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

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.
One thing I now know, this cartridge really deserves a precision alignment that is provided by quality protractors such as the Mint Best Tractor.

These are made specifically for your turntable's arm and provides the ability to precisely set the optimum overhang and align your cartridge.

Fortunately for me, a friend that has one has the very same arm, so he popped over and aligned my cartridge.

Turns out, the alignment I had performed using printable protractors, although sounding very good was off by 1mm on the overhang and not quite correctly angled at the null points.

The improvements, although subtle, included...
- improved clarity.
- crisper dynamics.
- more precise placement within the image.
- finer detailing.
- smoother upper frequency performance.

So, if you have, or plan on getting the Soundsmith treatment on your cartridge - take a look at precision protractors - they do make a difference.

Happy Listening :-)
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~
Ph - the main thing about the Mint is it's "extreme precision".

But it all depends on what profile the stylus is - the OC/CL seems to benefit greatly by using the mint. From what I understand other profiles are not quite as demanding.

One thing about the Mint - you require a magnification loupe to see when the stylus is positioned on the amazingly thin line. Eyeballing it will not suffice

If I hadn't experienced it myself I might not believe such improvements were possible - but they are.

The Soundsmith Denon 103 OC/CL turns in an excellent performance when aligned with a printable protractor.

But align it with the Mint Best Protractor and the result is simply stunning.