Denon 103

flez007

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Aug 31, 2010
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#1
I am setting up a second turntable in my system, a Luxman PD444 which can have two arms installed, my plan is to get a 12 inch arm (maybe a Jelco 750 or a Ridge wood) and get a Denon 103R.

Anyone familiar with this cartridge and its several editions? Which model is the best value? (including maybe the Zu version)....

Thanks for sharing your ideas.
 

mep

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Apr 21, 2010
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#2
I still have a Denon 103R laying around. I consider it to be a "stupid good" cartridge for the money. I know that everybody and their grandmother is modifying this cartridge and I have no experience with the mod muckers. Bone stock, it's damn good. Compared to the higher priced spread, it lacks refinement. You also need a good head amp with lots of gain or a transformer because the output is very low (.23mv).
 

puroagave

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Sep 30, 2011
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#3
my experience is with the Dl103R, lengendary as you know. it works best with high mass arms the 12" jelco should work well with it. a popular mod is the substitution of the pastic body with a wood one like Uwe Bretscheider's or the CNC'd bodies from stero lab in germany http://www.stereo-lab.de/EN/cartridges/mc-moving-coil/rosenholzgehaeuse/index.htm thomas schick has vid up on youtube on how to properly remove the body.

My dl103r has pride of place next to my koetsu and ikeda. the audio snobs write them off because of the low cost, i think many havent heard one in a proper high mass arm. the ouput is low, either a high gain SS pre or a step-up with a tubed unit. denon's au300 are ridiculously good for the money.
 

garylkoh

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Sep 6, 2010
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#4
Fernando, I'm using 6 different ones. See this post for two of them. http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showt...s-Everyone-Using&p=88933&viewfull=1#post88933

As Mark and Rob has mentioned above, it is "stupid good". Audio snobs write them off, even the $6,000 Micro-Magic Diamond because of their "cheap roots". About the only variant I have not tried yet is the Micro-Magic Silver Spirit because it is expensive.

I have a slightly different view on the 103R vis-a-vis the 103. I think that the 103 has better dynamics and is more musical at the expense of some refinement. Because of that, it is better as a platform for modification, but is better when running stock. I also have the "ultimate stock" version of the 103 which is the DL A100 (Denon's 100th anniversary cartridge) but haven't had the time to try it out yet.
 

DonH50

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Jun 23, 2010
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#5
A bit heavy (weight-wise), average tracking, low output, great sound. I remember when the 103 came out and was one of the top MC's around... Still on my short list.
 

cjfrbw

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
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Pleasanton, CA
#6
The stock, traditional 103 was ridiculously low compliance, as I recall.

I have heard it described as a broadcast cartridge for massive tables with lots of rumble, heavy, long tonearms with tons of resonance and sloppy bearings, to be operated through thick sounding tube electronics, all of which seem to make it sound pretty good. It wasn't built for refinement, it was kind of a Mack truck of the cartridge world for hard duty. Buy a dozen and just flip them in and out as they get shot.

The nostalgia craze has embraced the 103 in ways that are a bit hard to comprehend. The current 103 apparently don't really resemble the traditional 103 of yore, and the 103R is supposed to be pretty decent, but the prices, as usual, also don't resemble the prices of yore.
 

mep

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Apr 21, 2010
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#7
The original 103 was designed to be a broadcast cartridge. It does have very low compliance and needs a heavy arm. I think the price is still very cheap comparatively speaking. $380 beans will buy you a new 103R. And I agree with Carl that the stock 103R isn’t the last word in refinement. My Benz Glider SL is a much more refined cartridge. You can think of a 103R as a redneck drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and the Glider SL as a refined gentleman from Harvard who is sipping on a cognac. But then, you can buy three 103Rs for the price of one Glider SL.
 

Johnny Vinyl

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May 16, 2010
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#8
It's another one of those cartridges I've read and heard about so much. How well would one pair with an RB250?
 

mep

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Apr 21, 2010
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#9
It's another one of those cartridges I've read and heard about so much. How well would one pair with an RB250?
Doing some quick calculations, I don't think it wll mate well. It looks like your resonant frequency with this combo is around 15.69 Hz which is really on the high side. Also, your arm is a bit on the light side for this cartridge. Also, you would need a good, clean headamp with lots of gain and I don't think you have that with your Pioneer IA. The other option is using a step up transformer. I would steer clear of this cartridge if I was you. Somebody else who has heard the Rega arm with the 103R might have a different opinion.
 

Johnny Vinyl

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May 16, 2010
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#10
Doing some quick calculations, I don't think it wll mate well. It looks like your resonant frequency with this combo is around 15.69 Hz which is really on the high side. Also, your arm is a bit on the light side for this cartridge. Also, you would need a good, clean headamp with lots of gain and I don't think you have that with your Pioneer IA. The other option is using a step up transformer. I would steer clear of this cartridge if I was you. Somebody else who has heard the Rega arm with the 103R might have a different opinion.
Thanks Mark! My Pioneer IA does have 4 different Load/Gain settings, but overall it sounds like this cartridge would perhaps be more trouble than it's worth.
 

puroagave

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Sep 30, 2011
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#11
somethin' wrong with Pabst Blue Ribbon? ;) to me the 103 is more like a 98 point cab for $20/bottle :b
 

puroagave

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Sep 30, 2011
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#12
Doing some quick calculations, I don't think it wll mate well. It looks like your resonant frequency with this combo is around 15.69 Hz which is really on the high side. Also, your arm is a bit on the light side for this cartridge. Also, you would need a good, clean headamp with lots of gain and I don't think you have that with your Pioneer IA. The other option is using a step up transformer. I would steer clear of this cartridge if I was you. Somebody else who has heard the Rega arm with the 103R might have a different opinion.
I bought some weights off ebay specifically for the rega arms, they fit snug in the holes molded into the headshell. this is a comrpomise b/c you want the mass closer to the pivot. there are flat weights you can fit between the headshell and cartridge like these: http://www.theanalogdept.com/uwe_body.htm
 

mep

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Apr 21, 2010
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#13
somethin' wrong with Pabst Blue Ribbon? ;) to me the 103 is more like a 98 point cab for $20/bottle :b
My knowledge of wines is zip, nada. I wouldn’t know Boone’s Farm from a $2K bottle of snooty wine. But I get your point though. You rate the 103R higher on the refinement scale than I do.
 

Ki Choi

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May 13, 2010
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#14
My knowledge of wines is zip, nada. I wouldn’t know Boone’s Farm from a $2K bottle of snooty wine. But I get your point though. You rate the 103R higher on the refinement scale than I do.
Woooo! Boon's Farm Strawberry Hill and Mad Dog 20/20 '75 were my choice of vintages. Can't get them in Seattle...

Once when Yen was more reasonable, I bought three new DL-103Rs in Tokyo after trying one and was so impressed with the sound it made...

To me... the DL-103R is like the "two buck chuck" from Trader Joe's (it is actually $2.49 and may be only for NW area). It has no business of tasting as good as it does for its price and it comes with real cork to boot!
 

mep

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Apr 21, 2010
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#16
My mom loves two buck chuck from Trader Joe's. It has quite the reputation.
 

garylkoh

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Sep 6, 2010
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#17
It's another one of those cartridges I've read and heard about so much. How well would one pair with an RB250?
Very well indeed if you added about 5 grams to the head of the RB250 - a pre-1983 penny stuck on with Blutack would do the trick. Even better would be a ring of blutack weighing about 10g halfway down the arm.

The very low compliance of the 103 requires an especially heavy arm.
 

garylkoh

WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)
Sep 6, 2010
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www.genesisloudspeakers.com
#18
Digging deeper at the web, I see some go to the extent of changing the 103 plastic body to exotic woods, more snake oil?
Some also run the 103 "nude". Every change in body makes it sound different - I am guessing because of the low compliance, it will put a lot of energy back up into the body and the arm. If your arm is not good enough, it can rattle the bearings.

But IMHO if you are prepared to work with it, the 103 is one of the great cartridges irrespective of price. The Magic Diamond is legendary among FM Acoustics phono stage owners in Singapore, and that is basically a modified 103.
 

garylkoh

WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)
Sep 6, 2010
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Seattle, WA
www.genesisloudspeakers.com
#19
This is a 103 to which almost every imaginable mod has been done. The plastic body was replaced with a CNC-ed wood body, and then potted with epoxy compound. To improve refinement and dynamics, the spherical stylus was replaced with a much-lighter line contact, and the aluminum hollow cantilever replaced with a shorter single-crystal ruby solid cantilever. Finally, the compliance was much increased to accommodate the modern mid-mass arms.

 

MylesBAstor

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Apr 20, 2010
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#20
Some also run the 103 "nude". Every change in body makes it sound different - I am guessing because of the low compliance, it will put a lot of energy back up into the body and the arm. If your arm is not good enough, it can rattle the bearings.

But IMHO if you are prepared to work with it, the 103 is one of the great cartridges irrespective of price. The Magic Diamond is legendary among FM Acoustics phono stage owners in Singapore, and that is basically a modified 103.
IIRC, the Magic Diamond was Lloyd Walker's favorite cartridge for quite a while.
 

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