A "Clamp On" Solution For the Denon 103's Too Flimsy Mounting Arrangement

The longevity of Denon's 103 cartridge series, first introduced in the 1960's and still in production speaks to the design's enduring popularity. The design's weak point is its flimsy mounting system. As my colleague Art Dudley put it in the December 2007 issue of Stereophile: "The most common complaint about the DL-103 is also the truest: Its good motor is compromised by a too-flimsy mounting arrangement, with open-edge bolt channels that prevent the cartridge from being rigidly fastened to a head shell."

This weak link has led to a number of modifications, most of which require "major surgery", which requires you to buy your modified 103 from an outside vendor. Now comes "The Cap" from denonaluminumbody.com, a small Canadian manufacturer whose name is the same as the company's mission statement (the company being an individual who decided to produce a single, but very practical product).

"The Cap" is a clamp-type aluminum device that, unlike other "mods" doesn't require removing the stock plastic body, nor is the "nude" motor then friction fitted into an outer aluminum body that results in no mechanical connection to the head shell.

Instead, "The Cap", machined from hard anodized 6061 aluminum, securely bolts through the stock cartridge body to the head shell, which provides a firm mechanical connection. What's more, it's removable so you can use it on your next 103.

For more information click on the above hyperlink. Right now on the site the regular $120 price has been knocked down to $95. The designer is sending a stock 103 and a "Capped" one for review. Files from each will be posted under the review so you can judge the sonic benefits.

my new username's picture

Especially as you can transfer it to the next 103, which might occur quicker than with other cartridges due to the spherical stylus.

mraudioguru's picture

...years ago. I've pretty much moved on to the metal bodies for the DL-103, (Zu Audio, Paradox Pulse). Might need to try one of these.

PaulG's picture

Does anyone know if you can use the stock stylus guard with this? It normally clips over the body, but this looks like it might impede it. The new version of the Paradox body has an indentation that accommodates the guard.

mraudioguru's picture

...an email to ask about a stylus guard. I'll update once they reply.

mraudioguru's picture

...fast. Here is what I was told:


Correct. The OEM stylus guard does not fit with the Cap installed. However, seeing as the Cap is removable, the guard can be used when the DL103 is not installed.

We are working on a solution.

Thanks for the interest!


Jack Gilvey's picture

but hate those "open-edge bolt channels". Aside from the apparent flimsiness, it's such a PITA to work with. I almost knee-jerk ordered one of these just now but will await your impressions, Sir Fremer.

Michael Fremer's picture
Rodney, Jackie Mason, etc....
OldschoolE's picture

I was very lucky to get one of these carts for a song about 5 years ago as one place was blowing out their stock. I got it because I own a near mint Denon DP47f table and this is the cart that used to ship with them! Someone mounted an old Sumiko Blue on my DP47f that was a total mis-match. (I am currently running an Ortofon 2M Bronze on it, I know that is a moving magnet and not moving coil like the DL103).
I'm not sure if I will ever mount the DL103 actually, but if I do, I plan on taking the masochist path of mounting it straight as is. While I am sure these aluminum caps may be a good solution to the mounting headaches of the DL103 and other carts with the same design, I personally can't justify spending $100+ on this solution. (That said though if I ever learn that the DL103 is a super cartridge of some type and I really have trouble mounting it, I will likely end up bellying up to the bar for this solution).

Oh hey Mikey, as for impressions, I like all of the above. Actually, you are a very good impressionist! I've heard you do most of them live too.

Eskisi's picture

There are loads of articles, comments, etc., about the Denon 103 but I never see one for the 103D, which is the same thing with an elliptical stylus. Always wondered why — there are very few instances where an elliptical tip is not superior to conical, right, maybe even if ever? Perhaps because they are rare?

I had a 103D, new, when “The Wall” came out and the first time I listened to it, the clarity — especially in the more congested passages — blew me away. I had to reinstall whatever else I had at the time (ADC? Microacoustics 2002e?) to convince myself that the difference was truly night and day.

That cartridge somehow disappeared somewhere between college, graduate school, first job...who knows? Only recently I found another, barely used 103D and I find my impressions of back then are repeated.

SpotcheckBilly12345's picture

Upon going to denonaluminumbody.com I discovered that the recommended VTF is 3.5g which is considerably higher than Zu Audio's 2.5g recommended tracking force for my Zu103 SerII Grade2 and also higher than Denon's recommended VTF of 2.5g +/-.03g. your's seems pretty high! Reasons?

Steve B's picture

Sorry for the confusion -- 3.5g is the adjustment required to your VTF with The Cap installed. Please continue to use the tracking force suggested by the Denon which best suits your tonearm arrangement.

SpotcheckBilly12345's picture

I know that the total effective tonearm mass is increased by the addition of The Cap but I still do not understand how and why this should necessitate increasing the 103's tracking force to a value that exceeds Denon's highest recommendation by .7g. Since there are no internal cartridge modifications with The Cap. Increasing the Tone arm effective mass by adding weight to the head shell should not require the employment of a higher than recommended tracking force.

Or is your 3.5g VTF a figure that you came up with through your own testing? Please explain. I'm not at all trying to be argumentative here, but I've been running 103's for over a decade various tone arms and have yet to encounter a high VTF like you recommend on any of the other 103 mods that are out there!

Steve B's picture

3.5g is the mass of the Cap.

Therefore, you must be able to adjust your counterweight -3.5g to rebalance the VTF to the recommended 2.5g (+/-).

Steve B's picture

No problems -- I appreciate your feedback. I will update the site to be more clear.

mraudioguru's picture

...adapter is 3.5 grams. You need to deduct that 3.5 from the VTF, to keep the same VTF as before you installed the adapter. I understood it no problem the way it was written on the website?

tparker14's picture

I'm not seeing the real advantage here over the other aftermarket bodies, other than not having to nude the generator from the plastic body and affix it to the new body. The other designs are typically snug-fitting for the Denon motor, and/or potted with epoxy. I can testify that this route makes for a more cohesive, punchier, and more detailed Denon 103 over the plastic-bodied original, or the simply nuded generator (I have listened to all 3 on my system).

The 103D isn't a straight apples to apples comparison to the 103 or 103R. It's a higher compliance generator with wider frequency ranges and, of course, a reduced tracking pressure. It's a great cartridge; I wish Denon would manufacture it again.

Steve B's picture

I agree that the result is more cohesive and punchier sound -- Ive tested many of the aftermarket bodies. The Cap provides these benefits at a lower cost, without the risk of damage, and it is transferable / reversible. I do not call it a modification; it is an accessory. ...Some users are just not willing to take apart their cartridge. I have personally destroyed a couple.

creativepart's picture

I own a 103D I purchased NOS from Japan approx 12 years ago or so. Due to it's relative rarity I've been hesitant to "rebody" the cart. This does give me an option to rebody and still leave the OEM body intact.

I only wish they had also found a way to attach the cap to the body in such a way that tapped mounting holes could have been utilized - I realize that with this design that's not possible. But still it one could hope.

I wonder if applying some non-permanent adhesive to the cap to help facilitate a better connection between the two would be a plus or not?

Steve B's picture

I do not believe that adding any adhesive is required: we don't bolt and glue carts to the headshell...

The mounting hardware grabs both the cart and the Cap when you attach it to your headshell. It has been my experience that when you unbolt the cart and Cap, a little added force is required to separate them as they have a way of firmly biting together. I imagine adding any adhesive is redundant.

Anton D's picture
cement_head's picture

Is the issue that once you try and tighten the bolts, they slip out sideways?

rl1856's picture

I will investigate for my 103D, rebuilt by Sound Smith. FYI- the "D" is very different from the basic 103, and 103r. Finer gauge copper coils, lower output, higher compliance, lighter body weight, a fine line elliptical stylus, and much more extended frequency response. Lighter weight and higher compliance make this cartridge more suitable for lighter to med mass arms rather than the high mass arms recommended for other variants of the 103. Some feel the DL304 is an updated version of the 103D.

wozzabear's picture

Hi Michael - any advance on your proposal to test one of these out ? I have the cartridge but am hanging fire on purchasing this mount block until it gets the ok from your good self. Cheers, Ian