Upgrade from Technics SP25

I currently have a Technics SP25 with ATP-12T arm and Denon DL-103 and a solid, custom plinth. I think this combination punches above its weight class due to really good synergy between arm and cart. It has big tone and tracks really well. However, I am looking for an upgrade that digs a little deeper and extracts more detail.  I was going to purchase a Hana EL cartridge and give that a try. However, now I have a larger budget ($2500) allocated to this upgrade and am trying to determine best course of action: eg, buy an entirely new turntable, upgrade arm and cartridge, stick with just the cartridge upgrade,etc. Any advice is much appreciated. Also, I am currently using the phono stage in my Crayon integrated amp. After experimenting with different phonostages the one in the Crayon just sounded the best .
Dear @gotog: You have a good turntable as is the AT tonearm that I know very well.

Use your money in the cartridge and you will love this great quality performer at an excellent price. If I were you I just pull the trigger inmediatly:


The Kleos is at other level ( better. ) than many other cartridges in the 4K-6K price range

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
I am looking for an upgrade that digs a little deeper and extracts more detail.

No wonder, your conical DL-103 diamond simply missing the extensions on both ends due to natural limitation of the contact surface associated with any conical/spherical profile. This is very well explained here.

If you want to keep using Low Compliance cartridges with your tonearm (which must be high mass) then you have to upgrade your cartridge first. If you’re in love with the Denon then all you need is to replace the whole cantilever/stylus on this cartridge to something modern such as Ruby/LineContact which you can do with a help of any retipper such as SoundSmith or many others (for the cost of lower than new Hanna MC).

If you still looking for something fresh and another cartridge is what you need then you can still buy a much better cartridge for your tonearm to try first. I would recommend Fidelity-Research PMC-3 low compliance MC cartridge with nude Line Contact diamond, Air Core Coil ! If you can’t find it just ask me.

Another decent upgrade for the Denon 103 aficionado is definitely the Ortofon SPU Royal G mkII with the most complicated profile in the history - The Ortofon Replicant 100. With this profile you will extract maximum from your records. Also no need to change the arm if it can support about 30g cartridge/shell. Forgive me, but i will link my listing, so you can read amore about it.

Doing my research for the best low compliance cartridge i ended up with mega rare FR-7fz, but i think this cartridge alone exceed your budget.

However, FR cartridges and SPU cartridges are all voiced with alluminum cantilever (and nude pressure fitted line contact type diamonds) and does not require an exotic cantilevers to sound absolutely fantastic. That means the service of those cartridges is much cheaper, even if you need a brand new cantilever with new tip, any retipper can do that for you for extremely low price, compared to the exotic cantilevers like Boron.  

In my opinion you have a nice DD turntable, if your plinth is fine then i would definitely recommend to start with a new cartridge, the DL-103 is the weakest part on your tunrtable if you’re looking for much more detailed sound.

If you need a mid or high compliance cartridge then it’s another story and you could try an MI or MM, but you have to check for tonearm effective moving mass with the lightweight headshell/cartridge to avoid undesirable resonance.
gotog, this is not to suggest you upgrade your table, Raul and chakster have given good advice.

However if you are not aware I thought you might like knowing more about your table.  Technics offered three SP model tables at different price points.  The top was the SP-10 Mk 2 (initial SP-10 underwent many upgrades), later upgraded to the Mk 3.  Next downward was the SP-15.  This was also a high quality unit with a large heavy platter, fine tune speed adjustment but with onboard power supply.  It was also good enough for studio use as well as consumer applications.  Then came your SP-25.  From my reading that is essentially the motor and electronics from the famed SL-1200 series.  Most parts are interchangeable.  However it was a motor unit only, allowing for selection of separate plinth and tonearm.  As the reputation for the SL-1200s suggests, your SP-25 can punch above its weight.

All this is offered for future reference.  I wouldn't spend $2.5K for a cartridge in your system but there must be many upgrades, including a retip of your Denon.  You didn't say how many hours on yours but the conical stylus will not likely satisfy anyone looking to dig deeper and extract more detail.

Good luck. 
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There was an SP-20 released in 1976 which is exactly the same size as the SP-10 mkII, but without external power supply. Actually very nice turntable, i have posted about it on audiogon few years ago.  

I know it's fun to change the turntable, i did it many times, nothing can beat the DD Luxman PD-444 in terms of usability if the owner would like to swap the tonearms. 

In my opinion changing the SP-25 to something else will not change the sound if the tonearm and cartridge are the same. SP-25 is a nice DD with stable rotarion and high torque, if the plinth is nice then it is a great combo. 

The most important is the cartridge and sinergy between the cartridge and tonearm. Definitely the phono stage too. Turntable just rotating a platter with a record on it. 

I've owned two SP-20 and one SP-10 mkII. You can upgrade your SP-25 with a nice air craft alloy mat from SAEC, the SS-300 is a must have between the LOMC cartridge/record and the platter if the motor is right under the platter. Micro Seiki CU-500 is even better. 

I purchased an SP25 with an ATP-12T arm inside of a Technics wooden plinth in rough shape about 4 years ago with to sole idea in my head of flipping it. I refurbished it and did some minor mods.  When I was done I had a hard time letting it go.  Performed quite well.  I used it for a year before selling it. 

Here is a minor, simple and inexpensive change that was audible on this table.  
On the bottom of the plinth,  ran industrial hot melt on all seams.  Took Butyl tape and dampened everywhere possible on the bottom of the plinth,  it added a fair amount of mass, but the plinth was noticeably deadened. Took butyl tape and put a thin layer on the bottom of the platter. This helped dampen the motor from platter nicely.  I did not rewire the arm, but I used a litz tonearm cable,  it was a nice improvement over the AT cable. These mods won't necessarily cause your table to dig deeper,  but things are tighter, more focused. Look at a different cartridge to dig deeper or pull more details out of your music.  
I hope this helps,  Tim 
gotog, chakster has mentioned the SP-20 a few times now.  It may be a fine motor unit, I've never seen one.  But depending on where you live, I believe they are very rare in the US.  Also you don't find the backup such as a service manual at VinylEngine as you will for the SP-10/15/25.

If you do reach a point where you'd like to upgrade your SP-25, then either suggested mods to it or step up to a higher Technics or other quality DD such as Luxman, Kenwood, Denon, JVC, etc.  However know that Denon and JVC can have difficult repair/restoration issues.  But when working all reports are they are fine tables.

Might be worth upgrading to one of the new SL1200s or even an SP10.

Here's a link to an interesting review of an SP10 mk2 by none other than British DJ Kenny Everett from Studio Sound dated September 1977!


(<9mb PDF Studio Sound September 1977)
I found a Dynavector 20x2 to be a similar flavour to the DL-103 with better extension and control at the frequency extremes. It is 3x the cost though. There are great accessories for the Denon that bring its performance closer, if you want to open all your money on a new turntable... That would be my approach.