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

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

  1. theprivateer

    theprivateer Active Member

    Location:
    Singapore
    For the same reason people mod cars instead of all buying Porsches. And remodel old houses. And for that matter, refurbish vintage LP12s.

    For me, I’ve found the Denon tonality gets me 80% of where I want to be. And the Zu modded DL103 gets me 100%, without having to try a bunch of other different carts from Dynavector, Hana or Benz.

    Whatever floats your boat, right?
     
  2. Hendertuckie

    Hendertuckie Forum Resident

    Location:
    Henderson, Nevada
    I had to made the same choice as the OP. A new 103r or re-tip. For me it was a tough choice because I really like the 103r with or without the hardwood body I put on. So, purchased a new 103r and used both the worn and fresh one for a while. When I was ready to re-tip a friend pointed me to the Denon DL-301MKII as an alternate. It took a while to dial in the 301 but once set it's a pure joy. One of these days I may get around to having the 103r re-tiped but for NOW, I'm a happy camper
     
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  3. myles

    myles Forum Resident

    Location:
    Near Marlow, UK
    I've had the 103, 103R (which is riding low - being dealt with as we speak) and the 301mk2. They all have their personal quirks and I am happy with all three. However, the 103R is going to be nuded and fitted on a decent high mass base. I'm looking forward to what that sounds like.

    Edited to add - forgot to say, retip for sure. These things are highly regarded when they come back from a decent upgrade.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
    Trabik likes this.
  4. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    It’s here! I don’t want to comment on comparisons between the standard and retipped Denon 103r quite yet as I’ve only listened to a few songs (three songs off of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Southern Accents with both carts a little earlier). I will say that it is now producing blacker blacks and there in a ton of air. The midrange sounds fantastic and the bass is even better. I feel like I made the right decision.

    Really looking forward to some serious listening in a few days after a quick trip and receipt of the new head shell spacer.

    Based on what I’ve heard so far, I believe @IanL is spot on, I’m never going back to stock.

    Stay tuned.
     
  5. ProfessorC1983

    ProfessorC1983 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    I just got my retipped 103R back from Andy at Needle Clinic. I splurged on his top micro-ridge and boron cantilever combo, and had him rebody into a Paradox Pulse while I was at it. Mounted on my Technics SL1200 MkII with a LOT of extra weight -- a 3g spacer on the headshell (on top of the 16g total weight of the PP aluminum body) and a whopping 40g in auxiliary weights from KAB screwed into the back of the tonearm, which lets me set precisely 2.55g VTF. I was worried that might be TOO much effective mass on the tonearm, but so far can't hear any problems with resonance. I'm only a couple hours in, still dialing in the alignment and loading (thanks to @Doctor Fine for the 130 ohm recommendation with the 1:16 Lundahls!) but so far this is the best sound I've ever heard from vinyl, period.

    I did notice that Andy didn't fill up the PP body with epoxy like I assumed he would based on other photos I've seen -- does anyone know if I'm missing out on anything by not having the epoxy filling the body cavity? I'm not sure whether that's worth attempting myself since I'd be very likely to ruin it, so am pretty content to leave well enough alone and just enjoy the music...
     
    googlymoogly likes this.
  6. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Location:
    Syracuse NY
    It’s an old post but I’m curious as to what you’re tracking at? Same recommended weight range or different?
     
  7. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lewes, DE
    My Denon modified into a fine line cost a total of $700.
    The closest Hana fine line (a Microline) costs $1200.
    My Denon cost $350 for a re-tip.
    The Hana costs $840 from Needle Doctor to re-tip it.
    So to answer your question, the Denon right off the bat is much cheaper to purchase initially and cheaper to re-tip too.
    And because a cartridge is a part that wears out and can be broken in a jiffy with one lapse of attention (---yikes!) so cost is a big deal to ME.
    To continue, the Denon comes stock as a conical if that's what you need---for about 25% the cost of the Hana.
    Stock the Denon can make a terrific Mono cartridge just by tying two channels together.
    Hana doesn't even offer a Mono version or offer a conical---which is a natural shape for Mono records because a conical is PERFECT for old wide grooves.
    In addition the Denon has a sound that is so correct tone wise that it competes with better cartridges costing several thousand bucks---BEFORE it has been modified.
    Plus there is an entire cottage industry and support network built up over the last 50 years and lots of fellow Denon enthusiasts to tell you all about its history and any "secrets" about its design.
    The Hana is the new kid on the block.
    So.
    Does that make any difference to YOU?
    It did to ME.
    I went with the Denon and am mad happy with it.
    Just put it on an arm that is heavy so it will have something to push against.
    It is an easy mod to make most turntables play it beautifully and the results are very satisfying.
    My two cents.
     
  8. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney
    I presume you might need a brake in period too but have you got any other thoughts on the retipped 103 since your last post?
     
  9. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    but what about the mythological Denon conical stylus magic ?!
     
  10. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lewes, DE
    It is not just a myth.
    Stock the cartridge shows off its ability to make "real" musical instrument sounds that don't seem "canned."
    Good as my Ortofon OM30 sounds---it still seems pretty mechanical and "dry" in its presentation compared to the stock Denon which sounds like fully fleshed out and "real."
    Problem is, after you hear how much CLEARER and more extended the same tones WITH a better stylus can sound---well, there's just no reason NOT to spend the extra bucks to go to a better needle.
    It only improves on what was a big life like generous sound---and makes it "top notch."
    I have found my ideal cartridge with the DL 103r---modified to nude fine line and ruby cantilever.
    My opinion of course...
     
  11. karma67

    karma67 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    uk
    ive only owned 1 denon 103,i found it very musical,it had a certain something that just sounded right. if you can find one try a 103 SA ,denon themselves sorted the resonant body problems out with this cartridge.

    [​IMG]
     
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  12. theprivateer

    theprivateer Active Member

    Location:
    Singapore
    I refrained from commenting on the Hana reference initially but I’ve heard that the new Hana range is considered by the Japanese audiophile community as sub-par cheapies made for the “ignorant” western market.

    I’m just the messenger here having zero experience with Hana, but history has shown that the Japanese often save their best for their home market...so I wonder if there could be any truth in that.
     
  13. myles

    myles Forum Resident

    Location:
    Near Marlow, UK
    You've got to love the Japanese - I can actually visualise a Japanese audiophile saying those exact words!
     
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  14. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    but they seem to offer a decent sound at more affordable prices by comparison to their competition. price is a consideration when comparing products. however the Audiotechnica ART-9 was kept a Japanese market secret for many years until importer LP gear started offering them. A few rave reviews and highly positive internet threads later and everyone is selling them in the US.
     
  15. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney
    I'll risk anytime a blind buy of the ART-9 over a brand that is not really all that well known. It could be different if I have the chance to compare the sound but that is such a rare thing these days and at the end it comes down to your taste and what you are connecting it to.
     
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  16. sublemon

    sublemon Forum Resident

    Probably near the top of the recommended range, I'd have to check I think soundsmith may have some recommendations that they either send with the re-tipped or have on their site though. Personally I didn;t hear a lot of difference or notice anything on the test record with VTFs within denons recommendation whcih is 2.3 - 2.7 g i believe. I think some people say a fine line or micro ridge should track a little lighter tho.
     
    russk likes this.
  17. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Location:
    Syracuse NY
    Thanks for the reply. I was wondering if there were any concerns about record wear when tracking with the conical stylus’s tracking force on a finelines much smaller surface area.
     
  18. ProfessorC1983

    ProfessorC1983 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    I wonder about this as well, though intuitively it seems to me that the finer stylus would result in less wear since it's digging further into the grooves? And I seem to recall hearing that lighter VTF is, all else being equal, worse for vinyl than heavier. So for the moment I'm tracking my 103R/microridge at the recommended ~2.5 but I'm open to being corrected here for sure!
     
  19. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    I’m just back from some time away - maybe tonight, certainly tomorrow.
     
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  20. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    I've moved on from the modified 103R but used them extensively for about 6-7 years. I had both of Soundsmith's line contact styli on ruby cantilevers in use in that time period: the standard line contact and the OCL. Either in ebony or aluminum bodies.

    I found the standard line contact to work well with around 2.4-2.425 grams VTF and could go a bit lower into the 2.325 range with the OCL.

    For what it's worth, while I enjoyed my time with the OCL it was without doubt the most difficult cartridge/stylus I have ever had to set up. Minute changes in VTF, VTA/SRA and azimuth would result in it not sounding very good. It would not be a stylus that I would order again because of that.

    Peter's standard line contact on ruby was much easier to set up and delivered probably about 90% of the performance without any of the headache of the OCL. In those days he did not have a boron/microridge option which he has now; I'd expect that to be his best bet in terms of performance and combined ease of set up now, but it is also his most expensive option.
     
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  21. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney
    Thanks, I am interested as I have an Ortofon and a Denon I wish to retip and never seem to get around doing it. The Denon is a 103 but the regular version, I would like to see what it can do with a smaller elliptical stylus.
     
  22. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Location:
    Syracuse NY
    I’ve heard that to little TF is worse as well. As far as the increased weight over a smaller surface area though. That does increase the pressure where the needle contacts the record. I know those cheap styrene records can be carved up but am just wondering about normal vinyl. Though I imagine it will be fine. Just curious to what people are tracking the retips at.
     
  23. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    I played two sides last night after unpacking from my trip. First was side one of Dire Straits “Brothers In Arms”, second was side two of Neko Case “The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You”.

    I still can’t talk two much about details, though I did sense that crosstalk was reduced. The separation felt improved and the soundstage wider. It seems that this would be possible with the different stylus and cantilever and am looking forward to continued listening and, once the additional headshell spacer arrives, comparison to the stock 103r.
     
  24. Trabik

    Trabik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    Some more serious listening last night. All around this is a serious improvement.

    I’ve played around with tracking force. I did not measure with my scale yet, but find that it is best somewhere between 2.5 and 2.6. I’ll measure that soon.

    The new headshell did arrive so I’m planning on doing some comparisons and taking a few notes.

    I have noticed that the tighter bass seems to have less bottom end. I’m running tail down a bit and am wondering if I just need to get used to the cleaner bass presentation or if this thing will open up in a similar way to the stock 103r with the bottom end showing up after 50ish hours. Anyone have experience there?
     
  25. ProfessorC1983

    ProfessorC1983 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Same symptom here with my 103R/microridge retip. Granted I've been doing a lot of adjusting and futzing with it, but in general there's still a bit less bottom end than I'd like. I'm about as tail-down as I can go, loading at 180 ohm. Only around 20 hours in, so will report if I hear anything different as it gets closer to 50. (Though I always thought cartridge break-in had more to do with the coils than the stylus, which since I bought my Denon used should already be well broken-in? Happy to prove myself wrong here, though!)
     
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