In my blog post about the Audio MusiKraft tunable Denon DL-103 phonograph cartridge last weekend, I described its performance in comparison to my stock Denon DL-103 on my vintage Thorens TD-124, that was restored and hot-rodded by Christopher Thornton at Artisan Fidelity.
I listened to the two Denon’s with identical Audio-Technica AT-HS1 headshells and identical sets of Art of Tone 22GA headshell leads to make sure the Denon’s were on a level playing field.
Direct comparison of the stock Denon DL-103 to the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 revealed that the Audio MusiKraft version is in a completely different league musically & sonically.
I’ve always liked the Denon DL-103, and for good reason, as it’s got a great balance of musicality & sonics at an extremely friendly price point for its rather lofty level of performance.
Listening to the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 with its CNC’d aluminum cartridge shell replacing the stock Denon’s plastic cartridge was revelatory, and those attributes that I thought were endemic to the DL-103’s design – a somewhat tipped-up top-end and slightly emasculated bass response – disappeared with the aluminum cartridge shell of the Audio MusiKraft equipped Denon DL-103.
However, it’s not what disappeared that was the real story with the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103, it’s what emerged that really impressed me.
Besides the now well-balanced top-to-bottom frequency response courtesy of the aluminum cartridge shell equipped Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103, what emerged was a whole new level of rich natural musicality and impressive sonics that I had not realized the humble Denon DL-103 was capable of.
That delightful sense of spooky “real” presence of musicians in the room increased considerably, as did the sense of space, depth, and layering of the soundstage.
There was also more musically relevant nuance and detail present, in tone color resolution, in dynamics, in timbral realism, and just an overall better articulation and presentation of real musicians playing real instruments.
The tonal balance of the instruments sounded more natural to me, and I thought the tonal balance in the high-frequencies was far superior.
Dynamics – and particularly dynamic nuance – was improved in a way that brought vivacious life to melodies, which gave me more insight and appreciation for what the musicians were accenting as they played.
I also thought images had more body, with a greater sense of space around them, and the whole of the string tone was represented rather than just the leading edge of the treble, which gave the music a more organic and realistic feel.
The Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 has articulate tone color resolution, a beautiful overall tonal balance, a realistic timbral signature, and an excellent portrayal of tempos, rhythm, melody, and beat that I found made music listening very satisfying.
Overall it gives the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 a natural, colorful, lively, and articulate presentation that makes music exciting and fun to listen to.
If I stopped right there the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 would be an easy recommendation, but there’s a lot more to the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 than an aluminum cartridge shell.
The Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 also has a sophisticated ability to be fine tuned via three micro-tuning screws in the aluminum cartridge shell, and by installing a variety of wood species inserts into the top and side receptacles of the cartridge shell.
I had earlier asked Guy Pelletier, proprietor of Audio MusiKraft, for a recommendation about implementing the tunability features of the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103.
Guy recommended I first start by listening to the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 with its aluminum cartridge shell in its nude state, without the wood voicing inserts, nor the tuning screws engaged, which is what I reported upon last weekend in comparing it to the stock Denon DL-103.
Next Guy advised me to listen to the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 with its aluminum cartridge shell in its nude state, without the wood voicing inserts, but with the tuning screws engaged.
Here’s what Guy suggested for my first adventure engaging the aluminum cartridge shell’s tuning screws:
First, engage the rear tuning screws with very slight contact on the cartridge, and then give the cartridge a listen. Then disengage the rear tuning screws and give it another listen.
Second, engage the front tuning screw with very slight contact on the pole piece, and then give it a listen.
Ok, that’s it for tonight!
Check back with me tomorrow and I’ll tell you about my first experience adjusting the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103’s aluminum cartridge shell’s fine-tuning screws.
It’s Sunday morning and I’m up early like usual, have had my first cup of coffee, and have been already thinking about my adventure of adjusting the tuning screws in the Audio MusiKraft tunable Denon DL-103 phono cartridge.
Guy has some really helpful setup and tuning videos about the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 on his web site’s Instructions page.
Guy’s Torquing the MusiKraft’s Shell Fine-Tuning Micro Setscrews Video
I’ve put the link to Guy’s instructional YouTube video Torquing the MusiKraft’s Shell Fine-Tuning Micro Setscrews below, which I wanted to watch before trying to adjust the micro-tuning screws myself, to make sure I completely understood how to proceed.
Let me mention a few of the salient points from Guy’s instructional video.
Firstly, when an Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 cartridge is shipped to its new owner the micro-tuning screws are not engaged, which gives the new owner a listening baseline to start from that reflects only the improvement wrought by CNC’d Audio MusiKraft cartridge shell.
This is how I’ve listened to the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 since its arrival, and it is very apparent that replacing the Denon DL-103’s stock plastic cartridge shell with the Audio MusiKraft CNC’d aluminum cartridge shell makes for a very significant difference in the Denon’s performance.
Truly, if the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 aluminum cartridge shell wasn’t tunable at all, it would still be an easy recommendation for the big improvement it brings musically & sonically to the classic Denon DL-103 over the stock plastic cartridge shell.
Secondly, Guy says the Audio MusiKraft cartridge shell’s rear tuning screws’ threads limit the range of motion of the tuning screws in order to protect the cartridge’s internals from damage due overzealous tightening.
The rear tuning screws allow for up to a quarter turn of adjustment.
If you try to turn the tuning screws more than that you risk damaging the threads in the cartridge shell.
Thirdly, Guy describes adjustment of the front tuning screw that contacts the pole piece of the Denon DL-103, which can be done while the cartridge is installed on the tonearm.
In the video Guy demonstrates lightly screwing in the front tuning screw until it contacts the pole piece.
Once the tuning screw lightly contacts the pole piece, Guy recommends no more than an additional eighth turn of the tuning screw, which puts quite a lot of tension on the pole piece.
Guy suggests very tiny careful adjustments to the front tuning screw up to its eighth turn maximum to adjust the sound, as very small adjustments make a dramatic difference to the cartridge’s sound.
Finally, Guy emphasizes that the tuning screws are not there to hold the Denon DL-103 in place in the aluminum cartridge shell, rather their only purpose is to allow the listener to fine tune the sound of the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103.
That’s a summary of the major points in Guy’s video, but I encourage you to watch the video a few times to make sure you understand how it all works before attempting to adjust your own Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103.
Ok, that’s it for now, as my stomach has started growling, so I’m going to go eat a little breakfast, and then I’ll resume my audio adventure with the Audio MusiKraft tunable Denon DL-103.
Check back a little later for more!
Alas, the best laid plans … Sunday didn’t go as expected, so experimenting with tuning screws of the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 didn’t happen.
With a little luck, I’m hoping to begin my experimentation with the tuning screws tonight (Monday evening), so check back tonight.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!