08 June, 2014

Talk Vinyl: Denon DL-102 Part III

Click pics to enlarge. L: Denon DL-102 on top; note 2 cartridge leads inserted into each pin. R: Added weights at the end of the armtube and on the headshell.

Letter from NYC(32)2014(4) 
Talk Vinyl: Denon DL-102, Part III
Talk Vinyl: Mono Replay IV

Those interested may want to read the previous installments in this series: Denon DL-102 Part I; Denon DL-102/Mono Replay Part II

Technics SL-1200MkII redux
The Denon DL-102 had been on my Thorens TD-309 since the last installment of the series. This time, after enjoying a few mono records on it, I decided to tackle another project - to install the Denon DL-301 MkII onto the Thorens. The DL-102 had to come out and I installed it again on my Technics. There is a simple reason for this: each cartridge lead on my Linn/Ittok and Clearaudio Concept is dressed in the back with heat-shrink's. The true mono Denon DL-102 is not the easiest to install; it needs to have 2 cartridge leads inserted into each cartridge pin; the easiest way to accomplish this is with the usual cheap cartridge leads that have crimped-on connectors. The connector that goes in first needs a little bending for it to be pushed further in so as to make room for the one in the back (see pic). Someone had asked before how to do it, and I hope the pic explains it.

As it is, the counterweight of the arm of the Technics SL-1200 is just enough to balance the very heavy Denon DL-102. A quick alignment and I was treated to better sound than I had remembered! In fact, not far behind when it was on the Thorens. The cartridge is more open then before, with more air on top. I am sure, after a relatively long period, the cartridge is finally fully run-in. So beware, the sound of the Denon DL-102 takes a long time to come into its own, so be patient and reserve your judgement. A little further improvements resulted after I added weights (see pic: an obsolete Italian gettone in the back; a Japanese coin on top of the headshell, both affixed with blue-tac).

Now, I won't go into details, but I am quite satisfied with the setup as it is. After some playing, the Decca ffss III arrived (see last article) and the Denon DL-102 was taken out. So I was able to compare the two cartridges and here are some observations:
  • the Denon DL-102 is richer in the midband. In many ways, it is somewhat more neutral than the Decca ffss III, which has a lingering leanness.
  • the Decca ffss III has the faster and cleaner leading edge and transients, but the Denon DL-102 is quite good in these parameters too.
  • overall, the performance of the Denon DL-102 is rock solid, but the Decca ffss III is just s little special.
  • until I acquire a Decca of some sort, the Denon DL-102 shall remain my mono reference. It is now back on the Technics.
  • the exercise also renewed (again) my respect for the Technics. What a go-to turntable!


  1. hi doc
    finally switching to mono with an ortofon OM D25 M with great resluts (with el84, mono preamp on ONE LaScala
    but will test the dl102 very soon
    keep on groovin'

    1. Wonderful! Ortofon's newer mono MC's are also excellent. Have fun!

    2. Just curious, you don't miss your stereo at all? Saves a lot of space in France!

  2. actually i keep a family stereo system (all-in one maranz mcr610)that plays very well on the LaScala then switch to mono for Lp listening with only one LS ;-D
    in my studio i have both, one stereo LP/cd/digital system and one dedicated mono/vinyl system