notable is the presence of tapped holes for the screws.
I have installed one hour ago the DL 103SA to replace my 9 years old DL 103 ...
well big difference, more details especially in high frequencies, more macro dynamic and micro dynamic, everything sounds more lively
bad side, I hear also more white noise when the LP is not perfect
The differences you describe might be due more to replacing an old cart/stylus with a fresh on more so than any inherent differences in design/sound perhaps? Styli in particular require replacing from time to time with normal use.
The 103R (acquired from audiocubes a while back)is the best sounding cart I've used in my Linn rig in the last 25 years. Vinyl performance in my rig compres favorably to most anything I have heard around of late. I will probably buy a second at some point. I may look into one of Soundsmith's upgrades for that and also get my current 103R retipped by same as a spare.
Dear Mapman: P own several and different 103 models that goes from " so so " performance to good performance, till today I never heard a 103 model with exceptional/excellent quality performance, this is normal because we have what we pay for it and we can't expect to have a cartridge 1oK quality performance for 500.00-700.00.
Exeption to that are vintage cartridges where we can find exceptional quality performance cartridges for " cents " ( around 200.00 ).
One of these vintage cartridges that IMHO beats the 103 models for a less money and that performs like a 5K LOMC top cartridge is the Azden YM-P50VL that you can get in NOS status/condition here with Nick: firstname.lastname@example.org
Regards and enjoy the music,
Can you elaborate on how the Azden beats the Denon 103R and under what conditions?
How would it fit into my Linn Axis table with basik tonearm?
The Denons have been around a while but are still manufactured new I believe. How old are the Azdens? Is there a risk of performance deterioration due to age? Also, does anybody retip these if needed?
I've often thought a higher mass tonearm might be better for the 103R however I have been most satisfied with it on the Linn as is.
Dear Mapman: It fit in your tonearm or any other just like any other cartridge. This P-mount cartridge design comes with an universal 1/2" mount adaptor.
Mapman, the Azden is a vintage 15-20 years old cartridge with a quality performance that even any top rated cartridge at any price. Is there any risk? there is the risk usual in a vintage cartridge but maybe less because this one is a NOS sample.
In the last four years I bougth more than 30 vintage cartridges that till today performs splendid and when some one needs a new stylus/tip I send it to Van denHul and he fix it to original and new condition.
If you want to know more on this cartridge it is better that you go to the MM/MI thread where you can find some Azden cartridge owners that are satisfied with and that can tell you is worth every single cent on its very very low price.
If I was you I just buy it while it last, it is a jewel/gem that maybe in 48 hours you can't find it any more.
Anyway, your call: I don't receive any benefit if you buy it or not other that you be an Azden satisfied owner.
Regards and enjoy the music,
I've been using Denon 103 variants continually since 1974. The SA has the essential qualities of the 103r, but with the usual advantages of a stiffer body. The advantages over the 103r aren't as great as, say, the ultra rebody and potting of the Zu103, but it moves the stock lossy body 103r in the same direction of more incisive, resolving, wideband sound.
Had an Azden back in the day. It was a startlingly good cartridge for its modest cost, but incapable of delivering the tonal density that makes a 103 so involving. Azden just delivers something good that's completely different.
All you youngsters relatively new to the 103 (ten years is nuthin'), keep a sharp eye out for any chance to land one of the increasingly scarce 103D versions. All of these hot-rodded 103 iterations -- good as they are (and I have some) -- bow to the elliptical errant lost son of the seminal 103.
In respect of its lowest possible price on the market, DL-103SA is well-built, sturdy, stable, with excellent trackability, suitable for a wide variety of medium and medium-high mass tonearms, low in residual/surface noise, not too "nervous" on older records, etc.
If your system can reveal the subtle sonic differences, the detail retrieval of 103SA is a tad better than 103R. In brief, it's one of the best MC carts made by Denon. But, IMHO, not a giant killer, just another reasonably priced MC carts. I still keep it as a back-up reference.
I've migrated through the various 103's. Started with the original which is a great sounding cartridge for the money - in my opinion beats any MM or MC in the price range. I bought a lightly used 103R that I've been using for the past year. The 103R is definitely a step up from the 103 without losing any of the good qualities of the 103 like the solid bass. It just has more refined highs. Finally, 2 weeks ago I purchased a 103 SA. I found Needle Doctor to have the best price. My SA only has about 15-20 hours on it, but I find it slightly more detailed than the 103R. I love the 103R and to my ears, the 103 SA is better - not by a huge margin, but noticeable.
When one replaces a used cartridge with a new one of similar design in good working order, doesn't the new cart almost always sound better? Styli are subject to wear and tear every time you play a record and should be replaced or retipped periodically. High end and perhaps resulting detail are usually the first thing to be affected.
I wouldn't say to compare a used, old 103R with a newly broken-in 103SA is meaningless. But an old cart would be absolutely inferior in performance than its hay day when it is still young.
Styli are subject to tear and wear? I believe so. But if used properly, a NATURAL diamond stylus would certainly last longer than the damping material & suspension of a cart. It is not uncommon when the suspension of a cart starts to degrade rapidly after a certain period of time while its stylus still remains sound & intact.
IME, no matter how high the prices of the carts, being too dry or too humid, with abrupt temperature fluctuations, air too salty near the ocean and direct sunlight, etc, would all accelerate the aging process of a cart and thus shorten its normal lifespan.
Dear 213cobra: I can't argue on what you heard on the Azden
against the 103 in those times.
I would like to ask two questions: the Azden that you
referring was the YM-P50VL?
do you hear/heard this Azden model ( that's the one I'm
" sipporting "/recommend.) in your today system in
the last month?
Because if you don't have a today experience with your today
system with that Azden specific model is very dificult to
sustain what you posted about:
+++++ " Had an Azden back in the day. It was a
startlingly good cartridge for its modest cost, but
incapable of delivering the tonal density that makes a 103
so involving " +++++
If you don't own yet that Azden cartridge my best advise to
you is that buy it while it last. Forget the " Raul
" opinion about and please read what many other people
thinks " today " on the Azden, you know where to
read that information: no you don't need to " read
" all that long thread only some of the last posts,
seems to me that like you there are many respectable persons
Phil, that Azden cartridge is an alternative and an
opportunity to own it in these times because is an out of
production item and tomorrow we lose this " great
" opportunity to enjoy the music at this top level for
" cents " ( btw, the cartridge comes in NOS
I don't receive any benefit if Nycwine1, Mapman or you buy
it, my opinion is only that : an opinion like the any one
Regards and enjoy the music,
I have a used Denon DL-103D, the one with the white ceramic body. Bought if off eBay years ago. But I never tried it because the stylus tip seems very small under microscope and I could not tell if its worn out. Can anyone shed light on the 103D stylus profile? Is there a recommended place to send it for a retip? I don;t want to send it to someone like Soundsmith and change the whole cantilever and stylus profile. I would like to just have a retip of the stylus with hopefully the same profile.
DL-103D profile as follows:
MC type cartridge
Output voltage : 0.25mV
Frequency rang: 20 Hz to 65 kHz
Internal impedance: 40 ohm
Load resistance: more than 100 Ω
Stylus shape: special oval
Stylus pressure: 1.5 ± 0.2 g
Compliance: 12 × 10-6 cm/dyne
Net weight: 7.5g