Denon DP-3000NE Direct-Drive Turntable with DL-103, DL-103R, and DL-A110 Cartridges
Review sample supplied by Masimo
DP-3000NE – 2.499 euro
DL-A110 Headshell and Cartridge – 600 euro
DL-103 Cartridge – 329 euro
DL-103R Cartridge – 429 euro
Denon has a strong reputation for its direct-drive designs of the past, and the DP-3000NE is their current flagship premium direct-drive turntable. Featuring a carefully designed S-shaped tonearm with optimized tracking, this newly improved Denon arm is equipped with cartridge weight adjustment, anti-skating compensation (0-3 g), and a newly developed arm height adjustment ring (0-9 mm).
The turntable’s sturdy and surprisingly heavy construction, weighing in at 18.5 kg, combined with extra large height-adjustable damping feet, provides a very rigid and low-resonance foundation.
The DP-3000NE incorporates the new SV-PWM-controlled Quartz-Locked motor system that guarantees an extremely accurate RPM with less than 0.06 % WRMS. A soft touch button starts platter rotation, and a second soft touch button selects between 33 1/3 rpm and 45 rpm speeds.
According to the Denon website, the turntable even supports 78 rpm records. At first, I thought it may have been a mistake because the speed button is labeled 33/45, but when reading the manual, I discovered that you can select 78 rpm by pressing the Speed button while also pressing the START/STOP button. After that, both speed lights turn on to indicate the selected 78 rpm speed.
The turntable comes complete with a nice interlink and earth cable. The interlink provides a smooth and non-aggressive sound. But the turntable is well worth spending extra on interlinks. For instance, I obtained better definition, transparency, refinement, and dynamic impact with the Driade Flow Link Reference 808.
More accessories: 45 RPM adapter/record weight, counterweight with extra add-on weight, aluminum headshell, cartridge adjustment gauge, screwdriver, headshell screws, and spacers
Thanks to the strong motor, the platter is at the target speed within half a turn (under 1 second for 33 rpm), and a nice extra advantage of Direct Drive is that there is no belt to wear out and no parts to replace. I am particularly sensitive to speed variations, but the speed was always 100% stable with this turntable. Lastly, but not unimportantly, the 100% seamless dark ebony natural wood veneer adds a very classy touch, and a nice crystal-clear dust cover completes the package.
Rigid versus damped construction
While handling the DP-3000NE’s tonearm to attach the headshell, I noticed that the arm has considerable play in all directions. Even when fitted very securely, the headshell can rotate around its axis (Azimuth) by quite a large amount, and it does not have a defined mid-position. Furthermore, the arm bearing also has considerable play both front-to-aft and sideways. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that I could wobble the counterweight section up and down by rotating the headshell around its axis. That’s when my initial infatuation started to dwindle, and suspicion arose that my sample might not be optimal. Not wanting to reach the wrong conclusions, I held off on listening to the turntable and sent an email to Denon.
I’m glad I asked, as it turns out that all this is by design.
Senior Sound Engineer Rainer Finck provided the following explanation:
“There are two basic philosophies. Make everything as rigid as possible or make it loose and damp it. The Denon tonearm may look conventional, but it has a unique geometry, and it looks rigid when it’s not. The so-called Unipivot (single point bearing) tonearms have play in all directions and are usually damped by a silicon oil bath. With the Denon tonearm, the damping is defined by special materials.”
In addition to providing Rainer’s initial response, Denon relayed my concerns to Ryo Okazeri, Denon’s turntable engineer in Japan, who kindly responded:
“It is understandable that audio intellectuals like a tonearm to be rigid. However, we made particular considerations concerning the arm’s physical characteristics for the Denon tonearm. In particular, we aimed to remove the typical peaks and dips in the frequency response of the tonearm pipe that are caused by resonance and mechanical rattling”.
To illustrate that point, he provided two graphical responses. Below are the measurements of a rigid-construction tonearm, similar in design to the familiar Technics tonearm. Note the resonance peaks circled in red.
“These peaks and dips became an issue for the NHK broadcaster; thus, Denon studied this problem and came up with the loosely coupled and dampened construction as a resolution.”
Below are the measurements of the DP3000NE tonearm; note the flatter response.
Mr. Ryo Okazeri continued to explain that the play that I noticed when handling the tonearm is a direct result of how it was designed. The tonearm pipe is not fixed to the main body. Rather, it is fixed through a plate spring and damper.
The same principle applies to the pivot bearing, which is not mounted rigidly but installed in a cushioned manner.
“The Denon tonearm does not appear rugged compared to other makers’ tonearms, and the concept is different from the general conceptions, but it makes a lot of sense from an engineering viewpoint.”
After reading the above feedback, it became clear that damping is a major theme in this turntable’s design, and it’s not just in the tonearm, but it is everywhere in the turntable. From the large damping feet to the damped platter and the specially constructed tonearm, and even inside the headshell, the main objective was to get rid of bad resonances.
Next: DL-A110, DL-103R, and DL-103, Cartridges