Denon DL103/R: A modders delight

Denon’s 103 series of low output cartridges have been around for decades and in that time have become a legendary budget icon for audiophiles. Created by Denon way back in 1962 the DL103 was actually produced for the broadcast market, and since then the company has introduced variants along the way including the upgraded DL103R.

I purchased one from Peter Munt at Sound Decision (www.sounddecision.co.nz) about 6 months ago and it quickly impressed me once mounted on the 12″ arm of my Pro-Ject Studie with its fine sound quality, but a quick search of the cartridge on the Internet revealed a thriving number of aftermarket bodies aimed at improving SQ.

The flimsy plastic body supplied with the Dl103/R is acknowledged as the cartridges weak spot, luckily it can be easily removed and replaced with wood or even aluminium substitutes – once replaced reports are that the humble Dl103 can really thrill at a relatively low price.

So that got me thinking, and I was soon scouring Ebay for an aftermarket body to replace the stock bit of plastic surrounding my little legend. I hit the jackpot when I happened on an aluminium body from a British Ebay trader, this ‘Zu aluminium body on the cheap’ was going to cost me a paltry $80 landed so ‘what the hell’ I thought to myself, why not give it a go?

About 2 weeks after coughing up via Paypal the new cartridge body arrived in the post, packaged well in a tiny jewellery box along with the mounting screws.

Lightweight but still heavier than the stock body, the alu replacement would add around 5 grams to the overall weight of the DL103R (stock = 8.5gms), and it’s because of this a heavier arm is recommended. After a few days of contemplation and a few beers, I decided to remove the existing body at precisely the wrong time of the day. In fact it was late at night in a not-so well lit room, but luckily I held off on the lager enough to have a steady hand and plenty of patience. Half an hour of scalpel tutorial courtesy of the movie Hostel gave me the skills and confidence to proceed, while DL103 guru Thomas Shick was on hand via Youtube to guide me through the nerve-wracking removal process. Take it away Thomas!

Armed with my trusty scalpel and plenty of Dutch courage, I battled fading light and a constant beer craving and after 10 or so minutes I’d successfully removed the plastic body. The new body has cut-outs for a precise fit, but I had to file the front edges of the mounting plastic to allow it to snap in – and with a thin smear of epoxy glue I pressed the naked cartridge carefully into its new aluminium home.

So there we have it. The upgrade certainly looks the biz from an aesthetic point of view, and once I fit the cart back on my 12″ arm (I’ve obtained a heavy counterweight from local Pro-Ject distributor Interdyn – thanks Tony), I’ll do some listening tests and report back with my impressions of my voodoo DL103R alu-body experiment…

9 Comments

  1. You should try potting it as well with some epoxy, just don’t get any near the suspension… Zu did this with theirs.

  2. Good work Gary! Very brave.

  3. Thanks Glenn, it was nothing really…..

  4. Oh dear. Neil I’ve ‘potted’ my DL103 (think I’ll call it the ‘Petting Zu’) and it worked out perfectly with no bent or broken cantilever. I’ve then gone to mount it back on the arm (the cartridge body is tapped) but the bloody supplied screws are too long for the thin Pro-Ject headshell. So close…

  5. Looking perdy there Gary old son! Hit us with some pics on the Forum. And of course a progress report on how it sounds when you get it mounted.

  6. Just got in from my latest life aquatic Craig, Neil graciously offered to cut the supplied mounting screws that came with the aluminium body while I was away – I’ll mount the cartridge tonight and have a listen, then I’ll post my considered opinions back here. Exciting stuff!

  7. I doubt you will find the time tonight mate. The wedding is on! (haaahahaha)

  8. Kate has been having nightmares about being naked at the altar. Think I’ll mount my DL103R tomorrow instead…

  9. Hello,

    Where did you buy the little headshell weight for Rega tonearms?
    This is great that it fits in a hole instemde of just lying on top of it

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