My slow descent into retro MC madness...

OK, I have been reliving the audiophile childhood I never had and have several vintage decks, so I decided I had to learn what I had missed by never having owned nor heard a DL-103. I was deciding between the 103 and the 103R when I came across a few interesting references to the Zu-modified iteration prior to the Dudley Stereophile review. I decided to go with that one as two of my decks are american-engineered modifications of british or japanese standards... Oi, none of my counterweights will go past balancing 13 grams... 150g Groovetracer for RB300 on its way... while several of my powered phonostages will handle the 103's headamp spec of a 100 Ohm load, my studies indicated that a high-impedance transformer was necessary to exploit the cartridge... since I note a strong trend of improvement as one travels up that food chain, Auditorium 23 Standard is currently being burned in in my name... This will feed Quicksilver phonostage, pre-, and EL-34 monoblocks pushing Klipsch Chorus II's, all hooked together with Signal silver cabling and all of which I already had lying around... all to hear a frikkin $150 cartridge as it needs to be heard... Shoot me now or suffer the results of my evaluation against the more sane equipment I had been using before my holiday break... Hoping for some real euphonial bliss...
Unfortunately nobody is around to educate audiophile consumers about the very necessary matching one has to undertake to achieve optimal results with analog and particularly low output MC cartridges these days. The good news is that there is a lot of helpful info on the web related to vinyl particularly at sites such as the vinyl asylum at To me, that is where the quality information relating to vinyl playback is, although you may have to wade through a bunch of info that is not true high quality.

Sorry for your experience, but, yes, the Zu at 14 grams is a beast to balance out on many modern day tonearms. I'm also not sure that a step up is the sure way to go as the stepup has to be matched very carefully and involves another set of interconnects.

After lots and lots of research and info searching, as well as acquiring a 103R before the most recent (ie. past 5-6 months) hype, I've settled in with a 103R mounted in a custom ebony body sold by a vinyl asylum inmate for $100. So total cost on the 103R in the ebony body is $370, $30 less than the Zu 103 and the ebony body is reusable. There are various wood bodies available to match up with different tonearms and their weight balancing capabilities. I haven't heard the Zu 103 but I am far from convinced that it would sound better than what I'm using which offers a lot more flexibility into the future.

The 103R, though, is even more difficult to work with in the loading department, preferring, by most accounts, to be loaded into the 40 ohm area, but I don't have to worry about that as I use an Aqvox phono stage which essentially takes loading right out of the equation with any MC cartridge by doing it automatically. I'm very happy with what I have now in the analog department, although I am considering an arm upgrade, but this will take into account my use of the wood bodied Denon as I see no need to go higher up in the food chain in the cartridge department.

But everything counts in table/arm/cartridge/phono stage matching: effective mass, ability to balance, compliance, load, etc. etc. and you better do your homework if you want to enter into this area and make things work. The great thing is the info is out there and when you do make it work the sound quality you are rewarded with is astounding.
I totally respect your approach,and believe you will have a wonderful alternative to the mainstream stuff we enthusists have become accustomed to seeing,too regularly!
I have heard alot of set-ups different from my own modded,and very satisfying system,but I LOVE the differences between them ALL!!All unique with their own strengths.Gotta love it!
To be hitched to one particular camp denies the music lover the wonderful experiences of "something unique".So many interesting hobbyists(like you)to keep us all on our toes.
Best of luck.
Don't worry about the list price for the cartridge, that's just a distraction. Quality is quality. You're getting the right step-up. Now get the right arm. You'll be golden.
What made you think that you must use a SUT to get optimal performance from the Denon? I see no reason for using a SUT unless your phono stage does not have gain enough to amplify the output of the Denon adequately. If you own several phono stages, as your post implies, then surely/maybe/possibly at least one of them will mate well with the Denon. Then all you need is rudimentary soldering skill to install a pair of 100-ohm resistors for a proper load.
Interesting journey. I never left, having used a Denon 103D and matching Denon AU-320 transformer since new in the 1970s as one of my vintage cartridge choices. My tonearm is rather a good match at 15 grams effective mass. I have a new 103 on the way to me from Thakker, in Germany, right now, this being a better match to my transformer than the 103R. My experience is that a properly matched transformer will be superior to a high gain phono stage with the 103, this may be due to it's unusually high internal impedance coupled with the low output voltage, or......? Rejection of out of band content, lower noise? Who knows? Results are all that matters. I can say that you will be very happy with your selection. If you have a bit of extra dosh lieing around, you may want to get a Shure V15111 before the prices become even further out. It is a nice classic groove chewer, as well.
Thanks so far for your encouragement. Lewm, as for my bias toward an SUT, I have advice to the tune of about 20:1 that this is the way to go with a 103. I was being very intentional in my choice of a 45-year-old design-- my musical preference is often avant-garde jazz and small-ensemble chamber music from the late '50's-early '60's, and I wish to hear this part of my collection as it may have been intended or at least mixed. I bet nobody was using powered MC stages at that time-- that bet is heavily on a transformer. However, while I am waiting for it, I will certainly try the Zu through my three powered phono stages, all of which have a nominal loading of 100 Ohms in MC. You can bet that I will want something to compare the SUT to! This is the primary reason that I did not go with a DIY or a Lundahl or any of the other very good alternatives-- I want to hear the maximum difference between a powered MC stage and the SUT, and was willing to pay two or three times the base price for the privilege-- checking account be damned. Where I live, "audiophile" means somebody who is careful placing his 5.1 or 7.1 surround speakers for his consumer-grade HT setup, so I have nowhere to go but the net for advice, and I tend to do my research and commit without first listening. Viridian, if this sounds half as good as I'm hoping, I'm ordering a stock 103 or two and expanding the number of arms that can feed the Auditorium 23. I'ver heard that this SUT might work for some other mid- to high-impedance MCs of around 0.3mV output, like the Benzes and Shelters, so I'll try it out with my other carts, but I'm kinda in the mood for an all-valve horn setup for my vintage Ayler, Byrd, Coleman, Coltrane, Dolphy et al. and I like the idea of a mid-sixties broadcast standard cartridge for it. Hdm, I seriously considered the 103R (and still may buy one) but I was not sure that I would learn what the 103 magic is all about with that design-- Here in my isolated little studio, I am endeavoring to evolve through the technology that eluded me while I was working my way through high school, college, grad school, and family establishment. Only then will I know when it is time to jump off the modern merry-go-round, which I do intend to ride. If nothing else, the above have taught me patience; speaking of which, expect my review after I get a handle on this new front-end.
Morgenholz: If you are going to a multiarm setup and are considering another 103 or 103R, here is some food for thought (and relatively economical, at that) with respect to the 103/103R:

The wood bodies can be purchased for $110 from an inmate at the vinyl asylum named Uwe who resides in Belgium.

The other consideration, although it is a bastardization of the "purist" point of view with the spherical stylus, is a retip of the Denons by Soundsmith using a ruby cantilever and line contact stylus at $250. There are a number of users who have reported this vaults the Denon performance even higher, as the wood body or nuding the cartridge does, but I do not know of anyone at this stage that has combined both the Soundsmith re-tip and the wood bodies.

The combination is something that may prove to be fabulous and I'm toying with the idea myself at this time, but must admit I'm leaning simply toward popping a new 103R into my ebony body when it nears the end of its lifespan later in '08 and possibly sending the older unit off for a re-tip at some point in time in the future. I'd then have both depending on preference and there are those, as you are probably aware, who do make a strong case in favor of the Denon's spherical stylus profile.

Good luck!
Morgenholz, I am actually taking the next jump off of the cliff. Currently refurbishing a 1959 Gray ST-33 turntable with original ESL (Ortofon) S-2000 tonearm, which will be converted to mono use. I will be getting a Denon 102 dedicated mono cartridge, all 13 grams of it, and building a mono system around it. The future is the past.
re: older MCs and transformer loading. One of the best cartridges I ever owned was an original Ortofon SPU G-T. These had tiny transformers built into the headshell, making them extremely heavy. I was able to balance it on my old Ortofon RS-212 arm only with the extra weight screwed into the back. The sounded intensely musical. Eventually one channel went and I sent it to PhonoPhono to be repaired, but they couldn't do anything with it... I guess one of the coils must have been busted.