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Retipping A DL-103?

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Posted on August 26, 2013 at 09:24:12
abs1
Audiophile

Posts: 729
Location: Western Colorado
Joined: August 18, 2013
I'm a big fan of Denon's 103 series of cartridges. At the moment I'm running a DL-103r on my vinyl rig and really I enjoy the sound.

However - I've wanted to try a DL-103D for a long time (the discontinued variant with an elliptical stylus), but I've never been able to find one in decent condition at a reasonable price.

Which started me thinking - I happen to have a barely broken-in DL-103 sitting in its box with nothing to do. My idea is to send it out to Soundsmith for one of their basic $150 retipping jobs. Just an aluminum cantilever with an elliptical stylus in an effort to recreate the DL-103D of days past. I'm aware of the ruby cantilever and exotic stylus options, but I don't want to significantly alter the 103's sound character. If I was interested in doing that I might go shopping for a different cartridge altogether.

So I'd like to know what my fellow Inmates think. Does my idea make sense?
All opinions are certainly welcome.

Cheers,
Al

 

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RE: Retipping A DL-103?, posted on August 26, 2013 at 10:00:38
Cuernavaca
Audiophile

Posts: 438
Location: NW
Joined: December 23, 2011
Contributor
  Since:
November 19, 2013
You might consider trying Andy Chong, link below. He has retipped my Denon 103 with an alloy cantilever and microline stylus. It is as good as I have heard a Denon 103 sound. For a bit more money, you can get a wood body and have it potted, do a search for Denon 103 potting for more info. This takes it to a higher level, maybe at least as good as a 103D.

TR
Photobucket

 

Been thinking about that route with my "buggered" wood body 103., posted on August 26, 2013 at 10:45:07



If you do it, let us know the results.

 

RE: Retipping A DL-103?, posted on August 26, 2013 at 11:36:23
AudioSoul
Audiophile

Posts: 3487
Location: north central AZ
Joined: July 9, 2005

I have owned the 103D and presently own the 103R. The 103D is more refined sounding. It is really good with acoustic jazz and classical music. Not so much with rock. I sold the 103D but not because there was anything wrong with it. I just wanted a change. However, the 103R can sound more refined in a heavier arm. So to answer your question, if you lean more towards the acoustic side of music, I would say it's a good idea...

 

RE: Retipping A DL-103?, posted on August 26, 2013 at 11:38:00
louie3
Audiophile

Posts: 350
Location: Signal Mountain, TN
Joined: January 14, 2006
I happen to own a DL 103 with the very same Soundsmith eliptical stylus/aluminum cantilever mod. It is in an "off brand" aluminum body.

Sounds exactly as you would expect it to sound...same drive, pace and Kodachrome reproduction, great dynamics etc.

But it also has a good bit more extended top than the stock unit does....maybe the best $150.00 I ever spent....on hi fi.

I also have a wood body 103R with the next step up stylus/cantilever....it is a wonder....sweet, smooth, but with all the 103 drama and Kodachrome....and light enough to use on my SME 309.

 

Highly recommended, posted on August 26, 2013 at 12:02:45
texanater
Audiophile

Posts: 1278
Location: San Antonio, TX
Joined: December 16, 2002
I retipped mine with the Sound Smith Optimal Contour which is much more than the basic retip. The results were absolutely stunning. It is the finest sounding cart I have ever heard. I suspect the sweet spot with respect to cost and performance is the $250 ruby/line contact option. I broke mine and plan on going with that option rather than the oc option again. I've read that the DL103 is an outstanding generator with a substandard stylus and body. Replace those two and you have a world class cart at a manageable expense.

IMHO retipping with a better stylus is a no brainer!


You can't cheat an honest man, never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump -- W.C. Fields

 

I've owned a DL-103D..., posted on August 26, 2013 at 12:09:15
EdAInWestOC
Audiophile

Posts: 5315
Location: Glen Burnie, MD USA
Joined: December 18, 2003
Since the end of 1979 (IIRC) so you could say I know a little about the cartridge. The DL-103D is not just a DL-103 with an aluminum cantilever and elliptical stylus. It is also the highest compliance DL-103 variant and responds well in arms with medium to high effective mass.

Retipping a DL-103 will get you approximately to the type of sound that a DL-103D has but the DL-103D can be retipped too. I have been using a retipped DL-103D for years now and I am very satisfied with its sound.

The higher compliance of a stock DL-103D plus a quality retipping will yield a very good cartridge.

I am not sure where the inmate who posted the opinion that the DL-103D is not a very good rock cartridge got his experience from. The DL-103D is one of the worlds best R&R cartridges with an explosive response and impressive dymanic range.

Its low end response is house shaking and it also possesses all of the other attributes that a quality cartridge has. In short the DL-103D is not hard to get for a lousy reason. Retipp one and you'll see why.

Ed

We don't shush around here!
Life is analog...digital is just samples thereof

 

Hey Ed, don't you mean..., posted on August 26, 2013 at 13:10:43
Curious
Dealer

Posts: 5662
Joined: April 28, 2010
medium to lower effective mass because the compliance is so high?

"Hope is a good thing. Maybe, the best of things. And no good thing ever dies."

 

RE: Been thinking about that route with my "buggered" wood body 103., posted on August 26, 2013 at 13:19:09
Crazy Dave
Audiophile

Posts: 10375
Location: East Coast
Joined: October 4, 2001
I have been thinking the same. I have a 103 that came with a turntable I bought with a snapped cantilever. The basic retip is cheaper that a new 103. I like ellipticals because I don't like to mess with VTA, like I have with more radical tips. It should perform better than a conical.

Dave

 

My 103D experience , posted on August 26, 2013 at 14:03:10
Curious
Dealer

Posts: 5662
Joined: April 28, 2010
I own one. Having set it up on 3 medium mass arms, I came away feeling that the 103D was totally overrated. It was a quiet cartridge, for sure, but the thing sounded soft and uninvolving, just like 16/44 red book.

A gent here at the VA was kind enough to point out to me that the 103D was actually a high compliance cartridge, and would be better off installed on a low-mass tonearm. At the time, I had a Signet XK-50 tonearm mounted on a Luxman PD-444, so it seemed like a good situation for the 103D. It was.

I put on some regular old, 2 dollar copy of "Kind of Blue". Believe me, this particular pressing is nothing special, and yet the imaging, detail and dynamics were really good! The 103D looks a bit big at the end of a XK50, disproportionate actually, but man was that combo really wonderful.

So the XK50 is a low mass arm, made during the ultra low mass craze. Like the ADC and Grace arm-cart combo's, the Signet/ Audio Technica arm/cart combos have a great synergy, and that synergy is not limited to these combos. There are matches between companies that are magic, like the Denon/Signet.

Or course, your challenge is to match your 103D, once gotten, to the right low mass arm. If you are unwilling to do this, then you'll have to ask the Soundsmith to rebuild the suspension and lower its compliance so that it is a better match with your medium to higher mass tonearm. As Harry Weisfeld of VPI stated on this forum within the last few days, most of his clients problems are the arm/cart interface, much of which stems from compliance mismatches.


"Hope is a good thing. Maybe, the best of things. And no good thing ever dies."

 

RE: Been thinking about that route with my "buggered" wood body 103., posted on August 26, 2013 at 15:00:10
abs1
Audiophile

Posts: 729
Location: Western Colorado
Joined: August 18, 2013
Henry,

I'll most certainly report the results (see below).

Inmates,

Great responses so far. I appreciate each and every reply.

I just fired off an e-mail to Peter Lindermann asking for his opinion concerning stylus shapes, cantilever materials, and suspension modifications to allow better compatibility (higher compliance?) with the 12g effective mass of my Traveler arm and possibly a lower VTF (presently 2.7g) without losing the Denon sound. As I mentioned earlier I emphatically DO NOT wish to turn my 103 into a totally different sounding cartridge!

In the meantime I'll just have to struggle along with my DL-103r :-)

Cheers,
Al

 

You're more likely to reach him by phone. /nt/, posted on August 26, 2013 at 16:30:47
Jeff Maxson
Audiophile

Posts: 894
Joined: January 6, 2002

 

RE: I've owned a DL-103D..., posted on August 26, 2013 at 16:51:30
AudioSoul
Audiophile

Posts: 3487
Location: north central AZ
Joined: July 9, 2005

Looking back, I think I had mine in to high of mass arm for the 103D. That's why it sounded kinda dull to me....

 

I've been enjoying the 103D on my JMW9 for several years (nt), posted on August 26, 2013 at 16:58:18
nutbatter
Audiophile

Posts: 590
Location: no. indiana
Joined: February 9, 2003
.

 

Its specified at 12 x 10-6 cm/Dyne..., posted on August 27, 2013 at 07:25:41
EdAInWestOC
Audiophile

Posts: 5315
Location: Glen Burnie, MD USA
Joined: December 18, 2003
IIRC and I suppose that puts it about in the medium mass area of usability. Of course the 103D is specified at 100Hz like all Denon's cartridges. It's compliance at 10Hz is around 20 x 10-6 cm/Dyne which makes it a bit more at home in lower mass arms.

I've used it in several arms and in all of them it made the same signature sound that the 103D became popular for. Its not too different from the rest of the 103 family as far as its sound goes. If my memory serves me what it sounds like stock is like a 103R with slightly better definition and a bit deeper bass rrsponse. If that is possible.

My current 103D has been retipped several times. The first time it went to VdH and they retipped it and fixed its suspension. Fixed the suspension is a loose term here. The cartridge came back with a much stiffer suspension than on the stock cartridge. The retip job sounded great but I was not thrilled with a stiffer suspension.

Since its initial retip/repair its been worked on by Peter and he has done an outstanding job on it. It has been retipped a few times by Peter and Peter has also rebuilt the suspension on my 103D. The resulting cartridge has a higher compliance than what VdH did to it. Its a bit more lively and I am very satisfied with it.

To get back on subject I ran some numbers by the resonance evaluator and a stock 103D looks like it would be at home on an arm with an effective mass of 12gms or less. And yes that was inverted logic.

Sorry,
Ed

We don't shush around here!
Life is analog...digital is just samples thereof

 

That may be the problem...nt, posted on August 27, 2013 at 07:26:42
EdAInWestOC
Audiophile

Posts: 5315
Location: Glen Burnie, MD USA
Joined: December 18, 2003
nt

We don't shush around here!
Life is analog...digital is just samples thereof

 

Come to think of it..., posted on August 27, 2013 at 07:31:40
EdAInWestOC
Audiophile

Posts: 5315
Location: Glen Burnie, MD USA
Joined: December 18, 2003
I believe the highest mass arm I've tried mine in is the RB300 I currently own. I have not owned a high mass tonearm since I've had the 103D.

I also tried my backup DL-103R on my RB300 and it made very good music.

Ed

We don't shush around here!
Life is analog...digital is just samples thereof

 

RE: You're more likely to reach him by phone. /nt/, posted on August 27, 2013 at 08:16:05
abs1
Audiophile

Posts: 729
Location: Western Colorado
Joined: August 18, 2013
Thanks for the suggestion. I surely will telephone Peter if I do not receive a reply to my e-mail in a few days.

Cheers,
Al

 

RE: Its specified at 12 x 10-6 cm/Dyne..., posted on August 27, 2013 at 13:22:11
majick47
Audiophile

Posts: 706
Location: Pembroke MA
Joined: June 27, 2006
I'll agree with Ed 100, I also have a 103D all original low hours and it sings. I had it mounted on a Technics EPA-250 tonearm and the 12x 10-6 compliance matches the original OEM Technics cartridge EPC-205C that commonly came with the EPA-250 tonearm. If used on any of the low mass tonearms due to the weight of the 103D it will require using a add on weight to balance the arm which I also had to do to the EPA-250. A very dynamic/detailed/smooth cartridge, one of my favorites.

 

I've mounted my DL-103D in medium- and low-mass arms, posted on August 27, 2013 at 14:24:21
mr.bear
Audiophile

Posts: 3369
Joined: November 13, 2001
It has performed admirably. It is apparently well damped so as to be comfortable in a broad range of effective masses. It sounded, to my ear, happiest in my old Grace G-840 S-shaped arm in big DD tables-- also Denon's. The effect of the Grace/Denon combo-- smooth wide-spaced gimbal bearings and rigid mounting to a massive platform-- seem to yield the 'blackest' background. The only time it ever sounded at all dull was in a Denon integrated TT/arm. A very good all-around cartridge-- it rocks, as well as rendering classical music with brilliant inner life and detail. Worth re-tipping when one looks at the current market I'd say, given your positive experience with re-tipping.

I am preparing to mount a New Old Stock Denon DL-305 on my big rig(Denon DL-75 + DA-401 arm in an original VPI base) and give my current cart (Dyna XX) a couple year's rest. I bought the 305 based on memory from approximately 1980 of how lovely it sounded in a dealer's Luxman arm/table. I will report the results here- this is SURELY the only place on earth that anyone would read a review of a 30+ year-old phonograph cartridge!




 

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