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Denon 103R with SME3012


Sep 10, 2023
Hello everyone.

I have recently installed my new Denon 103R cartridge on a SME 3012 tonearm. I have been recommended by friends to look for a suitable head shell for this combination. Furthermore I've been told that a proper counter weight and rider weight, can have noticeable effect on the sound.

I have tried to do a little bit of research on my own, however my poor knowledge concerning this subject seems to be stopping me.

I stumbled upon an article about Van den Hul that exemplifies how to go on. Please see the attached photos.

Skærmbillede 2023-10-03 kl. 18.47.16.png

Skærmbillede 2023-10-03 kl. 18.47.23.png

I'm not sure how to proceed, but my question is. What head shell would be suitable for the combination of Denon 103R and SME3012? Would a counter and a rider weight add substance to the sound overall? What should I look for?

Thank you very much in advance.


Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Oct 11, 2018
I'm just going to give you an 'off the shelf practical' opinion--nothing to back it up other than it has worked for me. Historical background: your 103 design with its ball point pen stylus is from around 1962. Not too compliant, tracking at close to 3g, possibly 2.5 on a good day.

Likewise, 3012 design was from the late '50s. In Europe folks used them with one of the Ortofon SPU variants, similar in compliance to the 103 (I imagine, but have not looked specifically).

The key to the DL103 (as with any phono cartridge) is keeping it in the groove, which will require a tracking force at its upper end, likely. Stability is important. I've used them in both lower mass and higher mass arms, all with pretty good results, as long as the tracking force remained around the higher 2.8g figure.

A lot of theoretical stuff is of limited value, at least for your living room, and very much is going to come down to trial and error. You might however track down one of the consumer oriented test records. Shure used to make them, but there are others, more recent. On the Shure Era 5 test record, to use an example, you start with the arm/resonance band and adjust your arm's parameters until you get the best combo. You can actually see the stylus moving around, wobbly bouncing within the grooves on the higher recorded levels. Adding or subtracting headshell mass and adjusting tracking force in order to get the best results in your very own system. Which will probably also be affected by not only the arm's specs, but the design and placement of the record player it's attached to.

As a general rule (from experience) I've typically found that higher tracking forces are best. Back in the day, in the '60s through mid '70s, tracking at even under one gram was touted as something important. By the late '70s, with the introduction (in the US) and popularization of Japanese moving coils, people began to accept that tracking at upwards of 3g was not something to worry about. Especially with the then newer line contact diamonds that 'spread the load' out within the groove. Something, BTW, your Denon doesn't have. They should work on that, bringing back the 103D variant. And for crying out loud, Denon should definitely bring back their trade in for retipping discount.
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