DENON: A 103D tweak

Jumping man

I would like to mention an upgrade that I have recently made and recommend it to others. I recently returned to use a Denon 103D that I had bought in the nineteen eighties and has been out of use for at least twenty years. I liked the sound, but it was a little rough at the edges.

I looked into their range of upgrades for the Denon. I settled on the Cartridge Stabiliser–essentially an aluminium plate, with threaded holes, to which the cartridge is glued with the superglue provided. I did not really like the idea of gluing the cartridge to the plate; it’s irreversible! Anyway – cartridge glued, I mounted it into my arm (Roksan Tabriz zi on a fully Bastinised Garrard 401) and reset the tracking weight, VTA, etc. The Tabriz counterweight just about coped with the added mass.

The sound? In a word – amazing. Far more solid. Smoother – those rough edges have gone. Better imaging and separation between instruments. Far less surface noise. For the minimal cost, one hell of an upgrade. So, for all the Denon DL103 owners out there, this is an upgrade that I can heartily recommend. I note that Isokinetik also do a replacement metal body for the 103. Will anyone review it?

I do like the Denon. It's great value, has a distinctive sound and is tweakable. Indeed, I even bought one myself. But 'like' is as far as I'll go, as there is – in my view at least – much better at or near the price. I take on board your comments; they're gratefully accepted in the spirit in which they're intended. I'd also like to try a rebodied DL103, but ideally I'd like to try a re-stylused one, as those are my two biggest 'issues' with it. But then it wouldn't be a DL103 anymore, would it?

A moving coil cartridge for £100 or so that tracks so well, so preserving records, whilst offering flat frequency response and an even tonal balance is, I suppose (sniff!), amazing. However, it has I feel an overblown bass and a stylus little more finessed than an agricultural implement. A dealer once told me the other day he sold them 'hand over fist' – but that he hated its sound! When I asked what he would recommend from his experience, he was emphatic in praising the Audio Technica AT OC9 ML111.

I feel mean to say anything against the poor old 103, because at the price it does give strong 'whiff of moving coil'. I am glad you like it though; I know many others do and if the DL103 brings musical enjoyment to so many, who are we to criticise perhaps?

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