Did you know that the Japanese company Denon has more than sixty years of experience in designing phono cartridges and a roaring 110 in making audio components?
With the company’s premium workmanship, you can always rely on its cartridges to produce silky-smooth sound out of your vinyl records. But which one should you go for?
In this Denon DL-110 vs. DL-103 comparison, we discuss the differences and similarities between two of Denon’s best-selling cartridges to help you make up your mind.
Let’s dive right in!
Both cartridges offer an unforgettable listening experience, but the sound of DL-103 is superior. Another upside is that this cart is more affordable than its sibling. Still, DL-103 is compatible with fewer arms than DL-110 as it works best with heavier tonearms. As for DL-110, the cart is a bit on the expensive side, but matching it to a turntable system is a bit easier than DL-103.
Denon DL-110 is a high output moving-coil (HOMC) cartridge that appeals to many audiophiles everywhere in the world. Since its launch in 1981, it’s been a highly regarded cartridge for its incredible performance and ease of use.
A lot of people associate the DL-110 with clear, silky sound, refined audio detail, and overall warmth to the music that it plays.
Introduced in 1962, Denon DL-103 can be simply described as a music lover’s dream!
Just like its sibling, the DL-103 is a moving-coil cartridge that was first released for professional use. Later in the 70s, people urged the company to create a model fit for public consumption, which is how the DL-103 ended up being an audiophile favorite today.
The DL-103 is known for sounding “more alive” than many phono cartridges out there. Of course, this is due to its classic roots.
Even though both carts promise an amazing sound quality as is the case with all Denon products, there are still some differences that set them apart from each other.
Those distinctions are related to sound, system compatibility, price, and more.
Let’s kickstart our comparison with how Denon DL-110 and DL-103 sound when you hook them to the right setup.
Generally speaking, DL-110 produces crisp and clean sound with impressive attention to the record’s details. When it comes to the treble tones, you’ll notice that they’re finely laid out without any edges, flowing seamlessly.
The midrange here is also exceptional, and it’s all thanks to the DL-110’s high output qualities. A lot of audiophiles appreciate this feature in the cartridge since it can be hard to find a decent phono cart that exists at midrange.
Finally, the DL-110 doesn’t disappoint in bass as it comes deep and consistent throughout the playback. In fact, this cart is one of the best ones to consider when aiming for strong, well-measured bass.
Once you combine all those sounds together, you should end up with a well-balanced overall sound that has a distinctive warmth to it. That’s why the cart appeals to a large base of audio enthusiasts.
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The sound of DL-103 has been described as superior to that of its sibling over and over. But what’s the reason behind this characterization?
First off, the DL-103 cart offers a much deeper and livelier sound wrapped in edginess and personality. It simply boasts the same vibes you’d get listening to a vintage record player, making it the perfect choice for lovers of the classic rock golden age.
Second off, this cartridge features magnificent dynamic contrast in its audio output, which many users like to call a “three-dimensional effect.” It’s almost like you’re witnessing a live performance!
The depth and richness of the bass and vocals are also a plus point here. However, despite all its qualities, DL-103 sometimes delivers flat treble tones when compared to DL-110.
Nevertheless, this downside wasn’t usually a deal-breaker for most people who did sound tests on both cartridges.
To bring out the best tones of each cartridge, tonearm mass is a major factor to consider when deciding on Denon DL-110 vs. DL-103. The same applies to the entire turntable system you’ll pair them with.
After several instances of trial and error, we discovered the DL-110 does a beautiful job with tonearms of medium to light mass.
Also, the cartridge is a bit more user-friendly than its cousin because it’s compatible with a wider range of turntables. As a result, you won’t have to be an audio expert to include it in a proper Hi-Fi system.
Some of the best turntables that this cartridge shines brighter with are:
- Denon DP-47F
- Rega P6
- Music Hall MMF 7.1
On the contrary, you’ll get the most desirable listening experience out of the DL-103 if you pair it with a heavier tonearm.
However, it might take you several attempts to find the perfect system components to align seamlessly with this cartridge. So, be prepared for an extensive search until you find a setup that will satisfy your audiophile requirements.
A few turntables that sound great with DL-103 include:
- Denon DP-59L
- Technics SP-25
- Audio Technica ATP-12T
Both cartridges ultimately belong to the same price range in the big scope of things, which is best described as mid-tier. Yet, one is slightly more expensive than the other.
Despite being lower in price when it first came out, the DL-110’s price has skyrocketed in recent years.
A lot of people don’t think that purchasing this cartridge is a good deal anymore, especially since there’s a general consensus that DL-103 delivers more premium audio.
The DL-103 cart is more affordable and provides amazing value for the money, and we can safely say that this is the cart’s biggest selling point.
Even though it’s a bit harder to match with other audio components, many people are willing to give it a shot simply due to the good balance of price and performance.
As we’ve previously mentioned, both cartridges fall under the same price range where they’re suitable enough for most audiophile budgets.
In addition to that, the DL-110 and DL-103 are made with top-quality, durable materials and high-end finishes that allow them to provide a smooth listening experience.
These materials include copper, aluminum, plastic, ferrite, and even diamond to promise longevity, stability, and more.
What they also have in common is the frequency range, which extends from 20 Hz all the way to 45,000 Hz. The same goes for the recommended resistance to use with them, which starts at 100 ohms and ends with 250 ohms.
Denon DL-110 shines in the following areas:
First off, it offers more compatibility with various tonearms, turntable decks, and amps. That’s why it’s a bit more user-friendly for the average music lover.
Second off, it has better treble delivery and less chance of it falling flat when compared to Denon DL-103. Let’s not forget that this beast can drape a much cozier and warmer effect on your records.
This is all thanks to its overall balance of treble, midrange, and bass tones, which can be tricky to find in a phono cartridge at such a price.
The Denon DL-103 has different strength points, but its most appreciated feature is its superior sound quality. Simply, the cartridge delivers an open sound image that sounds more alive, which is the best way to describe the produced audio.
Plus, the cartridge is famous for its edgier and deeper bass and vocals, not to mention that it’s more classic-sounding. It’s almost like playing a turntable in the 70s or 80s!
Last but not least, the Denon DL-103 has more value for the price, which is definitely one of its key selling points.
Based on what we’ve learned about the Denon DL-110 cartridge, it’s safe to say that we recommend it for people looking for a detailed, clean sound. If you want a well-balanced playback with smooth transitions, this cart should do a wonderful job here.
We also suggest you get the DL-110 if you’ve only recently entered the world of turntable customization. You can’t go wrong with finding suitable audio components with this buddy, from the tonearm to the amp to the deck.
Audiophiles with a love for a good challenge may prefer to give DL-103 a shot. That’s because the cartridge doesn’t easily click into place with most setups, so you’ll need to have enough patience to try it with different systems until it gives you what you want.
Also, DL-103 may be the better choice if you’re looking for a cartridge with great value for the price. You can’t ignore that it delivers top-notch sound quality at a more affordable price than DL-110.