Optical cartridge pioneer DS Audio launches new ‘third generation’ DS003

In 2020 DS Audio launched its new flagship Grand Master phono cartridge, the first model in the company’s “third generation of optical cartridges”. Now, the brand new DS003 draws on innovations from the Grand Master to update the existing DS 002 model, extending ‘third generation’ technology to a more affordable price point.

Like the Grand Master, the new DS003 features a comprehensively re-designed optical system. Its independent LEDs and photo-detectors for the left and right channels deliver a significant increase in the cartridge’s output voltage, from 40mV to 70mV. Happily, this is achieved without compromising the excellent signal to noise ratio; in fact the ratio has been further upgraded, giving the DS003 an even lower noise floor and greater musical clarity than its predecessors. What’s more, the new independent design has made it possible to eliminate crosstalk, greatly improving left and right channel separation, particularly at higher frequencies.

The new design also sports a smaller shading plate made from 99.9% pure beryllium, allowing for a 50% weight reduction, down to 0.74mg: less than 1/10th of the mass of a moving coil cartridge’s core and coil system.

The DS003 marries an aluminium cantilever with a line contact stylus. The cartridge’s body is also aluminium and is designed for maximum rigidity. Internally, the wiring is 1.6 times thicker than in previous models, in order to reduce impedance.

In common with all DS Audio optical cartridges, the DS003 requires its own equalizer / phono stage. The new design here includes a thicker circuit board (increased from 1.6mm to 2mm) and thicker copper foil (previously 35 µ, now 70 µ). In addition, the DS003 equalizer allows you to select from four low frequency cut-off points, allowing you to select the output that best matches your system.

Technical specifications DS003 optical cartridge

Body material & cantilever Aluminium

Stylus Line contact

Tracking force 2.0-2.2g (2.1g recommended)

Signal output Photo-electric conversion

Output signal level > 70mV

Channel separation > 27dB (@ 1kHz)

Weight 7.7g

DS003 phono stage/equalizer

Inputs RCA

Outputs RCA x 2

Rated output voltage 500mV (@ 1kHz)

Output impedance 120Ω

Pre-amp input impedance > 10kΩ

Dimensions 330 (w) x 92 (h) x 295 (d) mm Weight 5kg

Pricing & availability

The DS Audio DS003 optical phono cartridge with phono stage/equalizer is available now, priced as follows (inc. VAT): DS003 cartridge & equalizer package: £4,995 DS003 cartridge only: £2,298 DS003 equalizer only: £3,147 DS

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