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Denon DL-103R Phono Cartridge

11 Reviews

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The DL-103R is an updated version of the classic DL-103. It provides improved sound by using 6N copper coils wound with precision to the cantilever shaft. Sonic improvements over the DL-103 include heightened detail-extraction, more bass depth, and enhanced clarity across the board.

10 Audio Review of Denon DL-103R

Music simply sounds more right through this cartridge. I almost hate to dissect it, frog-like, into the usual audiophile categories. Yes, it has prodigious bass when called upon to display it on a thunder of a track like Prokofiev's Russian Overture, from an unopened Living Stereo recording I found waiting for me one late winter day in a dusty old shop in the Hudson River Valley. This is definitely better bass than my reference. Not more in an absolute sense, just more richness.

Audiogon Discussion of Denon DL-103R

The sound of the regular DL-103R is outstanding, and a super bargain at it's price point. Many have heard of it referred to as a super-cart, or giant-killer. And it is. It has the wonderful characteristic of allowing the music to come across as a composition, and not as a group of disjointed parts. This is not as common as we would like in cartridges today. Many carts will give great separation of instruments and holographic imaging and detail, but they never seem to merge as a musical whole. The Denon carts excell in this area of making the parts merge into a full musical presentation, and still retains the detail and delineation of the instruments and voices. This is one of the major reasons why the DL-103R is such a desireable cartridge.
  • Output: 0.25 mV
  • Output impedance: 14ohms
  • Stylus: 16.5 Micron round tip
  • Coils: copper (6N)
  • Frequency range: 20Hz-45kHz
  • Tracking force: 2.3-2.7g
  • Compliance 5x10-6cm/dyne
  • Weight: 8.5g
  • Ratings & Reviews

    11 reviews

    • 4 stars
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    Cartridge Swapper


    I'm not sure why I like this cartridge so much. Maybe if I had paid six times as much for it, I could justify the descriptors I want to admonish on this cartridge. But I didn't. I paid $379 and now, I feel like a fool for paying so much for my Shelter, my Dynavector, my Cadenza... Sure, they might be better - maybe, I'm not entirely sure anymore - but they definitely aren't 5 or 6 times better. The DL-103R has me rethinking my cartridge preferences. Maybe I should spend more time checking out the Ortofon Black and not the Cadenzas? Maybe I'd prefer the Dynavector 10x5 over the Karat? Maybe the Shelter 501 could replace my 9000? I just don't know why I like this cartridge so much? I feel like I outsmarted somebody...

    Super For The Money


    The DL103R is a great cart for the money. It's not the super audiophile find of the century but it is rock solid, easy to install and very good sounding. I've compared it on same day / same system installs against carts costing 6x as much and the Denon holds its own. The recordings I listened to lost some spaciousness and stage dimension suffered but, it all came out sounding very... safe - like having a multiband compressor across the mix. There just seems to be a little less of everything and it somehow gets perceived as more. But, I have to agree with the popular synopsis: This is probably the best sub-$400 cart I've heard. For the money - it has to be 5 stars.

    Samuel Fogelgren


    Using 2.5 tracking force and it sounds amazing in my headphones, airy, good base. Using the Vincent PHO-8 amp for my Record playing. Love this cartridge. When its time I will get another one.



    Great sounding cartridge but be prepared to have it retipped after a couple hundred hours. Conical styli just don't seem to last very long. I run the DL-160 now and don't feel like I've lost anything sonically.

    Chris of Norway


    The DL-103R is a fantastic cartridge! But you need to have the right type of arm an mass for it to really shine. I have a Isokinetik SM750 Silver Melody with heavy vertical counterweight (better tracking), Jelco headshell and an Isokinetik Brass Stabiliser glued to the 103R (extra 8,5g). VTF is set to 2,5g. The sound is airy, relaxing, dynamic, got deep tight bass and the female voices.... This will always stay in my set up. But I might get a better body in alu from Paradox and a Soundsmith upgrade when the time comes. Next to a London Decca Super Gold, this is my best cartridge (regret selling the Decca)....

    Just Right...


    This one is hard to beat. It may be impossible to beat for a cart under $400. I would say that it destroys my similarly priced Sumiko Blue Point when it comes to presenting a soundstage and finding every instrument in the mix. I'm listening to a 1968 Hymns By Johnny Cash album right now - an excellent Columbia pressing - and this Denon is finding a very low-in-the-mix piano track that I don't recall hearing before when listening primarily with an MM cartridge that goes for 3x the price of the Denon. If there's a fault with this cartridge it might be that it's slightly hyped but, truth be told, I think some of that hype is happening in the MC phono stage of the Marantz Reference amp I'm currently using. Anyway you slice it, this Denon punches way over its weight class. There's a reason it's a classic. Highly recommended! It's a no-brainier for under $400.



    2.50 gm ,parallel arm , arm matching for good resonance or weight added to cartridge head same as ZU design ,200-300 ohm or SUT 40 ohm WOW pretty sound smooth, clear ,crystal all frequency ,no warm , conical stylus? don't worry



    Love this cart. I am not an audio geek. I love all kinds of music and I use a Denon stero reciever and Denon auto turntable. This cart is great because it does not over emphasize anything. It just reproduces what is in the grove.



    Aftrer full satisfaction with one DL-304 and one DL-S1 sold both to raise needed cash. Time gave the opportunity for purchasing this DL-103R. Great choice, almost the same performance as the two other Denons. Great balanced tone, free from treble problems. Great tracker with natural convincing staging and image focus. Completelly happy with this one, even at the 2.5 gram tracking force. Great cartridge for a very manageable price.



    Purchased this cart online from Jerry's. I installed this on my Dual CS 455 rig. The sound is open, transparent & refined, bass is more than adequate. A great cart to own for the price!!



    I upgraded from the DL-160 (or was it 180?). What can I say but "wow." I do not have an audiophile vocabulary to express my thoughts about this cart. My first moving coil, so maybe I am just uninitiated. But it just rocks my Thorens TD-165. I listen to jazz and pop vocals and it blows me away. Some records sound like the band is in my living room. My amp and speakers both deliver, but this cart. just stuns me. I have not owned a high end cart. so my frame of reference is limited, but I just don't see how you improve on this. I have a nice Ray Charles Porgy and Bess box set that just kills me. It's like Ray Charles is standing with a microphone and a large box amplifier in the middle of the room.