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Thread: REVIEW - Denon 103M - A very rare cartridge.

  1. #1
    Join Date: Nov 2010

    Location: Yorkshire

    Posts: 6,724
    I'm AnDreW.

    Default REVIEW - Denon 103M - A very rare cartridge.

    Enjoy.

    I own two of these.



    Here's one in action on my Lenco.



    Some notes.


    The Denon 103M cartridge
    ------------------------

    I make no excuses for errors in spelling, grammer, or punctuation. These are rough notes typed up over several nights.


    Barbara Thompson - Paraphenalia

    Keyboard piano could easily be discerned on the Barbara Thompson album paraphenalia. The last track track on side 2 of the album is a real work out between the bass and the keyboard piano, fantastic interaction between the two of them. I could hear plenty of seperation between the two and they both sounded totally neutral, very little, if any colouration here. Attack and transients very impressive. Notes seemed to start and stop on a penny. Bass impact was not as forceful or as trouser flappingley strong as my Ortofon Cadenza black
    but then again this is a second hand 180 cartridge compared to a 1850 MC jobbie. Drum work really hammered along and cymbal work really shimmered. The 103M was a complete step up from my Reference MM cartridge a massively modded Shure M55E + neoSAS JICO stylus + Snakewood body (now referred to as the '55). The 103M seemed to give me the equivalent results to a pair of supertweeters with regards that degree of shimmer that they can throw into the mix. Detail ooozed out of every groove with this particular recording. The 103M was blessed with an excellently produced live recording that really has slipped under the radar of most Audiophiles. Surface noise was apparent but then again the record was a 50p purchase from a charity shop, the record is a little scratched but then again the 103M again produced a far better result than the '55 I normally run on the Lenco 75.

    James Labrie - Vocals

    James Labrie is the vocalist to dream theater and I decided to have a short listen to some of his more intimate vocals with him just plonked in front of the microphone. I only usually listen to these songs on the Technics 1210 with my SME V and Ortofon Cadenza black combination. The 103M lost a little detail with regards the rasp of his voice compared to the Cadenza Black some of the intimacy was
    lost and some of the background detail with regards his phrasing of specific words. Aside from these small complaints the 103M gave a very intimate portrayal of the man sat on a stool singing down a mic not more than 8ft away. Excellent stuff.


    Michael Newman - Bach - Sheffield Labs

    My reference disc for tonal neutrality. A direct to disc cut which is just about as good as it gets with regards having a life
    performance in your listening room. The 103M produced oodles of detail, Newman was sitting straight in front of me. Each pick of
    the guitar was represented well and the timbral detail from this record was immense. The 103M didn't produce the best rendition
    of this particular album, both my Garrard 301 and Technics 1210 proudce better sonics but then again these decks have MC's costing
    several K strapped to the individual tonearms.


    Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express

    I've always said that Technics 1210's were especially buily for analog synth music and it looks like I'm wrong. The old Lenco is
    turning out to equally well equipped at producing analog synth, something may other Idler is not too good at. The 103M is producing a
    nice wide soundstage, again with plenty of detail. There is a slight sibilance on some of the vocals but overall listening to Kraftwerk
    on the Lenco proved to be a very enjoyable experience.


    PRO'S.

    - Fantastic ability to unravel complex passages. Bags of seperation and detail between instruments.
    - Tonality. Again, excellent, whilst not the best it's certainly matches upto MC's in the K's.
    - Transient attack is extremely good, whilst not the very best I've heard it certainly the best at the price point of the

    CONS

    - The cartridge is very very rare so it may take some persistance before you snag a decent one.
    - NONE at this pricepoint.

    CONCLUSION
    ----------

    This little MC is a giant killer. It easily equals carts in the 1K price range and I would suggest that it gives MC carts in the
    higher price ranges a series run for their money. A little tweaking may be needed and an additional wooden dampener and a little
    extra mass may be useful to get the most from the cart but it is well worth the experimentation. The cartridge is extremely rare
    and only produced for a couple of years. By buying one of these carts you bypass the need to tweak. You don't need to buy an expensive
    after market cartridge body. You will probably get more from the cart by using a SUT or Head amp. I used a very heavily modded
    Lentek Head Amp to very great effect. This is my new reference budget giant killing MC cart. It's stopping on my Lenco '75 and it's
    going to take something pretty special to topple it.
    SS CD Teac VRDS25X(Mega Modded) DAC Caiman SEG+Anker PSU DECK 1210 Mat Analouge Studio Crystal Mods MN Base/Bearing/Platter+Ebony arm Board Feet Isonoe PSU Paul Hynes SR7EHD-27XL/DCSXL Ag DC lead/Jaeger(low-impedance) connector/3 StageRegs/Recapped PCB+No Pitch/Strobe/Light ARM SME V(Kondo Ag Rewire&Tags) MCOrtofon Cadenza Black CABLES Arm Yannis SPD-4 IC Yannis 222 Litz+Ag bullets Power WAR PRE ATC SCA2 SPEAKERS ATC 50ASL STANDS Atacama PHONO Sugden Masterclass PA4 SUT Ortofon ST80SE POWER PSAudio P10

    Valve PRECroft Epoch(Mega Modded) AMP Sondex S100 SPEAKERS Tannoy 15"MG+RFC Warwick cabs+ Reference XO DECK Garrard301 MatTeunto GunMetal Bearing SPH PlinthMoldovan Arm SME 3012(Ikeda Ag wired) PSUPheonix PSU+Tachomter MCAg Meister SPU/DECCA Maroon CABLESArm Yannis 420.5 Litz+ Speaker3mm2Ag IC Oyaide FTVS-510 AgWBT 0110Ag Phonostage4Box Paradise


  2. #2
    Join Date: Jan 2017

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    Nice write up. I'm a great fan of the Denon cartridges. I'm using a DL-301 Mk2 at the moment, which took over duties from a DL-103 LCII which was quite special too.

    Does the 103M have the same conical stylus profile as the rest of the range?

  3. #3
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 3,095
    I'm James.

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    Must be a bit special to trump the 55. I was listening to my 55 Jico SAS on the Lenco last night and I enjoyed it as much as my 2M on my VPI.

    Might look out for a 103M.
    VPI Scout 1.1 / JMW 9T Tonearm / 2M Black /Croft 25R+ / Croft 7 / Spendor SP2

  4. #4
    Join Date: Aug 2010

    Location: Devon, Torquay.

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    I'm Shane.

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    The looks reminds me of a pencil sharpener.

    S.
    Shane Lonergan........UB1 Birth.

  5. #5
    Join Date: Nov 2010

    Location: Yorkshire

    Posts: 6,724
    I'm AnDreW.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blackstar View Post
    Nice write up. I'm a great fan of the Denon cartridges. I'm using a DL-301 Mk2 at the moment, which took over duties from a DL-103 LCII which was quite special too.

    Does the 103M have the same conical stylus profile as the rest of the range?
    Thanks Milo. Not too sure about the stylus profile. I do know that there is a 103 fan page out on the net that lists every version of the 103 from the beginning to present day and it has all the info you'll need.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    Must be a bit special to trump the 55. I was listening to my 55 Jico SAS on the Lenco last night and I enjoyed it as much as my 2M on my VPI.

    Might look out for a 103M.
    How you 'doin Jim. The '55 will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart but the 'M' does a lot more than the '55. You also have to remember that the M needed a bit of tweeking and a headamp to surpass the '55. The '55 is a special cart but the 'M' is a bit better.

    Quote Originally Posted by southall-1998 View Post
    The looks reminds me of a pencil sharpener.

    S.
    That made me laugh Shane! It's looks are pretty weird but the beauty of the 'M' is that you dont have to tweak that much. All the little after market tweaks have been built in. I used a Mpingo head spacer with mine but that was more out of experimentation. I've tried the 'M' without any additional headshell weight or spacers and it still sounds great.
    SS CD Teac VRDS25X(Mega Modded) DAC Caiman SEG+Anker PSU DECK 1210 Mat Analouge Studio Crystal Mods MN Base/Bearing/Platter+Ebony arm Board Feet Isonoe PSU Paul Hynes SR7EHD-27XL/DCSXL Ag DC lead/Jaeger(low-impedance) connector/3 StageRegs/Recapped PCB+No Pitch/Strobe/Light ARM SME V(Kondo Ag Rewire&Tags) MCOrtofon Cadenza Black CABLES Arm Yannis SPD-4 IC Yannis 222 Litz+Ag bullets Power WAR PRE ATC SCA2 SPEAKERS ATC 50ASL STANDS Atacama PHONO Sugden Masterclass PA4 SUT Ortofon ST80SE POWER PSAudio P10

    Valve PRECroft Epoch(Mega Modded) AMP Sondex S100 SPEAKERS Tannoy 15"MG+RFC Warwick cabs+ Reference XO DECK Garrard301 MatTeunto GunMetal Bearing SPH PlinthMoldovan Arm SME 3012(Ikeda Ag wired) PSUPheonix PSU+Tachomter MCAg Meister SPU/DECCA Maroon CABLESArm Yannis 420.5 Litz+ Speaker3mm2Ag IC Oyaide FTVS-510 AgWBT 0110Ag Phonostage4Box Paradise


  6. #6
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 3,095
    I'm James.

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    Hi Andy, I am doing fine thanks just running in some new caps on the Croft 25R. Can't underestimate how much difference new caps can make especially if the old ones are running out of spec which mine were. I have had some of the best performance out of my system since I put it together and the GL75 has been stunningly good.

    I have a head amp and a very nice K&K SUT so I have the capabilities of using a MC on the Lenco. The 103M you have there looks the business. How does it compare against a 103r I wonder?
    VPI Scout 1.1 / JMW 9T Tonearm / 2M Black /Croft 25R+ / Croft 7 / Spendor SP2

  7. #7
    Join Date: Nov 2010

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    Hi Andy, I am doing fine thanks just running in some new caps on the Croft 25R. Can't underestimate how much difference new caps can make especially if the old ones are running out of spec which mine were. I have had some of the best performance out of my system since I put it together and the GL75 has been stunningly good.

    I have a head amp and a very nice K&K SUT so I have the capabilities of using a MC on the Lenco. The 103M you have there looks the business. How does it compare against a 103r I wonder?
    I remember when I had my Epoch completely re-done and modded, different machine, different level of replay. I'd strongly recommend having a play around with the 301mk2 you own into the Croft MM stage with your head amp or KK SUT, I think you'll be ready for another upgrade!! I've had the 103r briefly and the 'M' is far better! The 'r' never really did it for me.
    SS CD Teac VRDS25X(Mega Modded) DAC Caiman SEG+Anker PSU DECK 1210 Mat Analouge Studio Crystal Mods MN Base/Bearing/Platter+Ebony arm Board Feet Isonoe PSU Paul Hynes SR7EHD-27XL/DCSXL Ag DC lead/Jaeger(low-impedance) connector/3 StageRegs/Recapped PCB+No Pitch/Strobe/Light ARM SME V(Kondo Ag Rewire&Tags) MCOrtofon Cadenza Black CABLES Arm Yannis SPD-4 IC Yannis 222 Litz+Ag bullets Power WAR PRE ATC SCA2 SPEAKERS ATC 50ASL STANDS Atacama PHONO Sugden Masterclass PA4 SUT Ortofon ST80SE POWER PSAudio P10

    Valve PRECroft Epoch(Mega Modded) AMP Sondex S100 SPEAKERS Tannoy 15"MG+RFC Warwick cabs+ Reference XO DECK Garrard301 MatTeunto GunMetal Bearing SPH PlinthMoldovan Arm SME 3012(Ikeda Ag wired) PSUPheonix PSU+Tachomter MCAg Meister SPU/DECCA Maroon CABLESArm Yannis 420.5 Litz+ Speaker3mm2Ag IC Oyaide FTVS-510 AgWBT 0110Ag Phonostage4Box Paradise


  8. #8
    Join Date: Jan 2008

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    Good write-up, Andy!

    Quote Originally Posted by REXTON View Post
    This little MC is a giant killer. It easily equals carts in the 1K price range and I would suggest that it gives MC carts in the
    higher price ranges a series run for their money.
    Told you, mate... Do any of my reccos ever work out badly?

    Enjoy... I'll comment more later. Oh, just one thing, the 'M', as far as I'm aware, uses a special elliptical stylus. It would likely also give the DL-S1 a run for its money!

    Marco.
    http://www.thestainedglasscompany.com

    "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do" -- Milan Kundera.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Nov 2010

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marco View Post
    Good write-up, Andy!



    Told you, mate... Do any of my reccos ever work out badly?

    Enjoy... I'll comment more later. Oh, just one thing, the 'M', as far as I'm aware, uses a special elliptical stylus. It would likely also give the DL-S1 a run for its money!

    Marco.
    TBH you do have a habit of laterally thinking and coming up with some weird and wonderful stuff. Long may it continue with the madness....
    SS CD Teac VRDS25X(Mega Modded) DAC Caiman SEG+Anker PSU DECK 1210 Mat Analouge Studio Crystal Mods MN Base/Bearing/Platter+Ebony arm Board Feet Isonoe PSU Paul Hynes SR7EHD-27XL/DCSXL Ag DC lead/Jaeger(low-impedance) connector/3 StageRegs/Recapped PCB+No Pitch/Strobe/Light ARM SME V(Kondo Ag Rewire&Tags) MCOrtofon Cadenza Black CABLES Arm Yannis SPD-4 IC Yannis 222 Litz+Ag bullets Power WAR PRE ATC SCA2 SPEAKERS ATC 50ASL STANDS Atacama PHONO Sugden Masterclass PA4 SUT Ortofon ST80SE POWER PSAudio P10

    Valve PRECroft Epoch(Mega Modded) AMP Sondex S100 SPEAKERS Tannoy 15"MG+RFC Warwick cabs+ Reference XO DECK Garrard301 MatTeunto GunMetal Bearing SPH PlinthMoldovan Arm SME 3012(Ikeda Ag wired) PSUPheonix PSU+Tachomter MCAg Meister SPU/DECCA Maroon CABLESArm Yannis 420.5 Litz+ Speaker3mm2Ag IC Oyaide FTVS-510 AgWBT 0110Ag Phonostage4Box Paradise


  10. #10
    Join Date: Oct 2015

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    Posts: 189
    I'm shahrin.

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    Nice write up on the M, Andrew
    Would it have similar tonearm requirements as the 103R ?
    you know all that compliance stuff and arm n headshell mass etc...
    Thorens td124 mk2 / Graham 1.5 / V15 III, Thorens td124 mk2 / 3012 S2 / SL15Q
    Marantz CD63, Squeezebox Touch, EDO applet, Gieseler Klein DAC
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