On turntable technologies
While I cannot claim the distinction of being an analog expert, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time playing in the analog realm - for a digital audio guy. Cartridges fascinate me, and my father and I spent some time at a recent show discussing how cartridge and turntable technology has not changed all that much since the gramophone was trademarked in 1887. We reasoned that Edison could walk up to even some of the most expensive and intricate tables today and recognize the basic functionality of each piece and part. What, in today’s world of high-end audio might he be surprised? The Optical Cartridge. Blending two (three?) of his most famous contributions to science and society, I like to think that leveraging light to convey musical information to a stereo system is something Edison would be very proud of.
Improving on an old design
The Optical Cartridge is not a new concept, its origins go way back to the 1940’s - incandescent monofilaments from niche companies mostly out of Japan. True to form, DS Audio is the brainchild of Tetsuaki “Aki” Aoyagi, the son of a Japanese optical sensor firm with a huge passion for Hi-Fi.
The technology is relatively straight-forward: The intensity of a light from a miniaturized “lamp” inside the cartridge is continuously modulated by the movement of an extremely low-mass “shading plate” attached to the stylus/cantilever. As the stylus vibrates, the shading plate vibrates in sympathy, blocking varying amounts of the light coming from the lamp. This variable luminosity is then turned into variable voltages by photoreceptors and sent on to a dedicated phonostage unit, where it is equalized and boosted to line level.
Aki’s contribution to the perfection of the optical cartridge was based on the development of the computer-era optical mouse at the Digital Stream Corporation (his father’s company). By substituting the cool-running, miniaturized LEDs and miniaturized photoreceptors found in optical mice for the hot, tiny, unreliable incandescent bulbs and bulky, low-sensitivity “electric eyes” used in previous-gen optical cartridges, he turned an unreliable twentieth-century curiosity into a wholly reliable twenty-first-century success story.
So how does it work?
And Fremer is a fan -
And so are we. The Grand Master cartridge combined with DS Audio’s Reference phono stage, (referred to as an “Energizer,” you’ll need an energizer to drive this cartridge) as well as EMM Labs EQ1 Energizer are easily some of the best we’ve ever heard, and our top analog customers agree. We have placed the Grand Master in several homes already, and expect more to come.
DS Audio Promo Video
Herb Reichert on the 003 which can be heard here at House of Stereo now! - Gramophone Dreams #54: DS Audio DS003 optical cartridge & EMIA, Lundahl, Koetsu, Sculpture A step-up transformers | Stereophile.com
Jason Thorpe of Soundstage Hi-Fi weighs in on our in-store cartridge SoundStage! Hi-Fi | SoundStageHiFi.com - DS Audio DS 003 Cartridge and Phono Preamplifier System
The Absolute Sound reviews the Grand Master: tas-317-final-ds-audio-review.pdf
Great Write-up on the top of the line Grand Master from DS Audio Mono & Stereo © 2022: NEW DS AUDIO GRAND MASTER (monoandstereo.com)
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