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DS Audio launches new ‘third generation’ entry-level optical phono cartridge: the DS-E3

DS Audio DS-E3

10 July 2024 – Japanese optical phono cartridge pioneer DS Audio continues to narrow the gap between game-changing performance and affordability with the new entry level DS-E3 model, featuring the company’s ‘third generation’ of optical cartridge technology.

Japanese innovators DS Audio launched their first optical phono cartridge in 2013. Since then, designer Tetsuaki Aoyagi has continued to advance and refine the state of the art, achieving level after level of groundbreaking sonic performance. At the same time, the company has equally strived to use trickle-down technology to make the benefits of optical cartridges available to a wider range of audiophiles and music lovers at multiple price points.

Still unique in the world, DS Audio’s optical cartridges dispense with the usual moving magnet and moving coil designs and instead use an optical system that converts stylus/cantilever movement into audio signals. This completely eliminates the electromagnetic forces that are rife in traditional MM and MC designs, resulting in an astonishingly lower noise floor.

The new ‘third generation’ entry-level DS-E3 replaces the earlier DS-E1, which was a true game-changer in its price/performance ratio. Now, the DS-E3 draws on technology developed for the company’s flagship models to take the design and performance to even greater levels, all while maintaining the same price as when the DS-E1 was first launched 5 years ago in 2019.

Independent LEDs and photo-detectors for the left and right channels deliver a significantly increased output voltage while eliminating crosstalk and greatly improving left and right channel separation. The cartridge’s mass is further reduced thanks to a new smaller and lighter shading plate, now made of beryllium rather than the previous model’s aluminium light-shielding plate. A fine elliptical diamond stylus is mounted on a rigid lightweight aluminium cantilever.

Like all DS Audio optical cartridges, the DS-E3 requires its own equalizer / phono stage, which this new design also brings up to ‘third generation’ level. In the new DS-E3 equalizer, the amplification circuit has been made symmetrical, while the voltage supplied to the cartridge has been stabilized to achieve a clearer and faster sound. The equalizer uses an operational amplifier as the amplifying element to minimize the signal path, thereby greatly reducing the number of components and achieving a smaller size, making the DS-E3 equalizer approximately one third the size of that of DS Audio’s next model up, the DS-003.

Like every DS Audio product, the DS-E3 phono cartridge and equalizer are hand-made and quality assured, with every component part-tested and evaluated by the company’s own in-house team of technicians in Japan.

Technical specifications

 DS-E3 optical cartridge

Body materialAluminium
Signal outputPhoto-electric conversion
Output signal level> 70mV
Channel separation> 26dB (@ 1kHz)


DS-E3 phono stage/equalizer

Rated output voltage500mV (@ 1kHz)
Output impedance120Ω
Pre-amp input impedance> 10Ω
Dimensions26 (w) x 6.9 (h) x 19.5 (d) cm


Pricing & availability

The DS Audio DS-E3 optical phono cartridge and phono stage/equalizer are available now, priced as follows (inc. VAT):

Cartridge and equalizer package price                £2,295
Cartridge only                                                   £1,270
Equalizer only                                                   £1,270

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


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