May 2010 issue - page 7

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Hi-Fi World has always been keen to review the peripheral items of hi-fi, the accessories, add-ons and upgrades. It is in this spirit that I would like to mention an upgrade that I have recently made and recommend it to others. Unfortunately, David, it relates to your favourite subject (object?) the Denon 103. It just won't go away, will it? It crept onto January’s pages in the Isokinetik Rega upgrade review.


Anyway, to the point. I recently returned to use a Denon 103D that I had bought in the nineteen eighties and has been out of use for at least twenty years. I liked the sound, but it was a little rough at the edges. Reading your Isokinetic review drew me to look in to their range of upgrades, specifically those for the Denon. I settled on the Cartridge Stabiliser - essentially an aluminium plate, with threaded holes, to which the cartridge is glued with the superglue provided. I did not really like the idea of gluing the cartridge to the plate. It is not really reversible. What the hell! Cartridge glued, I mounted it into my arm (Roksan Tabriz zi on a fully Bastinised Garrard 401) and reset the tracking weight, VTA, etc. The Tabriz counterweight just about coped with the added mass.


The sound? In a word - amazing. Far more solid. Smoother - those rough edges have gone. Better imaging and separation between instruments. Far less surface noise. For the minimal cost, one hell of an upgrade. So, for all the Denon DL103 owners out there, this is an upgrade that I can heartily recommend. I note that Isokinetik also do a replacement metal body for the 103 and do feel that you ought to review it. What was that, David? Over my dead body? Come on, put your prejudices aside.

Colin Topping,


Hi Colin, well as you know we'd never review it because my entire life's work, everything I've ever done, all my dreams and impossible schemes, have been about exposing the Denon cartridge for the dreadful transducer that it is! (Me commissioning a very complimentary review about it a few years back was a disastrous oversight on my part, and should be struck out of the 'Hi-Fi Hansard' that is our canon of past printed reviews. So if you have a copy of the November 2006 issue where Neal Gibbons gave it four globes and a pound sign then please shred it or burn it on my behalf!).


But seriously, as Phil Collins once wrote, I do like the Denon. It's great value, has a distinctive sound and is tweakable. Indeed, I even bought one myself. But 'like' is as far as I'll go, as there is - in my view at least - much better at or near the price. I think me refusing to lavish verbose praise on it at any given opportunity must be what's annoying its fans (or should I say 'disciples of the faith')? I take on board your comments; they're gratefully accepted in the spirit in which they're intended. I'd also like to try a rebodied DL103, but ideally I'd like to try a re-stylused one, as those are my two biggest 'issues' with it. But then it wouldn't be a DL103 anymore, would it? I better shut up know, before I offend even more Denonistas! DP


Hello Colin. We know about the Denon DL103 fan club and "what a bargain it is". A moving coil cartridge for £100 or so that tracks so well, so preserving records, whilst offering flat frequency response and an even tonal balance is, I suppose (sniff!), amazing. However, it has overblown bass and a stylus little more finessed than an agricultural implement. A dealer told me the other day he sold them 'hand over fist' – but that he hated its sound! When I asked what he would recommend from his experience, he was emphatic in praising the Audio Technica AT OC9 MLII and the new III.

So there you are. I feel mean to say anything against the poor old 103, because at the price it does give strong 'whiff of moving coil'. Unfortunately, I felt Nellie the Elephant could put on a more subtle performance in my lounge and so must join David in his 'prejudices'. I am glad you like it though; I know many others do and if the DL103 brings musical enjoyment to so many, who are we to criticise perhaps? NK



As a highly-satisfied long-term user of the Rega RB300 tonearm, I was intrigued by the reviews of the Rega RB1000 and the RB251 in your March issue. I refer to the ‘Measured Performance’ boxes and the arm vibration graphs provided by Noel. Like Noel, I too was fooled at first into thinking that these are indeed structurally different arms but the graphs don’t lie. The graphs for the RB1000 and RB251 are exactly the same! I briefly toyed with the possibility that there had been a mix-up in your office but this was quickly dismissed as highly unlikely. Noel’s commentary on the graphs adds further confusion but I have difficulty reading the frequencies off the log scale and, frankly, I’m not surprised that Noel does too. Have you ever noticed just how very similar all the Rega arm variants look?? I now understand why Rega sells the RB1000 without paint: to save the cost of the paint (of course!) and, moreover, to deceive us and charge the punters over seven times the going price for a RB251. Mr Gandy, sir - you are undone!!


Alan Warren




Measuring vibrational behaviour of a Rega arm at Hi-Fi World, using a Bruel & Kjaer accelerometer. More...


Er, yes. Perhaps so Alan. It’s always been the case that budget models make least cash profit, whilst upmarket models, if they sell, rake it in. But let’s look at the wider picture, because it is a little intriguing and may not be quite what you expect.


Chatting the other day to someone who knows the Rega arms well, I said I was surprised that with the obvious and  clearly stated success of the RB300 (Rega say on their site that the old dies wore out after 100,000 operations!) no one had ever tried to mimic or improve on it. His reply? “They can’t; he sells them at a price no one can match”. Interesting, no? It is true the RB300, now the RB301, is disproportionately good for the price. It’s a simple but beautifully executed piece of engineering, a one piece casting, that is easy to fit, lovely to use and does its job impeccably. And it costs peanuts. I suspect it is under priced to maintain market share, quite frankly.


The more expensive models share the structure and its vibrational signature, but the bearings are improved Rega say, as well as the leadout wires. They are better I feel certain, but proportionately so? Perhaps not. Somehow, because the basic arm is so cheap I really can’t find it in myself to complain much about this; so Rega rob the rich to feed the poor we might say? Perhaps we should just enjoy the fact that the RB301 is so good for so little. NK




An arm vibration analysis of the RB301 with Ortofon Cadenza Red tested in this issue - a super clean result.



I now have a Naim NAT05 tuner fed signals via a Galaxy 17 aerial and would welcome your recommendations on a recorder, new or second hand, that will record 2 hours of radio while I am out, i.e must have inbuilt timer or will start via off board timeswitch, via the analogue outputs of my amp.

thank you.


Norman Undercroft




Sony EL-7 Elcaset, an easy to use, high quality recorder, with timer start. Quality would shame modern recorders - if there were any!


I am not aware this can be done anymore Norman. Funny new world we are living in! The only new cassette deck is Sony’s TC-WE475, but it does not have the timer facility you require, and in any case 120 minute tapes were fragile. Best to get all modern fangled, go to the radio station website and download what you want. Of course, quality will be crap, usually MP3 running at 128kbps, but then it’s ‘digital init’, and that’s as far as the mindset goes nowadays in broadcasting. The quality you get from your Naim NAT05 fed from a Galaxy is now little understood or appreciated.


There is, however, a rising backlash against all this as people realise that once simple, hassle free pursuits like recording a radio programme have been made impossible for reasons no one quite seems to understand, or appreciate. Thus, cassette is now on its way back around the world, it appears.


What next? I suspect open reel, because of its vast flexibility and potential for professional recording purposes. Quality can be continually improved, where with digital recording systems it cannot, meaning everything has to be junked when a new better scheme arrives - and we have seen how popular that has been with CD’s replacement, and with DAB.


I was even being assured, the other day, that the Sony Elcaset could be revived. Apparently there are plenty of tapes available and EL-7s are, for the time being at least, available and affordable. There’s a thought for you - and it has timer recording! Bemused readers please go to /SONY/sonyvault/EL7/EL7.html, where you can see a lovely Sony brochure shot of this machine. Elcaset had fabulous quality of course and would do your NAT05 justice. NK

Comments (1)
Speaker matching with Lumley ST70
1Saturday, 02 July 2011 09:06
Mike Ford
The Output transformers on The Lumley ST70 have 4 ohm taps but these are not wired to the output terminals as standard. A competent technician should be able to alter the connections to 4 ohms.

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