Want to switch from a Denon DL-110 to a DL-103 but have some questions

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by ebro, Sep 16, 2020.

  1. ebro

    ebro The Green Manalishi Thread Starter

    Location:
    Haverhill, MA, USA
    Hey all! So the last few years I’ve had a Denon DL-110 installed on my Technics 1200Mk2 and although I’ve throughly enjoyed it I want to upgrade the sound a little bit. I’ve been checking out a lot of YouTube clips to see how certain cartridges sound, and judging from those clips I’ve come across the Denon DL-103. I saw a video comparison of the DL-110 and the DL-103 and the DL-103 had much more refined bass and highs, and compared to some of the other carts I checked out I’m finding myself really liking the DL-103, it seems to be what I’m after in terms of SQ, however I have some questions. Will this cart fit on my tonearm? I’ve been reading it requires a heavy tonearm. If so, will I have to change the tracking force? Currently I’ve had my DL-110 set to 1.6g for the past few years and I think it’s a perfect setting on my setup, I would hate to have to change it. I also read that this cart is loud, can anyone compare the volume output to that of the DL-110 and the Nagaoka MP-110? I had the Nagaoka years ago and it was louder than the Denon but didn’t track LP’s as good. And finally does it reduce surface noise just as good as the DL-110, or possibly better? Any input is greatly appreciated! :agree:

    p.s. - Sorry for all the editing, I posted this by accident before I had finished my final draft :doh:
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2020
  2. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney
    You know you will need either a step up transformer or MC phono input? 103 is not loud, it just has very low voltage output, it's what is called Low output MC, LOMC
     
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  3. eltigreferoz

    eltigreferoz Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Brooklyn
    103/Technics 1200 user here:

    Yes, it will fit your tonearm. The 103 does require more mass, but this can be achieved by buying a heavier (around 12g) headshell than the stock technics headshell, such as the LP Gear Zupreme or Sumiko HS-12. Adding a heavier headshell, you will also want to use the heavier auxiliary weight that comes with the technics.

    Then, yes, you will also have to adjust the tracking force (to whatever your new cart recommends, in this case 2.5), which you would have to do with any new cart anyway, and which you should double-check on occasion with your current one regardless. You may also need to adjust your VTA (tonearm height). There are videos for adjusting tracking force/VTA on the technics on youtube; it's very simple.

    Finally--and forgive me if you already knew this--because the 103 is an MC rather than an MM cart, you will also need to make sure you have a phono stage that can power MC carts. The 110 is a high output MC, so is able to be played on most MM phono stages. Anyway...

    It's a great cart. If you like the 110, you will like the 103 more IMO. I had the 110's big brother, the 160, which led me to the 103.
     
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  4. ebro

    ebro The Green Manalishi Thread Starter

    Location:
    Haverhill, MA, USA
    I use an ART Phono Plus preamp, will it work with that? At this point though seeing I’m gonna have to buy another headshell and do some adjustments I’m starting to second guess the DL-103. I was originally thinking of going with Nagaoka again and this time getting the MP-150 but I heard mixed results on YouTube, some sound samples it sounded like a nice upgrade to the 110 other sound samples the sound reminded me of the way MoFi mastered the Beatles and the Stones back in the day, with unnatural sounding treble boost. I guess it all depends on what turntable you’re using and the preamp. I would love to just get a stylus with a sound signature similar to the DL-103 that reduces surface noise and then swap the DL-110 with it and then reattach the headshell to my tonearm and be done with it, but if there’s no carts similar in size to the MP-110 or the DL-110 with a sound similar to those carts then I’ll just make the adjustments. I should add that I am not interested in any Ortofon carts, I find them very harsh sounding.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2020
  5. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Nope. You need an Mc phono stage with way more gain.
     
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  6. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney
    I have the 103 and 110, I don't use them that much these days but I can tell you -that to me- if you are interested in lower surface noise, the DL110 might work better than the 103. I like the two regardless but in that price range I don't know anything I would consider as a better option in MC. You could consider sending the 110 for new cantilever and needle to Soundsmith it will probably change the sound and hopefully improve it.

    I personally wouldn't go back to MM but there are several MM cartridges that some people love around here but to me all MMs I've ever heard had more noise than the MCs.

    Please note that a worn 110 would be noisier than a new one, then you have your records which I don't know what state they are in.
     
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  7. ebro

    ebro The Green Manalishi Thread Starter

    Location:
    Haverhill, MA, USA
    So doing a little more research today I discovered another Denon cart that doesn’t require a heavy tone arm and has around the same tracking force as my DL-110 and is also well at reducing surface noise, the DL-301MK2. Apparently it’s got a similar sound to the DL-103, only question I have is will my ART phono support it or will I have to buy another preamp?

    If I can’t seem to find an upgrade for my DL-110 where I won’t have to buy another preamp and/or make modifications to my table then I will send it to Soundsmith. Also, my 110 is far from worn, I use an Onzow Stylus Cleaner every so often to take care of it and make sure it always sounds it’s best, and most of my records are in great shape.
     
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  8. eltigreferoz

    eltigreferoz Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Brooklyn
    The 301 is also an MC, so it will not work with your current set-up. You need to look specifically for MM (Moving Magnet) or High Output MC if you're not changing anything else.
     
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  9. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney
    I was considering buying a 301 myself but so far I haven't, I could be wrong but I don't think the sound would be very similar to the 103.

    For the 301 you do need a step up transformer or a phono stage with MC input, they are not high output like the 110. You should consider it, is extra money but once you have it will lift the limitations you have currently when choosing cartridges.
     
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  10. FalseMetal666

    FalseMetal666 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    As someone who has taken years to properly shoehorn the DL-103 onto a Technics, I think you are definitely better off with a 301, which shouldn't present as many mechanical challenges.

    The DL-103 on a Technics requires, at a minimum:
    • heavy headshell (to address compliance mismatch)
    • auxiliary counter weight (to address added cartridge and headshell mass)
    • spacer (the 103 is a short cartridge and even at the 0 level on the 1200 arm, it is not level)
    Even after you sort out the items above, the fundamental compliance mismatch is difficult (if not impossible) to cure. My rig sounds very nice right now, but even with a fancy anti-resonance headshell, an aluminum "cap" for the 103, and a KAB silicon fluid damper, I still get unwanted speaker cone flapping (indicating a compliance mismatch).

    And lastly, please forgive me for unsolicited advice: the 110 is not your weak spot. The ART is definitely holding you back. The $300 you'd spend on a Denon 301 would be much better spent on the nicest, gently-used phono stage you can find.
     
  11. eltigreferoz

    eltigreferoz Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Brooklyn
    I own both and you are correct: they do not sound similar. The 301 is bright and analytic, in my experience; the 103 warm and refined. The 103R is a little closer, more bright, but still different.

    I actually much prefer the 103, didn’t really have any issues or trouble mounting it once I knew what to do, and enjoy it every day. But everyone’s ears are unique!

     
    ebro likes this.
  12. I switched froma Denon DL-110 to an Audio Technica VM540ML. The Audio Technica VM540ML is a much better cart,more detailed, and it also features a better stylus,a Microline one that tracks perfectly, it makes many previously noisy records to sound quiet and if set up right you can forget about inner groove distorsion with it. Read the thread I started about the VM540ML over two years ago,it may convince you to get it.
     
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  13. mkane

    mkane Musics a Passion

    Location:
    Cloverdale,CA
    103D-103M-301mkII all just bolt on, no additional weight necessary. 103D & 301mkII can be loaded close to the same. 103m needs loading as close to 220 Ohm as possible. All are MC
     
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  14. ebro

    ebro The Green Manalishi Thread Starter

    Location:
    Haverhill, MA, USA
    I’ve thought about replacing my preamp, but the thing I really like about the ART is that it has USB so I can record to computer easily, and given it’s a budget priced preamp it sounds great (to me at least). I’ve been using it for the past five years and I’ve never felt the absolute need to replace it, I guess I’ll start researching ones that are in my price range now, which is under $200, but if there’s a really good one that’s worth getting but is under $300 I’m willing to spend it but that’s my maximum budget. It would be nice if it had USB as well but I could live without.

    I didn’t find any decent sound samples on YouTube of the 301, just of the 103. The reason I thought they might sound similar was because I read that on another forum so I was just judging from that. It sounds to me I wouldn’t like the 301, I did hear sound samples of the 103R as well but I preferred the sound of the 103. It’s too bad it’s such a heavy cartridge and it’s a low output MC because I really enjoyed the sound of it.


    I could not find the thread you started but I did find some postings you made on someone else’s thread earlier this month about how you went from the DL-160 to the VM540ML. It sounds to me like this AT cart might be what I’m after! So long this isn’t an MC cart of course. I like the fact you had the DL-110 as well before the VM540ML, so what you’re saying about how great it tracks and how well it reduces surface noise is really luring me in ;) what is the recommended tracking force for this stylus?


    By the way thanks to all who have contributed their input so far! Much appreciated :goodie:
     
  15. ebro

    ebro The Green Manalishi Thread Starter

    Location:
    Haverhill, MA, USA
    Update - So I looked up the AT VM540ML and I think I am going to go with this cart! It’s moving magnet so my ART phono will support it and I really like how it has the stylus cover just like my Denon DL-110 does! Heard some nice sound samples of this cart on YouTube, however one that really convinced me to buy this was a video comparison between an Ortofon Red and the VM540ML using Dire Straits’s “When it Comes to You” as a demo, night and day difference. It’s unreal how great this cart sounds! Thanks @Kiko1974 for the recommendation!

     
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  16. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney
    I was only listening with slightly better than ordinary headphones, I have heard other comparisons with the same headphones and differences were more pronounced than in this case.
    To me the AT sounds cleaner and better in general, particularly in the highs where the red distorts in many occasions.

    Amazon is selling the red at $99 and the AT at $249, that is quite a difference in price, 150% more. To me the sound difference is not in that order however after seeing some problems people had with the red and the blue I wouldn't buy either!
    If you buy it from Amazon you can return it within 30 days.
    I presume you have not found a comparison between the dl110 and the AT?
     
    ebro likes this.
  17. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    Get a Denon DL-301 instead, better suited for your tonearm. Denon DL-103 cartridges perform best on high mass broadcast tonearms, the Denon DL-103 is still good on the Technics, but not optimal.
     
    ebro likes this.
  18. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Fish tacos.

    Location:
    San Diego
    Aside from USB, the Schiit Mani phono pre($129) will work with the DL-103 and it's .3mv output. I use the Emotiva XPS-1 with my 103 and I love the sound. I also have an AT vm95ml but the Denon has the MC magic. As stated above, I use a heavier headshell (13g) and the heavier counterweight for my AT turntable (Sl1200 clone).
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2020 at 11:21 AM
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  19. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    Location:
    Belgium
    Keep the 110, but buy a good mc phono stage. The 110 is homc so can be used with ordinary mm phono stage, but I prefer to use mine with mc phono stage/loading. I use a 103 on my other deck. I ditched my at vm540ml.
    If your budget is very limited and you cannot get a phono stage around $400 or more (2nd hand can be cheaper!), then just forget about the Denons.
    If you want to buy the at vm540ml, don't forget there is a cheaper at vm95ml as well !
     
    ebro likes this.
  20. You're very welcome! As others have said, you can order it from Amazon, give it a try and if you don't like it just return it. Chances are if you give it at least 50 hours to break it in you won't want to return it, this cart is a real bargain for the performance it provides. I've been using it for two years and a half and I'm extremely happy with it. It's an affordable all purpose cart,my Van Halen records have never sounded better, but so do the Star Wars OT (original US pressings from 1977, 1980 and 1983) LPs or a refference recording as The Planets on Decca by Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philarmonic, a full analogue LP released by Speaker Corner. Sound quality with both Rock and Classical music is impresive for the sound. It tracks extremely well, records with ticks and pops sound quieter with it and when set up well you can forget about IGD with it.
    Give it a try, what you have to loose!?
     
    ebro likes this.
  21. ebro

    ebro The Green Manalishi Thread Starter

    Location:
    Haverhill, MA, USA
    I found a video that compared the MP-110 with the VM95ML and I liked the sound of the 95 more. I also found a video comparing the MP-200 with the VM740 ML and I liked the sound of the 740 more, however I actually think the 540 is more natural sounding than the 740, plus it’s cheaper of course. Leaves me wondering how I enjoyed the Nag so much before.

    Going to go with the 540ML as I couldn’t find a decent preamp in my price range that supported low output MC carts, plus I just want to stick with a MM stylus for now.

    Amazon’s awesome return policy and of course the Prime delivery is a big factor in me deciding to purchase the VM540ML. I also have quite a wide range of musical styles I listen to as well and am looking for a cart that will handle it all, so your recommendation has sealed the deal for me! I’m especially intrigued by the fact you say an original pressing of the Star Wars OST sounds good on the VM540ML as I have a friend who still has his original pressing he got brand new on release day and he’s never liked the way it sounded, I myself have never heard it. I also have some problems with IGD still on my Denon cart but not as bad as I had with the Nagaoka cart so I’m anxious to see how the AT tracks on my table. I’ll keep you guys posted! Thanks again everyone for your recommendations!!
     

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