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

  1. #91
    Join Date: May 2012

    Location: Toulouse

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    I'm GettingFunky.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marco View Post
    It will (if you enjoy that type of presentation). However, it's essentially no longer a DL-103... Also, it'll no longer need as much mass to perform optimally, as the compliance will have been altered, so if I were you I'd try backing off the mass a little (by using a lighter headshell weight) and see how it sounds then. You may prefer it

    Marco.
    I find the comment about it no longer being a DL-103 mildly amusing coming from the master of modifications.
    When using the modified DL-103 there is no additional headshell weight. It weighs over 20g so backing the weight off is not possible.
    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

  2. #92
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 73,191
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

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    Lol, yes, but have you ever seen me using a modified 103?

    Ok, so the added mass has been built into the cartridge itself, fair enough. Have you tried adding the same level of mass to your C1? If not, it'll defo benefit from it

    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.

  3. #93
    Join Date: May 2012

    Location: Toulouse

    Posts: 3,877
    I'm GettingFunky.

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    Pretty much the same mass. The additional mass was made specifically to run a DL-103 on the Funk arm.
    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

  4. #94
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

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    H'okay dokes

    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. #95
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

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    Post #59 'The Gen on DL-103s' has been tidied up a little, with some new info added, for anyone interested

    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.

  6. #96
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 3,482
    I'm Oliver.

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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 [moving from using Alnico to rare-earth magnets in the generator], carried out in order to save costs and maintain the current 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 alone.

    It's 'cheap' because of the above, and because more than ten thousand of them have been produced since it was first introduced in 1958, mainly for radio stations and broadcasting studios 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 at least 1k, perhaps more. 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 to hear what all the fuss is about, in terms of its reputation and cult status amongst vinyl aficionados worldwide - and the sonic rewards obtained by partnering it correctly 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 ones produced pre-2002 (using Alnicos), and post-2002, minus such. I can go into that in more detail for anyone who's interested, but trust me, the difference (musically) isn't subtle!

    Therefore, what this 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, simply 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.

    Therefore, 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 this (as that's where costs had been cut to keep the price down), which is why they addressed that issue in the design of 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, resulting in, as some have noted 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 something less resonant, 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 generators from old stock), 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). Or with something truly amazing, as shown here, such as a Trio (Kenwood) L-07D):



    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.
    That Kenwood is a stunner. I'm building a MM Valve phonostage in direct reference to this thread. Boards ordered for the PSU and Phonostage. It's going to take some time due to my incredibly low experience but it will be made with one eye on putting a "Giant Killer" through it.

    Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
    Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 tonearm > ZYX R50 Bloom cartridge > Jolida JD9 MKII > Firebottle Monoblocks > Creek OBH-11SE Headphone Amp > IXOS Speaker Cables > Pioneer CS-77A Speakers

  7. #97
    Join Date: Apr 2011

    Location: London

    Posts: 2,696
    I'm Robert.

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    Yes indeed - The Kenwood / Trio is a classic, almost over engineered but in the positive sense
    My System:
    Amplification - Sansui AU-919 Complete overhaul, upgraded, re-capped. Caps upgraded from 4 x 15,000 uf to 4 x 20,000 uf-inside original oval caps. All glue and 'black flags' removed
    Turntable - Modified Technics SL1210 MK5G
    Mike New precision bearing, bearing base plate, ETP Platter
    Micro Seiki MA-202 tonearm, rewired, hybrid ceramic bearings
    Ortofon Cadenza Black moving coil cartridge
    Yannis Tome 423.5 Silver-Litz tonearm cable with Eichmann Silver Bullet plugs
    Ebony armboard
    Audio Technica MS-8 Magnesium headshell, Ortofon pure silver headshell leads
    Isonoe Isolation Feet
    Paul Hynes SR7EHD PSU (plus regulator modules), DCSXL pure-silver DC lead with Jaegar low impedance connector
    CDP - Pioneer PD-91
    Speakers - Mission 752 Freedom
    QED Silver Spiral speaker cable, Airlock plugs - bare wire amp end.
    Mains - Ultra Pure silver plated un-switched socket, Missing link EPS 500 silver plated plugs with Hi-Fi Tuning gold plated silver ceramic 13 amp fuses

  8. #98
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 73,191
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigman80 View Post
    That Kenwood is a stunner. I'm building a MM Valve phonostage in direct reference to this thread. Boards ordered for the PSU and Phonostage. It's going to take some time due to my incredibly low experience but it will be made with one eye on putting a "Giant Killer" through it.
    Sounds like a good plan, Oliver. Remember also to factor in a quality head amp. Don't rush it, do things right, then strap an 'SA' or 'GL' onto your AT arm, with a top-notch high-mass headshell, and you'll be utterly gobsmacked at the sound (and sorted for life for vinyl replay) - or at least until you wear out the needle!

    The Kenwood, and likes of Pioneer Exclusive P3 (shown below with its 'clothes' off), or EMT 950, represent the pinnacle of T/T engineering, and precisely how turntables should be built (if achieving faithfulness to what's contained in the grooves is the goal), and only rivalled today, IMO, by the Continuum Calibrun, at significantly more money (!) - and I know which I'd rather have!



    Pure engineering excellence, making most belt-driven turntables sound like toys. It's what we should've all been using, back in the day, instead of dicking about with rubber bands!!!

    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. #99
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 3,482
    I'm Oliver.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marco View Post
    Sounds like a good plan, Oliver. Remember also to factor in a quality head amp. Don't rush it, do things right, then strap an 'SA' or 'GL' onto your AT arm, with a top-notch high-mass headshell, and you'll be utterly gobsmacked at the sound, and sorted for life for vinyl replay!

    Marco.
    We'll see how it goes lol. It's going to take some time !!!!!

    Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
    Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 tonearm > ZYX R50 Bloom cartridge > Jolida JD9 MKII > Firebottle Monoblocks > Creek OBH-11SE Headphone Amp > IXOS Speaker Cables > Pioneer CS-77A Speakers

  10. #100
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 73,191
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

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    The best things in life are always worth waiting for, mate

    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.

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