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Thread: Denon 103r - is it worth the aggro?

  1. #71
    Join Date: Apr 2012

    Location: Southall, West London

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    I'm Geoff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigman80 View Post
    I might get hold of Alan's if I can and give it a whirl. Who knows lol
    Good idea.
    Mr. Tact!

    Main system: MMs/ADCs/Low output MC's/One rare Japanese SUT/One scarce British phono stage/various tonearms/hefty Japanese DD TT and hefty Japanese BD TT and small British BD TT. 4 CD players/2 jitter buster/2 DACs/Valve buffer. TVC stepped attenuator or valve pre-amp or solid state pre-amp. Current dumping power-amp or either of two Class A SS power-amp or Class A EL34 valve monos or big Japanese (part Class A) integrated. Big dual concentric speakers/Smaller dual concentric speakers/Two way British compacts and full range speakers, amongst others. And too much more to list!

  2. #72
    Join Date: May 2012

    Location: Toulouse

    Posts: 3,882
    I'm GettingFunky.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marco View Post
    Yes, and that's fine, but look at the arm you use... It's a great arm, but not optimally suited to getting the best from a low-compliance cartridge

    Fit your C1 onto the likes of an FR-64, and try the same test again... But trouble is, that might not suit your T/T, or indeed your sonic proclivities. Vinyl replay: it's a synergy thing...

    Marco.

    P.S Stephen, I'll come back to you later.
    With the big fat brass head shell weight, it seems to work fine.
    Kevin

    Funkified Technics SL1200 Mk2 (Funk FX-1200+, Techne-Audio modified DL-103/AT33PTG/II/, Funk Firm "Strata" platter, "Spin" bearing and BO!NG Isolation feet, MCRU/LDA PSU).
    Pioneer PD-S703.
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  3. #73
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

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    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

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    Oh it'll work fine all right and sound great, but it won't be optimised for it.

    That's the difference, Kev, which is propbably partly why you prefer the sound of your Techne-Audio modified 103, which I presume is fitted with a 'fancy tip'?

    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.

  4. #74
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

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    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CageyH View Post
    There was a 103Pro for sale on here a while ago.
    Yes, it was Frog and Oatcakes' one, which if still for sale will be a great cartridge.

    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.

  5. #75
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: souf east for work

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    I'm paul.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marco View Post
    Ok, the first thing you should know, in relation to DL-103s, is that since Denon stopped trading as Nippon Columbia [later Denon Ltd] in 2002, and merged with Marantz Japan INC, the core design of the 103 changed [a move from using Alnico to rare-earth magnets in the generator], done in order to save costs and maintain the relatively low selling price for what is a high-quality MC cartridge.

    The only reason the currently produced models sell for what they do (and those before it), rather than five times the amount, which would be more realistic considering the performance on offer, is because of economies of scale, due to Denon being a HUGE Japanese corporation. Therefore, you simply cannot judge this cartridge on its retail price.

    It's 'cheap' because of the above, and because tens of thousands of them have been produced since it was first introduced in 1958, mainly for radio stations and broadcasting houses throughout the world, but mostly in Japan, for the NHK - the Japanese equivalent of the BBC, so they needed to be in plentiful supply when replacements were required.

    If it hadn't been for the above, and if the same cartridge had been produced by a 'high-end' cartridge manufacturer, with a desirable 'badge' amongst audiophiles, and housed in a quality aluminium body, it would've sold for around £1k. Therefore, it has to be used and judged in that context. One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking of it as a 'budget' £200 cartridge (due to its price tag), and so a) not treating it seriously, and b) not spending enough on partnering ancillaries, especially tonearm and phono stage.

    This is a cartridge that really needs to be treated seriously and used in a certain way, in order to get the most from it, and hear what all the fuss is about, in terms of its following/cult status amongst discerning listeners worldwide - and the sonic rewards of doing so are significant. I'll get to how best to achieve that shortly.

    Ok, let's go back to how the design of the 103 was changed in the early 2000s, and Denon then abandoning their use of Alnico magnets, in favour of a less expensive variety of rare-earth magnets... There are those that would say a 'magnet is a magnet', and so as long as it performs its primary function, it shouldn't matter which one is used. When it comes to things like cartridges and loudspeakers, however, I'd beg to differ.

    However, I'll leave the technical folks (and anyone else interested) to debate that one, but what others and I who've been using DL-103s (of various forms), for the last 30-odd years can clearly hear, is a marked difference in sound between DL-103s produced pre-2002 (using Alnicos), and post-2002, when they didn't. I can go into that in more detail for anyone who's interested, but trust me, the difference (musically) isn't subtle!

    Therefore, what that essentially means is that unless you've actively sought to obtain a NOS (or good condition 2nd hand one), from the 'golden era', then the 103 you're listening to now isn't the 'real McCoy'...

    And that's one of the reasons why, when buying a DL-103 it pays to check the serial number, because sometimes old stock items, lying forgotten in warehouses somewhere, can often show up for sale on the likes of ebay - AND also one of the reasons why limited edition ones sound best, because they were produced during the 'Alnico era'.

    The other important reason is because they all featured the use of improved, high-quality body-shells - and so it is the plastic shell, used on all entry-level 103s, that is *the* single most limiting factor, in terms sonic performance. Not the stylus*, tip, suspension or anything else [*only when in certain circumstances Denon chose to fit elliptical styli]. Denon themselves knew that the plastic shell was the main limiting factor (as that's mainly where costs were cut to keep the price down), which is why they addressed that area on their limited edition cartridges.

    What they didn't do with those models was fit 'fancy tips' [fine-line styli], which yes in some areas improves matters (namely ultimate detail retrieval and lower distortion), if you go for one of the many 'tarted up' versions for sale, but also subsequently (and fundamentally) changes the sound, with as some have said already, losing the 'soul' and inherent musical abilities of the cartridge in the process, and what makes it special.

    If you're the type of listener who tunes into [and gets excited about] twinkling 'airy highs' and filigree detailing, and prefer cartridges with those traits, along with a lighter, brighter sound [count me out, which is why I haven't done it], then by all means fit a 'fancy stylus', FG or whatever, to a 103, but in doing so realise that you'll have lost some of the soul, bass authority and 'boogie factor' with it, as the tone (and musical nature) of the cartridge changes fundamentally when the original stylus is replaced for something 'better'.

    That's the trade-off, which always exists in some form with audio. It largely depends, however, on how you assess sound in a hi-fi context, and also what type of music you listen to mostly, as to whether or not you'll fall in love with a 'pimped 103'.

    The sensible money (and considerable experience) says that retaining all else but the plastic body-shell (and perhaps upgrading the internal wiring to LC-OFC), along with the stock shell, to one using a less resonant material, is the way to go. That's why Denon did precisely that with the DL-103SA, and others before it. Now which type of shell you choose is the fun part! Because there are so many options...

    Just bear in mind that there are fundamental sonic differences between wood and metal, and then from one type of wood and metal to another!! So experimenting and listening is the only way to discover what's best for you, although in that respect I can provide some basic pointers.

    So to sum things up for Oliver, and any other potential buyers of a DL-103... If you want to hear what one is truly capable of, then it *must* be NOS pre-2002, and preferably either an M, SA (introduced after 2002 but uses Alnicos), GL or C1. There are some other good ones too, such as the D and FL, but they sound quite different.

    Plus, there is the truly superb DL-S1, and 'giant-killer' supreme (my main and favourite cartridge) but that's a rather different beast! And now unfortunately discontinued. Also, forget about hearing any of the above cartridges properly unless you have the following items in place to use them with:

    1) A high-quality D/D turntable (SL-1200, SP10, Pioneer PL-71, or any of Pioneer's, Denon's, Toshiba's or Sony's best efforts from the 70s).

    2) A high-quality high-mass detachable headshell tonearm (such as those from the likes of Fidelity Research, Ortofon and Audio Technica, or Jelco).

    3) Or a medium-mass 'lossy' tonearm, such as Denon's own and from other Jap manufacturers, or the likes of a NOS Linn LVV), fitted with a high-mass headshell (preferably constructed from magnesium). The high-mass bit is crucial (the magnesium bit less so, but definitely better), and in terms of mass, I'm talking minimum 18g for the headshell alone!

    4) A top-notch valve MM phono stage.

    5) A top-notch moving-coil head amplifier (or SUT), which loads the cartridge correctly and provides sufficient gain. However, in my experience 103s work best actively, with head amps. The Denon HA-500 is a good choice, and at the other end of the pricing scale, the popular little Lentek unit, or the likes of a Rothwell Headspace.

    And last, but certainly not least, set the cartrdge up with forensic attention to detail, in terms of optimising VTA, azimuth and VTF (downforce) - and there, always aim for the higher end of the recommended user range. Also, always use non-magnetic stainless steel allen bolts to secure the cartridge to the headshell, nipped up tightly, and good quality lead wire. The thin wires you get 'free' with basic headshells are crap, and act as a significant bottleneck.

    If you can't put all (or most) of the above in place, then FORGET all about hearing any DL-103 properly!!

    Bloody hell, it's lunchtime now.... Anyway, hopefully all this will be useful info.

    Marco.
    thanks Marco....well I did ask so no complaints about the length of your post.
    Sony STR 6055 Denon DP80 Stax UA-70 Shure Ultra 500 Zu omen

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  6. #76
    Join Date: Mar 2008

    Location: Dunfermline, Scotland, UK

    Posts: 12,276
    I'm inthescottishmafia.

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    Another vote for the DL S1 if you can find one Oliver, it is a pig to set up but a superb cart. I'd still be using mine if I hadn't bought the Benz Gullwing.
    There are times when you canít do the sensible thing, when you canít act like a responsible adult at all; you just have to do whatever insane thing comes into your head. When bad people do it they end up murderers, when good people do it they end up heroes, and when the rest of us do it we end up looking like total idiots. But whenís that ever stopped us?

  7. #77
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 3,517
    I'm Oliver.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ali Tait View Post
    Another vote for the DL S1 if you can find one Oliver, it is a pig to set up but a superb cart. I'd still be using mine if I hadn't bought the Benz Gullwing.
    Cheers Ali, I'm going Ortofon now and Denon later as an additional cartridge. The removable headshell gives me that freedom so I'll take advantage of it. I want to get a head amp, probably the Denon HA-500 And get it fettled by the Guru that is Phonomac! Then I'll look into cartridges and phonostages again, although, I can't even imagine getting rid of the Jolida. It's just soooo good. Cue ridicule!

    Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
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  8. #78
    Join Date: May 2012

    Location: Toulouse

    Posts: 3,882
    I'm GettingFunky.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marco View Post
    Oh it'll work fine all right and sound great, but it won't be optimised for it.

    That's the difference, Kev, which is propbably partly why you prefer the sound of your Techne-Audio modified 103, which I presume is fitted with a 'fancy tip'?

    Marco.
    Shibata tipped Boron cantilever.
    It sounds mighty fine yo my ears.
    Kevin

    Funkified Technics SL1200 Mk2 (Funk FX-1200+, Techne-Audio modified DL-103/AT33PTG/II/, Funk Firm "Strata" platter, "Spin" bearing and BO!NG Isolation feet, MCRU/LDA PSU).
    Pioneer PD-S703.
    Battery powered Beresford Caiman II.
    Firebottle KIN fitted with NOS Telefunken Valves.
    Firebottle Monoblocks fitted with NOS Telefunken Valves.
    Electric Beach FH3 with Taket BatPure super tweeters.
    Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear Headphone amp.
    Sennheiser HD540 Reference II & HD650.
    DIY Klotz MC5000/MS Audio interconnects.
    Talk cable 3 speaker cable.
    Neotech hybrid mains cables from MCRU
    Power Inspired AG1500

  9. #79
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 3,169
    I'm James.

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    The DL S1 is superb Oli, I have heard a couple now and they are amazing although very low output and need good head amp or really good MC phonostage. I recon they would be good into a great MM phono via a very well matched SUT.

    I have seen them going for around £500 so they are in your budget! Northwest Analogue had one for sale recently which had been completely overhauled but not sure his much or indeed if it's still for sale.

    If you could hear Marcos you will be impressed, it has the dynamics and bite you are looking for. A very different beast to the 103 or 103r.

    Probably the best MC cartridge I have ever heard at any price.
    VPI Scout 1.1 / JMW 9T Tonearm / 2M Black /Croft 25R+ / Croft 7 / Spendor SP2

  10. #80
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 3,169
    I'm James.

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    Just had a quick look err they are going for $1000 now so maybe bit too pricey unless you can get a second hand one?
    VPI Scout 1.1 / JMW 9T Tonearm / 2M Black /Croft 25R+ / Croft 7 / Spendor SP2

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