Denon DL-103
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As has been recently said:
"The Denon DL-103 enjoys to right since 1962 (!) Cult status with innumerable music lover. In spite of the bargain entry, this system resides almost always in very expensive and ausgefuchsten units. For the Japanese broadcast conceives, conquered this hochaktuelle classic, style just in heavy, robust tone arms e.g. a SME 3012-R since then the entire world. The DL-103 is with security of one of the tonal most balanced cartridges, that there is. It plays warmly, mightily, voluminous, incredible dynamically, enormously bass festival and in addition with a means area and high tone area breach loose subsequent itself."

  stock 103        Audio Origami weight
The stock 103 is 8.5 grams. It is a low compliance design which should want a heavier arm. When I added more mass to my RB250 with a 3 gram weight from AudioOrigami it opened up with more colors and dynamics.
103 with tape

A Vinyl Asylum inmate, Jack Seaton, suggested adding masking tape to improve on the ringing plastic carapace.  I added masking tape to the sides and front of the plastic body. Focus was the one big improvement and proves that the plastic body might need to go altogether.

Uwe wood body
click image for higher resolution

Replacing the plastic body w/ Uwe's wood body brought a high level of tone presence, silky smoothness, and ambiance.

A lot of dust accumulates on the glue that adheres the protective tape covering the generator. Removing the tape and cleaning off the glue reduced the noise floor. Cleaning the glue involved using a toothpick in rolling the glue to the tip and wiping/rolling it off.

Video on how to remove the cartridge and place into wood body graciously provided by Thomas Schick.
103 nude with Al's brass plate

Detail is still wanting; trying nude was an idea that might get me there while still using the conical stylus. I used a brass plate and the increase in detail was as dramatic as the tone increase using Uwe's wood body. Nude, you don't have that tone but the detail is popping. And it's nice to able to see that stylus so clearly for cuing.

103 with nail polish on front yoke
click image for higher resolution

Knowing that the 103R uses a damper on the plastic body and reading more posts about structural integrity, I painted nail polish on the front yoke and noticed an increase in detail, enough to prove the point.

The Vagaries of Structural Integrity
.. which leads to potting

The architecture of the 103 is loose. As you can see from Denon's documentation how the generator is secured only at the base of the generator.

A comment from Jonathan Carr was that the next thing you want to do after getting rid of the plastic body is to brace the generator. His idea was to use a ceramic bar from the generator up to the magnet. All for more detail is the purpose. I was sure I would break the leads coming from the coils so my first attempt at this was to use dental cement to cement the base of the generator. This increased detail a few degrees to the positive.


In getting the cartridge off the brass plate the dental cement shattered to dust. Next attempt was to apply the cement in a more liquid mixture and to cover it with nail polish. the more liquid mixtures makes the finish on the cement smoother and less gritty. The nail polish seals and secures the cement event further to the plastic base.

103R body /w damper
click images for larger resolution

I also added a thick rubber band folded over as a damper between the inside of the ebony body and front yoke. This was done in the same manner that Denon does with the 103R but thicker. One nag was not being able to see the stylus with the ebony body. I shaved off a bit off the front and that gives a nice clear open space up front for cuing.

Latest report from Sound-Smith, the re-tipper, is that too severe a case of potting will prevent them from re-tipping the cartridge. So a shallow pool is up next. At this point the detail and presence is really nice. Impact and palpability is atrociously high.

Potting being my next step .....

Monoject 412

I bought marine low viscosity epoxy. I used a Monoject syringe to apply the epoxy. The curved syringe helped me keep my hand out of my line of sight. I should have sealed the seems at the back - the epoxy seeped for an hour. A good trick might be to apply blu tac with a toothpick into those seems before potting then pry it out after.

I set a shallow pool just shy of the top of the magnet. Perfect. I only wanted to secured the plastic parts that hold the magnet and front yoke. The effect is more hold-together for top-end action. Violins hold together much better but it can get busy or hard when the volume rises. Crescendo's, loud orchestral swings get nervous. A very small thing considering we are still using a conical stylus. I am anticipating that the re-tip with a fine line stylus will finish the job.

getting rid of the cone

Uwe Panzerholz body, SoundSmith fine line re-tip*
Click image to see detail

All I can say is that going from a conical stylus to a SoundSmith fine line was INCREDIBLE. It was a shock at first. But after shaking that off the magisterial elegance, speed, detail, smoothness, openess I get a chance to say "no looking back."

The confusion with busy orchestral movements or mass strings is now threaded nicely, no more congestion.

*Mr. Al Gallaher did the potting on the Panzerholz.
What is Panzerholz?:

Re-tipping Reprise

Cherry body /w brass plate
SoundSmith aluminum cantliver / ellitpical stylus re-tip

Another nice job from Peter at SoundSmith for the re-tip. The R is a little more open but the aluminum cantilever brings back the timbre of the stock 103 while the elliptical rids it of any congestion.

Final question is what will a fine line sound like on an aluminum cantilever.

What about Gain?

CineMag CM-QEE-3440A
Wired  for
37.5Ohms 1:36 ratio
& 150Ohms 1:18 ratio 
Hookup info
Several ways to take care of this. You can go  into a phonon preamp with enough gain @ 100Ohms. Enough gain would be at least 60dB. I have not tried that but it is what is recommended by Denon.

Next is the transformer route; a non powered coil of wire. I have tried the Denon AU-300LC loading the cartridge at the primary, which means at the point where the tonearm plugs in, @ 47Ohms. This closely matches internal DC resistance of the cart and that is the trick - matching the internal resistance. The resistor that is used should be of high quality as it will be in the early stages of being amped so any faults will amplify down the line. Not as crucial is the resister quality if you load at the secondary, which is the outputs of the transformer. Good idea to have a high quality resistor but not as crucial.

Best way to match internal resistance is to find a matching transformer. With a matching transformer you do not have to load a resister. The CineMag wired at 1:36 step up ratio delivers 37.5Ohms which matches the cartridge very closely and by all reports seems to be an organic pairing.

Another route is a headamp, a powered device boosting gain before it gets to the phono preamp. A nice one is the Hagerman Piccolo but the choice of gain ... should it be 100Ohms for a powered situation or 40Ohms to match? I started to go this route but decided on the transformer and sold my Piccolo board. But there are reports of this headamp working for many people. And the headamp can be made variable enough for several cartridges into the future.

Hook me up ... RTFM

French site with all the good ideas
Thomas Schick's video on removing the 103 body and placing in the Uwe wood body
Al Gallaher for brass plates and built CineMag SUTs
on vacation
Uwe for wood bodies
Cinemag for SUTs
Hagerman for Piccolo, Bugle, and Cornet2
Denon gallery on Vinyl Asylum

updated 12.17.2009