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by Jay Garrett

30th January, 2019


Optical cartridge pioneer DS Audio has launched a new, keener-priced, entry-level DS-E1.

In 2013, Japanese DS Audio unveiled the world's only optical phono cartridge, the DS-W1. A series of even further advanced models soon followed, ranging from the flagship DS Master 1 to the (then) entry-level DS 002, each attracting rave reviews from the worldwide audiophile press. Now, the new DS-E1 makes the excellent sound of the optical cartridge more accessible still, at half the price of the DS 002.

After pioneering something genuinely ground-breaking, there are those who might sit back and enjoy the resulting accolades and sales for a while. Not so, DS Audio. The Japanese company's tireless commitment to pushing their technologies above and beyond has resulted in bringing optical technology to a broader range of budgets and systems.

DS Audio DS-E1 optical cartridge

The new DS-E1 features the same optical-mechanical system and wire-suspended cantilever as the flagship DS Master 1, as well as the midrange DS-W2 and the DS-002. The system enables a high degree of channel separation - more than 24dB, and delivers an output of more than 500mV.

To achieve its impressively affordable price point, the DS-E1 sports an aluminium cantilever and elliptical stylus. The cartridge body is machined from aluminium, featuring a distinctive design honed for best optical performance.

DS Audio DS-E1 equaliser

The accompanying DS-E1 equaliser/ phonostage employs an operational amplifier at the heart of its amplification circuit, significantly reducing the number of components required. Additionally, it also allows the unit to be considerably more compact and lightweight – around one-third of the size of the DS-002 equaliser, while still delivering the world-leading performance we have come to expect from DS Audio.

Each DS-E1 cartridge and equaliser/ phonostage is manufactured by hand in DS Audio's premises in Sagamihara City, Japan.

Why go optical?

In contrast to moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) cartridges that work on the principle of electromagnetic induction, an optical cartridge uses a beam of light to read the stylus/cantilever movement. The advantage of this system is twofold. Firstly, it makes the cartridge much lighter and more agile. Secondly, it also eliminates the magnetic frictional force caused by magnets and coils and the resulting influence on the stylus/cantilever movement.

DS Audio DS-E1 optical cartridge

A further fundamental advantage lies in the cartridge's output. In conventional MM and MC designs, the output signal depends on the velocity at which a tiny magnet or coil moves in an electromagnetic field. At lower frequencies, the magnet or coil moves slowly, so the output signal is small, while at higher frequencies it moves more quickly and thus the output signal is disproportionately large – hence the need for equalisation. In contrast, in an optical cartridge, the output signal depends on the distance that the stylus moves, so there are no disparities between high and low frequencies. Therefore no equalisation is required (other than RIAA curve correction), and low-frequency reproduction is much enhanced since an optical cartridge can theoretically detect signals as low as 1Hz.

The resulting sound has delicacy, subtlety, natural warmth and deep richness. Most importantly, it is stunningly real, capturing every minuscule, yet critical, details that make a musical performance come to life.

Price and availability

The DS Audio DS-E1 optical phono cartridge with phono stage/equaliser is available now, priced at £2,295 (inc. VAT).

DS Audio cartridges are fully compatible with any of the company's accompanying phono stages/equalisers, allowing you to mix and match.

DS Audio DS-E1 Tech Specs

DS-E1 optical cartridge

Body material






Needle pressure

1.6-1.8g (1.7g recommended)

Signal output

Photo-electric conversion

Output signal level

> 50mV

Channel separation

> 24dB (@ 1kHz)



DS-E1 equaliser / phonostage




RCA x 2

Rated output voltage

500mV (@ 1kHz)



Preamplifier input impedance

> 10kΩ


20 (w) x 7 (h) x 16 (d) cm



For more information, go to DS Audio.


Jay Garrett's avatar

Written by:

Jay Garrett

StereoNET UK's Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He's captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.

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Posted in: Hi-Fi
Tags: sound fowndations  ds audio