New Cartridge Gone Wrong

On my last thread I asked for suggestions as to replacements for my husbands Grado Gold. I finally decide on the Kontrapunkt b. But my husband couldn't wait till Christams!!!! So he went out and bought a Denon DL-103.


It sounds awful!!!!!

It sound like a tin can rattling music!!!

I hate it!!

There is no warmth in the vocals or the instrumentals!! I moved the speakers around in order to open the soundstage. Didn't work.

I am wondering if the phonostage is the problem? Could it be that it can't handle the Denon. We set it to moving coil and change the connections accordingly. We did not have to raise the volume level any higher to accomodate the Denon.

My husband feels that it needs to break-in and is still optomistic. He loves the detail but admits that that sound stage is not what it should be. And the base response is not yet at desired level. (HE IS IN DENIAL!!!!)

In my opionion, the lyrics and overall detail have improved. Base response is NONEXISTENT!!!! I am stil looking to purchase the Kontrapunkt b. or the Shelter 501. (One can never have to many cartridges.)

I have heard great things about the Denon but franklin, right now I am not a believer. Any suggestions, other than adding it to my fireplace for heat!!!!

Denon fans, any input???

VPI Scout w/JMW-9 tonearm
Grado Gold Cartridge
X-LPS v3 Phono Stage
Pass x-1 preamp
Pass 250 amp
Legacy Focus 20/20 speakers
YOu may be overloading the phono stage if the Denon is a high output mc. Also you may want to try varying the cartridge loading.
you should change your load impedance on the phonostage if the switch is provided. if not you should change a resistor for each channel by 100Ohms(best for most moving coils).

I had the same experience with a Denon DL-103, bought it based on recommendations here on the 'Gon. Mounted it on my arm and listened to it for about 5 hours, there's no way it was going to improve enough to make it usable. I suspect my phono stage (Primare R20) was a poor match, cuz there's lots of knowledgable 'philes who use the Denon DL-103. Return it if you can, or sell it.
The Denon 103 is not a high output MC, so phono stage overload is not the problem.

Marakanetz's suggestion may help. Here's another:

The Denon 103 and JMW-9 are not a good mass/compliance match. You need to add mass to the headshell or change to a higher compliance cartridge. Personally I'd avoid lowish compliance cartridges like the 103 if I had a lightweight, unstabilized unipivot. You'll have fewer problems with mid-high compliance cartridges.
I just set up my own Denon 103 this AM on an older Thorens TD-125MkII and Audioquest PT-7 arm. I can tell you unequivically that its NOT the 103. I have owned many TT/arm combos from Ariston, Thorens,Rega,Sumiko,up to a my recently sold VPI Aries/JMW10/ZYX FujiS.

I agree with Marakanetz and Swampwalker that you should use 100ohms as your load on the Denon, however....

I spot your problem immediately!!!

You have a very low compliance Denon 103 at 5cu on a JMW Unipivot which ABSOLUTELY NEEDS a higher compliance cart of around 15cu to work properly.

Unipivots in general are less stable than their fixed or Gimbal bearing counterparts, and thus will not tolerate the low cu carts like the Denon, Lyra helikons of the world.

Grados are somewhat high compliance..the wood bodies go around 20cu which is perfect for the JMW.

Its not the just have a tonearm/cart mismatch. Nothing you do will make it sound better unfortunately.

Wood body Grados, Benz Micro Wood bodies, ZYX R20( or any of the ZYX) would be recommended. Not sure on the Kontrapunct..BUT the Shelter's are also NOT a good idea on the JMW's as well..

Hope this help you!

PS...I see Doug just posted the same you have 2 in agreement on the arm/cart mismatch!
when the emperor has no clothes he must be told. give him some time he'll come around.
I have two DL-103s, one on a JMW 10.5 and one on a modded Rega RB-300. They sound great on both, better than any other carts I've tried. On the other hand, I heard one of mine on a Triplanar arm and it sounded hard, bright, and grainy, but it was loaded at 1000 Ohms instead of the recommended 100. Good luck.
Low cu? 100 ohms? Go easy guys. I'm just getting my feet wet and the hubby(self proclaimed audiophile and authority on everything audio-visual) is giving me blank looks when I ask him.
CU = Compliance Units
Every cartridge has a suspension which surrounds the cantilever and dampens its movements, much like the suspension of a car. Just as with cars, there are soft suspensions and firm ones.

High compliance (high CU) cartridges have soft suspsensions. They are best suited for low mass tonearms like hubby's JMW-9.

Low compliance (low CU) cartridges like the Denon 103 have firmer suspensions. They are best suited for a higher mass tonearm, which hubby apparently doesn't own.

100 ohms
A cartridge is an electrical generator. Moving coil cartridges (MC's) like the 103 work by waving a coil of wire around inside a magnetic field to generate AC. Now the electrical resistance of a ciruit acts as impedance to the flow of AC. Impedance is frequency dependent, so the higher the impedance of the circuit the more freely high frequencies will flow. If the impedance of the phono circuit is higher than what the cartridge was designed for, the cartridge will sound hard, bright and grainy.

An MC is also like a motor, which works by running AC through a coil inside a magnetic field, causing the motor to move. Impedance on the circuit dampens the amount of motion the motor is free to produce. High impedance values provide little damping, low impedance values provide much damping. Again, if the impedance of the circuit is higher than what the cartridge was designed for, the cartridge will be underdamped and sound hard, bright or grainy.

Is just learning about the differences between the inexpensive moving magnet cartridges we all grew up with and today's higher performing moving coils.

Compliance wasn't often an issue with those MM's. Most of them were fairly similar (high) in compliance and the arms designed for them were suitably low in mass. Mismatches were rare. Such is not the case with MC's. Compliance of MC's ranges from a low 5cu to 25cu or higher. Cartridge-arm matching is critical to get the kind of performance we expect from these expensive toys. High end analog reproduction is definitely not plug-and-play.

Impedance was never an issue with hubby's MM's either. All MM's are designed to operate into the same impedance, 47K ohms. Unfortunately, there is no such standard for MC's. Each brand and sometimes each model is different. We either have to adjust the impedance of our phono circuit to suit the MC or choose an MC designed for the impedance of our phono circuit. No MC will perform properly if there's an impedance mis-match.

Yikes! There's no way around these issues except to do your homework. Fewer and fewer dealers have any knowledge in these areas, they just want to sell HDTVs and surround systems. Since you're now the resident expert in analog reproduction, I'd suggest you kick back, request a glass of wine and gently let him explain that there's more to this than you knew. ;-)
Thanks alot fellas. As you can sumise the Mrs. has officially taken over my one true love in life and has now begun my education to top things off. On a serious note I really appreciate your input and knowledge I'm sure their are others like me who do not fully understand the ins and outs of our hobby . Maybe we should all get our wives involved and let them ask the questions we dare not ask for fear of sounding ignorant.
I'll third the suspected arm mis-match. I used my 103R on both a Graham 2.2 and Basis Vector and the bass response was excellant. We're talking rattle the windows bass response even a low volumes. I also played around with loading and while I preffered a load below 500 ohms it never sounded as off as Vinyllace describes. While DougDeacon's suggestion to add weight may improve things I'm not sure it will solve all issues with this combination. One good way to find out if the resonant frequency is the problem is to get a copy of the HiFi News Test LP and play the frequency tests. At $45 it would make a great Holiday gift.
Flyfisher, you should really count your blessings! I would love for my wife to get involved in this vinyl lunacy. She tolerates it and occasionally stops and says, "That sound pretty good." That is as much as I can hope for.

Good luck and have fun!