Denon DL-110... disappointing and frustrating

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by violarules, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. violarules

    violarules Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Baltimore, MD
    A couple of months ago I bought a new Denon DL-110 cartridge (from Amazon) to replace the AT440mla I had for years. It has been nothing but frustrating out of the box. Here are some of the issues I have had:

    1. The cartridge was riding extremely low on some records right out of the box. I checked and double-checked set-up and tracking force and thought I might have gotten one with a bad suspension. Then I read that the DL-110 is prone to being magnetically attracted to metal platters. That was the problem. Ever since, I have a junker "dummy" record riding beneath the disc I am playing to provide some kind of shielding. It's a temporary fix, but short of getting a new TT or platter, it's what I have for now.

    2. I am not crazy about the sound. It has a bigger soundstage than the 440mla perhaps, but the bass response is underwhelming. Considering that weaker bass is supposed to be the achilles heel of the 440mla, this is saying something.

    3. The stylus most definitely shreds my styrene records. I have several styrene 45's. Luckily the first I played was not one of my favorites and I quickly realized what was happening. Still, again, the 440mla is supposed to shred styrene, not the Denon, but the opposite was my experience.

    I have set up many cartridges with no problems. The Denon DL-110 has been nothing but a series of frustrations and disappointments. I might just put the AT cartridge back on and get a new stylus for it.
    VinylSoul likes this.
  2. needlestein

    needlestein Forum Resident

    New England
    I don't know about the styrene shredding issue, but this definitely sounds like a bad match for your turntable. If your DL-110 is attracted to your metal platter (must be ferrous, not aluminum) then any moving coil cartridge is a bad idea for you. High output moving coil cartridges like the DL-110 could be especially problematic.

    If I were playing styrene, I would probably get a conical stylus for the AT440-MLa in addition to the replacement ML stylus. The only drawback is that Audio-Technica styli aren't the easiest to swap on the fly when switching between record types.

    You might want to look at Nagaoka cartridges. They sound great--very "moving coil" like if that's a proper description, offer a lot of different stylus types, and stylus swapping is easy. Lots of bass, too.
  3. bleachershane

    bleachershane Forum Resident

    Glasgow, Scotland
    With a quick Google I found that when playing styrene records, it's best not to use anything but a conical stylus.

    Is it possible that the Denon is 'shredding' the styrene due to the cartridge being drawn to the ferrous platter? I'm not sure that placing an extra record between the Denon and the ferrous platter will entirely block the attraction, thereby causing the Denon to drag through styrene discs?
  4. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    MC carts have very strong magnets and should not be used with ferrous metal platters. Either upgrade your stock platter to something like acrylic or glass, or get rid of the 110 and stick with MM/MI carts.
  5. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    If i,m not mistaken Denon lovers use it in certain arms/turntables. No doubt loading plays its part.
    I don,t think its a fit and forget cartridge. Properly set up it exceeds sum of the parts .
    mrdon, HiFi Guy, SandAndGlass and 2 others like this.
  6. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Sorry to hear your trouble with the DL-110, I love the cart, but have a pretty typical setup, (aluminum platter, s-shaped arm) and
    don't play styrene records.
    Mr.Sneis likes this.
  7. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Likewise I am sorry to hear about so much trouble. Concerning styrene, my personal experience playing them on elliptical styli has been perfect, never any damage. I own many vintage styrene LP's and 45's.

    A word about the conical stylus on any record including styrene: The conical stylus can be problematic on heavily modulated 45's, very often produce sibilance and inner groove distortion. (pinch distortion) In my experience, records cut more conservatively (not as loud) are more compatible with a conical. 78's sound great on a conical because of their more relaxed groove pitch, even when cut hot.
    nosliw likes this.
  8. james

    james Forum Resident

    I did the opposite. I went from the AT to the Denon. Both set up easily in a Rega, but I much preferred the warmer, more balanced sound of the Denon. I appreciated the qualities of the 440 while I used it but I ultimately found it harsher and brighter than I prefer.
    HiFi Guy, stereoguy and willboy like this.
  9. Mr.Sneis

    Mr.Sneis Forum Resident

    Phoenix, AZ
    Just wrong choice of cart for your needs. The dl110 is a nice cart, have had it on a few tables and yet to disappoint!
  10. Bob_in_OKC

    Bob_in_OKC Forum Resident

    There’s a Pro-Ject acrylic platter in the classifieds. It should fit the Music Hall and not pull on MC cartridges.
    nosliw, The FRiNgE and Mr.Sneis like this.
  11. stereoguy

    stereoguy Its Gotta Be True Stereo!

    Perhaps it just a matter of synergy.......maybe your table and the Denon are simply not a good love match.
    Shak Cohen and Thorensman like this.
  12. willboy

    willboy Forum Resident

    Wales, UK
    Me too. I recall missing the treble bite of the 440 at first, but soon got over it. A lovely cartridge is the DL110.
    Sidevalve likes this.
  13. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Ya, btw, I also went from an AT-440 (which I liked,) to the DL-110. The 110 is a more musical cart, with a bigger soundstage. I am actually on my 2nd one, (might end up buying again!)
    Bill Why Man likes this.
  14. Gretsch6136

    Gretsch6136 Forum Resident

    If you don't love a Denon DL-110 you're doing something terribly wrong!
  15. Shiver

    Shiver Forum Resident

    Other issues aside, what gain has your phono stage got? My 110 seemed happiest with 44dB vs. 40 dB on one (adjustable) unit; and somewhat flat with another unit set at 38dB. Seemed important.
  16. EddieVanHalen

    EddieVanHalen Well-Known Member

    I used a Denon DL-160 for years (DL-110 big brother) and when it came the time to change it, last May, as the DL-160 was discontinued I went straight for the DL-110, which with good setting up and around 100 hours of break in sounds as good as the DL-160, that's it like an oitstanding sounding bargain.
    Bill Why Man and Mr.Sneis like this.
  17. LitHum05

    LitHum05 American Expat Audiophile

    Taipei, Taiwan
    I just swapped out a DL 110. It’s fussy to set up. Very sensitive. And underwhelming bass response. Also, not a good match for all vintage low-watt receivers. It’s all about synergy.
  18. Interesting. I've had an opposite experience. I have a DL-110 on my Thorens TD-160 that delivers a deep, beautiful, smooth sound with a delightfully nimble bass through my relatively low-wattage McIntosh MA 5100 (tho' it's a preamp/amp, not a receiver).

    It's not fussy at all. It plays like a champ through everything I throw at it and is sturdy as a rock. I'm on my second one (after the DL-160's unfortunate discontinuation).

    I'm sure there's better out there, but for under-$200, I likely couldn't buy better cartridge-amp synergy.

    All the best and good luck finding the cartridges for you,

  19. I found that the Denon DL-110's I used really like those big ol' s-shaped arms. On my low-mass, straight arm it did exactly the same thing you report: very little bass & wimpy sound. It just kind of shrunk & I actually thought I wired it up wrong, but no. Nothing I could do to fix it, so I am gifting it to a buddy with a vintage Technics direct-drive with an s-shaped arm that positively rocks with a DL-110 on it. I settled on the LP Gear AT95SA for my low-mass arm & it is insane-sounding for the price. What was wrong with your AT440?
    LP Gear AT95SA phono cartridge
  20. mertoo

    mertoo Forum Resident

    Exactly; it was dull and silent when I tried with my Marantz's own phono but it worked great with my Schiit Mani with it's HOMC settings at 48dB.
    mrdon and Shiver like this.
  21. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Ya, that's what I have my DL-110 on (Denon direct drive, S-shaped arm). Love the sound.
    Sidevalve, Shak Cohen and Old Rusty like this.
  22. violarules

    violarules Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Baltimore, MD
    OP here, thanks for all of your thoughts.

    It seems like Denon just might not be a good match for my Music Hall 2.1. TT. It is admittedly an early version of the 2.1, about 20 years old. Perhaps the Denon pairs best with heavier tonearms. My phono pre is on the MM input. The "low" MC setting had much too much gain and distorted.

    The reason I got a replacement for my AT440mla is because I felt like the tracking ability had dropped off recently (I've had the cart for 7-8 years). Most notably, on a very few records, when there were overmodulated passages, I was getting some pops. The strange thing is that, to me, it didn't sound like mistracking so much as something else. Now the Denon is doing the same thing (again, in very few records, but the same ones), so I am wondering if the problem is not somewhere else in the system, perhaps in the phono stage. Too bad my receiver does not have a phono stage, or I would try that and bypass my Jolida phono pre.
  23. dividebytube

    dividebytube Forum Resident

    Grand Rapids, MI
    Just to add to the chorus: I used the Denon DL-110 on two turntables, a VPI HW19 Mark III with an RB300 tonearm, and a VPI Aries I with the JMW 10.5 tonearm.

    The budget limitations of the DL-110 were a little more evident on the Aries table but it was still an enjoyable cartridge; more sins of omission than anything else. It was very musical. It was replaced by a Dynavector 10X5 which was better suited for rock 'n' roll; at least in my setup.
  24. needlestein

    needlestein Forum Resident

    New England
    Pops in the same place with two different cartridges sounds like its time for an RCM.
    TheVU likes this.
  25. violarules

    violarules Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Baltimore, MD
    I have one, and I can't say off hand if I have cleaned the few records it happens on. But it does happen on peaks only, so I don't think it's just dirt.

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