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Arno Pf 11th August 2012 06:36 AM

Life after a DENON DL103 ?
Well, I have been playing records with a DL103 for quite some time now and I am looking for a next step up, so I am wondering what have your steps been after a DL103 (and what was your experienced improvement (or step back))?

Looking forward to your experiences


blakkshepeaudio 11th August 2012 07:48 AM

Life is good when you listen to a DL103...

I had one years ago (upgraded from a Supex 900, anybody remember them?) and absolutely loved it with the Denon Step Up, my 6BQ5 Astronic and ESS AMT1's. (Yeah, a LONG time ago!).

I loved it.

I was subsequently seduced by the Linn/Naim spin and replaced it all with an ASAK/Ittok thing that I never got along with.

Of the many carts I have used since, my favourites have been the Ortofon MC's, MC20, 30 etc. They no longer make these but they were like DL103's with far more definition and detail (and probably flatter FR and better tracking due to more modern stylus profiles) but largely without the DL103's seductive integration of soundstage and OMG smoothness.

I can't advise re: cartridges at $10,000 because I have not been there.
If you love your 103 dearly, get a Garrott tip for it, or a wood body mod but hang on to it because it hasn't been popular for a million years without good reason. At the price it is a no-brainer for me.

If you want to move up in a similar vein, look at the Ortofons.

If you want to take a complete departure, the recommendation depends on what areas you wish to improve.

Good Luck!


Arno Pf 11th August 2012 08:05 AM

Indeed the dl103 is one of a kind...but squeezing the rest of my set up to the next level I suspect the dl103 is having significant problems with tracking the HF (no surprise due to the "Rock Size Conical Tip"..
I am aware that some vinyl is over the top on the HF (try Ella and Louis one time for this) but other recordings that should be ok on the recording/pressing also suffer...

So you mention ortofon to be a logical step, did not cross my mind yet since I was looking at micro benz (Glider/LP etc) or EMT or Dynavector instead....anything to mention about those?

I will also dive deeper into the ortofon options, thx!


blakkshepeaudio 11th August 2012 09:58 AM

Yeah, the 103 is tricky to upgrade. Few cartridges do what it does, so, no matter how good they are, you sometimes feel like there is something missing.

The 103 really struggles with some of the hotter vinyl out there and is ulimately why I don't run one now. CD fills most of my music needs and the vinyl that really matters to me is often more than the 103 can take. There is an updated Denon DL103R but I have no experience with it.

I ended up with an Ortofon MC20 Super, and I see that the MC20 Supreme is still available at about AUD$700. I have had a Rohmann which was also very good and seems to still be available under AUD$1000 or so. I have no experience of the newer Cadenza carts.

If your arm has a detachable headshell (mine doesn't) you could look at the SPU's which worked very nicely in an SME I once had. Have a look at Decca/London as well.

Having owned Benz, Koetsu, Linn, Dynavector (only old ones, nothing since 1995), I have enjoyed them all. BUT, if you want a bigger, better 103, look to Ortofon. Not trendy at all, and very low in Audiophile cred but that never worries me when I drop the stylus into the groove.........

Best of luck,


kevinkr 12th August 2012 12:59 AM

Depends heavily on what sort of arm you have, if you have a sufficiently high mass tone arm an Ortofon SPU could be the next step.

I went from a ZU Denon DL-103 to a vintage loaner SPU GT/E and then purchased an SPU Classic GM E II to use on my then new Schick arm. It was a pretty major step up, I currently have this SPU and the Meister Silver GM which is even nicer..

No, they aren't cheap and they work best on arms like the SME 3012, Schick and a couple of 12" Ortofons, but if you have the right kit they are really hard to beat, and in my experience they are rugged and durable. The GT/E I mentioned in the first paragraph was 40+ yrs old and sounded great, far better in fact than the ZU DL-103 and convinced me the SPU was the right choice for me.

Arno Pf 12th August 2012 06:23 AM

The arm is a SME309 by the way

grufti 12th August 2012 06:42 AM

That is not a good match for any of the Ortofon SPU's.

You need a lower compliance lower mass 80's style cartridge.

blakkshepeaudio 12th August 2012 07:34 AM

My SPU [which I still have, just no tonearm to put it in :( ] was in a Micro MA88 and then in an SME 3012. Both long, heavy arms.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission/Corporation had herds of them on CE and BRS turntables with Ortofon 12" arms in transmission sites dotted around Australia as emergency program sources. There was one at an ABC TV transmitter site I once worked at.

Maybe someone could comment on the current Ortofon MCs and their suitability for your arm. My MC20 has worked fine in a variety of arms and seems quite at home in my current Rega RB300.

Best of luck,

analog_sa 12th August 2012 11:13 AM


Originally Posted by grufti (
That is not a good match for any of the Ortofon SPU's.

You need a lower compliance lower mass 80's style cartridge.

Oh, cmon, it's not a 3009...

analog_sa 12th August 2012 11:18 AM


Originally Posted by Arno Pf (

So you mention ortofon to be a logical step, did not cross my mind yet since I was looking at micro benz (Glider/LP etc) or EMT or Dynavector instead....anything to mention about those?

Never used an EMT but none of the Benz or Dynavector carts i've had would be a clear improvement on the 103. Completely different presentation a 103 fan is likely to hate.

And another vote for Ortofon MCs, especially the older ones.

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