DS Audio DS-W3 Cartridge Lab Report

Lab Report

Three years ago, DS Audio leveraged advances in its then-flagship Master 1 [HFN Dec '17] to 'evolve' the DS-W1 [HFN Nov '15] into DS-W2 [HFN Jan '19], and it has performed the same trick with the new DS-W3, which borrows heavily from the current flagship Grand Master [HFN Feb '21]. Except, in this case, the 'upgrade' from DS-W2 to 'W3 is more significant than from 'W1 to 'W2. Specifically, the 'W3 now has the 'dual mono' generator with separate L/R LEDs, a lighter shading plate and thicker internal wiring that we saw in the Grand Master. It benefits from a reduced moving mass which pushes the 'W2's 13kHz treble peak out to a higher 15kHz in the 'W3, also at a less severe +3.2dB amplitude [see Graph 1]. The improved light path has tightened the channel balance to 0.2dB, and widened HF stereo separation from a poor 6dB (W2) to 15dB (W3, re. 20kHz) while conferring better lateral/vertical symmetry – this is evident in both the response and distortion versus frequency plots [see Graph 2].

The bass boost, seen in all previous DS cartridges, amounts to +3dB/20Hz with the 50Hz filter in tow or +4.5dB/20Hz with the 30Hz filter, neither being especially useful when partnered with big, reflex-loaded speakers. DS Audio has attempted to counter this by 'stiffening' the compliance of the DS-W3 away from the 15cu of the 'W2 closer to the 11cu of the Grand Master while also increasing the downforce from 1.7g to ~2g. This pushes the arm/cartridge resonance upwards, but tracking suffers slightly, the DS-W3 only clearing a 70µm groove pitch and moderate +15dB modulation (315Hz lateral cut, re. 11.2μm) at <2% THD. The 2.1V output (1kHz/5cm/sec) is a function of the equaliser. PM


Frequency response curves (–8dB re. 5cm/sec) lateral (L+R, black) vs. vertical (L–R, red) vs. stereo (dashed, 50Hz filter, grey; 30Hz filter, black)


Lateral (L+R, black), vertical (L–R, red), stereo (dashed) tracing and generator distortion (2nd-4th harms) vs. freq. from 20Hz-20kHz (–8dB re. 5cm/sec)

Generator type/weight Photo-optical / 7.9g
Recommended tracking force 18.5-20.5mN (19.5mN)
Sensitivity/balance (re. 5cm/sec) 2068mV / 0.18dB (from Eq unit)
Compliance (vertical/lateral) 12cu / 15cu
Vertical tracking angle 22 degrees
L/R Tracking ability 65μm / 70μm
L/R Distortion (–8dB, 20Hz-20kHz) 1.0–6.6% / 0.55–7.5%
L/R Frequency resp. (20Hz-20kHz) +3.6 to –3.9dB / +5.5 to –0.6dB
Stereo separation (1kHz / 20kHz) 24dB / 15dB
Price (inc. equaliser): £12,995

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