Phono stage for Denon DL103R

I am considering adding either a Denon DL103R or Audio Technica OC9 cartridge to this setup. I presently have a Musical Fidelity X-LPSv3 phono stage and have not been able to determine if this stage will match either of these cartridges. I am trying to determine the amount of gain output by this phone pre-amp. The only information I have is a MC sensitivity of 350uV for 350mV output at 1kHz. Any and all input would be greatly appreciated.
This will not answer your question on whether or not the MF phono stage is compatible with these two cartridges, however, assuming you are still using the VPI Scout you may wish to consider a different cartridge altogether.

Both of these cartridges are low compliance designs and are not really a good choice with lower mass tonearms such as the VPI. The Denon DL103R is one of the lowest compliance cartridges at 5 x 10-6 cm/dyne and the Audio Technica OC9 is a bit better but still on the low side at 9 x 10-6cm/dyne. While they are both excellent cartridges, especially considering their reasonable prices, they are intended for use in high mass tonearms. In your price range you may wish to consider a Grado or Benz as these will be a good match for your arm and are both very musical. If you prefer Japanese cartridges another possiblity that would be an excellent choice would be a Dynavector such as the Karat 17D3 that is easy to find used with low hours for around $400 or so.

Much has been written in this forum on the subject of compliance and correct matching of tonearms and cartridges. Following I'm attaching TWL's words on the subject as he explains it very well and in some detail. Hope you find this information useful.

04-22-03: Twl
Frank, , the term "compliance" relates to the flexibility of the suspension of the particular cartridge. Generally, a number of 12cu or under is considered low compliance. Low compliance means a stiff suspension, and often accompanies a heavier cartridge. Over 12 and under about 25 is medium. And over 25 is high compliance. Actual numerical values of these definitions may vary by some opinions, but these are approximately the values.

Many observe the proper guidelines for arm/cart resonance matching, which would give a combined mass/resonance in the 10Hz-12Hz area. But this is not the only thing that needs to be accounted for. Compliance will affect some tonearm designs in different ways. For example, you don't put a super-high compliance cart on a high mass tonearm. You don't put a super-low compliance cart on a low mass tonearm.

What I referred to above was low compliance incompatibility with certain unipivots. The lack of rigid horizontal orientation of these arms precludes use of very low compliance carts, due to the propensity of the cartridge compliance to cause the tonearm to change azimuth during play. Outriggers and fluid damping, and higher weight "cups" have mitigated this somewhat in the better designs, but the basic rule holds in the more extreme cases. All unipivot designers are aware of this, and readily admit this mismatch with low compliance carts. I even recently read an interview with Harry Weisfeld, the designer of the JMW arms, and when asked about the disadvantages of unipivot tonearms,he said in the interview," as the arm rides up and down on the record, the aspect ratio can change. In other words the arm tilts."

This is not much of a problem with medium and high compliance cartridges, because they do not generate the same amount of deflection to the arm as a low compliance does. So, the result is that medium and higher compliance carts are better matches for these types of arms than low compliance ones.

Very low compliance carts like the Denon DL103, present a challenge to even the better gimbal-bearing arms, due to the energy transmitted to the arm and bearings.

In the case of a "borderline" match, where the numbers are on the edge of compatibility, it is potentially a problem. You should not go there unless you are willing to sell the cart or the arm in case of a mismatch.

For a rookie, the best bet is stay in the "happy medium". A medium mass arm, a medium compliance cart, will usually provide good results. When you start to get into the exotic stuff, you should have gained enough knowledge and experience to make the correct matching decisions.

That was a copy of one of my previous posts in the archives on this subject. To address your particular question about arm masses and examples, generally under 7 grams is lightweight, 7-11 grams is medium weight, and 12 or over is heavy weight. Again, these are generalizations, but they are pretty accurate. Like a Rega tonearm with 11 grams effective mass is on the high end of "medium" and could be used with a lower compliance cartridge in many cases. Most arm manufacturers will give the effective mass spec on their spec chart for the arm. You can compare that to my generalizations above for the category it would fall under. There are also some charts on the net, that I couldn't find just now, that give resonance matching data.

For some examples of arm types, a Rega is a gimbal-bearing arm, a Graham or JMW would be examples of unipivot arms. And of course, an ET-2.5 is an example of a linear tracking arm.
I don't know the gain of the Musical Fidelity X-LPSv3 and I looked around and nobody has the gain listed as a simple db of gain figure. In fact, I looked at a dozen websites and they all carried the same words as each other website.

I can tell you with the Denon and the AT (I've owned them both) you need between 58 and 63 db of gain. My phono stage has 60 db and it worked fine with both of these. I tried the Denon with 53 db of gain on a different system and it was a tad short of gain.
Using a low output cartridge is going in deep waters...
Concerning Tswhitsel's concerns about compliance, don't be concerned. Both AT and Denon specify compliance @
100hz rather than the otherwise-universally used 10hz, which puts the Denon at 9cu. That may theoretically make the JMW arm still marginal for the Denon, but in real use you should see no issues. Even then, a headshell weight is available from vpi should you feel you need it.

A quick search on Vinyl Asylum will provide many other instances of happy Scout/DL-103 users.
Thanks to all for your responses. Interesting dilemma... I am gathering from the info you have given me that even though the carts I have mentioned are good they are only as good as they can be with higher mass tonearms? A Moving magnet cart which might be considered not to offer the same sound quality might then be a better match and thus sound better in my particular system. I had a Grado Gold ( I broke the cantilever) and was never totally happy with the sound. In fact I thought it was rather veiled in my system. The denon seems to impart life to the music, this being on the Thorens table. I find it difficult to believe that a vintage table can sound so much better than the highly acclaimed Scout and can only conclude that this due to improper matching and or setup. I am working toward correcting this matter and have begun by building a wall shelf in order to alleviate springy floor problem...
Is thier anyplace here or on the asylum that gives a succint explanation of compliance issues?Tswhitsel gives excelent info but wondering if there is full driections on comliance issues anywhere.Be great if soimeone had one or it could be found on a comercial site (or a book) thatwould explain it,gain,load,etc inn one digestable bite.But this was great.
PS anybody ever see the college physics book written (before digital) that used Hifidleity as a mneans to teach the subject.Had it many years ago and wish I could find it again.Haven't been able to find my Hartley book in years and don't rmeber how much he went into turntables tech.hear from freind that Fremmer's DVD is pretty good but maybe a little lite but then again he's and engineer and I'm not.
Flyfisher-I'll reiterate. A Denon 103/103r will be fine with your jmw 9 arm. If you are at all concerned about the compliance issue, VPI sells a headshell weight for (I believe) 15.00, but I honestly don't think you'll need it. This is from my own experience, and from many others (see Vinyl Asylum)

As far as your phono stage, you'll need to load this cart at +/- 100 ohms, and have approx. 60db of gain. Don't know enough about your phono stage to comment on those parameters.....
To bring some of my perspective in here, in particular with respect to Tswhitsel's comments:

Tswhitsel is completely correct to point out the problems of matching a very lightweight arm like the JMW9 to low compliance cartridges like the Denon. Following the same arguments, I would have expected the Denon to be a very bad match to the JMW9 arm. Nevertheless, I tried it, since I was curious about the Scout and only had a Denon DL103R around. It turns out it wasn't such a bad match at all. I would even go as far as saying that the JMW9 worked better with the DL103R than on my previous Rega derivative arms.

Some details about the Denon compiance: I measured the resonance frequency for the Denon DL103/JMW9/3g headshell weight and got a resonance somewhere between 9-10Hz. Removing the additional weight the resonance lies around 10-11, which is still a very acceptable value.

As for unipivot design with low compliance cartridges (an excerpt from the Van den Hul web page):

Q: I have a unipivot arm from the USA. What sort of cartridge should I buy ?

A: A cartridge with a lower compliance to avoid the well known Olympic game: Groove jumping. When you order a cartridge from our company, please tell your dealer that you need a cartridge for this type of arm. It helps to reduce all kinds of problems.

As a result Van den Hul's comments would suggest exactly the opposite: To mate a unipivot arm with something like the Denon!

Soundwise the Denon is still my favorite for the Scout I have around right nowÂ…just my own experience. :)

A couple of good sources for resonance calculations and a good discussion of comliance vs. effective arm mass:

Great Primer on Arm/Cartridge matching

Resonance Calculator

Van den Hul FAQ

The DL103 range of carts work well with medium mass arms as it is not quite the low compliance cart folks think it is. Some doubt exists as to the way Denon measured the cart and when measured by a number of posters on the Vinyl Asylum the compliance number is found to be in the 10-15 x 6 cm/dyne range.

Another misconception is that low compliance carts don't work on unipivots, but like Restock I have tried the combination and if anything I found the contrary to be true.

As for the gain, the DL103 cart seem to like step up transformers. Use a step-up and plug it into your MC inputs. Cinemag makes step-ups that work well with DL103's that is not very expensive.

I was able to contact Musical Fidelity and I was given the following information: The gain on the XLPSv3 is 52db MM and 68db MC. Given this info, will the cartridges in question work well with the phono preamp?
I put the DL-103 on the JMW arm and conducted the resonance test on the High-Fi News Test LP. I obtained the following results: 9-11 hz on the lateral, and 10-11hz on the vertical. This seems to be within the acceptable range. The DLl-103R has different specs...More homework.
The Denon 103R has the same compliance as the straight 103 (the only difference being the 6 nines copper windings and slightly lower output impedance) so resonance test results should be the same.
Thanks to all for your input and advice. As always asking for advice on Audiogon is a learning experience. I placed an order for the DL103R and will report when cartridge arrives.