Review: Denon DL-103

Classic sound from Denon

The Denon DL-103 is worth every penny and almost perfect as an all-round cartridge.

Denon DL-103

Our verdict

Open sound image with sparkling dynamics and sharp focus.
Loses some of the definition in the treble.
  • Type: Moving Coil
  • Weight: 8.5 g
  • Recommended pin pressure: 2.5 g
  • Output voltage: 0.3 mV
  • Recommended resistance: 100 ohms
  • Elasticity: 5×10-6 cm / duvet
  • Channel balance: 1 dB
  • Channel separation: 24 dB 1 kHz
  • Frequency response: 20- 45,000 Hz
  • Grinding: Spherical
  • Needle arm: Aluminum
  • Vertical tracking angle: Not specified
  • Pickup: Plastic
  • Coil material: Copper
  • Magnetic material: Ferrite
  • Replaceable pin: No.
Show more
Show less

Price: £ 249

The Japanese construction is older than the undersigned. The Denon cartridge was launched in 1962, and has since come in a wide range of variants. The cartridge is a Moving Coil, and has gained an ever so small legend status, since it was conceived for broadcasting use over 50 years ago.

Denon DL-103 is easy to set up and fits most turntables, with the exception of some of the most exotic and nervous tone arms. It delivers a low 0.3 mV and weighs 8.5 grams, and is not an ideal partner for the lightest arms.

As you typically find on the cheapest players in the market.

The cartridge does not have threads, but the screws can be mounted without having to remove the pin protection, and since this is a motorcycle, you can not remove the pin when it is to be mounted.

The pin pressure should be 2.5 grams and the spherical pin tracks best when the pin pressure is set correctly.

It is available in a more expensive version called the DL-103R as well. Where the coils are wound with copper in a slightly higher quality. One of our favorites and the starting point for Musikraft’s modified version of the same cartridge.

Live sound image

When listening to the Denon DL-103, it is strange to think that the construction is approaching 60 years. For it plays with an exuberant vitality that many newer cartridges do not have. That does not mean it is perfect. It lacks the airiness at the top and can sound a little flat at the treble. But it delivers an open and focused soundscape, with great richness of sound.

The bass on Bob Dylan’s The Man in The Long Black Coat is well defined, and the harmonica is razor sharp. The sound image is also deep enough to create a kind of three-dimensionality, and the dynamic contrast is very good.

There is more depth in the bass on the Grado Gold 1, but the Denon cartridge is better defined. The piano sound at Radka Toneff’s Fairytales has more sound depth and the vocals are better focused here. The same applies to details, which come out better in the soundscape.

The Denon cartridge may not have the same timbre as the Audio-Technica, but it is a better all-round cartridge.

Conclusion

Denon DL-103 is one of the best buys in the price range. It plays everything, and does it excellently with a large, open, and transparent sound image. Good dynamic control and fast transient response make it a small firework on the turntable. A good choice with a varied record collection, especially if the focus is on acoustic music, and especially on jazz and classical.

Thanks for reading Tech Reviews.

Create your free account or to continue reading.

Lost your password? Please enter your email address. You will receive mail with link to set new password.

.

Alternatives to Denon DL-103

Denon AVC-A110 spread

The best Denon has made

Denon has never made a better surround amplifier, than the anniversary model AVC-A110.

Marantz SACD 30n

Best of both worlds

Marantz's latest CD player is also a network player, and an internet radio, and a DAC, and a preamplifier, and a….

Marantz Model 30

Silky soft crystal clear sound

Marantz Model 30 is a magnificent amplifier for both eyes and ears, and the quality goes beyond most things.

Denon DCD-A110

Denon's definitive cd player

Denon's anniversary player can take loving care of your records for many years to come. But your streaming is left out in the cold.

Rega io

The best budget purchase

The small Rega amplifier Rega io is an affordable entrance ticket and the sound is in a class of its own.

ECI 6DX MKII spread

Analog amplifier does digital tricks

Electrocompaniet has upgraded its best integrated amplifier. The ECI 6DX MKII can do almost everything.

Schiit Audio Heresy and Magni 3+

Adrenaline kick for your headphones

If you are not completely satisfied with the sound from your headphones, you may need a better amplifier. Maybe Schiit Audio Heresy or Magni 3+

Yamaha M-5000

Sublime Japanese sound art

Tired of hi-fi? Yamaha's high-end amplifiers Yamaha M-5000 and C-5000 will get you thinking better.