DPU-103 – noble, heavy and musically exciting

Denon 103 meets real wood-aluminium housing

The DPU-103 is both a reminiscence of the legendary Ortofon pickup units and a tribute to the long-running Denon 103. It maintains the virtues of the latter, but enhances it visually and, above all, sonically.

MK Analogue phono cartridge DPU-103 – Denon 103 in wooden pickup unit

The eye- and ear-catcher DPU-103

Visually, our DPU-103 is an eye-catcher on any turntable, especially those with a classic look. It is made for use on a heavy tonearm that can balance the 32 gram weight. We are convinced that a Denon 103 can only perform at its best on a heavy arm. And the DPU-103 is in top form. By the way: You can send an existing Denon 103 to your MK Analogue dealer and we will upgrade it to the DPU-103 at a correspondingly lower price (see below).

Collage of DPU-103 cartridge: downside, side and top side with spirit level

Construction of the DPU-103

It is the special mix of materials that provides excellent damping properties and characterises the sound of the DPU-103: We chose walnut wood for the body, after also diligently experimenting with other types of wood. The two CNC-milled wooden elements are connected to a classic aluminium headshell.

Walnut has the advantage that it is quite hard on the one hand and quite light on the other. It is therefore very suitable for damping the resonances of metallic materials, and due to its low mass, the material does not add any “wooden” sound of its own.

The selected Denon 103 sits in its own CNC milled and anodised frame.

This has two advantages:

  • The aluminium frame with base encloses the Denon plastic housing tightly. The plastic housing of the Denon DL-103 can therefore no longer resonate.
  • Thanks to the screw connection with the additional aluminium frame, the pressure of the fastening screws on the plastic housing of the Denon DL-103 is reduced, which would otherwise “relax / flow” over time. Then the pickup would not only become loose, but the sound would also become spongy.

Blue and helpful: the integrated spirit level

A blue spirit level sits in the upper walnut panel, seamlessly integrated. It helps to set the correct VTA (tonearm height) and azimut. The needle distance is based on the standard measurement of an Ortofon SPU, and of course the whole thing is made for tonearms with SME connection.

Top view of the MK Analogue DPU-103 with its integrated blue spirit level

The Involving Sound of the DPU-103

We wanted to retain the basic character of the Denon 103 in any case. We love this pickup for its relaxed basic tuning, its extremely high musicality, which predestines it for long-term listening. This is good-mood sound, it rocks, it has power and dynamics. But no analytics, no annoying, artificial treble—and no artificial spatiality either. And there is one more thing to emphasize from a technical point of view with the Denon 103: At 35 to 40 dB, it delivers fantastic values for channel separation, i.e. the best prerequisite for great stereo imaging.

Nevertheless, there are a few things that bother us a little about the “normal” 103:

the somewhat impetuous, nervous bass reproduction (the plastic housing alone is the main culprit here)
the sometimes slightly clashing mids
a few per cent of resolution missing in the high frequencies

All this improves with the DPU-103:

  • The bass is more contoured, more precise.
  • The fundamental range grooves a little more.
  • The pickup sounds more full-bodied, richer, more tangible—especially in the mids. There are more tonal colours in play!
  • The localisation sharpness increases.
  • The resolution in the treble is improved—but far away from the bred treble of other cartridges. The conical needle caut naturally remains the natural limitation.

All in all, this is now an absolutely fully-fledged pickup that lives up to the Denon virtues and makes gains in exactly the right places.

MK Analogue DPU-103 – phono cartridge standing sideways, view on downside

Suitable tonearms and phono preamplifiers for the DPU-103

A heavy tonearm is a must

If you want to get the maximum out of a Denon 103, use a heavy tonearm. The stylus compliance is low, even it is a little higher than the 5 µm/mN in the data sheet. No matter: This value speaks in favour of a tonearm with weight. There aren’t that many on the market anymore: The GrooveMaster III or GrooveMaster 4 is made for the DPU-103. At 22 to 29 grams, it is a real board and can balance the 32 gram tonearm well. A Thorens TP-160 also works well!

MC phono or transformer?

The output voltage of the DPU-103 is rather low at 0.3 mV, so we are already approaching an SPU. For the latter, a transformer is almost mandatory; opinions differ on the Denon. In any case, you need a low-noise and high-quality MC phono preamp.

The DPU-103 enters into a dream marriage with our MK Analogue SUT-1M transformer. In fact, this step-up and its performance with a Denon 103 was the motivation to create the DPU-103. In any case, I can only recommend listening to the DPU-103 with a ratio of 1:10 and a terminating resistor of 470 ohms. You will certainly enjoy this combination!

Technical data and details, price

MaterialWalnut solid wood, aluminium (headshell + frame)
DC resistancearound 40 Ω
Output voltage0,3 mV
Channel balance< 2 dB (50 to 5.000 Hz)
Frequency range10–45.000 Hz
Channel separation35 to 41 dB (depending on Denon 103)
Stylus formConical
Compliance5 µm/mN (in the real world 8 to 9 µm/mN)
Tracking ability70 µm
Recommended tracking force2,6 to 2,8 grams
Load resistance400 to 1.000 Ω, am MK Analogue SUT-1M 470 Hz (1 : 10)
Dimensions55 × 19 × 23 mm
(length to SME connector; height to needle; width without bracket)
Weight32 grams
Azimut adjustmentyes, via screw at headshell
Price980 €

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