DS Audio ION-001 Vinyl Ioniser

Does it work? And how! Direct, ABA comparison is of course problematic. You can’t ‘re-charge’ the static on a record after the ION-001 has done its stuff. But any comparison of playing a disc straight from its sleeve and then replaying it with the ION-001 switched on leaves no room for doubt. The improvement in presence, focus, texture and immediacy is immediately apparent. Playing Barbirolli’s English String Music (EMI ASD521) with the ION-001 engaged generates a more palpable acoustic space, peopled with a more believable orchestra. The fragile, quivering strings on the Tallis Fantasia have more texture, a greater sense of those hovering bows, while the brooding, building tension that makes this performance the go-to recording is far more apparent. Space between and around instruments is better defined and the delayed.  The double bass section is elevated on hollow wooden risers, and the delayed thuds that echo the opening pizzicato phrases are more distinct and more precisely located, both in time and space. On the one hand, that’s everything I’ve come to expect from the De Stat III: on the other, the ION-001 is noticeably more effective, generating far better spatial definition and low-level resolution. Certainly, treating a record with the Furutech, giving it a listen and then listening again having switched on the DS Audio ioniser, demonstrated a consistent and worthwhile further improvement. Once again, really precise comparisons are difficult, but one experiment did prove interesting…

I treated the Julia Fischer recording of the Glazunov Violin Concerto in A minor Op. 82 (Pentatone PTC 5186 728) with the De Stat III and then played the complete work – and very nice it was too. But having reached the end of the disc I re-started the third movement to recalibrate my expectations and then listened to that third movement again, with the ION-001 switched on. This time the improvement was really significant. Fischer’s fiddle sounded richer, more vibrant and with more layered harmonics, while the murmur of timps that mutters beneath the opening bars was more clearly defined and textured. The acoustic was more clearly defined, far more transparent and the orchestral spread more clearly developed. Images were more solid and the orchestral contrasts more emphatic. The greater presence and purpose made the music that much more convincing, the performance more engaging.

The DS Audio ION-001 from behind, showing the ioniser indicator lights, power switch and brightness control, ground post and socket for the plug-top supply.

All of which suggests that as effective as the De Stat is, its influence wears off over the space of a record being played. In stark contrast, the DS Audio ION-001 isn’t just more powerful, it operates constantly, maintaining is effect throughout record replay. I would consider the ION-001 purely on the grounds of its ergonomic superiority, but throw in its improved performance and operational consistency and there really is no argument that disqualifies it from Essential status, short of mechanical incompatibility. If the ION-001 has an Achilles Heal, it’s the free-standing design, an approach that works brilliantly with the GPA Monaco, but less so in other circumstances. The Stabi M’s lid means moving the ionizer into place at the start of each session, while it also makes playing with an open lid mandatory. The VPI Avenger demands the use of a chock (actually, a couple of VPI bricks) to hoist the letter-box slots sufficiently high above the record surface while the notion of trying to get the ION-001 close enough to an LP12’s platter to work at its most effective definitely presents a challenge. Whether or not the DS Audio vinyl ioniser makes sense for you will depend to some extent on its physical compatibility with your record player and the arrangement of plinth (if any) and platter. It might be a fiddle to get it installed, or impose its own practical constraints, but believe me, in musical terms it is going to be well worth the effort.