Twl: I am a dunce in the compliance, etc. area. Have an older Gyrodek with a Sumiko Premier FT3 arm and am currently using an Ortofon MC 20 Super. Would the Denon mate well with the FT3?
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Hdm, I couldn't find the effective mass spec for the FT3 tonearm, so I can't say for certain. My guess is, that if it is one of the older curved arms, it will be okay. I am not sure if the bearings will be up to the DL103, but if you feel no play, you should be all right. The very low compliance is one of the caveats of this cartridge. It is great, but the arms that handle it are not too plentiful. I have devised a tonearm mod for the Rega arms, which make them a better match for this cartridge, and makes the sound tremendously better with any cartridge. This mod is currently under Beta Testing and will be available soon.
Twl: Thanks for the info. The FT3 is a straight arm with a fixed headshell, a step up (significantly I think) from the MMT at the time. Has a removeable weight at the end of the arm to be used with heavier cartridges (which I'm currently using with MC 20) and allows for use either damped or undamped (I am running it damped). I'll post on the vinyl asylum at Audioasylum to see if anyone knows the effective mass. It is definitely not a heavy arm in the vein of the Ekos/Ittok or SME IV or V though.
Very nice review on the Denon 103R. I have a sense you know your stuff. Given that, what's your opinion on the Dynavector 17D2? Also, any more thoughts on the Shelter 501? And the Shelter 901? If you're familiar with these, please feel free to compare the differences in sound qualities and the relative magnitude of the differences vs. the 103R since you set such a good baseline there.
Any chance these other cartridges might be worth the extra $ over the 103R (I know that depends on budget, etc., but you did a great job of reviewing the 103R... so thanks in advance for any more info.)
Best regards, Yada
Okay, all 3 in order. Yada, the 17d2 is a very good cart, and I do like the Dynavector sound. However, I am very partial to the low compliance cartridges. The Shelter 501 is a step up from the 103R, and is a very lush romantic sounding cartridge that performs way beyond it's price range, just as the 103R does. The 901 is even beyond the 501, but has a more analytical quality, and less lush. They are both awesome cartridges.
Viridian, I have to confess that I don't know if the Shelter company has any ties to the old Supex company. I have never heard that they were the old Supex cartridges re-named. I have listened to many of the old Supex carts, back in the day, and don't really notice alot of similarity to them. I do know that the older Linn cartridge line was made to Linn specs by Supex. If the Shelter stuff is made by the old Supex guys, there is nothing wrong with that. Supex made some very good ones, and the old man at Koetsu started out with Supex, so that is some good credentials. Do you know anything about the Shelter being modern Supex's?
Drubin, I got mine on the Audiogon classified, from Martin. I believe the ad is still on the classified. It is now $230 because of a Denon price increase. Still a great buy.
Thank you for honestly describing theeffective mass requirement and the midrange anomaly (unkind people say honk) that may disqualify this otherwise excellent cartridge series for the rest of us. When these cartridges were first introduced there was the Supex, the Fidelity Research, the Koetsu Black and Rosewood, and the Denon. I was in the FR camp - couldn't afford the Rosewood! I gave up the bass impact of the Denon (didn't need it in my system then) for the more natural midrange of the FR. Then and today we also had Ortofons, but that's another story.
All I can say is many thanks to Twl for the initial review of the Denon 103R phono cartridge. His review and analysis is dead on. I now have broken in the Denon 103R,took about 25 hours to do. At first the Denon did little to impress,but I have been down this road before and knew that some break in time was needed,before any real evaluation could be done.
This is without question one high end true bargains. Nothing at it's price range can touch it.And damn little can touch it up to the $800.00 plus level. Years ago I had a Denon 103D and was very fond of it. However the 103R will totally make 103D users want the 103R.
During the last week or so after the cartridge has broken,have listen to Rock, Jazz, Classical, Vocals, and you name it. Tried very hard to find fault with it. There is just no fault present. The 103R delivers the music with an impact,depth and clarity that is truly amazing. The soundstage is the widest I have heard in a very long time.A view of the specs,would indicate a just good MC cartridge.Well let me tell you the specs for the 103R are highly under rated. The separation of 25dB is a joke,much closer to 30dB or better. For some reason Denon has under spec.,this cartridge.
Orginally bought this cartridge to use on my Oracle Alexandria. However it is to heavy for the Sumiko Arm on the Oracle. So was installed on the Denon DP 61F. Installing this cartridge on a Denon table is as goof proof as it comes. Did not have to bother with VTA as it was right on.Overhang was right on. While the 61F is not the last word in turntables, this combination workd very well indeed and I am most happy with the results.
At the present price the Denon DL 103R is an outright gift.So if you are in the market for a new MC you owe it to yourself to try the 103R.
My many thanks to TWL for his review,for it was that review that prompted me to buy the 103R.
Yes and no. The 103R is a good cartridge but it good only in context of its $175. The 103R have large number of sonic and “political” imperfections that make this cartridge not serious. The positive things that those imperfections most of the time masked out by the variety of the incapacities of the playback systems. Yes, in context of the average American audiophileic installations this is a wonderful cartridge. However, it is wonderful only become the demands are insultingly low, the masking capacity unfortunate very high and the correct evaluation methods are not here. (Although I do like what you have written). In other words the 103R dose as much as it cost. No more no less.
Romy the Cat
Verybigamp (aka Romy): I don't have a Denon cartridge and have never owned or listened to one. However, I am persuaded to give it a try based on the above detailed reviews.
Perhaps you are right that the Denon has imperfections, but you don't state what they are! If you would write a rebuttal that is as objective and as detailed as the positive ones, then I might take your comments more seriously.
I would like to consder using the DL-103R. Not sure my table is up to the task. I have a Denon DP-30L in excellent working condition. Can this turntable handle the Dl-103 or 103R. I would be using it with a Mitsubishi DA-P20 pre-amp, some diy-gainclones (love em) and Kef-104ab speakers.
Thanks for the review.
Billyb1, please check the following web for cartridge setting.
I recently got the 103R from Audiocube and it beated my Shure V15 Type V. It tracked the Shure Tracking LP test for V15 Type II and III perfectly. By the way, does any one knows what was the lowest frequency on the last drum track on side 2 of the Shure Tracking LP? The 103R output leads are not clear, what are El and Er? I assumed they are the ground leads for left and right. The 103R has more body, darker background and depth than Shure type V. The 103R matched better with my Sonic Frontiers SFP-1 than QuickSilver phono with Dynavector step-up transformer.
I can't speak for the DL103R part of the review (yet), but you hit the nail on the head with your review of the Denon DL103, in every particular, as far as I'm concerned. I'll have to try the "R" version some day, but I'm enjoying the togetherness, tonal honesty and rhythmic adpetness of the 103 so much I can't bring myself to touch my system!
I bought some lead weights, now where's that damned Blu-tak?! I'll have to buy another packet AGAIN, where do they all go? Be reporting on your tweak very soon (but God does that cartridge make music).
I recently bought a DL-103 and am running it in a Mayware Formula V arm on a Walker CJ61 turntable. Comments? Sounds great, seems very happy in the Mayware. Curiously, it seems happier with the Mayware cursor weight in its normal position (arm effective mass about 8g) than with the weight moved right up to the headshell (arm effective mass about 11g.) Also it sounds better with securing bolts just nipped up nicely (as recommended by both Denon and Mayware), rather than tightened to the limit. (My theory is that energy should be dissipated like a transmission line away from the cartridge rather than reflected to and fro.)
However two aspects of the DL-103 are worth knowing and may explain complaints from some people about harshness. Running it though a 1:10 step up transformer, I found it benefited from keeping the leads from the transformer to the amplifier as short as possible (to keep down capacitance. I also found that when run into 47k ohms (i.e. 470 ohms on the cartridge side of the transformer), the sound was a bit sharp and brash. Reducing the amplifier input impedance to 10 kohm (1.e. 100 ohms at the cartridge side) made it beautifully smooth but just a little rolled off at the top. To my ears, 15k at the amplifier input (i.e. 150 ohms at the cartridge side) is just nice ... very nice.
Twl, I noticed your use of an outboard step up (Cotter mk2) listed as listed in your associated equipment list. As this is no longer available, is there another step up currently being sold that really make the DL 103r really stand up and sing with all its heart.
Would you comment on the settings used and or recommended for use with the DL 103r cartridge when used with step ups such as input or output loading or the stock values of the Cotter mk2 transformer? Maybe also others might be using to great success? After reading Jeff Day's review experience (6moons) on the Auditorium 23 unit (rumored to be made with Lebong transformers) I am wondering what more is available in the DL 103r and what many are "leaving on the table undiscovered"
Thanks in advance! Enjoy your music
Twl, thank you for the excellent review! I want to emphasize the need to use a high quality phono preamp with the Denon DL-103. It makes or breaks the magic this cartridge has to offer. I can't emphasize this enough. I've had a DL-103 in my system for more than a year now, but it wasn't until I paired it with a Musical Surroundings Phonomena that the magic happened. I had been using a Musical Fidelity X-LPS and never knew that a better phono preamp could make such a dramatic difference. See my comments here:
Can anyone comment about this comment made on another forum about the 103R:
103r....if that it is a spherical version, it will wear records faster than any elliptical or fine line made. the 103d, as I recall was the very good stereo model 25 years ago.
and this one: 103R is a conical stylus (16.5 micron round pin), so not that detail in digging into the groove and wears record faster due to surface contact + tracking force value.
Great review TWL,
I purchased a Denon DL103R with a Uwe wood body some time ago after hearing what a great value it is. I also purchased a Bob's devices step-up which is supposed to be a good match for the DL103R according to it's maker. I had originally intended to use it with my McIntosh C28 pre-amp and Bogen MO100 monoblocks, however I sort of went off on a tangent and purchased a Scott299c integrated. Right now I am listening to my JVC QL-Y66F. A fully automatic direct drive with a dynamically dampened and stabilized tonearm, an Ortofon 2M Black cartridge, run through the Scott 299C to my Klipsch Cornwalls. It sounds great but I'm not quite "there" yet. I was told by Craig at NOS valves to not even try using a step-up transformer with the Scott 299C as I would probably encounter hum issues, but after reading your review I'm very tempted to give it a go anyways. What do you think?
Just picked up a new Denon DL-S1 at a well-discounted price not much greater than the 103R. The DL-S1 is Denon's top model, with low output similar to the 103R, but a higher 40ohm impedance and a medium-compliance suspension. The DL-S1 should make for an interesting comparison to some of the excellent NOS MM/MI cartridges that I've lately enjoyed courtesy of Raul's long thread.
The 103R Cartridges have always been a winner. This cartridge continues be be the lowest cost serious player available. I say this with the confidence of having worn out several. As for value, nothing comes close for the investment, you would have to spend 2 1/2 to 3Xs the money to equal the audio return.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I give the venerable 103R a 12.
Yes... I like the cartridge. Someone PLEASE let me know of a better offering for the dollar (or what's left of it).
I haven't tried a 103R yet but have been using a 103 for the last 2 years. I had mine mounted on a highly modified Technics SL-1210 going to an Allnic AT-3000 step-up and into a restored Harman Kardon Citation 1 tube preamp feeding a pair of JM labs Focal Diva Utopia be speakers. The sound is "Magical".
The cantilever on my 103 just broke and I am considering sending it off to SoundSmith for a level II rebuild. I am considering the purchase of a 103R in the interim and looking forward to comparing the stock 103R to the 103 rebuild from SoundSmith.
This cartridge is amazing for the money. It sounds great on my Scout. Sounds great with the JMW 9 arm, believe it or not. I found 2 things that are critical. First, mounting it properly is key. Nut under cartridge, screw end on top. Also, loading this cart is very important. I have mine at about 80 ohm through my Xono. Very impressive, so much so that I do not think that one could ask for much more. IMHO, you have to spend about at least 5 times more to get better performance. It tracks wonderfully on this JMW 9 arm, don't be scared away from it regarding its high mass compliance spec. The Scout and Denon is a great combination. Big stage and not overly detailed in a good way, but trust me, detailed enough and you will be able to enjoy your whole record collection. This "is" the best value in Analog that I have ever heard, period. If you have a Scout, a decent phonopre, needs at least 100 ohm loading and get this cartridge, you will be happy long time. Setup is KEY.
I will be mating this to the Denon DP-45f. I will be using it to record with PureVinyl and use the software for RIAA Curve. The TC Electronic Impact Twin should be able to handle the output from the low MC. I have been told by Channel D that they are using the TC to record with several MC cartridges.
I was wondering, is there a MM Cartridge that compares closely with this 103R? Just in case, I don't like the result I get from going MM.
Your experienced and learned thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
That is a good review.
I can vouch for the value and quality of sound the 103R can deliver. Its a no brainer at its price point assuming the right phono gear to match, ie phono pre-amp capable of enough gain for the very low output of the 103R and use with at least a moderate mass tonearm.
Its a winner in my rig which uses Audiocompaniet step up device into ARC sp16 pre-amp phono input. Table and tonearm is Linn Axis with basic tonearm. Leaves little if anything to want.
I use DNM Reson ICs which tend help deliver the DEnons strengths as mentioned quite well, but these are unshielded and external noise can be an issue.
I use Mu metal shielding around step up transformer to address.
Other shielded phono ICs are beter suited out of the can for use with low level output carts like the 103R.