Review: Denon DL-110 Cartridge


Category: Analog

While delving through my stash of phono cartridges came across this Denon DL 110 high output phono cartridge. Can't remember where this came from, but was new in box and never open. Oh well, remember fellow audiogon member Ed Kobesky had done a review on its big brother the Denon DL 160 and found that I agreed with him completely on the DL 160.

Have owned many Denons in the past 47 years in the hobby such as the 103,103D,103S,103R as well as the DL160 and now the DL 110. It is very hard to fault the overall Denon line of phono cartridges and when it comes to price/performance ratio, nothing else even comes close to the sonic superioirty of the Denon line up. And that has held true for well over 30 years.

With what we have in analog turntables and software today,with the vast majority of the used LPs to me it just doesn't make sense to spend tons of dollars in this medium,for it is all limited to the source material that is available.

Some of the so called new 180 gram and 200 gram pressings are worse in quality than finding a pristine or good used example from years gone by. There have been very few so called audiophile pressings that are worth the money to buy and some are just horrid sonically. Beware of the new audiophile pressings most are not worth the money spent on them.

Same with the hardware, turntables over $1,000.00 generally won't perform any better than a $500.00 table and much can be said of phono cartridges as well. In my opinion spending more than $400.00 in a phono cartridge is sheer lunacy. But it is your money and do spend it as you wish and remember the words of PT Barnum in doing so.

By any standard one would care to judge the venerable Denon DL 110 Moving Coil cartridge,one must agree that for its price point, this is a stellar phono cartridge,that his stood the test of time and continues to impress to this day. If memory serves me correct these broke onto the market in 1982 or so at about $125.00 retail for the DL 110 and now some 25 years later still in production and the retail price has gone up by $15.00 dollars to $140.00. Now thats value par excellence.

But none of the above would matter, if the DL 110 did not deliver the music. It does and has that wonderful Denon signature. The Denon DL 110 has a way of getting into the grooves and extracting the information contained therein with total authority. And when playing used vinyl there is hardly a better performer than the Denon DL 110, it will play vintage vinyl with aplomb, where other and more expensive phono cartridges just give up. Due to its diamond shape surface noise is all but non-existent. As well as several albums I have played that I thought had surface noise,when played by the Denon DL 110, that noise was gone!

Listed below are some of the Albums I used to audition or more precise to reaudition with the Denon DL 110.

Albums Are:

Bob James - Hands Down (Columbia FC 38067)
Hiroshima - Self Titled - (Arista MFSL1-525)
John Coltrane - Blue Train - (Blue Note BST 81577)
Wes Montgomery - Bumpin' - (Verve V6-8625)
Rickie Lee Jones - Self Titled - (Warner BSK 3296)
Wynton Marsalis - Live Blues Alley - (Columbia PC2-40675)
Eric Gale - Forecast - (KUDU Records KU 11)(CTI Records)
Kenny Burrell & Grover Washington Jr - (Blue Note BT 85106)
Earl Klugh - Finger Painting - (Blue Note MFSL 1-025)
Larry Carlton - Friends - (Warner 23834-1)
Sadao Watanabe - Autumn Blow - (Inner City IC 6064
Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute - (Warner BSK 3193)
Santana - Zebop - (Columbia FC37158)
Pat Metheny Group - American Garage - (ECM 1-1155)
Frederick Fennel - Cleveland Symphonic Winds - (Telarc 5038)

A few others were used as well, but this gives you the idea of the music used.

I am not going to go into a long narrative and blow by blow description of each album and the resulting findings. But make no mistake the Denon DL 110 played all the above with a verve to total musicality. Balance,tonality,attack,decay, were spot on. Great frequecy response and channel separation to die for.

Here is a product that truly delivers well over its price range and how Denon can keep producing this stellar performer for $140.00 is a mystery to me. But I am certainly glad that they can.

Specs Below:

Denon DL-110 Specifications:

Output: 1.6mV

Stylus: Special Elliptical Solid Diamond

Cantilever: Aluminum

Frequency Range: 20 to 45,000 Hz

Tracking Force: 1.5-2.1g

Weight: 4.8g

Found that in my rig a setting of 2 grams tracking force with 2 grams anti skate worked just fine and yielded the best results.

In phono cartridges of today, one can do far worse in not picking the Denon DL 110. In my opinion having been around as long as I have in the hobby, this is an Icon product, that not only has withstood the test of time, but continues to do so today.

So when your ready to jump off the snob bandwagon and start to really enjoy the music again, the Denon DL 110 or Denon DL 160 will be waiting for you. After all in the long run this hobby is about the music and not the gear and paranoia that surrounds this hobby.

My thanks to Ed Kobesky for his review on the Denon DL 160 which prompted this review on the Denon DL 110. If it had not been for that review may have put the DL 110 up for sale, instead of using the DL 110 and would have missed a very musical experience. This has been a very pleasant surprise and reaquaintance with the Denon DL 110. This is one cartridge I will just wear out, then get another DL 110.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

Similar products
Denon,Grado,Audio Technica,Sumiko,Shure and countless others
Images
Convert?fit=crop&h=192&w=256
Convert?fit=crop&h=192&w=256
Convert?fit=crop&h=192&w=256
Convert?fit=crop&h=192&w=256
ferrari
thanks ferrari for helping to make more people aware of these amazing cartridges. i recently took a chance and bought a DL-160, in part based on ed kobesky's review. i am shocked at how good it sounds, and it replaced a MSRP $2.5K low-output moving coil. i couldn't be happier! i would describe the 160's sound as "big, bold, and detailed-yet musical. the bass has tamed with break-in, but it still plumbs the depths, albeit more accurately now. it sounds GREAT with mono LPs as well--a most pleasant surprise.
I still have a Denon 304-low output....I'll probably retip it someday.....good cartridge, great tracker, very good sound...Good stuff, enjoy
I replaced a Linn K9 with the Denon DL110 and I really can't find the superlatives to describe the cart.
It copes with everything from slightly damaged original 45's to MFSL's with complete aplomb.
I bought it as a budgetary compromise and haven't looked back.
Highly recommended.
>turntables over $1,000.00 generally won't perform any better than a $500.00 table and much can be said of phono cartridges as well<

Nice review, but this is an utterly ridiculous statement. No one in their right mind could agree with it.

Oz
Generally speaking turntables in the $500.00 to $1,000.00 range exhibit the same general sonic signature. In my opinion once one gets into the $1,500.00 price range of turntables, the the overall sonics dramatically increase and usually the tone arm is vastly superior in this range.Of course I am talking about stock, straight out of the box with no mods at all.

However it all somewhat becomes academic to a point. Here we are several years after vinyls golden age and we are spending hundreds to thousands of dollars to spin vintage vinyl at about $3.00 to $5.00 a LP. Or spend wasteful dollars on new 180 gram vinyl that usually falls far short of the vintage vinyl.

In the final analysis its your dollars spend them as you decide to do so. However even the most pedestrain turntable will usually sound vastly superior to most CD players on the market.
Having owned a number of turntables from $500 to $1000 (Rega P2, Rega P3, Linn Axis) and quite a few from $0 to $500 (Dual, Thorens, Harman/Kardon) I have to agree with Ferrari's statement that there isn't NECESSARILY a performance gap between units costing $500 and $1000.

A lot of factors come into play, such as whether the design costs have been amortized (like Rega's), or whether they're built in countries with cheap labor (Pro-Ject and Music Hall) and also how crafty the engineers are (and how well they get along with the bean counters).

Would anyone suggest that a $300 Project Debut couldn't outperform a $600 Thorens TD190? Or that, blindfolded, many people couldn't tell the difference between a Rega P3 and a Rega P25? I certainly wouldn't.

In hi-fi, price does not always equal performance. It's like Lew Rothman of JR Cigar says: "What's the difference between a $2 cigar and a $10 cigar? Eight dollars."
I think you need to reread what he wrote.

>turntables OVER $1,000.00 generally won't perform any better than a $500.00 table<

OVER is much different than between. If he had meant it the way you said it, yes I would agree. But I DO NOT agree that tables over 1K don't improve on what you get with tables between 500.00-1000.00.

Oz
So areading Kobesky and this review,I'd like to know
the answer to the $40 Question. Is the tapered cant etc. give better sound etc. whatever than the dl 110?
thanks.
For what it's worth I am debating either of these two against an Ortofon Mc-5X, or is it MC-X5? Any helpers on this one?
bob in Reading
Either the Denon DL 110 or 160 are superb budget MC phono cartridges. The tapered cantilever on the DL 160 reduces the mass at the diamond, allowing better tracking and quicker response to the grooves and the ability to use less tracking force. With that being said there is in my opinion no difference I can hear in overall sonic siganture. Both work well with medium mass tone arms such as the Rega RB 300 and the like.

The Ortofon X5 is great cartridge, but not for everybody.Has the Fritz Gyer diamond stylus and this is a very analytical cartridge. For me it seem to work better for classical,jazz and chamber music. But overall for my musical taste was just to analytical. But nonetheless it remains a very good phono cartridge for those that like this type of signature.
I agree completely...I've been buying the DL-110 lately because I simply can't hear much difference though I can't say what might happen if I auditioned them back to back.

I've never heard the Ortofon X5-MC but I've owned two X1-MC carts with the standard elliptical stylus. Both were neutral to a fault but somehow left me cold. For $5 less, I'll take the Denon.

Of course...for $40 less and offering just as much detail but with a slightly peaky top end...there's the Audio-Tecnica AT-440ML with AT's MicroLine stylus. Amazing tracker and really yanks every last detail out of the grooves. Definitely not for systems that lean toward lean or dry, but definitely a contender for under $100. Maybe even alone at that price.
I have been very happy with the Denon DL-110 that I have been using. Gets smoother aka 'warmer' and more detailed with each improvement I make to my NAD533.

I am thinking of getting the Channel Islands VPP-1 phono preamp (now using Cambridge 540p) after a few more upgrades to my table and would like to hear any DL-110 owners experiences with the Benz ACE.

I have heard it posted that the Benz is smooth, very detailed; a lusher presentation that the Denon DL-110.

Is the Benz ACE worth going to? Big change/improvement over the DL-110.

It's hard to settle when you haven't heard the gap between these products. I am very willing to stay at the DL-110 if the Benz is all hype.

I know, I know, I would go listen but there are no dealers in the area, etc, etc.
It's funny, wayy back I had the LP12-Valhalla/ITTOK/KOETSU BLACK which was then the bees knees in '83! But hard times have left me with a Systemdek IIX, Rega RB300 unmodified and a Rega Elys just put out to grass by a 10X5. I couldn't agree more with what you say. The only difference being passages which the old combo picked up but the new one doesn't, but in terms of musicality in some ways much better - at today's prices, 1/3rd the cost! The law of diminishing returns methinks!
Adcom, Levinson, McIntosh...they've all given up their MC cartridge line. I think it's wonderful that Denon still contributes a product like this. Sure, it's not altruism...the line is profitable. But that's because the design is great and Denon can do the kind of efficient manufacturing that the Koetsus and Benzes of the world cannot. The DL-110 and DL-160 deserve the praise they've earned as unique, high-value products that may not be 'neutral' but are most certainly 'musical.'
High enough output for the Bellari? I want to get the VP 129 and use it with the DL-110. Is the Bellari capable of dring this 1.6mV cartridge?
this cartridge puts our 2.1mV +/- .1.

this ~might~ be as low the Bellari wants to go as long as your line preamp has a sufficient ammount of gain, say 20mV.

you might also want to add a NOS tube in there - might get a wee bit more gain from it.
Well, I've since been advised that the DL-110, though "high-output", is still lower than the standard MM cartridge and thus is not likely to do well with the Bellari. So I'm getting a used/excellent Black Cube (MM AND MC settings) for about the same price as a new Bellari. I'm happy now!
can anyone confirm or deny the experience that i've had with the 110 on 2 decks (nottingham interspace and linn axis) that the sound, while very very good, is a bit icy. not icy as in cold or clinical but icy as in the opposite of lush. ie, if grado woodies and koetsus are on the warmish side (and denons 103 for that matter)... the denon is slightly on the coolish side?

thanks
I would not characterize the Denon 110 or 160 as cold and icy by any means. However a lot has to do with the tonearm,preamp,cabling,proper setup,VTA,overhang adj, etc.

Given all those parameters I have found these Denon DL 110 and 160 to be on the warm side of neutral on my system and other systems I have used. No the Denons are not in the exalted league of esoteric Moving Coils. But your not paying that price either. The Denons are just musical and non fatiquing to listen to. The Denons do not do one thing very well, but do the entire musical spectrum very well.

I have had some very high end Moving Coils over they years such as my last high end Moving Coil the Dynavector 17D Mk II, now since retired. The Denon DL 160 is my everyday phono cartridge and have a Denon DL 110 as back up. Should I become somewhat fumbled fingered and break the Denons, it won't cause me to go into heart failure. The price points on the Denons are very easy to live with and offer about 95 percent of the performance of the estoeric brands.

Being retired now,I listen a lot about 20 to 30 hours per week. I have yet to tire of the Denon DL 110 and DL 160. Having been in this hobby since 1957, in my opinion the Denons offer the magical big sound for the dollar.
Tapashead: Needledoctor's site suggests that the output of the 110 and 160 is closer to 2.2mv than the stated 1.6mv (my recently purchased 103R came with an output chart from Denon stating .31mv on one channel and .32 on the other as opposed to the generally advertised .25mv Denon spec). This is just a thought/guess, but if you can adjust the gain on your phono preamp, perhaps you should drop it down to see what that might do to the sound. Perhaps you are overloading your preamp with too much gain.
Hello,
Thanks for the thorough review of the 110. I think this will be my next cartridge. I have a Thorens TD 316 mk.2; I hope it works well with its arm.
I have a Counterpoint SA-1000 with MC ability. Should I use the MC rather than the MM?
Where is a good place to buy the 110? I'm in the US. Are there any dealers that offer better prices than retail?

Thanks,
David Parker
You can buy the Denon DL 110 from a company in Germany, He sells them on eBay for a big discount. He has the DL 110 listed for $110.00 plus shipping. If using the DL 110 use the MM phono input on the Counterpoint.
Interesting review, as for the $1,000 dollar plus turntable comment I quite agree. You are then running into the law of diminishing returns and also the "Kings new clothes" syndrome. Usually by the time you are well enough established to be spending such money on hifi, you've lost physiological ability to detect any subtle distinguishing nuances that do exist anyway.
Same goes for CD players too after about $1000, but you'd be burnt as a heretic if you tried to tell anyone that.
Oh look the King isn't wearing any clothes!
Actually William Thackker is now selling them for $119, plus $12 for shipping to US. I just ordered one from a UK company that is shipping to US for $128 total -- a few bucks cheaper.
I'm not sure it's worth it to bypass your local dealer to save a measley $12. Someday we'll turn around and they won't be there anymore.

My guy mounts and aligns the cartridge with a Dennesen rig for no additional charge and he used to take care of exchanging the cartridge with Denon back when they used to offer that service. I've never taken advantage of either but both are more than worth the extra $12. Just my 2 cents.
Dealers in my area, no longer have a clue to what a turntable is much less a phono cartridge and how to set one up. With that being said, if a local shop did have that capability, then Ed is right, support them. My nearest dealer with analog experience is some 2 hours in travel time, and with what gas costs today not worth the expense.

For me with 48 years in this hobby and with the proper setup tools, fortunately I can handle this task quite easily.
How does the Denon 160 compare to the 103r? I can afford either, but I'd rather save the money and buy the 160 if there is a lot of similarity. I listen to rock. A lot of record show and thrift shop vinyl. I have a stock Planar 3/rb300.

I'm looking for a cartridge that leaves out a lot of surface noise. I currently have a Sumiko BPS (1995 version) and an even older AT 8008 ($100 cart circa 1992). The AT has a linear contact stylus. I've noticed the AT picks up substantially more noise, although the music it produces is beautiful. I need to put the BPS back on to compare the music, but the noise floor is way better on the BPS.

I just did the CS4 upgrade on my Bottlehead Seduction phono pre last night, which is mind-blowing. My current vinyl setup blows the transistors off of my digital setup.
With your listening taste and vinyl sources. My opinion is go with the DL 110 or DL 160. The 103R I have found works better with Jazz and Classical. Another choice would be the Audio Technica OC9 Moving Coil cartridge. New they run about $300.00. Still biggest value for the dollar is the Denon DL 110 or DL 160 only difference I can tell is the cantilever. the DL 160 uses a tapered cantilever while the DL 110 uses a non-tapered cantilever. Both have very low surface noise and to my ears both sound the same.

If you decide on the 103R keep in mind this is a heavy cartridge at 8.3 grams. Make sure your tone arm can handle that weight and is of medium or heavier mass.
Other than a notch in frequency response can anyone explain how one cartridge reproduces more surface noise than another? I don't see how the stylus can distinguish a groove bump due to dust or a vinyl defect from a groove bump that is music. (A computerized pop and click eliminator can do it, but that's another story).
Various stylus tips such as shibata,micro ridge and Fritz Gyer get further into the groove of the LP than an ellipitcal or conical stylus. While the Shibata, micro ridge and Fritz Gyer reproduce some stellar sonics, unless the record is absolutely clean and static free, those stylus shapes will reproduce those noises as well. A lot has to do with the recording itself and the pressing process used. While I was at Columbia Records, we had to assume that the conical stylus is the one that would be used the most for playback, as this tip was and remains the most prevelant in consumer use. Not all but certainly most low output high end Denon cartridges use a conical stylus and I have at one time or another used all Denons in the 103 range with my favorite being the 103D which uses a conical stylus, has a stellar signature and offers a very low surface noise. The Denon DL 110 and DL 160 use a ellipitcal stylus and that shape can be prone to surface noise. These are a .3x.7 ellipitcal as opposed to some that are .2x.7 which are not as quiet as that shape traces deeper.

I am not saying which is better for you, thats up to you to decide. Keep in mind that LPs from Columbia,RCA,Capitol and their spinoff labels were produced for mass market playback. We had to make sure the product played back on the most pedestrian of record players in the market place.

Very few LPs such as Mobile Fidelity series were aimed at the high end market. Although at Columbia we did have a swing at 1/2 Speed Masters. Which sold in very low numbers and were not that profitable.
Ferrari...Thank you for the info. I have been told that the Shure V15mr, which I use, delivers more surface noise than many other cartridges. In other respects, like tracking, it is excellent. However, surface noise is what bothers me most about LPs, so maybe I ought to get a good old fashoned conical stylus cartridge.
There is a trade off in tracking force and wear on the LP. The Shibata,micro ridge and Fritz Gyer track at lower VTF than the ellipitcal and conical. However with that being said I have never worn out a LP by playing it. And I have been in this hobby/business since 1957.

One other item to note is that prior to the fuel crisis of 1974 vinyl LP had several grams more weight to them. During the fuel crisis, vinyl, being an oil deriavtive product, was in short supply. But production numbers had to be hit. So the record companies in response to this shortage cut back on the weight of the vinyl. Take most any pre 1974 LP vinyl and feel the heft to it as opposed to post 1975 vinyl. With this came a certain amount of warpage that was due to the thinner vinyl. The record companies after the oil crisis never again produced heavy vinyl, except for certain special editions.

The Shure V15MR is a fabulous cartridge, but depending on the vinyl it can be unbearable at times. It will retrieve everything and I mean everything from the grooves, the good,the bad and the ugly. But it does have a sonic signature that has few peers in moving magnet cartridges. Actually the Shure M97xe which is similiar to the V15MR, has an ellipitical stylus with less surface noise and sounds very good indeed and price very right today.

With the new vinyl being produced today as well as used vinyl in the market place,I see no need to spend more than $400.00 on any phono cartridge. Thats just my opinion. Feel free to spend whatever you wish.
Thanks for the response Ferrari. I'm starting to lean toward the 110. I've heard more than one person say the 160 and the 110 sound the same. As for the 103R, I've since read about the conical stylus (more wear), the higher tracking weight, and the debatable need for a higher mass arm than the rb300. That being said, there are many people claiming good results with the 103 on an rb300.

The OC9 is still on my list, however. The one thing that worries me about it is surface noise. I'm wondering if the microline stylus on it is just a linear contact like the one on my AT 8008, which is picking up gobs of junk in the grooves.
The OC9 stylus is very similiar to the AT8008. If you don't like the AT 8008, then you probably won't like the OC 9.

Keep in mind that the Denon DL 110 takes about 50 or so hours to break in and develop its signature. Don't really evaluate till it has had proper time to develop.

In fact placing an order now for a DL 110 for a tuentable I just got in. A very big value in high output Moving Coils.
The DL-160 is a bit faster and more detailed than the 110. Not a huge difference but enough for me to be very happy with it after using the DL-110. The price difference is so slight as to make the 160 something to think about.

Also, I am not so sure that the fine line stylus all on it;s own makes for more noise. I would think it would be quieter in most cases. And probably a number of records that are too noisy will become playable because the stylus gets lower than the groove damage that might be causing the problem.
Appreciate the review, Ferrari. I've been using a DL-110 for more than 10 years. Which has me wondering: What's the expected stylus life for a cartridge like this? How often should one have the stylus checked, or need to replace it?
I usually change the cartridge at about 300 hours, just to be on safe side. Although I have heard this cartridge can go for about 500 hours though.
I've heard tell of this stylus going as far as 1000 hours and more. In fact, I had a DL-160 once (bought it along with a DP-47F turntable) with about 500 hours and my dealer told me the stylus was just beginning to show some wear and that I could expect about 300-500 more hours if not more. I changed it just to be safe but with proper care, who knows?
I'm new to this, so please bear with me. Do I understand correctly that the Denon DL-110 and DL-160 styli cannot be replaced, and that one must instead purchase an entirely new Denon cartridge once the stylus wears out?

Also, can anyone offer a sonic comparison of the Denon DL-110/DL-160 versus a Shure V15 MK III with VN35MR sylus?
Yes on the Denons, the stylus cannot be replaced. However it can be sent in on trade for another Denon DL 110 or DL 160.

Impossible to compare the Denon to the Shure as the Denon is Moving Coil and the Shure is Moving Magnet. Its a matter of which sonic signature pleases you.

I am very famaliar with the Shure V15 Type III as it was one of the most popular cartridges in it day. However in my opinion the Shure M97XE easily suprpasses the venerable Type III in overall signature. The Type III time has come and gone, while it was special in its day, it has been eclipsed by todays mid to upper range Moving Magnet phono cartridges.

02-06-07: Ferrari
Yes on the Denons, the stylus cannot be replaced. However it can be sent in on trade for another Denon DL 110 or DL 160.
Thank you.

Impossible to compare the Denon to the Shure as the Denon is Moving Coil and the Shure is Moving Magnet. Its a matter of which sonic signature pleases you.
Surely it's possible to compare the sound of the two regardless of their electromechanical structure. We do this all the time when comparing tube amps to solid state amps despite differences in their designs and parts.

Which has more energy in the highs, or which has more forward mids, or which has deeper and more controlled bass, etc...

However, upon further research, the comparison is moot because my Thorens TP62 II tonearm requires a high compliance cartridge, and the DL-110 is a low-medium compliance cart.
Comparing tube vs solid state is like comparing apple to oranges. Was into tubes for 20 years and now solid state for 27 years. Both have strengths and weakness's. Same applies to Moving Magnet vs Moving Coil. After 47 years in this hobby have not heard any MM that remotely could be considered to have a MC signature and vice versa.
After 47 years in this hobby have not heard any MM that remotely could be considered to have a MC signature and vice versa.
Ferrari (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers)
I understand. Perhaps I did not make myself clear and I misused the word "compare". I was not asking you to make judgments regarding the sound of one versus the other, I was asking you to describe the sound of each as separate entities...as one might describe the sonics of a particular tube amp, and one might describe the sonics of a particular solid state amp, without offering an opinion of which sounds "better". However, I'm moving on...
My integrated amp. (DENON PMA700)has only MM input demanding 2.5mV. Do you think that DL160 would work with it? Can i get a really good performance?
Yes it will work fine I use the DL160 with a Creek 4330R MMSE phono card also the Denon really puts out about 2,2mv
Robert
I wonder how the Denon DL-110 or DL-160 would stack up {yes...a vinyl pun is intended} against the new under $200 Benz-Micro MC 20E II Low in my Pioneer PL-518 or even my PE 3048 {Dual 1200 Series}????

HI all,

Anyone tried the Denon DL-110 cartridge with the Pro-ject 1 xpression?

Regards

Flatsound
I can't testify to how it might sound, but the DL-110 should be an excellent mechanical match for the Pro-ject carbon fiber arm. I say give it a try. I've found that Denon cartridges make excellent parters with lower-priced British turntables. I'm using one now on my Rega P3 -- similar in execution to the Xpression -- and love the combinaiton of British PRAT with the big, fast, dramatic sound of the Denon. Which is probably why I've only used DL-110's and DL-160's for years now. I just can't find anything I like better, even up to $500 or $600.

Ekobesky:
I ... love the combination of British PRAT with the big, fast, dramatic sound of the Denon. Which is probably why I've only used DL-110's and DL-160's for years now. I just can't find anything I like better, even up to $500 or $600.
That's nice to know. About 3 wks ago I upgraded my Technics DD from a Shure M97xE to a Denon DL-160. It's been such an upgrade for so little extra money! I'm still taking in all the improvements--transparency, inner detail, clarity, frequency extension at both ends, trackability, smoothness, musicality, and dynamic range. Your post validates what I've begun to expect--that I'd have to spend a lot more money to realize an incremental improvement.
A friend pointing me to these reviews has saved me from making an expensive mistake, and I am truly grateful.
The question is basically between the 110 and the 160, I understand they are very similar, but does the 160 empasize surface noise more?
This I think will be the main criteria for which I buy
Thanks
Having had both of these cartridges the DL110 and DL160 I find zero difference in them in regards to surface noise. the only thing the DL160 does better is in overall trackability due to its tapered cantilever, which reacts nonoseconds quicker to groove undulations. I find both of these cartridges a total jewel to listen to and for myself have opted for the DL110 on purely a cost conscious move. Sonically I cannot tell the two apart.