DS Audio Grand Master EX Optical Cartridge

So many great new products to be seen at the most recent Capital Audiofest (CAF), so little time. Well, that’s not entirely true, as our intrepid analog-centric editorial team spent quite a lot of time on the case at CAF 2023, as evidenced by the following three firsthand pieces: Julie Mullins’ CAF show report, which was split into Part 1 and Part 2, and Ken Micallef’s video report that focused on turntables, turntables, and (you guessed it) even more turntables.

That said, there’s some additional gear that was on display at CAF that we wanted to take a deeper dive into, one of those items being DS Audio’s Grand Master EX optical cartridge.

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This top-tier high-end DS Audio cart was seen in action as part of a Pear Audio Analogue Odar turntable setup that was on display in Room 709, as demo’ed by Dr. Vinyl (seen in the above photo taken by Julie Mullins). This Pear Audio ’table was affixed with a Cornet 3 tonearm as its first arm, and an Integrity Tru Glider Brass tonearm as its second arm. At the end of the latter arm was the DS Audio Grand Master EX optical cartridge, as buttressed by its necessary, companion DS Audio equalizer.

In Part 2 of her CAF 2023 show report, Mullins shared the following reaction upon hearing that demo: “The combo of this turntable, tonearm, and DS Audio optical cartridge seemed to suit each other by contributing to sound that felt precise in extracting details, yet was highly musical.”

And, with that, we were sufficiently intrigued to find out more about this DS Audio cartridge, and here’s what we learned.


The DS Audio Grand Master Extreme uses a 0.22mm square one-piece diamond cantilever with an integral Micro ridge stylus tip made from a single diamond. According to DS Audio, “This more accurately transmits the groove modulation to the 3rd generation optical generator than the traditional bonded cantilever and stylus.”


Since the Grand Master Extreme’s one-piece diamond cantilever does not employ any adhesive, it is said to be able to “detect the vibration of the needle tip more directly without losing any of the vibration of the needle tip.”

Other specs and features of the DS Audio Grand Master Extreme cart include ultra duralumin as its body material, stainless cantilever holder, photo-electric conversion signal output, channel separation of 27dB or greater at 1kHz, output signal level of 70mV (or more), tracking force between 2.0g-2.2g (2.1g recommended), and weight of 7.9g.


The Grand Master EX optical cartridge has an SRP of $22,500. Not for the feint of wallet, true, but still an amazing piece of gear nonetheless.

For more about DS Audio, go here.
To find an authorized DS Audio distributor, go here. (Note: North American consumers will need to scroll down a bit to get to that particular distributor section.)


Glotz's picture

I've heard it at AXPONA this year and it is in a class by itself!

What dreams are made of!

volvic's picture

Fellow in one of my Facebook groups owns one of them, it’s installed on his Technics SL-1000RE-S and claims it is the best cartridge he has ever had, I have no reason to doubt him. Covet one myself.