Denon DL-103 retipped with micro ridge stylus on boron cantilever & denuded body

As a card-carrying Denon DL-103 fan, I keep returning to this classic LOMC cartridge. After trying different cartridges, no other cart was capable of giving me that unique fiery sound as the good old DL-103.

However, my friend Robert (owner of the site) recommended I get one of my DL-103 retipped with a more modern stylus. I was very skeptical, because I've tried in the past to purchase retipped DL-103 cartridge (the original conical stylus replaced with the nude elliptical), and it only made the cart sound much worse.

But because I trust Robert's advice, I decided to take the plunge and following Robert's suggestion, I contacted Andy Kim of the needle clinic (

Andy was very prompt, kind, and approachable. He offered me some options and I went with the top of the line mod: micro ridge stylus on boron cantilever & denuded body.

Turnaround time was swift, and pretty soon I had the rejuvenated, retipped and denuded DL-103 in my hands. Couldn't wait to install it and do the listening tests.

The first thing I've noticed upon spinning the first record using the micro ridge stylus was that the mods to the cart did not in any way affect the familiar tonal characteristics of the trusty old DL-103 (previous mods with the nude elliptical did affect the overall character of sound).

Secondly, the sound quality notably improved! There are now so many new details, and the delivery seems more effortless. Any traces of sibilance (which are present with my standard DL-103 carts) have disappeared.

I'm not sure if the dramatic improvements are due to a better stylus, or to a better cantilever, or to the denuded body, or to all three factors combined, but I'd say this mod had propelled my lowly DL-103 into the stratosphere. Such small overall investment for such spectacular improvements!

Andy's retipping services are highly recommended.


"Don’t be comin down off that ladder until it’s done, and done right". The words of a funny but firm Irishman on a construction site.

Whoever did the elliptical didn’t get it right, it’s good you got the gumption after that experience to proceed and got improved results. My friend Bill loves that cartridge, I need to hear his.

Theoretically,(if done and aligned right), improved stylus shape/groove contact yields two nice things in addition to their sound: less groove wear, and longer stylus life.

Better sound, great, we would hope/expect and you got that. but even if it sounds the same, close enough to be as good as, not clearly preferable, you have achieved less groove wear, which will make varying degrees of difference for people.

Alignment is much more important with advanced stylus shapes. Without a few tools and skills, potential can instead be a problem.

On the East Coast we have VAS whom I and lots of people here have great confidence in


Yes, you're right. I wrote in more detail about this retippng adventure in the linked article below:

Another great advantage of the micro ridge stylus: drastically reduced surface noise during playback! Many of my old LPs that had a lot of clicks and pops etc. are now playing almost like brand new records. 



I have seen very good reports made on the DL 103 for a variety of the models, where the Boron Cantilever is used and the Body is removed, I have seen one where the Body replaced with e Carbon Fibre one, and this has been very much liked by the owner.

It sounds like the 'retip and rebuild' Third Party Services are delivering a product that is proving very satisfactory with a not too expensive donor Cart', what's not to like.    

I bought a turntable with a Zu Denon DL-103. It sounded horrible. I almost threw the cartridge away but decided to send it to Andy to see if he could do anything with it. He cleaned a bunch of gunk out of the body and retipped it with a micro ridge nude stylus sapphire cantilever. It sounds amazing now! He does great work. 

On the East Coast we have VAS whom I and lots of people here have great confidence in

I'm on the West coast, and I too have confidence in VAS. I run the Ebony 103...absolutely brilliant.

But glad to know there are others out there providing quality re-tipping.

Denuded is a funny word. Taken at face value it would seem that now it's not nude at all.......


Your discussion is perfect timing for me.

I just bought a new to me turntable for my Garage/Shop system.

Thus an opportunity to get a Denon DL-103, and have it juiced up by VAS.

I would go Boron, and either Microline, Shibata, or SAS tip. I’ll call Steve at VAS for advice.

I would then move my existing Shure V15Vxmr body/Jico SAS/Boron to the Garage/Shop system



Where to get a good DL-103 body?


what experiences here, especially what to avoid!

thanks, Elliott

+1 for a mod'd DL103 👍

I had a standard DL 103 on my Audiomods Classic arm, which uses a rega arm tube, so it was not really compatible.

MOD #1 - I epoxied the cartridge to a brass plate, which had a similar impact as  adding the alumunum shell to a nuded DL 103 - but for only $12.50

MOD #2 - I purchased a DL103 from Soundsmith which had their ruby camtilever with a Optimized Contour Mico-line stylus. I then applied the same brass plate mod from above to this cartridge also

  • this cartridge provides significantly more/finer details with amazing dynamics and a very nice balanced sound 
  • superb control of sibilemce
  • I have stopped looking for any other cadrtridge 

One thing to add

  • I added KLE Innovations Absolute Harmony RCA's to the one piece harness on my arm, which boosted performance to ne heights
  • or better still, try the new Perfect Harmony RCA plusgs 
  • This is a highly recommend upgrade to any turntable cable or interconnect

Seems you are either in the DL103 camp OR NOT !

  • I have read a few negative comments on the forums here about the DL103 and wonder how much better could these other cartridges be
  • but this modified cartridge on my Audomods arm, going through a Simaudo MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage, into my Bryston B135 integrated amp and through to my Gershman Acoustics SONOGRAM speakers - I just wonder how much better could I want it to be ?

Regards - Steve



Steve, you do realize I am sure that by adding a brass plate to a DL103 you are surely increasing its weight by at least several grams, although we are not told the physical dimensions of the plate. Since that mass is added right over the stylus tip, it adds in a linear fashion to effective mass. Therefore, it is possible that at least a large fraction of the improvements that you hear is due to the increased effective mass, which might mate well with the inherent low compliance of the DL103. So your experience corroborates that of others who find the DL103 sounds best in very high mass tonearms. I think there are many ways in which one can improve the performance of many other mediocre cartridges, like the DL103. However, a sort of cult following has developed around this particular unit. I have no doubt that these exotic retips and rebodying of the cartridge do have a positive effect.

@elliottbnewcombjr, I typically pay about 80 bucks for a Denon 103 cart with a broken cantilever. Maybe check with Steve to see if he has any carts that he hasn't done up yet so you can have him build you what you like.

Take some time and read up on all the various versions of the DL-103. The 103S and 103D are higher compliance, originally came with a "special elliptical" and were designed to trace quad records. They work well on a medium to medium light compliance arm. 

Elliot, your stepping into a rabbit hole, just warning you. LOL





It's your fault, this conversation doubles down on how musical you frequently say the Denon Cartridge sounds.

I'll thinking removable headshell, use in my Acos Lustre GST-801 Arm. Which version do you think is right for that arm?

@lewm - Yep - I realized that - it was the main reason for completing that tweak.

I performed the tweak on the standard 103 first and discovered the benefits of matching the compliance of arm and cartridge.

I forget just how much mass was required, but I made the plate to match that criteria.

The Soundsmith mod’s were the icing on the cake.

The cardtridge without the plate sounded very good - but the plate gave the cartridge the exrta "life" it was missing i.e. compared to the standard 103 with the plate

Is it the best cartridge (for the money) on the planet ?

  • the standard 103 with the plate was better than any other cartridge I had tried (from Goldring, Nagoka, Rega)
  • The Soundsmith 103 with the plate is in a totally different league.- amazing!

A friend had a retipped Van den Hul Frog on an Audiomods arm and I it sounded very similar to the Soundsmith 103 + plate, so I’m pretty happy with it’s performance - at a fraction of the price.

Regards - Steve

Andy re-tipped my DL-301-ii and it came back sounding 100X better than before. Real money to most people, but you wind up with something that performs way better than anything you could buy for the same money.