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Denon DL304
Measured Performance
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Denon started out as the Nippon Columbia Company in 1910 manufacturing records and gramophones. The name came out of the 1947 merger of this company with Japan Denki Onkyo.  They have been making cartridges for many years, the DL103 being introduced in 1964 and is still in production. The DL304 under discussion here is a more recent design but has still been around for over a decade.
    It comes with an eye catching gold coloured aluminium alloy body with an elliptical (0.07 x 0.1mm) solid diamond tip on the cantilever. Output is very low which wasn’t a problem for the Agena with it’s ability to match most cartridges, but could be unsuited to some other phonostages. (The Rothwell Rialto reviewed elsewhere in the issue lacked enough gain with this cartridge to give a satisfactory output without turning the volume up quite a lot.)denon-dl-304-rear
    This is one of those cartridges that doesn’t immediately impress but wins the listener over as you realise what a generally neutral performer it is. Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’ ballet music starts gently as the characters are introduced and then builds into a complex burst of strings. It was written for a thirteen piece chamber orchestra and I felt as though each of the performers was securely placed in a semi-circle in front of me. The imaging was helped by a very lucid mid-band which seemed to present micro-details of the bowing in an unobtrusive way that seeped into my consciousness.
    Rather more raw sounding material from Janis Joplin was handled with equal aplomb, with Janis’ voice, always difficult to reproduce correctly, displaying the gravelly throatiness for which she was known, without creating harsh or abrasive sounds from it, as so many cartridges can do. The guitars had a cutting edge to them that was not over emphasised, but should satisfy most fans of the genre.
    The gentle electronica of Air’s ‘Moon Safari’ proved easy fodder for the Denon, with again an unflustered air to the proceedings that seemed an honest rendition of what was in the grooves. The soundstage was deceptively large, the appearance of noises at the extreme edges serving to locate it’s boundaries.
    Even older mono records were treated with respect, surface noise being of minimal intrusion, and the focus staying firmly on the musical contents of the groove, rather than on it’s condition. I found the DL304 to be a solid performer that I grew to like more with each track that I played. I liked the ease and sense of balance to the sound, where the bass treble and mid seemed to get equal billing. It also seemed to display an even handed attitude to musical genre. The only drawback that I found was the low output and consequent matching problems, but if this can be solved then the Denon DL304 seemed a well balanced and self effacing performer.



Easy going and quite detailed sounding cartridge.

- smooth and detailed
- mid-band detail.
- good image.

- very low output.

Denon DL304   £429.95
+44 (0)2890 270830


Output from the DL-304 was very low, measuring just 0.18mV at 5cms/sec rms and this demands use of a phono stage that is very quiet and has plenty of gain, 70dB or more. Even then mild hiss may be just audible.
   At the unusually low tracking force of 1.2gms tracking was poor, so 1.4gms was used, the quoted upper limit. This gave good results, although still way off what is possible, with a high lateral 63µm being cleared and 20cms/sec at 1kHz. The Denon  cleared high level test tracks, but not the highest torture tracks.
    Frequency response was almost ruler flat right out to 20kHz, almost as flat as CD! On inner grooves tracing loss introduced a small amount of treble fall, just enough to soften the sound a tad. This is a very accurate and neutral cartridge.
    The vertical tracking angle measured 25 degrees. As a result distortion was low at 3% on vertical modulation, mostly second and third harmonics. Lateral distortion was also low, measuring 1%.
    The Denon DL-304 needs a top quality phono stage, but it otherwise measures well and may well sound very good. NK

Tracking force    1.2gms
Weight    7gms
Vertical tracking angle    25degrees
Frequency response    20Hz - 20kHz
Channel separation    28dB
Tracking ability (300Hz)
lateral    65µm
vertical    45µm
lateral (1kHz)    20cms/sec.
Distortion (45µm)
lateral    1%
vertical    3%
Output (5cms/sec rms)    0.18mV



Red - inner grooves



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