What tonearm is recommended for the denon 103r

I know this has been covered before a million times, but I can't find one thread in which the title mentions this. Thank you.
Without naming names, you'd want a tonearm with enough effective mass so that the arm/cart resonance occurs at around 10hz. Like 16g or more.

Hi Blueranger.
I've used the 2.2 with the Uwe bodied DL103R. It worked fine. However, when I added a headshell weight (7.5g) to the DL /Graham I liked the sound better. I also got my above noted arm/cart res to happen near 10hz this way with the Graham.

The Graham 2.2 is an impressive arm, imho. And it also helps that it is capable of so much adjustment....even to its mass.

Yet it seems like a mismatch. The DL-103 is beneath it.

At the moment I'm using a Zeta tonearm with the Uwe bodied DL103-R on a TD124 and feel this to be a fairly good match-up. Dynamic, slammy and surprisingly detailed.

True, enough. I did use a 103r with a 2.2 for a while. The cart does play pretty well on the 2.2. I don't think I would agree that the problem was with the cartridge. IMO, some cartridges work better than others with a unipivot arm. I had a Vector at the same time and thought that the Vector did a much better job controlling the 103r.
According to the Cartridge/Tonearm data base, you will need a tone arm with an effective mass of 25 to 30 grams. The database list only two tonearms with that effective mass the Acros Lustre GST 801 and the Dynavector 501 tone arm. Although there may be others that will work which are not listed. Got to remember the Denon 103 series were for the most part broadcast cartridges, not really in the beginning intended for consumer use. There are other Denon 103 series such as the D and S models which have higher compliance that the 103 and 103R.
Looking at your system, I agree with most everything that's been said above, other than the fact that you can't always go by the numbers in terms of predicting the appropriate effective mass for a tonearm/cartridge combo.

Having said that, I'd start by adding mass to the headshell of your Graham. Blu-tack a nickel to the top of the headshell and re-set the tracking force.

I need to recuse myself from the tonearm recommendation game because I sell one that I really like.

This topic continually resurfaces, and there's a thread on m forum on the subject (comments from Dan_Ed amongst others). There are quite a few link-backs to comments made here on Audiogon about the DL-103 as well.

Look over here: http://www.galibierdesign.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=17

Thom @ Galibier
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I'd like to follow up on my earlier post re: the DL103R and the 2.2. This combo did work well and even better with the added mass of the headshell weight. Compliments to the Graham for being able to adjust for this with ease.

If it had so happened that I was down to the DL103R as being the last MC cart available to me, and I happened to just have the 2.2, it would have been just fine. No complaints with that pairing.

I just think it's an odd partnership due to the different costs involved. For instance if someone were thinking of the DL103 in terms of an arm/cart upgrade of their more or less entry level vinyl rig, the Graham tonearm wouldn't be on that map. Too expensive. On the other hand, if one is already at hand, then that's different.

Also Viridian points out something important. Lots of folks look at the spec sheet that comes with the Denon. All of it in Japanese language. And we see this:
xxxxx 5x10-6 cm/dyne (100hz xxxxx) The x's are in place of Japanese figures.

Many have assumed that this text means that the compliance figure of 5x10-6 cm/dyne means a compliance of 5. Wow, that's a really stiff cantilever, right!?

It's not really. It means that the reading is taken at 100 hz rather than the more usual 8 - 12 hz that we test for using test records while observing cantilever shake.

Like I noted above, with the headshell weight on the Graham I got a lateral arm/cart resonance to happen at 10 hz using the hfnrr test record. This would indicate a very different compliance figure than 5. All it means is that the Denon published measurement is taken using a different test procedure and even more importantly that the cartridge --can be partnered-- with quite a few medium to high mass tonearms that are out there.

Currently I've got one on an arm with a rated effective mass of 16g. With this arm (Zeta) the arm/cart resonance happens at 10hz. That's pretty well in the zone for this cartridge and it sounds great. Dynamic, detailed and slammy. Just right for the TD124, I think.

Also, keep in mind that in the compliance equation:

Res Freq = 1 / [ 2* pi * sqrt (M*C) ]

Mass and compliance affect the outcome by their square root, so 16g does not have 1.6 time the effect of 10g on the resonant frequency.

We're talking about fine tuning in this discussion and not of orders of magnitude. Of course, people participating in this thread are looking for small but significant effects.

Thom @ Galibier
What I've noticed in mass tuning a rega tonearm for the DL103-R is that in order to gain a full point hz reduction (1 hz) in arm/cart res I had to increase mass at the headshell by 7.5g. Which is approximately 68% of the arms original effective mass rating.

I expect that this could be roughly applied to any tonearm. If you want to lower the arm/cart resonant frequency by 1 full hz it takes the tonearm's rated effective mass plus the addition of 68% of that rated mass in additional weight over the headshell. Sound about right?

Incidentally I ended up adding an another 25g of weight to the counterweight (an Expressimo) in order to balance the the arm.

Results were easy to hear. The DL-103R sounded more liquid with warmer mids, better defined details/inner-details and frequency extension. It was an obvious improvement and told me what I needed to know about the DL-103R. It needs more than a medium mass tonearm to work its best.

link to article: http://www.theanalogdept.com/dl_rb.htm

Forget Triplanar and the like, you have to go with an arm that has high effective mass. I have real experience with many arms and the 103R, including Triplanar, Audiocraft 4400, Micro-Seiki Max 282, Sony PUA 1600L, Lustre GST 801, SME V, and Fidelity FR64x but the winner by far was the Ikeda 407.

In this arm the 103R comes alive and for me the paradox was that this was the only cartridge that this arm seemed really happy with, including other low compliance carts such as Koetsu. I sold the Ikeda because I never could get it to sing with anything other than the 103R and this was clearly an economic mismatch.

The performance of the 103R is equally defined by the impedance loading and either you use one of Denon's step-up transformers or something that that has a 40 ohm impedance load. If you put a 103R straight into a phono stage without transformers, the cartridge will be nice and tubey, but lacking in sparkle and detail that it is truly capable of.

The Denon is a giant killer no doubt for the price, but, IMHO it is not the final word either. It cannot compare to the likes of a ZYX for transparency and impact, nor to the likes of a Sony Xl-55 for slam, or to a Miyabi for tone and emotion.

In my collection I really admire the 103R for being sublime and faithful to old jazz albums. mono recordings and classics from the 60's. I use it on my SP-10 Mk2 and despite the trade offs, I always find it delivers a satisfying performance. There is no perfect cartridge / arm combo, so I just accept that the 103R is not the total panacea, but it does have a place in my playback system and you have to respect the product and the audio design and engineering that went into it and still makes it a competitive offering. Currently I use it on my Audiocraft 4400 with a heavy AS tonearm - but it will be going for a Soundsmith re-tip shortly.

Too many people use the cartridge outside of the operating parameters it is designed for and hence many opinions on its performance and capability are inaccurate (but not on this thread).
Having just found some old brochures from my archives, the Denon tonearms from the mid 70's were designed with the 103 series of cartridges. Tonearms are DA 304,305,307,308,309,and 401. Extraordinarily difficult to find today. These were s-shaped wands with EIA headshell. Also the Technics EPA 100 original issue with ruby bearings with titanium nitride tonearm tube, works very well with the 103 Denons. The Techincs EPA 100 is rare now and very pricey if you can find one.

Denon 103 that will work with these tone arms are 103/103S/103D/103U/103 Gold/103LC and 103 Pro. That takes the 103 line up to 1985. Although in my opinion the 103R with its specifications will work as well.

A few years ago a Denon DP61F turntable came through here with a 103R installed and sounded wonderful. However I did try the 103R on a Rega RB 250 tonearm with less than stellar results, so put the 103R back on the Denon DP61F and was used until it sold and current user is still using it that way some 3 years later.

Just food for thought in one search to maximize the use of the venerable Denon 103 range of cartridges.
[/quote]Forget Triplanar,[/quote]

With the 103r?!? Wow! Amazing what some folks think they know.

I tried the Zu/Denon DL-103 on a number of tonearms here with the following results. Keep in mind this cartridge weighs 14 grams unlike the standard Denon.

SME-309 poor to fair
Hadcock 242 poor
Tri-Planar good to very good
Basis Vector good to very good
Dynavector 507 Mk.II excellent
Ortofon RS 212D very good

These are only my results and apply to a non standard Denon 103 as indicated; as always YMMV with your tonearm and stock 103.

Dealer disclaimer
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No kidding, if we could get Bill at Audiofeil and Larry at Hollywood Sound together we would be in tonearm heaven. Nice to have these guys around.
I don't want to Hi-Jack this thread but I am in the process of building a Lenco 75 .
I was thinking of getting a vpi 10.5i tonearm but it seems like the Triplanar and the Dynavector 507 mk II are the ones to use.
Has anyone tried the 10.5i tonearm with the 103r ?
I have purchase the 103r.


"With the 103r?!? Wow! Amazing what some folks think they know"

Probably more than you Dan ed - but then I never said it was lore, but physics and real life testing are valid.
I have been using the Thomas Schick with a dl103 and a Zu 103. It is very nice and was designed for the 103.
It is affordable, but very basic, and a little clumsey to set up.
It looks simple and vintage to me, I like that.
It plays music very well!
I've got a 103r mounted on one of my graham phantom tonearms. I really enjoy it.

Should I experiment with using blue tak to put a nickel or two on the headshell and then adjust the counter-weight?
I have never heard a Triplanar so let's just get that out of the way before someone jumps all over my arse for speculating. I don't know where the silicone is used in the Triplanar but perhaps this helps compatibility with the Denons (besides it's world class construction and flexibility).

It appears folks get decent enough sound from a Rega but I would never recommend a Rega for the Denon 103/103R. Just not a good match imho and given the vast selection of other cartridges out there, adding headshell mass and weight to the counterweight seems like a dog chasing it's tail. Sounds like one can get quite acceptable sound from this setup though.
Hi Plinko,

I don't know anyone using a Triplanar who uses any damping fluid with any cartridge. There may be some who do but I've never heard from them. Matter of fact, removing the reservoir completely results in an audible improvement.

I think many people get caught up in crunching the numbers to decide if a cart/arm is compatible. This, IMO, is why many folks are quick to dismiss some combinations. True, some match ups will take more effort to get sounding right than others. However, the numbers don't tell the whole story. And as others have mentioned, the advertised compliance number for the the 103r can cause heart palpitations. But it has been demonstrated that the compliance is more like other cartridges with a compliance of 10 to 12, IIRC. The mass is a tad low but can easily be supplemented with heavier washers and/or screws. (Be careful though. The stock hardware is designed to prevent over-tightening which could crack the body.)

The Rega is an excellent example of an arm that many will dismiss as a possible mate with the 103r. A Rega with the TWL mod does make wonderful music with this cartridge. There are certainly better arms, but people do like this combination. It just takes a little more work than some other arms when mated with the 103r.

I know a few folks who love the 103r/Triplanar combo so much they have no desire to get a better cartridge. Mine sounds pretty damn good to me. Now where near as good as my Dynavector, but for the money the 103r is tough to beat.
This is an old thread, but I wonder if Ortofon rmg or rs tonearm can be a good match with Denon DL 103R.
Ortofon rmg is a very good choice. Also super when you want to try an Ortofon SPU in future ...
I'm using the 103R in a cocobolo shell with the Thomas Schick arm with great success. The arm is also a bargain.

The Denon Dl-103's were designed for broadcast use for FM radio. You want a heavy arm like a Audiotechnica from that era.....
Old thread but still relevant, If you want an arm for the 103/103R then consider a Temaadaudio Merlin Titanium arm. In standard for the Eff mass is 22 grams, ideal for the cartridge & also ideal for Koetsu's. The arm was just reviewed by TNTaudio online mag & the reviewer stated it was the best arm he had ever heard

The new arm designed for Denon DL-103 and Ortofon SPU is "12 inch Thomas Schick (Made in Germany).

I don’t know how many times i have to post it, but to understand why low compliance cartridge must be on high mass arm anyone can read this Ortofon Article

Also the Technics EPA 100 original issue with ruby bearings with titanium nitride tonearm tube, works very well with the 103 Denons. The Techincs EPA 100 is rare now and very pricey if you can find one.

No, this statement is false, Technics tonearm does not work well with low compliance cartridges and it will be difficult to even balance heavy cartridge on heavy headshell using Technics EPA-100 conterweight. I’m the owned or EPA-100 and EPA-100 mkII tonearms. I wouldn’t use low compliance cartridges on them. But mid compliance is fine, high compliance also fine. For DL-103 or 103R this is not optimal tonearm. Fidelity-Research FR64s is much better match for DL103 series. 

However, there is one higher compliance Denon-103 made, if i remember correct it was DL-103D ? 
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I have three on hand that will work well with any 103 - two Fidelity Research arms (an FR29 and a FR54) - plus a Denon 307. The 103 came in several variations: 103C, 103D, 103R, 103S and a 50th Anniversary Gold body. I presently have a 103R on the Pioneer PLX1000 TT. This is a good combination!
@chakster : The 103D was higher compliance than the 103C (conical) and 103R (different internal impedance). I have both!
The 103D was higher compliance than the 103C

Thanks. My memory passed the test, i was correct.
Isn’t the Ortofon SPU has a richer sound than all those Denods 103 ?

My personal recomendation for low compliance cartridge lovers is the Fidelity-Reseach FR-7f and FR-7fz for superheavy tonearms or PMC-3 for high or mid mass tonearms. In my opinion FR’s Air Core Coil and overall sound presentation along with the great "Vital" Stylus Profile is superb compared to any low compliance cartridge i’ve ever tried (including some of the best SPU like Royal G). I was so impressed by the sound of low compliance Fidelity-Research carts than i bought Ikeda 9 III after chatting with @nandric about those cantilever-less design.  

Someone has mentioned Lustre GST-801 tonearm and i can vote for it too, great arm! 

I can recommend pairing a Denon DL-103R with the very under rated Victor UA-7082 tonearm. The short version (UA-7045) should work perfectly too. 
I can recommend pairing a Denon DL-103R with the very under rated Victor UA-7082 tonearm.

This is what i'm using now with Victor MC-L10, but subweight is required. I've seen people using it even with SPU. 

The short version (UA-7045) should work perfectly too.

Beautiful tonearm, i have boxed UA-7045 (NOS), This arm is better for MM cartridges in my opinion.  
I lost use of my AT-ART9 which was paired with an SME-V. Now I have got my hands on a DL103R. I think it will do well with the SME-V. Not that I have a choice in these lockdown times.
I lost use of my AT-ART9 which was paired with an SME-V. Now I have got my hands on a DL103R.

and what do you think ? @cool_jeeves  

Right now I'm using a DL-103 on my JVC QL-A7 with great success. That uses a Victor UA-5045 tonearm.
My current project is a two arm Victor plinth, it will be getting my Audio Technica ATP-12T tonearm, effective weight is 21 grams. I also have a AT-LH18 18 gram headshell to use with it. Should be a killer arm for the Denon in the back spot.
@chakster - i am unable to quote your post in my reply - cant see the buttons for that...

I am yet to literally get my hands on it. Should be up and running within a week from now. Will report. I don't think it is run in, and will need a few weeks for that too. But sometimes magic happens quicker than one thinks. I helped put together for a friend a simple lenco L75 on a hollow spring suspended plinth, working hurriedly to install a SME3009ii non improved arm with a DL103. Right off the bat, it nearly matched my SME-V + ART9 on my Garrard 301. I didn't feel very friendly towards my friend when he took it away.
The best I heard was on my Ikeda 407 for the 103r. It did sound surprisingly decent.  And I’m sure other expensive high mass arms are nice to. But I would never restrict my expensive arm to a cheap cartridge. With my FR64fx and Basis vector the denon  wasn’t as smooth or refined sounding. As someone stated already, the 103d, I had one in the 80’s and really liked it. I can’t remember the arm, it was not an expensive arm and was lower mass. It was on an Ariston table, similar to the Linn Sondek. This would be a better choice. Buying a 103 in my opinion is for budget reasons so the arm is going to be budget too or just get a better cartridge. I get the whole idea with getting a cheap cartridge to sound good is fun but there not so cheap anymore. I bought 2 about 5 years ago for $275 each including shipping. Quite a bit more pricey now. Still have one with about 15 hours on it. I find for a single cartridge owner it’s too expensive to get these to perform good that there’s better choices to be made. 
I got the DL103R up and running on my SME-V, Garrard 301. It sounds nice. I have some optimisations left to do. I need to open up my phono stage and change the gain setting (ART9 was 0.5mv whereas 103R is 0.25mv), i need to finetune the pivot to stylus distance (i have assumed it is unchanged since I screwed back the arm on the board with no change to position), adjust VTA and finally run in the cartridge. I can manipulate the loading through 6 settings in the phono. I think over the next month all these upsides should roll in and enable me to reach close to where the ART-9 was.
I usually see the DL103R matched with a high mass tonearm due to it being a low compliance cartridge, the SME V seems to be on the lighter side. I'm glad it's working out for you though.
I have finished all optimizations. In my system, the ART-9 had a modest edge over my Marantz SA10 for most recordings that were done recently (e.g. some recent 24-192 productions like Miles Davis Kind of Blue, and In a Silent Way etc.). The DL103R maintains the same edge. I have managed to extract a bit more from it than I could from ART-9 by changing cartridge loading to a higher 300 Ohms. I have however the suspicion that my phono stage gain was not perfectly optimized for the ART-9 as I had to keep the amp volume at 9 'O clock. Now I am able to crank it up to 10 with DL103R thanks to its lower output, but I should have set phono gain at a slightly lower level with ART-9. All in all, this is the great escape!
I have managed to extract a bit more from it than I could from ART-9 by changing cartridge loading to a higher 300 Ohms.

I don't understand how you can extract a bit more using Conical stylus instead of LineContact ? It's quite opposite direction. Maybe it's personal preferences. 

The lowest possible gain for MC is always preferable until the sound is acceptable. 

You can always unload you cartridge using 1000 Ohm or higher. 

Here's a left field option.

I had a 103, it came with a Jelco 750L when I bought a TT package. What a dog! Set up by a dealer the sound was bloated and grainy. I just couldn't understand the fuss as by rights it should have been a good match for the arm. I swapped it out for an AT PTGii which worked nicely.

When looking for a new tonearm I had the chance to compare an SME V vs Funk FXR on the same table with the same cart. The Funk was several steps ahead offering a different level of insight. A big surprise.

Did some further research and ended up buying a Funk Firm FX3. A big improvement over the Jelco. I also bought a new cart so figured I'd keep the AT as a spare and sell the 103. I put the 103 on the Funk to check all was in order and got quiet the shock. It sounded wonderful, the bloat gone replaced by a delicious full bottom end that the AT only hints at. Still a touch grainy but what can one expect at the price. It sounded great and I ended up selling the AT

Long story to get to the point - I've no doubt the modestly priced Funk Firm arm would bring a 103r to life. 
Hi all,

There are many folks are using denon 103R with Pioneer PLX1000 TT. Which headshell you are using with it? Stock one?
Thank you
You can use over 50 different headahells with any cartridge, why do you ask? For Denon 103 on Pioneer you need the heaviest possible headshell you can find, minimum 15g. Pioneer tonearm is mid mass, Denon is low compliance, you have to increase mass as much as possible.