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Thread: Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding disappointing

  1. #1
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 2,161
    I'm Alex.

    Default Denon DL-103 re-tipped sounding disappointing

    I've decided to upgrade my beloved Denon DL-103 and ordered this refurbished DL-103 with re-tipped stylus: https://www.ebay.ca/itm/392266858460

    After installing it earlier today, I say down in excitement, expecting to be blown away by the improved sound. My heart sank when I realized that the elliptical stylus is giving me stiff, timid, claustrophobic sound. The exact opposite of what I'm getting from my vanilla conical stylus DL-103.

    So what gives? Does the re-tipped cart needs additional break-in? Or is the DL-103 magic really down to the legendary high quality comical stylus?
    Last edited by magiccarpetride; 12-05-2019 at 13:56.
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Sep 2014

    Location: brighton uk.

    Posts: 4,255
    I'm jamie.

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    i bought a rare 103m hoping it would give me more of the same my 103sa did but with more top end detail,sadly it didnt,it sounded thin in comparison.
    My System
    John Wood KT88 Amp.
    Paradise Phono Stage
    Sony TTS-8000 Turntable.
    PMAT-1010 MK6 Tonearm.
    Ortofon KB with vienna upgrade
    Sony X555ES Cd Player
    Yamaha NS1000m Speakers
    KARMA Interconnects & Tonearm Cable

  3. #3
    Join Date: Jul 2010

    Location: Cheltenham

    Posts: 859
    I'm Charlie.

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    Alex,
    That is indeed very disappointing. The magic is not down to the conical tip. In fact, the conical tip is one of the major limiting factors for the 103. I have had my 103 rebuilt by Expert Stylus in the UK with their white sapphire cantilever and paratrace tip upgrade. It sounds smashing and nothing like what you describe.
    Charlie
    R2R: Studer A820 1/2 inch 2 track; Otari MTR-12 1/4 inch 2 track; Sony APR 5003; Sony APR 5002; Studer A807/II. Vinyl: Platine Verdier Allaerts MC1B/Schroeder Reference & Model 2 Decca C4E/Hadcock 228 TRON Seven Reference phono. Other analogue source: Nakamichi Dragon with ANT4066 mods. Amplification: TRON Meteor preamp TRON Voyager 20B SET power. Speakers: Avantgarde Duo. Digital: does not compute

  4. #4
    Join Date: Sep 2017

    Location: Dublin

    Posts: 267
    I'm Pavel.

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    A phono cartridge is such a delicate thing that any alteration can change its sound drastically, and not always for the better.

    For example, stock Denon DL-103 has a nude diamond, if it was replaced with a bonded elliptical, I personally would consider it a downgrade rather than an upgrade because bonded styli wear down faster and are heavier thus increasing tip mass.

    The cantilever looks kinda thick in the photos — significantly thicker than the original Denon cantilever, how was it installed? Was it slid over the stub of the original cantilever? Was the original cantilever removed from the holder assembly and the new one installed instead? Was the suspension messed with? The listing doesn't provide any answers to these questions

    In my opinion, buying a retipped/recantilevered MC cartridge is somewhat of a Russian roulette. It might sound fine, or it might be completely ruined compared to the stock configuration. Very often owners send their cartridges for retipping, and when the cartridge comes back, they don't like the sound and advertise the retipped cartridge on eBay claiming that it sounds perfectly fine -- hoping, of course, that the buyer wouldn't know the difference...

    Obviously, there are retippers who enjoy excellent reputation, such as Expert Stylus in the UK or Soundsmith in the US. I wouldn't hesitate to buy an ES-retipped cartridge if that the seller can provide the receipt, but I'd be wary of any homemade job.

  5. #5
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 2,161
    I'm Alex.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Shovel_Knight View Post
    A phono cartridge is such a delicate thing that any alteration can change its sound drastically, and not always for the better.

    For example, stock Denon DL-103 has a nude diamond, if it was replaced with a bonded elliptical, I personally would consider it a downgrade rather than an upgrade because bonded styli wear down faster and are heavier thus increasing tip mass.

    The cantilever looks kinda thick in the photos — significantly thicker than the original Denon cantilever, how was it installed? Was it slid over the stub of the original cantilever? Was the original cantilever removed from the holder assembly and the new one installed instead? Was the suspension messed with? The listing doesn't provide any answers to these questions

    In my opinion, buying a retipped/recantilevered MC cartridge is somewhat of a Russian roulette. It might sound fine, or it might be completely ruined compared to the stock configuration. Very often owners send their cartridges for retipping, and when the cartridge comes back, they don't like the sound and advertise the retipped cartridge on eBay claiming that it sounds perfectly fine -- hoping, of course, that the buyer wouldn't know the difference...

    Obviously, there are retippers who enjoy excellent reputation, such as Expert Stylus in the UK or Soundsmith in the US. I wouldn't hesitate to buy an ES-retipped cartridge if that the seller can provide the receipt, but I'd be wary of any homemade job.
    The seller replied to my inquiries and mentioned that the cartridge needs 20 to 35 hours of break-in time.

    I find the sound of this cartridge not satisfactory, not by any stretch. There is a vast, almost unbelievable difference in how this cartridge sounds compared side-by-side with my vanilla DL-103. It is almost unfathomable how can two Denon DL-103 cartridges sound so much apart. The original DL-103 with conical stylus sounds excessively luxurious, incredibly sweet, liquid and effortless (sounds better than any cartridge I've ever heard in my life, actually). The refurbished and re-tipped one sounds tedious, straining, almost as bad as a CD playback. There aren't the slightest traces of any sweetness, effortlessness or liquid character found in the spherical DL-103. In other words, any, even the slightest traces of that elusive DL-103 magic is completely missing.

    I took painstaking precautions to set the new cart with re-tipped elliptical stylus on my Jelco SA-750 10 inch tonearm. I know that elliptical styli need more careful setup. I kept experimenting with VTF and VTA all day long today, to no noticeable avail. The sound remained boomy, stiff, strenuous, the soundstage claustrophobic, the highs sound like the highs sound during digital playback. In contrast, the highs from the original DL-103 sound mellow, lush, sweet, and pleasant to the ear regardless of how much I crank up the volume.

    One of the reasons I've ordered this refurbished cart was that it came with the attached spacer (amounting to 12.5 grams with the cartridge), which I thought was supposed to improve the sound. But I'm getting the opposite results (i.e. bad, unlistenable sound quality).

    I guess the only thing left to do is to put some more hours on the cart to see if its stiff demeanour will relax a bit...
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Ryedale, North Yorkshire.

    Posts: 57
    I'm Justin.

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    Can you send it back?

  7. #7
    Join Date: Mar 2014

    Location: KY - Scotland

    Posts: 4,366
    I'm Mike.

    Default

    Send it back for refund, DO NOT accept partial refund as you then can't and to return for full refund I don't think.

    You'll never be happy with it.

  8. #8
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 2,161
    I'm Alex.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by topoxforddoc View Post
    Alex,
    That is indeed very disappointing. The magic is not down to the conical tip. In fact, the conical tip is one of the major limiting factors for the 103. I have had my 103 rebuilt by Expert Stylus in the UK with their white sapphire cantilever and paratrace tip upgrade. It sounds smashing and nothing like what you describe.
    Charlie
    I was expecting that replacing conical stylus with elliptical would improve the sound quality. That, plus adding weight with the spacer should, in theory, improve the performance.

    So I'm baffled with the disappointing results. I have used Ortofon nude elliptical on my Jelco tonearm without any problems, so I find it difficult to believe that the setup is incorrect (if anything, Denon square body is much easier to set up).

    Maybe the requisite 30 hours will turn out to be the 'deal keeper'; remains to be seen. But at this moment, the cartridge sounds depressingly bad.
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Sep 2014

    Location: brighton uk.

    Posts: 4,255
    I'm jamie.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by magiccarpetride View Post
    so I find it difficult to believe that the setup is incorrect (if anything, Denon square body is much easier to set up).
    .
    you should always align the cantilever with the grid lines and not the body,i would re check your alignment.
    My System
    John Wood KT88 Amp.
    Paradise Phono Stage
    Sony TTS-8000 Turntable.
    PMAT-1010 MK6 Tonearm.
    Ortofon KB with vienna upgrade
    Sony X555ES Cd Player
    Yamaha NS1000m Speakers
    KARMA Interconnects & Tonearm Cable

  10. #10
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 20,687
    I'm openingabottleofwine.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by karma67 View Post
    you should always align the cantilever with the grid lines and not the body,i would re check your alignment.
    If the cantilever is parallel to sides of the cartridge body, then it is much easier to look down on the cartridge to align it with the protractor lines.
    Barry

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