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Zu Audio Zu/DL-103 Mk.II Standard Phono Cartridge

Zu Audio Zu/DL-103 Mk.II Standard Phono Cartridge


Each pickup is comprehensively tested and graded, the better the grade the better the stereophony.

Standard ≤ 2.5% | Grade 1 ≤ 1.0% | Grade 2 ≤ 0.5% | Grade 2 PRIME ≤ 0.1%


The Mk.II update is significant, both in performance and handling usage. The body is machined from 6061-T6 and hard anodized to aid in the matching of tonearm-mount properties and further reduce pickup stored energy. The shape of the housing has also been refined to reduce resonance and stress risers resulting in a much stronger design that better supports the motor assembly. We have also changed the epoxy matrix formulation that binds the assembly further reducing mechanical noise and positions increased stability to the stylus. In short we have been able to keep the great tone of the original Zu/DL-103 but give significantly improved transparency. Handling usage has also been considered and improved, with design elements to help safeguard the stylus from accidental damage—stylus guard being the most obvious feature.


WARNING: ZU/DL-103 Mk.II pickups are semi-naked with exposed motor, only clean the stylus with a short nap stylus brush. Using a brush with a tall nap (hair length that’s long enough to enter the coil) can break the internal leads. Warranty does not cover broken leads.

Cleaning Your Stylus

Lots of good stuff to use: Needle Nectar, Musical Surroundings, LAST, Mo-Fi, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and yes, you can go right ahead and lick your stylus clean, yep with your tongue—just the stylus. Whatever, don’t let anything on to or past the damper (little blue thing) and coils.

The Zu/DL-103 Mk.II is a high performance 2-channel stereo moving coil phonograph pickup. The motor and it’s design were developed by Denon in collaboration with the Broadcasting Corporation Technical Research Laboratories back in the early 1960s. Design objectives for the original Denon assembly called for the creation of a new broadcast standard, for high-performance, high-consistency, high-reliability. The Zu/DL-103 consists of that original motor, still manufactured by Denon in Japan, then modified and placed in a machined from Alcoa alloy 6061-T6. This assembly is then bound and cast as a voidless unit . The Zu/DL-103 was a two year researched and developed project that began November 2005. Zu would like to acknowledge Phil Ressler for his significant contribution to this project.

WARNING: The Zu/DL-103 Mk.II has a semi-exposed stylus and cantilever, extra care must be taken in the mounting and operation to avoid breaking. Broken cantilevers are not covered under warranty, nor are broken signal wires (the result of using a long-hair brush).

WARNING: Do not solder to the pickup’s input pins. Do not expose the pickup to temperatures greater than 200 ˚F [93 ˚C]. DJs, don’t leave the pickup on the dash of your car please.

Note: if you are using a vintage table that has a lot of ferrous parts, or have a platter that has been filled with iron or other ferrous material, the magnetic attraction of the motor to the table may increase stylus pressure.

The Zu/DL-103 Mk.II is built to fall within EIA dimensions and can be mounted on any commercially available universal tonearm built to EIA standards. The Zu/DL-103 Mk.II weighs 14 grams, please consult with the tonearm manufacturer if there is a question of weight compatibility. In some cases such as Rega tonearms, a “heavy weight” counterweight may need to be fitted to the tonearm.


For those that want the absolute in alignment we recommend evaluating angles and dimensions from the stylus as it rests on an LP.

First, Vertically Level Your Zu/DL-103 Mk.II

As the Zu/DL-103 Mk.II is semi-naked, we recommend you set your VTA (vertical tracking height) of your arm, or at least get it in the ball park, prior to installation of the pickup. This pickup should sound best on a level tonearm (or rather the pickup’s stylus should be orthogonally positioned to the record) parallel if you are looking at the horizontal planes. You can get close by adjusting the distance between the top surface of the type of vinyl played most, to the bottom side of the EIA tonearm mount, roughly 0.60” of an inch [15mm] and then adjusting the VTA of the arm to be level with this point. You can easily verify that you are running a level pickup when the reflection in the record of the Zu/DL-103 Mk.II is orthogonally mirrored—no perspective difference or angle shift between the reflection and the actual pickup. The Zu/DL-103 features right angles so this should be pretty easy work.

Pickup / Tonearm Alignment

To ensure the lowest tracking error, please follow the alignment method outlined by the tonearm manufacturer. The body of the Zu/DL-103 is completely straight and at right angles to aid in the alignment of the stylus and arm. The stylus of the Zu/DL-103 sits roughly 0.060” behind the pickup face edge [–1.6mm].

Stylus Pressure (Down Force) Adjustment

Please follow your tonearm manufacturers recommended procedure for setting stylus pressure. We recommend 2.5 grams of stylus down-force for normal conditions. Temperature effects the sound. When it’s really warm (ambient in-room temperature is 85 ˚F [30 ˚C]) you might reduce stylus pressure to roughly 2.3 grams. Increase stylus pressure to 2.7 grams when the ambient in-room temperature is 60 ˚F [16 ˚C].

Zu/DL-103 Phono Preamp Matching

The nominal output voltage of the Zu/DL-103 Mk.II is 0.3mV and the nominal internal impedance per channel is about 45 ohms. We recommend running a step-up transformer for moving magnet phono preamps. A step-up transformer is not required for phono preamps that have a moving coil (MC) setting, setting your impedance between 80 – 200 ohms. Even so, you should consider a Bob’s Devices 1131 or similar.