Exclusive interview with Tetsuaki Aoyagi from DS Audio

Mono & Stereo exclusive interview with Tetsuaki Aoyagi from DS Audio. Japanese high-end audio company DS Audio created quite a stir with their introduction of analog optical system back in 2014, followed by this year’s Munich High-End Audio show premiere of their flagship optical system Master 1. Enjoy…

How did all started for DS Audio Audio?

It all started when I was 25 years old. It was a shocking experience when I listened to the records at the first time in my life. Such an old technology made over 40 years ago was much higher sound quality than iPod. And it was played back by 40 years old Toshiba Optical Cartridge C-100P. I became so interested to learn about this optical cartridge, and begun to realize that the technologies we have in Digital Stream could re-create this forgotten technology of optical cartridge. 

When did you get involved to the music and high-end audio?

I was just about the same with anybody else, listening music over CD, MD, and iPod. My interests in High-end Audio started when I began developing DS Audio products, at 25 years old.

In very short time you seems to make very strong presence in high-end audio industry. What is the secret of success?

I am honored to your saying this. But, I do not think we are successful at all yet. I have not done even 1% of what I want to do. Please tell me how we can be successful if you know.

When and how did you present your products abroad?

Our first worldwide exposure to the oversea market was at Hong Kong Audio show, Aug., 2014.

I visited Hong Kong dealer directly and asked them to listen to our cartridge. They liked it very much and started tour oversea business with them. After the show, we started to receive inquiries from various dealers and we were able to establish our worldwide sales network.

Who are your inspirations, products and people, that made the biggest impact on you?

Our electric engineer Hamaguchi-san.

Please describe your product line. What would you say is the difference between DS1 and DS Master? 

We have three product line ups; DS Master 1, DS-W1 and DS001 (Japanese market only).

DS Master 1 utilizes Wire-suspension structure, which enables us to place our optical sensor unit much closer to the stylus position. This new design brings us huge improvements in channel separation and sound quality in its freshness. Therefore, Master 1 has this what we think its ultimate opt-mechanism in optical cartridge design. At the same time, Master 1 equalizer is made by the perfect Dual-mono circuit design with 12 huge condenser of 120000μF. Three designated transformers (Left/Right/Cartridge) are utilized and equipped with XLR outputs.

Please tell us more about the optical system?

Unlike MM/MC cartridges that are based on coils and magnets, our optical cartridge utilizes optical sensing system. The advantages of the optical sensing are; (1) Free from electromotive force induced by the magnetic, (2) Very light moving mass, (3) Very high sensing resolution based on light beam. Please refer to our home page for more details.

Why do you think your products find so much happy owners?

We think that DS Audio was able to bring a very new aspect in Analog record world, even though our contribution may be a small one. I believe, if we were to pursue another MC cartridge, this would not be the case.

So analog is not dead at all as too often advertised? It seems vinyl as medium is not obsolete at all?

We think the increase of streaming is also affecting the growth of analog record market. And we think analog record loves are different from streaming users. They are much deeper in entire music listening environment, and it is almost like a ritual. They are not pursuing easiness or convenience.

(I often think this is similar to the case like; there must be people who want to drive a car in manual even when fully automatic driving automobiles are available.) 

I firmly believe Analog record market will revive, 50% is too much but at least 10% of total music market.

How would you say that Japanese market differ from the global one?

We feel Japanese market is very matured and is at plateau. It is strongly affected by the economic situation in our society. 

Does any traditional cartridge comes close to your own principle?

We highly respect others, but, we are different. Different in technology, in philosophy of sound reproduction. 

What would you say its the best turntable/tonearm system you had pleasure to use with your own optical system?

It is simply impossible to say the best. All we can say is that better to use light tone arms, not long and heavy tone arms, since our optical cartridge has very high sensitivity. 

Why Master 1 system? What led to the creation of this unique flagship product?

We wanted to pursue the very best of the vest cartridges, not worrying about practicality nor cost. 

We have demonstrated the ultimate optical technologies available at this moment in DS Audio, hoping that we are able to present this superb sound quality of optical cartridge system to the world.

How important is to set the cartridge well to ensure best possible sonic performance?

Optical cartridge has unprecedented sensitivity. In turn, to ensure the best performance of it comes from thorough and precise setting. 

You seems to be a strong analog ambassador?

I can never feel that way. Analog world is too deep and far to reach for me.

Any digital products to be expected from DS Audio?

Our company, Digital Stream Corp., is the only company in the world who are able to supply Optical disc tester optic units. It is so accurate in reading that when error is detected, it is said to be disc errors, not the reading errors. It would be so exciting to create worlds’ best CD player based on the disc tester optics. 

Do you produce everything in house?

Yes, everything is done in house by skilled engineers.  

What would you say is specific about reproduction signature quality of your products You don’t hide anything as far as I know. Just honest and clever engineering?

The basic concept of optical cartridge was created 40 years ago. Nothing has changed since then. It is the nature of light beam, which is the ultimate analog signal. We are trying our best to utilize this superb characteristics of light beam in cartridge system. 

What would you say that sets DS Audio above other manufacturers?

We have over 30 years of experience in laser optics and its usage. This is what we have.

Would you say, that ones love for music reflects in his product?

Surely personality and one’s sense will reflect in his product. Moreover, one’s experience will play a good role in the product design.

What do you prefer, Direct Drive or belt driven turntables?

Advantages and disadvantages. Once again, difficult to say.

What importance do you give to the use built in elements? Is there a need of exotics parts?

Selection of the parts are so important. One tinny component may change the whole sound. Our selection is based on the resulted sound only. If it is better, then we use it, no matter it is exotic or not. 

Is classic music the top most test material for state of the art analog vinyl reply design?

We treat all categories of music equally. 

What is your opinion on digital music revolution and the birth of mp3?

MP3 brought music closer to people by providing easy and simple usage. You can listen to millions of music in your hand. People may forget the deep value of music, appreciation to music, because of this easiness. I do worry about music is now treated as simple background sound.

How to draw the line between, resolution, transparency and musicality when building the product?

Both are important. At the end, I must trust my feeling. 

What is the reference for your when designing any products? 

We do not have any reference at all. We design our product as the product we want to listen music with. 

Would you say that master tape quality is possible with turntable?

We honestly think Master 1 is very very close to it, if not the same.

Is there a need for a high prices in high-end? Are high prices a must for some of the top class products? What is a true meaning of high-end audio through the eyes of DS Audio? There is the high-end and ultra high-end. What is the difference in you view?

High price is not the definition of High-end audio. High price is the result of searching for the best quality without any compromise. 

Where to draw the line between High-end and Ultra high-end, we do not know. It might be measured by the commitment and compromise. 

Do you consider yourself as an audiophile?

I do not think so. I need more experience. 

Digital audio era is here and ever changing. How far did we come with it?

I can not say how far, but it is very important for our society.

State of the art digital vs analog? Analog vs digital? Whats your view?

I think Analog sounds better than Digital. This is very personally opinion.

Best system ever heard in you life?

It is the system when I first heard analog records, as explained before. It left unforgettable impact on me.

Do you still believe in Japanese traditional manufacturing quality and how world responds to this?

I believe Quality provided by Made-in Japan is still commonly accepted and valued in worldwide market. Japanese culture and history may play important role for this. Even using the same manufacturing machines, Made-in Japan quality is different from Made-in China quality.

Einstein talked about simple, but not over simplified. When is it simple enough for you?

The border line is where no more simplification is possible.

Would you say that high quality is more affordable today or you have to pay premium price for best components and sound?

I think it is depending on how one sees value in it. Each individual has different point of view. You can find low price/high performance cars today. Yet, you have people buying Porsche/Ferrari. This is always the case.

Do you thinks it’s possible to achieve concert feeling with high-end audio?

I think it is possible to achieve such feeling with High-end audio, at least very close to it. This is one of our targets.

Is there a place for mystics in audio or simply good and great engineering?

The base should be in Engineering, but I feel there always be Mystic part attached with it.

Wow would you say typical DS audio customers are? What future holds for DS Audio?

Our customers are mainly analog audiophiles, and they are so deep in love with music.

As of today, people may think DS Audio is the optical cartridge maker. But, we position ourselves as the creator of new products based on laser optics. We would like to provide more impact to the market with our original laser technologies in various products.

Any last thoughts for our readers?

We thank you for reading this article. DS Audio is a new member in the market. We would like to do our best to bring you the very best products always. 

Interview questions - Matej Isak