The Japanese company DS Audio introduced the third generation of the Master optical cartridge, which received the suffix 3 in the name. The DS Audio Master 1 optical cartridge was released as the brand’s flagship model in 2016. Since then, the Grand Master and Grand Master Extreme models, which use DS Audio “third generation” optical cartridge technology, have received flagship status. Now these advanced technologies are implemented in the DS Audio Master 3 head and, as they say, have become closer to the people, that is, more affordable.
As a reminder, DS Audio optical cartridges do not use conventional moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) cartridge designs. Instead, an optical system operates that converts the movement of the needle/cantilever into electrical signals. This eliminates the electromagnetic fields that are present in traditional MM and MC designs.
The new “third generation” Master 3 optical cartridge system has been completely redesigned using technologies developed for the flagship DS Audio Grand Master model. Independent LEDs and photodetectors for the left and right channels provide increased output voltage, reaching 70 mV (Master 1 head had 40 mV). Also in the third generation, it was possible to improve channel separation and signal-to-noise ratio. The new generation uses a smaller and lighter shade plate by using 99.9% pure beryllium instead of aluminum. The DS Audio Master 3’s cabinet design has been designed for maximum rigidity, and the internal wiring is 1.6 times thicker than the Master 1, reducing impedance.
Like all DS Audio optical cartridges, the Master 3 requires the use of a special phono preamplifier, which is also upgraded to “third generation” level. The new Master 3 phono stage features a dual mono concept with three transformers and completely independent left and right channel circuits. It is equipped with both unbalanced and balanced outputs.
The DS Audio Master 3 optical cartridge and phono preamplifier are already on sale. In the UK the kit will cost £22,995 . The cartridge alone is priced at £8,330 , and the phono stage can be purchased separately for £18,885 . The manufacturer emphasizes that all DS Audio cartridges are fully compatible with any phono stage of the company, which allows for any combination.
Technical characteristics of the optical head of the DS Audio Master 3 pickup:
- Case material: duralumin
- Needle: Micro Ridge
- Output signal: photoelectric conversion
- Output level: > 70 mV
- Channel Separation: > 27 dB (@ 1 kHz)
- Weight: 7.9 g
Technical characteristics of the phono stage DS Master 3:
- Inputs: RCA
- Outputs: RCA x 3, XLR x 3
- Nominal output voltage: 700 mV (@ 1 kHz)
- Output Impedance: 120 ohms (RCA, XLR)
- Preamplifier input impedance: > 10 ohms
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 452 x 153 x 484 mm
- Weight: 23 kg