DS Audio Master 3 Cartridge Lab Report

Lab Report

While the Master 3 effectively replaces the Master 1 [HFN Dec '17] there are clearer parallels with the newer 'third generation' Grand Master [HFN Feb '21]. The stiff, square-section diamond cantilever, reduced moving mass and dual-mono LEDs/photocells benefit almost all areas of the pick-up's mechanical and electrical performance. While a +5dB boost in photocell output is claimed for the Master series, the 2.7V output (1kHz/5cm/sec) of the equaliser is purely a function of the designer's choice of gain as are the six tailored 'bass contours', three rolling off from a notional 50Hz and three from a lower 30Hz. Output 1 [rear panel, left] provides a +3.6dB/+1.9dB boost at 20Hz in 30Hz/50Hz settings [black/grey traces, respectively, Graph 1], while Output 3/50Hz [dotted grey trace] with its –4.4dB/20Hz bass roll-off is suited to systems with big, reflex-loaded speakers.

The 'peaky' HF response of +5.3dB/16kHz [Graph 1, dotted stereo trace] is seen with all the Master series and this extended bandwidth is also reflected in the ~6% stereo THD peak being pushed up to 9-10kHz here [Graph 2, below]. The dual photocells hold stereo separation to 29-30dB through the midband while the bonded diamond stylus/cantilever combination offers a 24° VTA with a moderately 'stiff' 11cu compliance, suiting mid/heavy effective mass arms. Despite this, the Master 3 offers the most secure tracking of any DS Audio cartridge yet, clearing the 80µm groove pitch (75µm on the right channel) at a 2.1g downforce and only just nudging over 1% THD on the maximum +18dB test track (re. 0dB at 315Hz/5cm/sec). PM


Freq. resp. (–8dB re. 5cm/sec) lateral (L+R, black) vs. vertical (L–R, red) vs. stereo, dotted. Bass only: Output 1/30Hz, black solid; 2, dashed; 3, dotted; Output 1/50Hz, grey solid; 2, dashed; 3, dotted


Lateral (L+R, black), vertical (L–R, red), stereo (dotted) 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 20-22mN (21mN)
Sensitivity/balance (re. 5cm/sec) 2.67V / 0.5dB (from Eq unit)
Compliance (vertical/lateral) 11cu / 15cu
Vertical tracking angle 24 degrees
L/R Tracking ability 80μm / 75μm
L/R Distortion (–8dB, 20Hz-20kHz) 1.4-6.9% / 0.6-5.6%
L/R Frequency resp. (20Hz-20kHz) +3.6 to –0.4dB / –0.2 to +5.1dB
Stereo separation (1kHz / 20kHz) 29dB / 24dB
Prices £8330/£18,885 (cartridge/PSU & equaliser)

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