DS Audio Grand Master + EMM Labs DS-EQ1

Cableman

Well-Known Member
Dec 27, 2013
373
139
175
I've had my Grand Master cartridge and demo DS-EQ1 equalizer set up for over a week now, and it's been a game-changing part of my audio journey. The vinyl removes a layer hiding the sound, leaving a clear picture of the music, the musicians, and the soundstage. Very natural but still detailed, wonderful imaging, completely non-fatiguing. Clearly beats my transport (which in turn clearly beats my music streamer).

This cartridge/equalizer has already converted me into a vinyl-first music listener, though I can still *enjoy* good discs and some streaming. My business partner (primarily listens to 30IPS 1/2" R2R) came over to listen last week, his summary: "Reference quality, especially with good vinyl. You could live with this system for the rest of your life." Another audiophile friend came over yesterday, his text afterward: "That phono experience broke my brian. Unreal!"

I have a DS Audio equalizer (I think DS-W2) arriving this week so I can compare the two. Perhaps the first equalizer shoot-out? I'll report back soon.

RonR and MikeL: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. I appreciate your thoughtful and helpful conversations along the way.

I can't believe I waited this long to add vinyl to my system.
I'm thrilled!
I have the DSW2 equaliser. But love EmmLabs so I’m keen to hear your shoot out evaluation

bizarrely. I pair my equaliser with the entry left DS -audio cart coz it just WORKS!
 

TLi

Well-Known Member
May 27, 2016
287
534
198
My Grand Master has been retipped. After 5 weeks, it has returned, the dealer said the usual time for retipping is 8 weeks. He has been pushing all along to make sure it is back before Christmas.

I am very grateful for him not only for the “speedy” repair but he also lent me a Master 1 cartridge to use in the mean time. The difference between Grand Master and Master 1 using Grand Master equalizer is immediately apparent. Grand Master is much better, not to say Master 1 is no good but it is no comparsion to Grand Master resolution, dynamics and sound stage.
 

gds7368

VIP/Donor
Jan 9, 2015
156
115
320
Demo done

My THOUGHTS (my room, my ears, etc)

Main albums slowed down/repeated for particular instruments and vocals (plenty others were used)
Jethro Tull •Aqualung•
Dean Martin •Dreaming with Dean•
Steely Dan •Aja•

Emmlabs preferred

*********

Emmlabs
Incredible detail, smooth, natural, wide and deep soundstage.

Prefer withOUT the "high pass filter" setting activated on the Emmlabs

**********

DS Audio DS Master1

Setting 1
Significantly too much bass, which either clouds the midrange or the midrange also is constrained. Might be good with bookshelf, planar etc speakers. Overwhelming for my speakers, in my room.

Setting 2
Competitive. Good sound, actually very good sound, but slightly less detailed and less smooth decay by comparison to the Emmlabs. Less natural acoustic guitar and vocals. But Setting 2 could be used to sell this product.

Setting 3
Too rolled off highs. Not bad though. Instantly less clear than setting 2 from top to bottom.

Who would prefer the DS equalizer? Well, first and foremost, all of my findings are specific to my room, my system, and my ears. Nothing more.

IMHO many people could like - really like - Setting 2 on the DS equalizer, particularly those who might value warmth over detail, and maybe the DS would mate very well to particular systems. Of course, everyone should hear BOTH in his/her own system and then decide which sounds the best.

Please FEEL FREE to come to Columbus, Ohio and listen for yourself. I’ll have both for a while. You're welcome any time!

I’m buying the Emmlabs.
 

TLi

Well-Known Member
May 27, 2016
287
534
198
Demo done

My THOUGHTS (my room, my ears, etc)

Main albums slowed down/repeated for particular instruments and vocals (plenty others were used)
Jethro Tull •Aqualung•
Dean Martin •Dreaming with Dean•
Steely Dan •Aja•

Emmlabs preferred

*********

Emmlabs
Incredible detail, smooth, natural, wide and deep soundstage.

Prefer withOUT the "high pass filter" setting activated on the Emmlabs

**********

DS Audio DS Master1

Setting 1
Significantly too much bass, which either clouds the midrange or the midrange also is constrained. Might be good with bookshelf, planar etc speakers. Overwhelming for my speakers, in my room.

Setting 2
Competitive. Good sound, actually very good sound, but slightly less detailed and less smooth decay by comparison to the Emmlabs. Less natural acoustic guitar and vocals. But Setting 2 could be used to sell this product.

Setting 3
Too rolled off highs. Not bad though. Instantly less clear than setting 2 from top to bottom.

Who would prefer the DS equalizer? Well, first and foremost, all of my findings are specific to my room, my system, and my ears. Nothing more.

IMHO many people could like - really like - Setting 2 on the DS equalizer, particularly those who might value warmth over detail, and maybe the DS would mate very well to particular systems. Of course, everyone should hear BOTH in his/her own system and then decide which sounds the best.

Please FEEL FREE to come to Columbus, Ohio and listen for yourself. I’ll have both for a while. You're welcome any time!

I’m buying the Emmlabs.
Have you tried to swap your hand on the DS Audio DS Master 1 equalizer? When I touch or swap my Grand Master equalizer, there is "pop" sound coming from the speakers. I wonder if it is the same with Master 1. It seems to do with static electricity.
 

gajgmusic

Well-Known Member
Apr 9, 2013
30
20
248
Demo done

My THOUGHTS (my room, my ears, etc)

Main albums slowed down/repeated for particular instruments and vocals (plenty others were used)
Jethro Tull •Aqualung•
Dean Martin •Dreaming with Dean•
Steely Dan •Aja•

Emmlabs preferred

*********

Emmlabs
Incredible detail, smooth, natural, wide and deep soundstage.

Prefer withOUT the "high pass filter" setting activated on the Emmlabs

**********

DS Audio DS Master1

Setting 1
Significantly too much bass, which either clouds the midrange or the midrange also is constrained. Might be good with bookshelf, planar etc speakers. Overwhelming for my speakers, in my room.

Setting 2
Competitive. Good sound, actually very good sound, but slightly less detailed and less smooth decay by comparison to the Emmlabs. Less natural acoustic guitar and vocals. But Setting 2 could be used to sell this product.

Setting 3
Too rolled off highs. Not bad though. Instantly less clear than setting 2 from top to bottom.

Who would prefer the DS equalizer? Well, first and foremost, all of my findings are specific to my room, my system, and my ears. Nothing more.

IMHO many people could like - really like - Setting 2 on the DS equalizer, particularly those who might value warmth over detail, and maybe the DS would mate very well to particular systems. Of course, everyone should hear BOTH in his/her own system and then decide which sounds the best.

Please FEEL FREE to come to Columbus, Ohio and listen for yourself. I’ll have both for a while. You're welcome any time!

I’m buying the Emmlabs.
GDS

Interested to hear your thoughts. I would concur with you 100%. I only heard the DS equalizer in a friends system compared to the EMMlabs but I much preferred the Emm but the bass was 'bigger' with the DS.
 
  • Like
Reactions: gds7368

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
6,447
2,585
503
Switzerland
Just found this thread and I have a bit of experience with these DS cartridges and thought I would share my impressions.

I have two friends that have/had the DS cartridges (with DS decoders...not EMM labs). One friend still has it and the other went back to more traditional setups.

The first friend, who went back to traditional setups, had the 2nd to the top of the line from DS. At first he was enthralled by the resolution and powerful direct sound. However, over time he lost interest in listening to analog and was finding the sound too analytical and not musical enough. Now he is back to a traditional MC with tube phonostage. Having heard the before and after, I can whole heartedly state that there is subjectively as much resolution but the whole thing hangs together in a more holistic fashion and gives music now...not forensic dissection.

The second friend, who tends to prefer a more analytical sound, is still smitten with his DS implementation, he has the 2nd level of cartridge/decoder. Prior to this he had Lyra Skala with Allnic phonostage, which to my ears was preferable, if slightly less resolving. My friend does like tubes but more on the resolving end of the tube scale and not the warm end (he has Nagra VPA monos, Nagra tube pre). Personally, I think that setup would be better with the previous lyra/Allnic combo but he really likes microscopic detail and the powerful foundation the DS provides...the other combo was more "delicate" sounding.

Long story short, I heard the same characteristics in both systems; Highly resolving, almost forensic and clearly cut from the more analytical side of the cloth. Powerful driving sound that could be rather relentless in some systems. Maybe this is more accurate but it also perhaps serves to show more clearly the limitations of the medium of LP.
 
  • Like
Reactions: thequietman and MJG

defride

VIP/Donor
Mar 28, 2013
240
114
370
Long story short, I heard the same characteristics in both systems; Highly resolving, almost forensic and clearly cut from the more analytical side of the cloth. Powerful driving sound that could be rather relentless in some systems. Maybe this is more accurate but it also perhaps serves to show more clearly the limitations of the medium of LP.
Are you describing the latest versions? This was a general complaint of the earlier generation DS models.

The latest versions are said to address this somewhat. I've only heard the DS03 of the later models, to these ears it delivered a more natural, believable acoustic than a Luxman DX10 sacd player in the same system. That despite a modest TT/arm setup.

Suggested to me that the reports about the later generation DS are well founded and the brand is well worth investigating.
 
  • Like
Reactions: CKKeung and gds7368

gds7368

VIP/Donor
Jan 9, 2015
156
115
320
Just found this thread and I have a bit of experience with these DS cartridges and thought I would share my impressions.

I have two friends that have/had the DS cartridges (with DS decoders...not EMM labs). One friend still has it and the other went back to more traditional setups.

The first friend, who went back to traditional setups, had the 2nd to the top of the line from DS. At first he was enthralled by the resolution and powerful direct sound. However, over time he lost interest in listening to analog and was finding the sound too analytical and not musical enough. Now he is back to a traditional MC with tube phonostage. Having heard the before and after, I can whole heartedly state that there is subjectively as much resolution but the whole thing hangs together in a more holistic fashion and gives music now...not forensic dissection.

The second friend, who tends to prefer a more analytical sound, is still smitten with his DS implementation, he has the 2nd level of cartridge/decoder. Prior to this he had Lyra Skala with Allnic phonostage, which to my ears was preferable, if slightly less resolving. My friend does like tubes but more on the resolving end of the tube scale and not the warm end (he has Nagra VPA monos, Nagra tube pre). Personally, I think that setup would be better with the previous lyra/Allnic combo but he really likes microscopic detail and the powerful foundation the DS provides...the other combo was more "delicate" sounding.

Long story short, I heard the same characteristics in both systems; Highly resolving, almost forensic and clearly cut from the more analytical side of the cloth. Powerful driving sound that could be rather relentless in some systems. Maybe this is more accurate but it also perhaps serves to show more clearly the limitations of the medium of LP.
Just found this thread and I have a bit of experience with these DS cartridges and thought I would share my impressions.

I have two friends that have/had the DS cartridges (with DS decoders...not EMM labs). One friend still has it and the other went back to more traditional setups.

The first friend, who went back to traditional setups, had the 2nd to the top of the line from DS. At first he was enthralled by the resolution and powerful direct sound. However, over time he lost interest in listening to analog and was finding the sound too analytical and not musical enough. Now he is back to a traditional MC with tube phonostage. Having heard the before and after, I can whole heartedly state that there is subjectively as much resolution but the whole thing hangs together in a more holistic fashion and gives music now...not forensic dissection.

The second friend, who tends to prefer a more analytical sound, is still smitten with his DS implementation, he has the 2nd level of cartridge/decoder. Prior to this he had Lyra Skala with Allnic phonostage, which to my ears was preferable, if slightly less resolving. My friend does like tubes but more on the resolving end of the tube scale and not the warm end (he has Nagra VPA monos, Nagra tube pre). Personally, I think that setup would be better with the previous lyra/Allnic combo but he really likes microscopic detail and the powerful foundation the DS provides...the other combo was more "delicate" sounding.

Long story short, I heard the same characteristics in both systems; Highly resolving, almost forensic and clearly cut from the more analytical side of the cloth. Powerful driving sound that could be rather relentless in some systems. Maybe this is more accurate but it also perhaps serves to show more clearly the limitations of the medium of LP.
I’m not hearing what you are describing in my room (“analytical” or "forensic dissection") though I understand some people live on different edges of these ideas. One person’s “natural and detailed” is another person’s “dry and analytical.”

Maybe encourage them to home-demo the Emm Labs equalizer? Feel free to PM me if you need a connection to do that. I’m at the stage I want to hear things in my own system to make a decision.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: puroagave

jeromelang

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2011
393
44
335
the ds carts are so much less susceptible to the effects of eddy current than other traditional makes of cartridges, when in proximity of so much metallic materials all around it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: gds7368

jeromelang

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2011
393
44
335
The Meitner family reference system

EMM Labs PRE preamplifier, DS-EQ1 Optical Equalizer, DS Audio Master1 Optical Cartridge & Technics direct drive turntable

 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: gds7368 and Audire

wbass

Active Member
Jul 12, 2020
125
64
33
42
That's a surprisingly humble Technics deck for such a pricey cart and phono stage.
 

theophile

Well-Known Member
That's a surprisingly humble Technics deck for such a pricey cart and phono stage.
Putting the cart before The Force
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
10,260
5,194
1,265
Beverly Hills, CA
DDK posted in a different thread about, I think, the DS Audio optical cartridge: "There's only one design really and what I heard was sonically natural and impressive but not more than any other high quality cartridge to justify the limitation of the phono box, that's why I don't own one."

David, is this correct? Did you audition a DS Audio optical cartridge and find it to be "sonically natural and impressive"?
 

TLi

Well-Known Member
May 27, 2016
287
534
198
DDK posted in a different thread about, I think, the DS Audio optical cartridge: "There's only one design really and what I heard was sonically natural and impressive but not more than any other high quality cartridge to justify the limitation of the phono box, that's why I don't own one."

David, is this correct? Did you audition a DS Audio optical cartridge and find it to be "sonically natural and impressive"?
I tend to agree with DDK. Grand Master sounds more natural and tape like than other cartridges that I have.

Etsuro Gold is my favorite MC cartridge, it is more lively and more vivid than Grand Master but it cannot beat GM completely. MC cartridge sounds better in upper midrange to treble while optical cartridge is good in midrange and bass.

There is no one size fit all in vinyl. If you have the extra space and an extra arm, one arm for MC and one arm for optical would give you the best of both worlds.
 
  • Like
Reactions: gds7368 and Solypsa

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
10,260
5,194
1,265
Beverly Hills, CA
I tend to agree with DDK. Grand Master sounds more natural and tape like than other cartridges that I have.

Thank you for your reply.

The optical cartridge sounds more "natural" in what way(s)? How are you defining natural here?
 

Audiophile Bill

Well-Known Member
Mar 23, 2015
3,814
3,092
515
UK
I haven’t yet heard the Grand Master version of the DS system.

The other versions were not natural sounding at all - far from it. They sounded very much more akin to a digital presentation in terms of quality of tonal rendition / authenticity. There was however a very low noise floor and for some reason the timing sounded very good.

Curious to hear if these things are resolved with the Grand Master iteration though.

Personally not keen on being tied into one platform (cart and “phono”) as it is very restrictive as your system grows.
 

TLi

Well-Known Member
May 27, 2016
287
534
198
Thank you for your reply.

The optical cartridge sounds more "natural" in what way(s)? How are you defining natural here?
I have tried DS Audio Master 1 and Grand Master with Grand Master equalizer. Grand Master is much better.

By natural, it means more real, more smooth. Listening to vocal, you feel more realistic, just like the singer in singing in front of you. I don't have much experience with reel to reel tape, but I limited listening to tape gave me similar impression.

MC cartridge somehow has enhanced sound. It still sounds good but doesn't have the same natural characteristic of Grand Master.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ron Resnick

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
10,260
5,194
1,265
Beverly Hills, CA
I have tried DS Audio Master 1 and Grand Master with Grand Master equalizer. Grand Master is much better.

By natural, it means more real, more smooth. Listening to vocal, you feel more realistic, just like the singer in singing in front of you. I don't have much experience with reel to reel tape, but I limited listening to tape gave me similar impression.

MC cartridge somehow has enhanced sound. It still sounds good but doesn't have the same natural characteristic of Grand Master.
Thank you.
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
5,832
3,140
870
Utah
DDK posted in a different thread about, I think, the DS Audio optical cartridge: "There's only one design really and what I heard was sonically natural and impressive but not more than any other high quality cartridge to justify the limitation of the phono box, that's why I don't own one."

David, is this correct? Did you audition a DS Audio optical cartridge and find it to be "sonically natural and impressive"?
Yes in a friend’s system and his AS2000. Sonically there’s not much to fault but I don’t like the idea of a closed system, if the box goes down you can’t substitute another phono. Unknown if a future model will be compatible with the current box which costs as much as a high end phono that can last a very long time and won’t limit you to one cartridge. Rack space and location is another consideration if one has other cartridges and phono preamps. With cartridges one has to seriously consider the after sales service this is an unknown with DS Audio, at least for me.

david
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. This is THE place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss vintage, contemporary and new audio products, music servers, music streamers, computer audio, digital-to-analog converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel-to-reel tape machines, speakers, headphones and tube and solid-state amplification. Founded in 2010 What’s Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals, we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people, and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing