DS Audio DS-E1 Cartridge Page 2

Again, my comments are about the cartridge via the superior energiser, so I could assess its mettle more readily than via the base-level box. Nevertheless, the DS-E1 kept confounding me because it is so close to the sound of the Master 1. By way of comparison I even forced myself to listen to songs I find so dire that I knew I could not be distracted by the music. So, sticking with Wings, I queued up the schmaltzy, soporific dirge that is 'Mull Of Kintyre' just to hear the bagpipes, an instrument that holds little pleasure for these ears.

Altered State
Miracles don't happen that often, so I'm not keen to attribute metaphysical properties to the DS-E1, but damn, it sounded nearly listenable, and this is a tune that makes 'Silly Love Songs' sound like 'Ace Of Spades'. The DS-E1's wonderful marriage of lushness and scale, augmented by precision and detail of lab-grade analytical prowess actually altered the experience for me. I still detest the song, but I can now sit through it.

For something far more pleasurable, I reached for the new MoFi pressing of Simon And Garfunkel's Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme [Mobile Fidelity MFSL1-484]. The sweetness of the harmonies, the airiness of the acoustic guitar – this is a cartridge capable of great finesse. Its miracle-working abilities faltered at the risible 'A Simple Desultory Philippic', which remains Paul Simon's most embarrassing moment, but the lushness and delicacy of 'Scarborough Fair/Canticle' wrapped the song in an embrace that suited it to its core.

Beggared Belief
You'd almost believe that Simon and Garfunkel were British rather than a brace of New Yorkers, for this portrayal of the song captured the atmosphere of the lyrics with a skill that beggared belief at this price. It's as if DS Audio leap-frogged over the arbitrary expectations we have which are based on cost. Returning, too, to the DS-E1's equaliser/energiser showed less of a sacrifice than I anticipated. There was a little loss of slam or power when the music grew punchy – back to the explosions on 'Live And Let Die' – but overall, the two work together so well that there's certainly no urgent case for upgrading.


Proving further that the DS-E1 is a bargain was the stupendous 50th anniversary edition of The Band's Music From Big Pink [Capitol 0602567480525], the album remastered and offered on two thick slabs of vinyl playing at 45rpm. Here I turned to the organ that dominates 'Chest Fever', to hear the overwhelming sound of Garth Hudson's Lowrey, the DS-E1 digging deep – almost as deep as the Master 1... at ten times the price. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

By this point, I was growing disconcerted. I love the Master 1 and it has been my reference cartridge for over a year. I recognise the Law of Diminishing Returns. I understand a reviewer's responsibility is to the reader, not the manufacturer or advertiser, but the DS-E1 was upsetting my apple-cart.

Guts And Energy
Conversely, there are things that the best moving-coils do which elude DS's optical designs – a certain warmth seems unique to MCs, and you will never wrest my Koetsu Urushi from my tonearm while I still breathe. And while the DS-E1 is a fine tracker, there were moments where it was slightly agitated, where, say, the top MCs and certainly the better MM designs would prove unflustered. But nobody listens to test discs, and digging out an old Telarc just to be nasty would prove nothing.

What clinched it for me was the new pressing of Ted Hawkins' swan song, The Next Hundred Years [Analogue Productions APB124]. For intense, textured vocals, a surfeit of emotion and a plethora of guts and energy even when the music turns quiet and introspective, Hawkins was the maestro. The sheer presence of this powerful vocalist, one of roots/blues greatest losses, was palpable to a degree that was almost the textbook definition of what high-end systems should be able to accomplish.


What the DS-E1 achieves is a multitude of triumphs, not least in closing the gap between the affordable and the unobtainable. DS Audio, just like Porsche and the 911-vs-Cayman situation, has ensured that the pecking order remains intact. What's different is the intensifying of the Law of Diminishing Returns.

Game Changer
Even more relevant than the car analogy is that of wine. I have had simply staggering £20 offerings from the same wineries that produce superior growths at £250 a bottle. Only an educated oenophile will taste the difference.

For the rest of us, we should simply revel in our ignorance and bless the arrival of a bargain so overwhelming that I think it could be the sixth biggest game-changer in cartridges in three decades. The other five? Its older siblings.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
What can I say? Being offered this level of performance at a fraction of the cost of what came before is a godsend at a time when most high-end brands seem blissfully unaware that value-for-money matters more now than it has for decades. If the thought of a radical change in technology doesn't scare you, the DS-E1 provides the chance to hear your LPs as you've never imagined. I'm still shaking my head in disbelief.

Digital Stream Corporation
Kanagawa, Japan
Supplied by: Soundfowndations Ltd, Berks
0118 9814238