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In the Forum: Analog Playback
In the Thread: Denon 103: myths and the reality
Post Subject: Denon 103: myths and the realityPosted by Romy the Cat on: 6/8/2004
Kids, do not let kids to subscribe the popular audio-freakish myths of the records spinning people about “the extraordinary beauty” of the Denon cartridges. Yes, the myth has some reasons: many more expensive cartridges are bad, very bad for the money, but dose it make the 103 cartridges better? It dose but it does make them better only as a subject for a consumer report. Dose it make the 103 to sound better? Not really. The 103 have own quite ordinary sonic result an if they are better or worth relatively to some other cartridges then it might change only their relative value but not the absolute value (sound-wise). Pretty much the only advantage they have is a “normal” conical shape of the needle that is beneficial for playing some very few records.
The Internet is filled with the saliva drooling Morons that sing the hymns to the Denons 103 sound. Ironically most of them have no idea about a serious analog reproduction, or have no playback systems really capable to take advantages of the better cartridges or no personal cultural ability to understand or discriminate the shortcomings of the Denons 103. Yes, many of them will violently disagree with me but unfortunately (for the Denons) I stick with my visions about the Denon sound and will stick with my well-established perception of the comments of the numerous audio clowns.
There are many Denons. Some of them are horrible and some of them not necessary horrible. However, none of them are really great. Generally the Denons are $200-$300 worth cartridges and it is remarkably well portrays their place in the cartridges hierarchy. There are well more expensive cartridges and way more capable sonically. Denons cost $200-$300, and if we conditionally accept a rule (juts for a sake of the illustration) that a price has any relativity to sound then Denons sound exactly at the $200-$300 mark.
Yes, there are many Denons....
The simplest and the less expansive of them is DL103. This is plane-vanilla ultra-low-compliance cartridge with gray, no extreme, no colors…. natural sound. It stiff like hell and unit you have well over 35g of effective mass in your arm then better do not even touch this needle. Have you seen many 35g arms? My experience indicates that if a person was smart enough to abandon to use the junky-light arms then he will not wast a good heavy arm for a primitive sounding needles as DL103. Do you know what I mean? I’m hearing that the DL103 admirers scream that 103 is not a monochromic cartridge. Well, it is. What you, boys call colors and “quality” in 103 is a constant attack of the notes ten times sharpener then it should be. And please do not tell me the kindergarten stories about the using the correct arms and the correct lodging of the cartridges….
DL103R in an “evolved” version of the DL103 with “better” extremes. Once again: yes and no. DL103R has all negative quality of the DL103, including the high tracking force (did you see many arms that allow to modify the horizontal tracing force: the eventual way to get anything out of the rigid 103R?) In addition to it the DL103R has too aggressive HF that you will not be able to subdue with any imaginable cartridge loading, damping or arms selection. The DL103R is even more poisoned and more “#” then 103. If you have a full-range, single speaker driver (courtesy to Lowther, Fostex, Supravox, Jordan, Reps LES, AER, PHY-HP and other wishful thinking) that sound originally like my Cat when I step on her tail, then you may probably to preach about the “magnificent” HF of the 103R. However, any people with ears, brain and the tweeters would be laughing. The 103R should be avoided as well due to its high amusicality, artificially accelerated HF and insultingly sharp and fasten rolling of a note to it’s pitch... not to mention that none of the Denons ever produced any more or less serifs upper bass (that is super critical) without even mentioning any mod or lower bass, that is just impertinent.
Denon 103D. This cartridge had normal eliptical tracking and the normal compliance that allows playing it without any “tricks” with the “conventual” arms and without wasting the good old heavy arms for the mediocre sounding cartridges. It is better then the 103/103R… but it still sounding like “nothing”. I mean literally. When you remove from the 103 the stiffness of the suspension that converts each classical vocalist into a screamer, then the King turned out to be a quite naked: the 103D sound like the rest of the Denons only more lush and liquid, less problematic but still tonally too generic, none-discriminative, dynamically too gray and so on….
Denon 103M. The same as the 103D only 3 time less output and 3 time more vivid sound. However, it is still 3 times less “interesting” then it necessary. It is challenged humidity-wise and it has very questionable dynamics that was not able to recuperate even using the most advanced dynamic recovering methods that have in my disposal.
The Denon of 102, the mono cartridge has too “confusing sound” and not good as well, despite of the cries of the Sakuma-like and the custom curve to cure the “strange” response imperfection.
Denon 103C. I have not had it. It is a conical stylus that is great for some old records but will it sound different then Denon 103D? I doubt. It will mechanically read the certain records better but the electrically it should sound the same.
There is at least dozen of other versions of the 103 cartages, some of them are very slightly different form others and another’s are just pure marketing BS. I did not have all of them what among what I have I feel let me make some conclusion.
So, where is the famous Denons “superb” sound? I did not see any. All that I have heard so far were the stories told me by the people with aluminum woofers, uranium tweeters and who told me that Denons are wonderful to position the audio-moron’s perpetual girlfriend Patricia Barber at 43 inches dorm the corner oh her piano. I do not listen the Patricia Barber and I do not care where she stays, in particularly (when the Barber’s voice and her piano were recorded in opposite absolute phase (as usually they do).
There is one Denon Cartridge out there that might be different but I never had: it is the Denon DL-S1. I do not know how about this $700 needle but… am I at liberty to have some prejudices?
Romy the Cat
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