Retip a Denon DL-103R or buy another one?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Trabik, Mar 14, 2018.

  1. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    Hi! There are many threads about retipping out there, but thought I would start this one as I'm not certain that it is the right move at the moment.

    Here is the problem; my DL-103R is worn and I can't decide if I should send it out for retip ($199 + shipping costs) or purchase a new one from that auction site for $259 shipped from Japan.

    I'm using a Grado Gold that I had before moving to the Denon and know that overall I don't like it as much.

    So, should I have two Denon's as I know that I enjoy them (and knowing that I'll still have to go with a retip at some point), or deal with the Grado in the system for 6-8 weeks at a time every few years?
     
  2. Salectric

    Salectric Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    I recently compared my stock 103R to a friend’s 103R that had been retipped by Soundsmith with an upgraded elliptical (I think) stylus. The SS version sounded significantly better—-better detail and speed especially, but without giving up any of the Denon musicality. Based on that experience, I would recommend going the retip route but only with an upgraded SS stylus.
     
    Fishoutofwater, russk and Helom like this.
  3. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    Thanks, this is exactly the feedback I was hoping for.
     
  4. sublemon

    sublemon Forum Resident

    I retipped a DL-103R at soundsmith, with their "Ruby Cantilever / Nude Contact Line Diamond" - sounds great. That said, it is expensive (more than a new DL-103R if you buy one from japan on ebay etc.), and it takes a long time. I also have one that i rebodied with an aftermarket aluminum body and epoxy (about $50, not really hard to DIY), and that one sounds great too. There isn't a whole lot of difference between the two as far as I can tell. Both are improved over stock. But let's say that even the stock cantilever stylus is very good. It is just a design that works, and the R version is the best, IMO.
     
  5. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    Thanks for your input. I think I'd go with the alloy/hyper-elliptical service - I have a little fear about going much further with my current arm (stock on a Denon DP-1200).
     
  6. vs_jk

    vs_jk Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    My path to where I'm at with my cartridges started with several Denon cartridges over the past decade. Starting with the DL160, and then to the DL301MK2, and then finally the DL103R. The DL103R in stock form was fantastic. Unfortunately, after about a couple months of owning it, I broke the cantilever! So, I ordered another DL103R and had it potted into a Paradox Pulse body. That was a significant upgrade over a stock DL103R. I was honestly very satisfied with the results but I always had a nagging feeling about what a retip could do for even further improvements. So, I recently sent my older Dl103R with the broken cantilever for potting into a Paradox Pulse Guard body and then to phonocartridgeretipping.com for their sapphire cantilever with micro ridge stylus. Paradox and phono cartridgeretipping each work very quickly by doing their work in just a couple days at most. I received the worked over cartridge yesterday and have only had about 1.5 hour on it on my turntable and I can say that it's a significant improvement. I'm really looking forward to hearing it open up a little more as it breaks in. So, my advice to you would be to have your worn DL103R potted into a new body and retipped. The results will be far better than a stock DL103R.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018
    mreeter likes this.
  7. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    @vs_jk What is the weight of your modded 103R? I have been kicking the body idea around as well (Ebony? Aluminum?). Denon suggests a cart between 5g - 11g on the DP-1200.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018
  8. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    I have a Zu 103r that has been retipped with the SS entry level cantilever and stylus and it sounds very good .

    The reason to buy a new one would be that one prefers the original spherical stylus which SS won't offer as they feel it's objectively inferior.
     
  9. Clay B

    Clay B Forum Resident

    A contrary view and some perspective. While I really enjoy reading about the tweeks mentioned above, I am just finishing up boxing, organizing and moving a lot of my equipment and stands in preparation for new flooring throughout my house. A lot of the equipment is heavy or, in the case of one set of stands, loaded with ball bearings and glass. I am no longer a spring chicken and day by day I come to appreciate more and more the elegance of quality and simplicity. I have so much crap I can't believe it. And all I really want to do is enjoy the music!

    Trabik, my recommendation is just to replace your 103 R. It's a classic for good reason and really doesn't need any gilding. If you have to spend money, but some vinyl.

    Cheers
     
    jusbe, ti-triodes and 4011021 like this.
  10. vs_jk

    vs_jk Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I believe it's 16g total. I know Paradox puts in lead shot to deaden vibrations. So, I wonder if they could put in less of this to make a lighter one for you. I have a Technics SL1210Mk2 and I had to add some weight to the tonearm to make it balance with this heavy cartridge. But the results have been very worthwhile! I don't know anything about your turntable but I wonder if you could do the same by just adding more counterweight to make it work.
     
  11. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    I'd definitely skip all the stuff about repotting cartridges and epoxy and lead weights, but that was a tangent. The OP's actual choice between sending it to be retipped for $200 or buying a new one for $250 is identical in terms of time and effort.
     
    KT88 likes this.
  12. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    You will enjoy that cartridge. It will certainly be competitive with any LOMC's out there today in the $1000-$1500 range.
     
  13. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    I've decide that I am going to purchase another 103R.

    I'm going take some time to decide if I am going to try a wood (or other) body and then send the worn 103R out for retip. So I guess stay tuned...
     
    Ghostworld, vs_jk and Rolltide like this.
  14. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    I think this is the best idea. You'll eventually wind up with the best of both worlds. Of course, that said, I own both a normal and a fancied-up 103R, and once I got the latter had no need for the former. It's hard to justify switching to a not-as-good cartridge as a change of pace.
     
  15. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    I agree. I think what's likely to happen is I eventually have two Ebony bodied Denon's that are on some sort of retip rotation plan that is TBD. Thanks for your input on this, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens down the road!
     
  16. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    I'd probably look to end up with one wood and one metal. That way you at least get distinctions with differences. I think this is all preferences, I don't believe there is any consensus on the best material for a Denon body.
     
    Trabik likes this.
  17. IanL

    IanL Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oneonta, NY USA
    Once you hear your Denon retipped, you'll never go back! It is a whole nuther level.
     
  18. vs_jk

    vs_jk Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I now have about 18 hours of use on my newly aluminum rebodied and retipped Dl103R. So I thought I would post back about how it's sounding in case it is of help to you.

    Before I went this route, I read a lot online about others thoughts on these mods. It seems a lot of people initially worry about losing the original cartridge magic with the mods. But most are pleased afterwards. Here is what I can say with my experience. With the mods, good aspects of the original Dl103R have remained (balanced and cohesive sound and a bit of drama/magic to the overall sound). The little bit of unrefined midrange and graininess is gone. I'm getting a whole lot more information coming through about the reverbs in the recording venues and really throughout the entire frequency range. I'm truly rediscovering my music collection with all sorts of details that I've never heard before in very familiar recordings! Some of my audiophile 45rpm jazz titles such as Mingus: Ah Um, Miles Davis: Kind of Blue, Duke Ellington: Blues in Orbit are absolutely astounding! I've never heard these recordings this way before. The realism and depth have really amazed me. Another very familiar album to me since my teenage years is Iron Maiden:Live After Death, which as the name implies, is a live recording. I couldn't believe the details I've never heard before in this. I have had this album in many formats over the past 30 years and heard it on several different systems. What I can hear now with my modded cartridge is places where I thought there was just one person doing vocals, I can now hear there was a bit of backup. Where I thought a guitar was played in one way reveals the nuanced detail of the personality the guitarist put in. And then there is the acoustics associated with the crowd sounds and all the details contained in there. But what's even more amazing is that all this is there without feeling forced in any way. The overall sound is never in my face with detail and I can just sit back and take it all in.

    To summarize, I would highly recommend going this route! IanL is spot on in that there is no going back to a stock cartridge now.
     
    Trabik likes this.
  19. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    New 103R arrived yesterday. I mounted it pretty quickly and confirmed my eye/ear setup using a digital scale and the Hi-Fi News Test LP. So far I've only listened to side one of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers Southern Accents and side two of The Police Synchronicity, but can say that I am very glad to have a 103R back in action. Further listening, maybe a comment or two over in the Grado vs. Denon thread and then decisions around retip of the old 103R vs upgrading to a dedicated phono pre. I love this stuff!
     
  20. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    I had a busy year of listening and have started to notice wear on my 103r.

    Andy at Needle Clinic has retipped one of them with a “linear contact stylus, sapphire/boron cantilever” and he finished the work on Monday and put it in the mail to me yesterday. I’m looking forward to having a listen and doing a direct comparison between the 103r that is currently mounted and the retipped one.

    I’m also waiting for a neighbor to drop by a USB Microscope for photos (and help with setup) and may buy a cable to do some needle drops for comparison as well.
     
  21. theprivateer

    theprivateer Active Member

    Location:
    Singapore
    Do update us once you get the retip.
    The DL 103 is one of those cartridges that many of us have multiple of, and are always great candidates for retipping.
     
    Trabik likes this.
  22. Yamahaha

    Yamahaha Active Member

    Location:
    Alberta, Canada
    I dont understand modding Denon carts. Why not just buy something like the Hana line which would be the same price after mods are considered?
    I think the Denons are just fine stock. I get why some feel the conical could be improved but the Denon is what it is and there are so many cart brands offering all sorts of things at all sorts of prices. Why buy one thing to mod into another when you can just buy that thing new off the shelf?
     
    KT88 and Ghostworld like this.
  23. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    Why buy something off of the shelf when you can mod it into something else? That sounds like fun to me...

    Next I’ll nude the other Denon that I have, throw it in a new body and have the same retipping service done to it. Call me crazy.
     
  24. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lewes, DE
    I now have eight of the darn Denons because they are such workhorses.
    Three of my 103r models are re-tips from SS with ruby/nude fine line.
    One is a 103 with the ruby and fine line.
    I have spare stock models in reserve in case they stop importing them again.
    Both my Pioneer PLX1000 and my Technics SL1210M5G would not develop deep bass stock.
    The problem was the Denon is so stiff it wiggles the light weight arm around when playing deep bass and no deep bass happens. You don't want the ARM to wiggle. You want the NEEDLE to wiggle. And it didn't happen with a light arm.
    So I weighed down the headshells on both turntables with an extra 8 gr. using two headshell weights per cartridge and extra weight at the back of the arm to counter it.
    Plus I took shrink wrap and sealed up the Technics arm so it stopped resonating.
    Plus I put on the Technics KAB fluid dampener cup with silicone fluid in it to kill resonance.
    The 103r comes from the factory semi-potted already according to what I have read. Denon puts some goo on the body before sliding it into the plastic shell which is to kill resonance and tighten up the sound.
    A heavy metal body is recommended as a tone clarifier however I wonder if all that does is add the weight you needed anyway...? I don't know but I am NOT going the new body route.
    The sound retipped with extra headshell weight is the best I have heard from records and I have been playing them on great gear since the 50s.
    I have found my setup.
    I suggest you try some mods on your current turntable to increase how much mass you arm has.
    My stylus likes 2.6 gr. tracking force.
    My cart loves my K&K Lundahl transformers set at 130 Ohms.
    I still use the stock 103r conical model for OLD pre-1965 Stereo records that have fat record grooves.
    And it shines on Mono 33 1/3 "high fidelity" recordings pre-Stereo.
    But what I can hear on modern stereo stuff with the modified 103r is just stupid amazing.
    Love it!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    33na3rd and Trabik like this.
  25. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    @Doctor Fine - I live those photos of your mods.

    Currently I’m running a stock denon DP-1200 ‘table and have added a three gram spacer to the head shell. I have a lighter spacer on order and plan on doing some messing around to find out what sounds best. I also have read that people run their 103s and 103Rs nude, so maybe there is something more to removing the plastic body and going with something else. Hopefully I can continue documenting what I try and we’ll find out!

    I’m also planning on updating the wiring on my Denon AU-305 SUT, but don’t want to change a bunch of things at once, so that will wait for at least a month or so.
     

Share This Page