Optical Phono Cartridges

OK, I have been out of the "newest item" game since I sold my shop years ago, but recently ran into the idea of optical phono cartridges.  I do use an "optical out" on my surround system, but I don't remember seeing any discussions on the Forum of these items.  If I missed the posts, I apologize for bringing up an item that has been discussed.  However, I would appreciate either a pointer to those discussions on the Forum, or to open this up to comments.



I got to hear a DS Audio DS-W3 a couple of weeks ago. It was on the front end of a very impressive system that sounded darn good to me.

It's not new technology, but it was new to me, and is the latest in advancements for it.


The DS Audio optical cart system has nothing to do with the optical in on your receiver and they are completely incompatible.

Basically the optical cart replaces the magnets or coils in a traditional cart with a shutter and LED light. Changing amplitude of this light is how the cart "sees" the groove. The optical cart gets electricity from DS Audio's dedicated preamp. The light returns to the preamp, minimal amplification (the optical cart has 10x the output of a MM cart) and the RIAA curve is applied to the signal, and the preamp hooks up to your amp or receiver like a tape deck or cd player.

The benefits of this system: insane clarity. Clean your records first and the records when played back sound like 15ips open reel. the usual rumble/cloud you hear under the music when playing a record is GONE. It turns out the rumble was never from the record, it was from the cantilever, cartridge and phono preamp of your older system.

I'm used to an Ortofon 2M Black shibata stylus on a Rega P6, McIntosh phono/preamp and Vandersteen speakers. The DS Audio cart and preamp hooked up to an amp and Vandersteen speakers at my local dealer completely trumps my setup by a factor of ten. You MUST find a dealer and check it out for yourself, using your favorite test records. Voices, piano, strings, percussion, etc all have entirely different tonal character from each other within a single recording. It's as if every recording you ever heard before this had a haze over it, whether from vinyl or cd.

All "no big deal, overpriced, i'll pass" says is that this other poster has not heard the system or anything close to it. CD players don't sound alike, moving magnet and moving coil carts don't sound alike, tubes and solid state don't sound alike, planar and electrostatic don't sound like traditional dynamic-cone headphones.

Whether the cost is worth it depends on the funds you have to spend on your hobby. If the new gear is $3000, and you own 3000 records, you just spent $1 ea to make those records sound better, EASILY the best money you'll spend as a vinyl guy is on your cartridge and phono preamp combo.

After trying many MM and MC cartridges in my system, including a 10K Blue Dragon, I now have a DS audio cartridge, and there is no going back. The lower-priced DS cart sounds better than the best MC cart I've had.

I have the entry level DS E1 cartridge on my vintage Kenwood KD-650 turntable. I am very pleased with the quality of sound. Please try to find a dealer so that you can audition this cartridge setup. 

I’ve been debating on getting a DS Audio cartridge, but you’ll need to purchase an equalizer which raises the cost.  So I’ve been eyeing several DS carts maybe coupled with EMM Labs Meitner DS-EQ1 equalizer. 

It is absolutely worth learning more about, auditioning and if possible evaluating in your system. 

Reading about the technology, it appears to be another "mindblowing" thing as I heard the strain gauge years ago, led by none other than Mr Soundsmith- Peter Ledermann.

Can anyone share comparing the 2?

Is optical "light years ahead" over SG?

SG is in on the "done" list when I get to it.