Every now and then, a product comes along that completely raises the bar and this is certainly the case for DS Audio’s DS-E1, which has set a new precedent for entry-level cartridges.
Here we look at some of the characteristics of the DS-E1 that allow it to stand out:
Game changing product and price
Whilst the majority of people would view £2,295 as a lot of money to spend on a supposedly entry level piece of kit, when you discover just how good the DS-E1 really is, you’ll realise that this is not an insane amount to pay for the level of performance it provides. When you consider the quality of DS Audio’s entry-level cartridge compared with significantly more pricey cartridges, and factor in that a phono stage is included in the price, you’ll understand what great value £2,295 really is.
In a review for Hi Fi News, Ken Kessler described the DS-E1 as possibly “the sixth biggest game-changer in cartridges in three decades. The other five? It’s older siblings.”
Compact and lightweight
Both the cartridge itself and accompanying DS-E1 phono stage are designed to be as compact and lightweight as possible. The body of the cartridge is machined from aluminium, and the phono stage/equaliser features an operational amplifier in its circuit, reducing the number of components needed. As a result, it is considerably lighter and more compact than other phono stages (around 1/3 of the size of DS Audio’s DS-002), whilst still providing world class performance.
Optical technology to cut out interference
The technology employed in the DS-E1 completely cuts out the low-level hum found in cartridges using MM (moving magnet) and MC (moving coil). Whilst many sophisticated cartridges significantly reduce background noise, it is still there, nonetheless. Optical cartridges cut out the magnetic frictional force and provide a result that is close to the benefits of digital audio.
When used in conjunction with high-resolution audio systems, it’s apparent straight away that DS-E! cartridges are just as effective as more expensive DS Audio models in cutting out hum, allowing for a much more transparent, detailed sound and musicality.
One of the key benefits of optical cartridges is that low frequency reproduction is much more enhanced than with magnetic or coil-based cartridges. The result is a sound that has plenty of richness and natural warmth, and subtlety combined with stunning detail.
DS-E1 produces a smooth, yet highly precise high range, along with a bass that is rich, firm and defined. It could be argued that the mid-range frequency is not quite as punchy as with some of the world’s best cartridges, however, it’s important to consider that any of these components would add up to 5 figures, not including the phono stage.
Overall, DS Audio’s starter optical cartridge will completely alter your expectations for an entry-level cartridge for ever. The unique voice of the DS-E1 sets the bar impossibly high both in terms of performance and value for money.