DS Audio’s latest optical cartridge/phono-stage combo, the DS-E1, while priced at the low end in the lineup, achieves a performance level well beyond expectation. It retains most of the key sonic signatures of the top-end model with just slightly lower resolution and dynamic punch. In terms of background noise level, transient speed, and tonal accuracy, the DS-E1 is obviously ahead of conventional transducers at the similar or much higher price bracket. The clean, accurate and harmonic-rich reproduction of well-recorded piano music will quickly dispel any doubt the DS-E1 being one of the best buys in the analog-gear market today. Strongly recommended.