DS Audio is sharing its optical phono cartridge secrets for free

DS Audio DS-W1
(Image credit: DS Audio)

DS Audio has decided to share its niche expertise in optical phono cartridge technology with the world for free. Why? The Japanese company has pioneered what has largely been an eight-year solo effort in implementing optical tech in its development of phono cartridges. Now, it wants others to join the optical audio market and help popularise the MM/MC-cartridge alternative.

DS Audio CEO and chief designer Tetsuaki Aoyagi has published literature about optical phono cartridge design on its website. He says he would like to see an increase in optical cartridge take up in more high-end audio systems – undoubtedly due to both his passion for the topic and his interest in selling the cartridges – and hopes that being open about implementation will lead electronics manufacturers to create optical cartridge-friendly tech into their phono stage and amplifier designs. Currently, a DS Audio cartridge requires its own equaliser and so isn't compatible with MM or MC phono stages.

“My goal is that optical cartridges move from being ‘unique’ to ‘popular’,” he says.

To that end, DS Audio is inviting interested manufacturers to contact them to check over proposed designs and answer questions, for free.

Back in 2015, DS Audio brought the first-ever optical cartridge to the UK, following its initial launch two years prior in Japan. It cost, ahem, nearly £7000. As would be the case for the company's following designs, which are more affordable but still very much high-end, the debut DS-W1 used a beam of light – much like you'd see via a digital optical cable – to detect the vibrations from the stylus. DS Audio's argument for this method lies around its inherent elimination of the detrimental friction associated with and caused by traditional MM or MC phono cartridges.


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10 years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.