This is my 6th cartridge worth more that a 100, but this beat the others in overall presentation, yes the Grado Platinum have better bass, the Sumiko Blue Point better highs, the At 440 better tracking, but the DL 160 have enough of those characteristics to do magic with every kind of music. In one phrase "the DL 160 is to cartridges, what the Grado 60 is to headphones".
I recently got an all-new (to me) 2-channel-only system. The cartridge and speakers were bought new, the rest used. I had been living for years with a crappy Technics P-Mount turntable, which was replaced by a Music Hall MMF-5. Although I had put an Ortofon MCP-15 moving coil on Technics, the turntable was just two noisy to get me excited about my records.
That has changed with my new system. I am hearing new detail and complexity on my LPs, sometimes for the first time. In particular, I can here bass tracks note-for-note, that used to disappear into the rest of the music. While some of this may be partly due to the rest of the system, that detail was turned into an electric signal first, by the cartridge.
I read other reviews of this cartridge here and at other sites, so I expected to be pleasantly surprised, and indeed I have been. I have had some very highly regarded cartridges in the past, and am hearing more now, so it can't be bad!
I love this cartridge and highly recommend it.
I think it is quite stunning to read so many reviews on such a small thing, the Denon DL-60 cartridge. I haven been using it for more than 10 years if I'm not mistaken. First on a Thorens 480 player, but later I switched to a Technics SL-1710 and it still amazes me how well it reproduces the music. And music is a thing we must enjoy foremost. I use it with a Rotel RA980-BX amplifier and this one has a very good phono stage, both for MM and MC cartridges. The DL-160 performs well with the MM output, but really shines on the MC output. It sounds crisp, clean, with lots of detail, depth and a lot of dynamics. A lot better anyway than all things I used before (Stanton, Shure and Pickering). I still have lots of LP's, so there is still a lot to enjoy. One example; I have a recording of Romeo and Juliet with Ricardo Muti and this LP has more dynamics than I ever got from the CD. After all these years it still astounds me. The price I paid is not exactly budget in my view, but worth every penny paid for it.
There exist a few things in our universe that polarize the opinion of any group of people into two camps: you either love it or hate it, period. I can think of no three better examples (moral and political themes aside) of this strange phenomenon than operatic music, Durian fruit and the venerable DL-160 high output moving coil cartridge. It seemed after reading every review I could about Durian fruit that people either fell in love with the taste or described the smell as "rotting carrion...". I tried Durian anyway and loved it. Keep that in mind reading this review.
If you are STILL reading this review than you are probably either starting to research cartridges or knee deep in online cartridge literature. So here is my two cents worth... hope it helps. First off, for the money I paid I do not consider the DL-160 a budget cartridge. 90 Euro for a cartridge was more than I wanted to spend. Do I have any regrets? None at all! I am a grad student, and as such I do not always have the resources to pay as much as required for a mint copy of artist X, especially the older jazz. I very often have to settle for VG+ condition (and have often settled for less). All my vinyl is hand washed using a Knosti LP cleaner with a super secret cleaning solution ;)... so at least the LPs hit my deck clean as a whistle. (It's amazing how much old tobacco tar and grime come of second hand LPs that look pristine... yuck.) The diamond on the DL-160 is tiny, far surpassing anything in this price range and well beyond. The result is a cartridge that is very forgiving of vinyl in less than stellar quality. It reaches FAR into the groove to extract the analog gold hidden within. Surface noise is reduced and tracking is excellent. From the first grooves to the last, the DL-160 tracks like a F1 racer. Older vinyl that may be unlistenable with my other carts comes alive. No, all the surface noise is not magically disappeared, but it is reduced... substantially. So, first point in favour of the DL-160: Very forgiving of used vinyl, and there is a lot of used vinyl out there. I do not know if I would even run a 4000 dollar Koetsu on a used LP I picked up for 5 bucks (even in great condition) on eBay. Losing 160 dollars seems easier to stomach. Better yet, pick up a second turntable with a AT-95 cart installed as a test TT. I digress.
Even on less than stellar vinyl the DL-160 sounds great. I am not over exaggerating. It sounds great: musical, life like and as I listen to a lot of vinyl for long periods of time I will also say non-fatiguing. It makes my old vinyl sound like music. I do, however, have some LP's in perfect condition. Yes, sometimes you get lucky on the eBay :) On vinyl that has been cared for, the DL-160 sounds like heaven. Very engaging, the cart will suck you into the music. From the lower registers to the more intricate cymbal work in a lot of jazz, the DL-160 presents the signal realistically without sounding muddy or harsh. Staging and depth are very good and I suspect these are limited more by the rest of my gear. With the right LP, it will surpass the sound quality from my CD player.
The DL-160 sounds great with my pop and jazz. From Blur to Lou Donaldson it keeps up with the pacing and rhythm. The only times I have ever caught the DL-160 with its pants down was with very difficult classical passages. Even then the loss of definition between the orchestral sections is never grating or muddied, just lessened. From what I have read even the best cartridges out there stumble here. However, when listening to Lou Donaldson, for instance, there is no mistaking Lou for the accompanying trumpeter. The two instruments are spatially distinct and clearly differentiated as they should be. This is a test many of my other budget cartridges fail. Opera, love it or hate it, sounds great with this cart as well. Voices in general sound very life like... again, as they should.
So, there is no surprise as to which camp I belong to in regards to the DL-160. However I am in this camp because I have owned the cart and listen to it daily. I have not learned to love my DL-160, it was love at first listen. I do not see how you could be disappointed... Go ahead, take a bite of the Durian ;)
The DL160 is underappreciated and rarely reviewed in audiophile publications. That's because it spanks far more expensive cartridges and would cause major loss of advertising bucks if the real truth were told. Old timers like me know the history of Denon cartridges and the value they have long represented. Denon is a longtime supplier of radio broadcast cartridges in their DL103 model, and there has been several audiophile versions down through the years. Problem is, it is very low output, and thus the DL110 and DL160 are made for folks with moving magnet phono stages. They are the same cartridge except for stylus assemblies. The DL160 gets a lighter tapered cantilever with a finer cut nude mounted elliptical diamond for digging a bit deeper in the grooves. Thus, the DL160 does a good job of attenuating surface noise and has a 50 KHz frequency response that is very flat. The DL110 supplies the DJ and rough user group as its cantilever is straight and has a spherical cut stylus. I use my DL160 on a VPI HW19 with an Audioquest PT-6 tonearm. The DL160 should be compared to other cartridges that sell for twice its price, so this is a balanced combination. The output is rated at 1.6 mV under JIS standards, which converts to 2.2 mV output under European and USA standards. Thus, you can easily use a MM phono stage in most situations.
The sound quality is very smooth, extended, dynamic and detailed for a cartridge at this price point. It sells for less than most other MC stylus retip costs, so it's no big financial loss when it wears out. It can handle complex passages and vocal music with ease. I tested it for tracking with my Shure test records, and it was very good. The low 1.9 gram tracking force will protect your valuable records as well. It replaced a Grado Signature 8MR, and it is superior to the Grado cartridge in every aspect. It has less coloration and character of its own, making it a better analytical tool. Under a microscope, the quality of the stylus construction easily surpasses the Grado. The nude mounted diamond allows a very low tip mass for exceptional tracking ability. Denon doesn't push their cartridges very hard, as they have a loyal customer base that buys them again and again. I just replaced my old Grado headphones with new AKG K601 cans. Grado has done a good job of having audio reviewers rate their cartridges and heqadphones highly. I found that there are better products out there from some big companies with the R&D and manufacturing capability to allow economy of scale to take over and provide a lower cost on a better product. Denon always had a high end segment throughout their history that co-existed with their mass market products, and few high end manufacturers thus have the production capabilities that Denon possesses. Denon's higher priced cartridges are designed to compete against others regardless of their cost. Other Denon users have said that if Micro-Benz made the DL160, it would cost at least $400. Don't let the low $180 price fool you. It's 4-star even when rated against more expensive cartridges, and 5-star within its price class.