Denon MC cartridge

There’s been press this week on the collaboration between Denon and OJAS with the DL-1030 moving coil cartridge. Granted it’s just a styling change with OJAS branding, but it got me thinking who’s heard this cartridge? I believe it has been around for some time (decades?). It must be the cheapest low output moving cartridge at $500 US.

BTW, if you’re not familiar with OJAS google him. Interesting speaker builder, horns + tubes. There’s a few videos on his Instagram page covering his visit to the Denon factory in Japan where they build cartridges.


I got curious and ordered a 103, without an added letter. I mounted it on my Korf SF9R on the PTP Lenco and ran it into a supercapped superline with the loading settling at 470Ω once run in. I have a choice of arm leads of either a Lyra Phonopipe or an Ortofon and preferred the Ortofon with the Denon. Use a light touch when doing up the mounting screws, 3.5cNm worked best but I doubt my driver’s accuracy at that level, not very tight anyway.
It made engaging music with a broad brush stroke but three D presentation, I didn’t notice the slowness or lack of bass that @kuma reported on the old forum but that was using an Aro.


I’m on my second DL103 (mounted on a Manticore Magician), probably needs replacing soon. I’ll be buying a DL103R, which is an upgraded/more expensive version. :heart_eyes_cat:

The DL103o is rebadged DL103R.

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They are supplied with screws/knurled nuts. Denon advise tightening the nuts finger tight, but I use a hex nut/screw lightly tightened with a screw driver.

Yes, the 103 gives a very ‘widescreen’ style presentation, not particularly detailed, but worked well in the Aro when paired with the Garrard 401, which seems to add the necessary sense of propulsion and weight to the bottom end - certainly neither were lacking.

I also have an ESCO modified 103 and that does add a fair bit more detail, and is much better on inner grooves, but you do lose just a smidge of the fun of the standard cartridge.

The 103 is definitely an old fashioned styled but no worse for that. However, it’s not a “fast” cartridge in the same way as something like the Rega Apheta 2 or 3, so you cut your cloth accordingly.


I enjoyed a couple of variants back in my Aro days, with the added benefit of being one the few cartridges that actually got the correct geometry for it (7.5mm stylus to mounting hole distance).

My favorite was the Zu Audio version of the DL-103R. It adds some sharpness that I think the basic models lack.

DL103 hype dies hard. :laughing:
To be fair it was pleasant as my friend put it. If you like that nothing is wrong with it. But these days AT carts have gotten a lot better at the price. It was developed for NHK radio broadcast so heavily weighted in the midband for voices and popular Japanese pop music.
It is said to work better on a heavier arm.

I certainly can’t live with it day in and day out.

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I’ve got a few 103’s :- 103, 103R 103sa, 103s, 103 esc modified. The last three are very good for the price with the SA being the star of the bunch.

DL103 is a fun cartridge. I have two, one in a different body. I never tried the DL301 but I see a 301 MKII for about $100 more than the 103. I might try that one of these days.
I used and loved the DL304 for many years and would buy that one today if it had not been discontinued.

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This explains why OJAS likes the cartridge as he’s into high efficiency Altec horns and SET amps.

You’re right.

I only use the 103 when listening to Japanese pop.

It sounds awful if I use it to play anything else. :joy:


Funny I have a cartridge that only sounds good when I play the Stooges. And Beethoven

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At the same time.

Sounds like you live in a fun house. :smile_cat:

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Massive fan of the 103. Bought it to replace the P77 at the time. Love its mellow, easy going reproduction.


That’s a good one

It’s welling up inside me, has to be said…
Me, Myself, I, personally, these days, would automatically dismiss any cartridge which reqired bolts in order for it to be fixed in the headshell.

Why? I have had both. Although currently neither of mine require nuts (I think you meant nuts not bolts) the cartridge I tested last month for my sister used nuts and it was outstanding.

Attaching and correct torque application is more fiddly but not impossible.

Well, I appreciate that no manufacturer is going to redesign an existing model.
A threaded cartridge body sems so much easier and secure. As allways, my criteria only.

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Get the Zu version then.

That said, I agree that mounting cartridges is unpleasant enough with threaded bodies. The one thing I truly dislike about my ART1000 is the use of nuts. I can’t see the point.

Well now I think about it, I wouldn’t want to do it on an arm with a head. I probably find it easier because I use headshells and can sit down and do it at a desk with a lamp and move the headshell stand around to any angle of attack I like, even upright.

IOW, I take your point.