Four years ago, Japanese company DS Audio launched the world’s only optical phono cartridge. The company’s debut model, the DS-001, was only released in its native Japan but soon led to a second model, the DS-W1, and to worldwide distribution. Since then, the range has grown with the addition of the flagship DS Master 1 and entry-level DS-002 models.

The new DS-W2 is a direct replacement for the DS-W1 which will now be phased out. DS Audio say it offers significant design enhancements over its predecessor. The DS-W2 now occupies the middle position in the company’s range of optical phono cartridges.

The Master 1 was the first of the company’s designs to feature an advanced optical-mechanical system in which the micro-optic sensor is positioned in closer proximity to the stylus. The new DS-W2 incorporates this same approach, as well as the Master 1’s wire-suspended cantilever which is designed to considerably lower the compliance, making the DS-W2 able to perform with a wider range of tonearms (the DS-W1, in contrast, needed to be paired with a low-mass tonearm for peak performance).

The DS-W2 sports an aluminium body, a boron cantilever and a Micro Ridge stylus. A hand-crafted natural rose quartz LED indicator sets the cartridge off nicely. Like both the Master 1 and the DS-002, it delivers an output of 500mV and more than 25dB+ of channel separation. DS Audio recommends a tracking force of 1.7g.

In common with all DS Audio optical cartridges, the DS-W2 comes with its own separate, dedicated, phono stage/equalizer. Its power supply features twelve 56,000μF capacitors which are all connected via a 1.5mm thick pure copper-plated bus-bar. The phono stage/equalizer uses shielding that covers the entire transformer and is designed to isolate internal ‘noise’ from the power supply and also blocking external RF and other environmental interference and there are both RCA unbalanced and XLR balanced outputs.

Technical specifications 

DS-W2 optical cartridge

Body materialAluminium
StylusMicro Ridge
Needle pressure1.6-1.8g (1.7g recommended)
Signal outputPhoto-electric conversion
Output signal level> 50mV
Channel separation> 25dB (@ 1kHz)


DS-W2 phono stage/equalizer

OutputsRCA x 2, XLR x 2
Rated output voltage500mV (@ 1kHz)
Output impedanceRCA 120Ω, XLR 600 Ω
Pre-amp input impedance> 10Ω
Dimensions430 (w) x 107 (h) x 384 (d) mm

Pricing & availability 

The DS Audio DS-W2 optical phono cartridge with phono stage/equalizer is available now, priced at £9,900 (inc. VAT).

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


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