A Man's Cartridge

A gift from Uncle Art: Introduced in 1962, the Denon DL-103 moving-coil cartridge ($229)—a music-lover’s friend, an audiophile classic, a man’s cartridge.

All the cool guys have one. At least one. Really cool dudes have like three or four. Sometimes, you even meet a girl who uses a Denon DL-103, but she is invariably extremely hot. Her name is Charlie or Ingrid or Scarlett, or some crazy shit like that. She owns more records than you do. She’ll eventually want to move your furniture. If you’re smart, you’ll let her. And when you’re done moving furniture, you’ll sit down with a glass of gin and a smoke, and you’ll drop the needle on Dexter Gordon’s Our Man In Paris. You’ll take the stairway to the stars and spend a night in Tunisia.

Trey's picture

All I have read about this cartridge really intrigues me. I would need to get a step up device though, and I have not had one of those for 20 years. That extra wrinkle is steering me toward an Exact II for my Rega.

Ben Dover's picture

Do they still make records?

Cybermynd's picture

I feel soooooooo inadequate. Thanks a bunch.

Fred von Lohmann's picture

Curious how that works on the Rega arm without VTA adjustment. As a Rega owner myself, I wish the industry would come up with a measurement like "x mm too tall for Rega arms on Rega tables." :-)

buddha's picture

"Sometimes, you even meet a girl who uses a Denon DL-103, but she is invariably extremely hot."

And if the blogger were a truly cool guy, he'd post pictures of this lass.

Tonko Papic F. - CHILE's picture

I change (Upgrade), the DL 103.Now I have a DENON DL 160. Y E SIt is a High Output Moving coil cartridge.And you know what...I sounds Much, Much better than the 103.

rvance's picture

The London Decca is a real he-man's cartridge, Stephen. No cantilever between you and your music.

buddha's picture

"The London Decca is a real he-man's cartridge, Stephen. No cantilever between you and your music."

Ah, here in the new world, us real men call it "Playing hide the cantilever."

il boia's picture

I know the price tag is not the same, but get an Ortofon Kontrapunkt b (MC), what a difference it makes !

Dismord's picture

Putting aside for now my doubts about this 'real man stuff', Stephen you just missed your chance. Eveanna Manley just got married and she came with her own high end audio company,some luverly tubes at home,a pair of massive Tannoys, a Harley and a VW Combi van. How cool is that?

tzed's picture

@Fred von L: I've been wondering that same thing! Cartridge specs should really give a height from record to mounting surface at the middle of the tracking weight range. I'm trying to set up a Souther arm and not only do I have to worry about compliance, cartridge mass, grounding sensitivity, etc. but wether or not I can get a reasonable VTA....

Chris's picture

I put a DL-103 on my Rega P3-24 without any VTA problems, or at least I don't have a problem with the wires coming into contact with the LP. I know the 103 and the RB301 arm aren't supposed to be a very good match compliance wise, some people recommend putting a penny on the headshell and rebalancing the arm. I've tried it both ways, I'm not sure which one I like better. Either way, I get the impression this cartridge doesn't sound quite the way it ought to. It still blows the Elys 2 out of the water. My next experiment is to connect it to a Denon AU-300lc SUT instead of directly into my Cambridge Audio 640p. Later, if I'm brave enough, I'm going to try to remove the shell and run it nude. There's a video of the procedue on Youtube, it looks scary...

Paul's picture

Real men (and women) use cartridges with jeweled cantilevers. How about a Dynavector DV-17 D3 MR?

Ben Dover's picture

You know this is a phono cartridge, right, not a Porsche or a hot Brazilian supermodel girlfriend, right?

Steve's picture

I had a Denon-103S (Shibata) back in the mid 1980s. Sound was very tube like. Made some really bad sounding records sound better. Replaced it with a Shure V15VMXMR - or something like that. Missed the Denon right away and never warmed up to the Shure. Kept on thinking something was missing.

Phil Sommers's picture

I have to sell my old speakers in order to buy new speakers--space and money. I have to sell my old amp and preamp to buy new ones--money. But, at least, I get to keep my old cartridges, which include the Denon 103. A five car garage would be nice, too.

Stu Gatz's picture

Have used a Denon cart with a Rega TT, running off a Japanese Bukkake phono preamp with excellent results!!

Artie's picture

I note that your link is to Art Dudley's review of the ZU-modded 103. This is a different beast, much better suited to modern tonearms than the original. I have a Zu 103R and concur that it is killer, in a direct 60's, take no prisoners kind of way--AD is spot on. But wussy audiophiles may not get it.

cruiser's picture

How much did you pay for that bukkake by the way?The japs seem to really understand head units.

Doug Bowker's picture

Oh, congrats Stephen- you have some nice co-workers! That baby will sound SWEET on that Rega and you'll be luvin' life more than ever.

Daman's picture

What do you with the following which were hardly used?1) An Elac MC 21 step-up transformer with loading selections up to 300 ohms2) A Rega Planar 3 with R200 tone arm (Acos Lustre GST1)Get a Denon DL-103 to make it a complete system.It's bliss. I thought the Shure V15vXMR was flat but this is truly the mother of it. Yup! I drop it on the Ahmad Jamal's Digital Works and what glorious sound.Regards,Daman