REVIEW: Soundsmith Denon DL103

The decision to purchase this cartridge took a considerable time to evaluate...
- exactly how much better was it over the stock DL103?
- although more revealing, it would probably reveal more issues with some of my older pressings?
- what about setup? - is it as easy as a spherical stylus?

Well - it is SO MUCH better than the stock DL103 - no comparison! But it still retained the very nice balanced performance the stock DL103 has always delivered - it just had more of everything!

More revealing in so many ways - the worst of which effects albums that are not in premium condition - now I know which albums are in serious need of replacing.

Setup has taken on a whole new level of precision. The more precision you apply in cartridge setup - the more magnificent this cartridge sounds.

The hi-end details are superbly clean and crisp, with a smoothness that has me believing it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do.

Low-end control is tight, with textures I had never heard before.

Mids are full bodied, warm and extremely textured.

Imaging is considerably deeper than the stock DL 103 and the venue acoustics had me believing I was in the performance.

Orchestral pieces convey an enhanced spacial awareness in depth and width across the entire orchestra - just as in a live performance

Now, I didn't have Soundsmith mod an existing cartridge, but I would assume the improvements the Ruby cantilever makes would apply to them also.

Not really anything new here - most other reviews report similar findings - but my comments apply to the venerable Denon DL 103!

I have an Audiomods Arm which uses a Rega Arm Tube, so I did need to augment the effective mass with a brass head-shell spacer/weight - but what an improvement!

I think Soundsmith's advantage lies in their Ruby Cantilever, which conveys extremely fine details in a very controlled manner.

If you are undecided about a Soundsmith mod - come on in - the details are incredible.

One of the best value upgrades I can think of


Showing 6 responses by phduncanson

Btw ~ soundsmith has at least 5 or 6 103 versions. Which is yours? Line contact, wood body, ?

I have a wood body with ruby line contact it was on par with vanden hul MC 10. I have another being modded by Thomas schick with a boron cantilever and mirco line stylus. Will post a review in the spring.
Williwonka, Boron is not nessesarily better. Schick also does a saphire cantilever ~ saphire is the same material as ruby. corundum. Ruby just has a bit more trace iron and magnesium that gives it the pinkish color ~

I opted for boron because it's bit more robust (the ruby/saphire is very delicate and will snap before it bends) and the fine line because it's less of a battle to set up properly.

My ss retiped 103 is ruby w/ line contact not the OLC. I never felt the need more grove detail.

I seek an emotional sound rather than extreme detail ~ I also love to find and play old records that some would not think of puting on their tt.

And, yes. Turn around time is two~three weeks rather than 3~4 months.
Willie, Just peeped your system. Nice! Your tt and arm can do a bangin job! I suggest : a potted midas or ebony body and/or the Mapleshade tonearm resonance kit.
Actually your brass plate also adds some mass and that may be enough ~ but yes, I have heard that ~ Pierre at Mapleshade has a way different audio philosophy than most. And it may or may not work for you. ~ I have almost always found significant improvements with the products I have used.
I haven't used a fancy protractor but this printable one from vaccum state produced the best sound for me so far:

using the recommended points from their alignment guide~