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Ken Micallef
Financial Interests: click here
Digital Source: MacBook, Mhdt Laboratory Paradisea 3 (1940s Mullard tube upgrade), Western Digital T2 Mirror Drive (X4)
Analog Source: Kuzma Stabi/Stogi turntable/arm combo, Denon DL-103, Auditorium 23 Denon step-up transformer [on loan], TSD15 cartridge with Super Fine-line Stylus [for review]
Preamp: Shindo Allegro
Power amp: Shindo Haut Brion
Speakers: DeVore Fidelity Nines, DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 3XLs [in for review]
Cables: Auditorium A23 speaker cables, Shindo interconnects
Stands: Salamander rack, 2" Mapleshade platforms (8" x 15" x 2")
Powerline conditioning: JPS Labs Kaptovator, Shunyata Black Mamba and Anaconda Vx Powersnakes, Shunyata Hydra 4 [on loan]
Accessories: 3" studio treatment foam damping/ceiling-wall treatment
Room size: 24' x 12', short-wall setup, suspended wood floor, 1-foot deep plaster-covered 2 x 4 walls, wood-beam 10' to 11' ceiling
Component under review: $1.950

Like a handful of 6moons writers I have found myself entranced by the low cost but high performance Denon DL-103 stereo cartridge. The Denon has considerable jump factor, a strong sense of musical body and warmth and vibrant tonality. One can forgive its slightly forward character in the same way you'd let a good friend dominate the conversation particularly if he had something of value to say.

"The DL103 is actually voiced very clever," Frederic Beudot remarked in his review of the Dynavector 20X-2. "It takes exposure to a cartridge not voiced the same way to realize that the DL103's midrange is actually slightly forward (especially in the upper midrange). That creates a feeling of enhanced contrast in that range coupled with a slightly 'edgy' character. Voilà, the recipe for this very dynamic but at times also in-yer-face expressivity we have learnt to love in the Denon."

And... "Denon's DL-103 is probably the most sold MC cartridge ever and unabashedly a classic of hifi history," Ralph Werner stated in his review of Zu Audio's modded Denon DL-103. "Developed in the 60s for studio and broadcast use, the device quickly invaded audiophile consciousness and nowadays is a standard sighting in analogue households. Why this unbroken popularity is obvious: the cart is robust, bloody affordable and sounds good. It's one of those products where I wonder how much more one should really want. Kinda. Compared to more modern and expensive carts, you will notice more possibilities. Regardless, the Denon gets far more right than not and has its heart in the proper place. It's too dynamic to be boring, not resolved enough to go on your nerves."

Frederic and Ralph nailed it so I won't add much ink by way of elaborating on the 103's sonic attributes. I have owned several 103s through the years. It's a reliable go-to cart, never boring and it always adds spice (Tabasco) to the music. But it's undoubtedly long in the tooth, can sound a tad aggressive at times and I wouldn't call it refined or the ultimate in resolution. So when I was considering upgrading carts, I wanted to stay in the same sonic family or at least take under consideration a cartridge that is also a true hifi standard; which had deep roots in the studio and broadcast industry and is produced by a company with a great history of not only acclaimed cartridges but legendary turntables as well. That made the EMT TSD 15 the obvious choice.

EMT: An abbreviated history.
EMT founder Wilhelm Franz was born 1913 in Bremen, Germany. Relocating to Berlin he got his start working with test equipment and within 27 years (1940) had founded 'Electrical Measuring Technology (Elektro-MeßTechnik) William Franz K.G.' where he further developed measuring equipment and began designing and manufacturing transcription turntables. (From Wiki: "The [EMT] logo of an 'arrowhead' was chosen as a symbol of the passage of an electric signal in an electronic circuitry"). The company halted business during WWII but soon afterwards in alliance with companies like Studer developed a worldwide sales network focusing on the broadcast sector. Supplying radio stations and recording studios with Ortofon pickup heads, EMT soon began making their own unique Ortofon inspired mono pickups.