TechDAS Air Force V turntable

Unless a truly budget-priced Air Force model is in the works, the TechDAS turntable lineup now seems complete: The recently introduced Air Force Zero ($450,000) is at the top, and the "affordable" Air Force V ($19,500) is at the bottom. The Air Force One, Two, and III turntables, all available in both standard and Premium versions, sit in the costly middle.

There's no Air Force IV because in East Asia that number is considered bad luck—which also explains why Japanese golfers shout "Six!" when someone hooks a shot into an adjacent fairway (joke alert).

Yes, the Air Force V still costs a great deal, but consider the price difference between it and the Air Force One Premium ($145,000)—which, until recently, was the company's flagship: Despite costing about 1/8 the price, the V retains two of that model's three key features: an air-bearing platter and vacuum record hold down. (The third key feature—air suspension for the turntable as a whole—couldn't be included at this price.) These are expensive design elements that probably would make an even less expensive Air Force model unfeasible, unless designer Hideaki Nishikawa chooses to offer a non-air bearing, non-vacuum hold-down turntable—which I believe he's not likely to do.

Other than its use of an inboard AC synchronous motor in place of the outboard ones found throughout the rest of the Air Force line, the V mostly resembles the next model up in the line, the Air Force III ($28,000—or $39,500 for the Premium version).

What else accounts for the almost $10,000 price difference? Whereas the III's chassis is machined from a solid aluminum block, the V's chassis is bolted together using machined aluminum and Super Duralumin sections. That construction distinction is visible only from the sides, where bolt heads are visible.

The other major differences between the Air Force III and the Air Force V are in their drive systems and the construction of their platters. The III's platter is machined from solid aluminum and driven by a belt around its periphery. The V's platter is a lighter weight assemblage of inner and outer aluminum sections, driven by a belt around the inner platter. (The V's chassis-mounted motor, which is also lower in torque than that of the III, is mounted in close proximity to the platter.) The V's platter is mostly hollow—something I noticed while assembling the turntable: not a difficult chore, although you must carefully follow the instructions, especially when it comes to keeping clean the glass plate under the floating platter. Still, at approximately 15lb—about 7lb lighter than that of the III—the V's attractive, black-anodized platter is substantial.

On the V as on the III, each of the chassis' four corner pillars can accommodate a heavy machined armboard capable of holding up to a 12" arm. TechDAS supplies one armboard; the others are optional ($2150 each), as is a record weight ($1520). The Air Force V is a compact turntable, approximately 12" wide by 14" deep by 7" high and weighing 39lb. Its appearance might not appeal to those looking for bling, but I liked its no-nonsense squaredom, dominated in front by the large control panel that appears similar if not identical to the one on the III. (I also appreciated its comprehensive, well-organized, photo-rich instruction manual.)


The pump/power supply/air condenser unit that supplies pressurized air for the bearing and the vacuum hold-down system, and which also contains the motor-control electronics (said to incorporate a two-phase power amplifier) is a compact, attractive, brushed-aluminum box approximately 13" wide by 11" deep by 7" high. TechDAS supplies generous lengths of tubing so you can place it far from the turntable, but it's essentially silent, so where you place it isn't an issue, and it powers on from the control panel, so you don't have to bother with it once it's installed and plugged in. You can place it in "standby" mode by holding down the "stop" button, or after about an hour it will automatically park itself in "standby" mode.

TechDAS supplies an acrylic platter cover that you're smartly advised to place over the platter when the V is not in use, to keep it dust free. It's also a good idea to wipe the V's relatively soft platter surface with a microfiber cloth before record play, or use an In the Groove-type tacky roller accessory—a product that's made for records, although I use it only for platter cleaning. If you're concerned about embedding dirt into the record side that contacts the vacuum platter, please get over it! I've used the Continuum Caliburn turntable's vacuum hold-down system for more than a decade, and it hasn't made my records noisy. I'm hooked on vacuum hold down!


The Air Force V does not offer speed adjustment other than its factory-adjusted 33 1/3 and 45rpm settings. As you can see from the Feickert Platterspeed app measurements, the V ran at the correct speed and low-pass filtered relative and absolute deviation from speed were very, very good, 45rpm measurements equally so. The platter reached speed within less than 10 seconds of startup, though the Lock indicator usually took close to 30 seconds to illuminate.

TechDAS/Stella Inc.
US distributor: Graham Engineering
25M Olympia Avenue
Woburn, MA 01801
(781) 932-8777

Anton's picture

I wonder if they have to pay any royalties to Thorens for their look!

Ortofan's picture

... SOTA Cosmos Eclipse with the vacuum hold-down system option.

p.chas's picture

How did the Thales Statement tonearm perform?
I believe the cost is in the region of $20k, is it that much better than than the Simplicity tonearm recently tested by Art Dudley?

I very much enjoyed the recent video of your visit to the Thales factory in Switzerland.

On a different matter, the Garrard 301 turntable now being re-manufactured by SME, is apparently going to cost about £20k (including a wooden plinth made by Spendor speakers).

volvic's picture

£20k for the new Garrard? Wow! bet those that own one and have done their mods ain't giving it up anytime soon. I always knew the costs of bringing an idler to modern standards was not for the faint heart and was neither cheap. $20k! Wow!

Anton's picture

Does anybody know someone who got into vinyl in the modern era and ended up with one of those Thorens?

My theory is that they are more about sonic nostalgia than they are about absolute sound quality.

The idler drives seem to add some rumble/punch that people of a certain age seem to like, but I just don't see the long term enjoyment of that sound.

I'd like to see the 'Feickerts' on these.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Let's get ready to rumble" :-) .........

Ortofan's picture

... idler-drive Thorens and Garrard turntables to undergo an examination by Dr. Feickert?

Anton's picture

That would be way cool.

Send Fremer right over!

jeffhenning's picture

A $19.5K turntable is absurd. A $450K turntable is truly obscene.

Does anybody want to buy a brand new, $450K VCR? Or go back to getting coal deliveries to your house to fire your furnace (which you have to stoke yourself with a shovel)? Perhaps, you may be interested in exchanging your washing machine for a $10,000 platinum/titanium washboard.

To even consider purchasing obsolete technology that's this expensive, you truly do meet the criterion of having more money than brains.

Anton's picture

The fringes of any hobby look crazy.

jeffhenning's picture

I stand corrected. Knowing this has realigned my priorities. Everything should cost a half Mill!

Seriously, though, I'm wondering how much better these will play an LP than the Technics SL turntable re-issue that costs $3K?

This is put into even starker relief when you consider that the greatest factor in the sound, by several magnitudes, is the cartridge. All the turntable, tone arm and phono pre can do is screw up the sound from the input systems transducer. They can't improve it.

Robin Landseadel's picture

The greater factor in SQ is the discs themselves. The vast bulk of LPs manufactured since 1949 are unplayable. These things, despite what some here might say, wear out. I've owned those records, you have too. Beyond that, the vast bulk of LPs manufactured within the last five years are sourced for digital files. Logic dictates that the file [source] that the LP was mastered from will be superior to the LP copy made from that source.

jeffhenning's picture

The vast bulk of all the recordings made it the last 25 years have been digital. It's not a recent phenomenon.

Look for my comments on this new Bowie vinyl release on

It's gotten a bunch of these luddites who troll there very upset:

I would consider these people to be very low information audiophiles.

Robin Landseadel's picture

I suppose my remarks make more sense in the context of the recent uptick in LP sales. Yes, "digital" LPs first appeared around 1972 [Jean-Pierre Rampal, Telemann Flute fantasias, awful 12-bit sound, Denon, reissued on the odyssey budget series of Columbia], there was a bucket-brigade delay preview circuit [lo-fi] commonly used for LP mastering in the 70's. Almost everything on LP since 1994 is digitally sourced. I've owned over 10,000 LPs, buying more than half as used LPs. I'm guessing Mikey didn't own those records, they usually had audible wear. I'm sure if one is obsessed enough LP wear can be mitigated, but there's no getting around the basic laws of physics. Things fall apart. Energy goes downhill. Tires wear out. LPs obey the same fundamental principles. Like the way the potential energy of the beginning of an LP groove is always greater than the potential energy of the end of that groove. Don't tell me I can't hear that because I always do. In one of my lives I was a recording engineer, minimal miking, acoustic music including large-scale orchestral music, no dynamic limiting on my side [mastering engineers do what they have to do].

Yeah, show me the LP with hi-def video and discreet surround sound.

Anton's picture

He is you!

Robin Landseadel's picture

Nope, I'm Barry Judd. "Jeff Albertson" worked out of a shop at the southwest corner of Dwight & Telegraph in Berkeley, told me that Matt Groening was a regular customer at Amoeba's [right across the street].

Michael Fremer's picture

But what you've posted is 100% factually untrue as anyone who shops for used records well knows. In fact, according to the WSJ there are two billion dollars worth of unplayable CDs out there. Your logic is illogical for reasons you don't yet understand. But that's ok. We can all get along.

volvic's picture

You are totally ignoring what a tonearm and turntable can do. That of course is your problem, but for the rest of us who have spent decades with vinyl these new turntables only serve to reinforce what demand there is and what a great medium vinyl is for sound reproduction and how resilient it is after all these years. Don't take my word for it ask some of Stereophile's reviewers from Dudley, Fremer, Reichert, Austin, Schryer, Micallef, Atkinson all of them have not one but even in some cases, two tables. Are they all Luddites? Doubt it.

Robin Landseadel's picture

You are totally ignoring what a tonearm and turntable can't do. That of course is your problem, but for the rest of us who have spent decades with vinyl these new turntables only serve to reinforce how the flaws of LPs can't be fixed and how far advanced modern digital recording is right now. This isn't 1982, this is 2019. This isn't about "Redbook" and CDs, this is about the recording used to master LPs and the fact that one can now hear those original files if one chooses to. I've owned multiple turntables simultaneously, thousands of LPs. I've been at this for 50 years. I've been a recording engineer, worked with a Grammy winning Producer/Engineer. I've heard really great sound from LPs but mostly I've heard in-your-face flaws. I've been at this since 1969, that's five decades, is that enough for you? Doubt it.

volvic's picture

Yes, you’re a recording engineer, we already know. Yet still after all these years you haven’t been able to convince me otherwise. I’ll side with the Tim de Paravicini’s of this world who love vinyl and its sonic qualities. Cheers.

Anton's picture

How do you rip yourself away from the mirror long enough to post here?

Tell us your bonafides some more.

To sum you up: “Waa, records suck. Do you know who I am? I’m somebody!”

Michael Fremer's picture

I own a great turntable and a dCS Vivaldi One—one of the finest SACD player/DACs you can buy. So you really have posted a bogus headline. I live very much in the present. The rest of your post isn't much better. I have an Academy Award nominated soundtrack to my credit as sound supervisor but I don't use it as a cudgel to make an argument for LPs. Such pomposity on your part. And no, it's not enough for me because I've been at it just as long as you, and Roy Halee, who has better credits than you and has been at it far longer than you, also prefers LPs. This is not about one upsmanship. It's about sonic tastes and what one hears and for me, LPs sound better than the best digital. You prefer the digits. And that's all that needs to be said by either of us.

Robin Landseadel's picture

You took this much time to respond? Something must sticking in your craw.

Ironic, that soundtrack you were involved with is primarily of a digital synth.

There's still less than half as much energy at the end of a record compared to its beginning. You can't hear it? Well good on you.

I've dumped all my records. Seems like the music I'm interested in comes in the form of defective records. I've got this thing about pitch, you see.

No need to respond.

JRT's picture

Watch the very lossy process by which pressed vinyl records are made.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be they add some 'useful additive distortions' during that process? :-) ..........

JRT's picture

I understand the humorous intent of your comment, however the nonlinear lossy nature of the process certainly does add some combination of linear distortion, nonlinear distortion, and noise to the original, and does so within the audible pass band.

Also, on playback the stylus running in the groove adds structure borne sound within the medium, traveling and reflecting within the vinyl LP. That also did not exist in the original, and did not exist in the mastering studio playback, where the playback medium was magnetic tape and is now digital. That is one of the reasons that reel to reel tape was more desirable (but also usually far more expensive), than vinyl LP when vinyl LP was the primary consumer playback medium and tape was the high-end medium. The serious audiophiles used tape, then.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Agreed ...... The SNR of vinyl is only appox. 8-10 bits ........ Compare that to approx. twice the SNR of CD's 16 bits ....... not to mention, hi-res :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Reel to reel analog tape has approx.12 bits SNR :-) ........

Anton's picture

The real answer is to listen to the formats you want to hear and go from there.

The way the vinyl haters talk, I wonder if they can even tell which record they are playing.

Relax. Have fun.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I'm not a vinyl hater, Anton ....... I don't even hate lossy MP3 and/or AAC or even Bluetooth ........ I'm 'whatever floats your boat' kinda guy about everything :-) ..........

JRT's picture

"The way the vinyl haters talk..."

I am not a hater. I have heard good sound from vinyl.

With digital it is all about listening to the music with easy access to a widely varied collection with compact storage.

With vinyl there is too much that has nothing to do with listening to music, such as all of the fondling of the physical medium and packaging materials, and the ongoing tweaking of physical components that audibly affect response of the playback front end such that no two vinyl playback systems sound the same.

I would rather tweak the loudspeakers, the DSP, and the room acoustics. I want a consistent front end signal closer to the original that the mastering engineer had intended for me to hear on well mastered recordings, and I want the ability to correct or mask problems in other less well mastered recordings of worthwhile material and save that for future playback. What I don't want to do is pollute all playback with similar alteration to everything. Doing that is like dousing everything you eat with onion powder, good for a few things, but certainly not for everything.

Regardless, it is easy to capture the output signal of the phono preamp with a good AD converter (such as the Texas Instruments PCM4222EVM), and save a lossless data file on your network attached server, and later play back the exact same signal after DA conversions, and not have to bother with a bothersome playback medium, cleaning, physical storage, protection from physical damage, etc.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I think both JA1 and MF do the same thing with some of their vinyl collection ....... A to D and D to A conversions :-) .........

volvic's picture

Not sure what the Lansdaels and Hennings of this world have to prove on these pages with their constant vitriol against vinyl. Those of us who like vinyl enjoy it and spend our hard earned dollars to improve it, we don't knock streaming or computer audio which we also use. There is plenty of room for different sources and formats, still not sure why the constant hate. There must be something deeper at play.

JRT's picture

2 more bits accommodates +12_dB of dynamic range. Archaic now, but well executed reel to reel tape was a big improvement over vinyl LPs.

jeffhenning's picture

... the ultimate in analog audio recording technology. The closest thing to it was the Hi-Fi VHS VCR.

Playing back anything on those two media sounded almost identical to the source.

Having owned a Teac X-2000M mastering deck, I know by experience.

What killed of RtR was not that it didn't sound good. It was just too expensive. 25 years ago, a single 10.5" reel of really good audio tape ran close to $50.

I love the old Technics RS-1500 deck. Great tech, awesome performance, killer looks and way too expensive to record on by year 2000. And it had been surpassed.

Such is life. Don't look back. You're not going that way.

Michael Fremer's picture

digitization by its very nature despite what's claimed by its fanboys and girls produces audible and to some intrinsically unpleasant distortions, some of which are not yet measurable but we hear them. Worse, they are "baked in" in a way that the brain cannot filter them out. One is a form of noise that produces body tension, only released by turning it off. Put on a record and it's actually quieter and the brain and body relaxes. This is observable. Science is based upon observations. One day this will be measured and you can take solace in the graphs and charts.

ok's picture

that still struggles to meet current resolution requirements modern analog hi-end hardware far exceeds its own medium capabilities.

Glotz's picture

HAHAHAH.. not.

I was just going to trash thousands of LPs just because they were obsolete!

volvic's picture

Because you were told they are apparently off center!!!! LOL!!!

David Harper's picture

and to think thirty years ago I sold a wooden crate full of 500 LP's to a record dealer for fifty dollars. Now I'm paying twenty or thirty dollars a pop for new albums to play on my new Project TT. Next thing you know I'll be buying a new 35mm film camera. Wonder where I can get one of those.

JRT's picture

billyb's picture

That is the ugliest turntable i have ever seen in my life, hands down.