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REVIEW: Denon 103D Phono Cartridge

Model: 103D
Category: Phono Cartridge
Suggested Retail Price: $499
Description: Limited Edition high compliance, extended bandwidth
Manufacturer URL: Denon

Review by ross on March 07, 2017 at 12:28:59
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for the 103D

Denon DL103D

A few years ago, I picked up a broken 103D for a very good price. My long term plan was to have it rebuilt. I finally took the plunge last fall, and sent it off to Soundsmith for a Ruby Level II rebuild. This means a ruby cantilever and a nude profile stylus. Many have raved about this combination, and looking at the price list seemed to indicate this choice to be at about the point of diminishing returns. The cartridge was returned to me about 6 weeks ago, and after making a few changes in my setup, I was ready to install the cartridge.

I read the archives here and on other sites (perish the thought). Consensus opinion is the 103 series and SS rebuilds specifically are very sensitive to setup. Thankfully the square sides make azimuth easy to set, but a very small stylus point makes exact overhang difficult to set. Start to finish time was about 40 minutes to remove my old cartridge, adjust the tone arm wire clips for a tight fit, install then align the cartridge. Once accomplished, I set VTF and AS for 1.5g and began to listen.

Wow this is a dynamic cartridge, but gain was initially much less than my previous cartridge (AT33 ML/OCC) and I had some hum to address.

Soundstage width, depth and height are better than previous. I can hear the relative height of a soloist in relation to a microphone. Listening to Miles Davis at the Blackhawk is a great example. Picture the classic Miles performance pose: Shoulders hunched over, head and trumpet facing down, with the microphone fixed above the bell of the trumpet- that is what I heard. His trumpet was located in space noticeably below where Hank Mobley's saxophone appeared to be during his solo. I have never heard this affect in so pronounced a fashion before.

Earlier I alluded to gain. I am now using a Cinemag 3440 SUT, set for 1:20 (103d output about .3 mv), into a ARC SP10. The preamp has a high and low gain switch for accommodating MM and MC cartridges. Since I use an SUT, I have the ARC set for low gain, which is the standard setting for MM cartridges. However it also has on the fly switching of impedance..47k-10k-100-30-10 ohms. I have settled at 47k after initial experimentation, and consultation with the experts at AA. Gain is high, and I have the volume set at about 9:00 for acceptable level.

Extended listing revealed slightly exaggerated treble. I looked at VTA and noticed that the cartridge was sitting tail up. I lowered the arm to level the cartridge body, and I regained some bass while the treble smoothed out. That said, I think this cartridge will benefit from tweaking of alignment. Azimuth is correct and the stylus plays without rt/lft deflection.

Soundstage width and depth are very good. I hear sounds outside of the boundaries of my speakers. I hear image depth, layering and air.

Treble response is extended, but does not exaggerate record imperfections. Surface noise seems to be separate from the music. I suspect the SS Line Contact profile is playing areas of the groove relatively undamaged from years of use (abuse). In fact I have noticed an overall decrease in LP background noise since installing this cartridge.

Would I do this again ? Yes. My overall cost is much less than the quality of reproduction I now enjoy. The combination of a high quality cartridge and new cantilever/ stylus has provided me with a meaningful system improvement.


Product Weakness: very sensitive to alignment
Product Strengths: Resolution reduction surface and background noise extended frequency response

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Triode TRV P845
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): ARC SP10
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Linn LP12 / Ittok LVII / Cinemag 3440
Speakers: Triangle Titus 202
Cables/Interconnects: Mix
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz
Time Period/Length of Audition: Few weeks
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner
Your System (if other than home audition): See profile for additional information

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Topic - REVIEW: Denon 103D Phono Cartridge - Ross 12:28:58 03/07/17 (20)


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