Analog Corner #294: TechDAS Air Force One Premium turntable & Graham Engineering Elite tonearm In Heavy Rotation

Sidebar: In Heavy Rotation

220ap.AliAkbarKhan

Ali Akbar Khan: Music of India: Morning and Evening Ragas (Connoisseur CS 1766)

220ap.band

Band of Horses: Acoustic at the Ryman (Brown Records BRWN003)

220ap.terry

Clark Terry and His Orchestra: With Paul Gonsalves (SAM/French Decca 153924)

COMMENTS
tonykaz's picture

I suppose it to mean Serenity in Ego.

Owning the most admired is greater than Status.

Maslow's science is the logical explanation for reviewing rich man's extravagances.

One more hubris laced proclamation of superiority.

Can we have a report on which player Mr. Chad Kassem relys on ? , I'll guess it's a VPI.

Tony in Venice

Ortofan's picture

... SME 30 turntable.

https://www.monoandstereo.com/2008/01/interview-with-chad-kassem-of-acoustic.html

tonykaz's picture

Thanks for the reference.

The Audiophile Industry holds Tape as the ultimate format but I'll agree that: the folks with nearly unlimited funds and cubic footage storage capability can and might continue to support the incredible increasing prices that are the dominant feature of higher performing Vinyl.

I am facilitating my grandchildren's vinyl adventures but they are exploring Garage Sale $1 albums with used Pioneer PL15 turntables/integrated NAD3020 and smallish English Box speakers. For them, vinyl is a cultural Musiem.

Vinyl seems a committed belief system for Mr.Kassem who, I think, is the highest integrity person in the entire Vinyl World. I can't think of a close second. ( maybe Harry Wiesfeld who also has beautiful Tape Machines and many Tapes )

$10,000 Phono Cartridges have a short life span. phew.

Tony in Venice

Ortofan's picture

... do we really need a $10,000 phono cartridge to make LP playback sound quality as close as possible to that from tape?

Not according to (the late) mastering engineer Doug Sax.
According to him, LP playback via the Stanton 881S Mk II cartridge provided the closest sound quality to that of the master tape.

When he made that statement a quarter century ago, the price of the Stanton cartridge was $250 - and the stylus was user replaceable. $250 then is equivalent to about $450 today.

Kavi Alexander, of Water Lily Acoustics, made a similar assertion in regard to the Audio-Technica AT-ML170 - at the time a $350 moving-magnet cartridge, also with a user replaceable stylus.

The present day top-of-the-line Audio-Technica MM cartridge - the VM760SLC - will set you back all of $649.

http://www.regonaudio.com/Stanton881AudioTechnicaATML70.html

tonykaz's picture

I loved his Sheffield Labs work, we overplayed it to the point of..... He kind of established or cemented the idea of how good 33.3 & 45 could get.

My final summary of Phono Cartridge performance derives from thinking of them as singing voices. Some with personality, some with dynamics, some with emotion, some able to follow the record grooves, some have compliant suspensions, some are extra fragile. I collected ( an obsession ) and sold Koetsu for their seductive voice. ( I learned of Koetsu from John Atkinson when he was still in England editing HFN&RR )

Once I got to Koetsu level I discovered Vinyl was far too expensive for the typical audiophile, 16/44 saved us from bankruptcy. Now we can spend our $15,000 Mono Cartridge money on Loudspeakers made in Minnesota, NY or even Utah for gods sake.

Tony in Venice

Anton's picture

Nothing in our hobby is about "need," this is all a leisure pursuit. We don't even "need"the VM760SLC, so I can't relate to criticism of gear according to need.

We don't need prime aged beef, Wagyu, Romanee Conti, Cristal, Bugatti, etc.

I agree with you when it comes to pricing....it seems we mostly need social signaling!

Cheers man. None of my mini-rant was meant as personal criticism.

Herb Reichert's picture

he was using a Sao Win (Win Labs) turntable and strain gauge cartridge

hr

Ortofan's picture

... in the Audio-Technica product line-up from about 1989-1993.
The article referencing Kavi Alexander's comments regarding that cartridge dates to the early 1990s.
Do you recall approximately when it was that you visited with him?

Herb Reichert's picture

I met him in 1994-95. I consider him a kind spiritual and sophisticated human and the greatest recordist of all time. I visited him to pay homage and to learn what he listens for. We are still friends and speak occasionally. I visited him a couple times between 1996-97 and really enjoyed his Stax F-81s and Tannoy Ardents. Kavi used an Audio Note 300B integrated with the Tannoy and Electro Research A75s on the Stax. He had several turntables, but I only remember the Win Labs because I had never seen one before. It IS possible and sensible that he drove the MM input of the Audio Note integrated with an Audio-Technica moving-magnet. The Staz and Tannoy were two separate systems, and I know the AN amp would play well with an AT cartridge.

h

JHL's picture

...that someone always leaps at the opportunity to make character assessments of those he's not met and was not invited or appointed to analyze.

-virtue signalling and projection being what high end audio is about because obviously it's not about really fine engineering and really fine reproduced sound.

Aren't you embarrassed? -Sebastian Maniscalco

tonykaz's picture

I've owned a lot of this gear, judging it is what owners do, plus I have the engineering background & tools to critically evaluate mechanical systems accurately.

I've also known industry people in High End, I was one of their peers.

Crazy $$$,$$$ sets off Alarms, especially in a Era where outstanding Sound Quality is dropping in cost.

Tony in Venice

ps. the Velvet Rope people seem to be the opposite of embarassed

JHL's picture

...where extreme engineering goes, your expertise invalidates products like the above from which your armchair analysis of the personalities and characters of others is justified.

Is this a free service and might there be a handy periodical newsletter?

PS: It's this sort of intolerant, uninvited, signalling, forceful stance that puts us normal people off of the obvious parallels in modern society, in culture, and in a particular political stripe I think I see creeping in around the edges. In other words, you're indulging yourself again and you're well off topic.

tonykaz's picture

but Gaslighting isn't.

Tony in Venice

JHL's picture

...couldn't agree more. About gaslighting.

MatthewT's picture

By not reading (or responding to) anything to do with vinyl. I'm new here, but already know what you will say in response.

Ortofan's picture

... worse measured performance than one priced at only $500-600?

https://www.analogplanet.com/content/onkyos-cp-1050-direct-drive-turntable-offers-extraordinary-speed-stability-attractive-retro

JHL's picture

...your audio expertise then question "The Measurement" rather than the device? Or has the $500-600 product magically become superior?

-and if it has, what does your expertise equate that superiority to; what superior ability does the cheap table have at doing the intended job?

Ortofan's picture

... validity of the measurement data that MF includes in his reviews?
Perhaps he can address that concern to your satisfaction.

Is it not conceivable, to you, that the performance of a direct-drive type turntable might exceed that of one driven by a belt?

If the comparison between a $500-600 turntable and one priced at $145K is, for you, an unreasonably far stretch, then we could instead use the performance of a $20K product.

https://www.analogplanet.com/content/exclusive-one-week-technics-new-sl-1000r-direct-drive-turntable

JHL's picture

...that's fallacious.

Originally you used "measurement" - prefaced by "the" as if sole and exclusive, which we know in turntables speed simply is not - and now you use "performance", twice, again as if whatever you're pointing at is just as primary and exclusive.

The Measurement. The device's Performance.

It's elementary to see that in that formulation MF's review isn't the sticking point. The sticking point is what I originally asked you, and what you've since reinforced.

Is this really a question of X vs. Y based on a tremendously narrow sliver of, as you put it, the "performance" thereof, or is it that The Measurement is obviously rhetorically faulty.

-which we can see in audio, it virtually always is.

Ortofan's picture

... discussing the equipment being reviewed, or do you visit this site simply to argue semantics?

JHL's picture

...whether to respond to the obvious begged question, the sheer exactitude of that pot-and-kettle inversion, or how you swept your rotational speed right under the rug, Ortofon.

Ortofan's picture

... confirmed.

JHL's picture

Concession accepted: Turntables *aren't* compared in speed control, performance isn't either, The Measurements involve appreciably more than that, you don't stand by either, and S'Phile comments threads are for trolling the editors by wrongly comparing products from entirely different universes.

Michael Fremer's picture

Is not dispositive by any means

Ortofan's picture

... determine the points at which improvements in speed stability and speed accuracy are no longer audible?

JHL's picture

Heh. Your inversions of logic are as telling as your trademark diversions. If speed stability is the be-all of tables, prove it.

Glotz's picture

Perfect logic for him. Sadly he deflected once again.

Anton's picture

...but I will say that the only thing that table lacks is that red basket from the Mousetrap Game.

Glotz's picture

The red basket is there, but the captive rod that holds it is extra.. $5k.

And if I had the money, I would BUY it!

David Harper's picture

Holy Moly! 145 K for something that cannot possibly sound different or better than a well-designed $300.00 TT! Unless one has also invested in the $10K component stand, I guess. And the $20K cartridge. This is why stereophile is ridiculed by anyone who has not surrendered completely to the placebo effect.

JHL's picture

Offered as a de facto proof of the patently preposterous.

This is why objectivism is ridiculed by anyone who has not - for some unfathomable reason - surrendered to the powers of its baldfaced speculating projection.

volvic's picture

If you think you can design a turntable that can sound as good as the TechDAS, and charge only $300! Please let me know, I will order three from you.

Anton's picture

The economics of scale to make five should get us down to 275 dollars, tops.

Ortofan's picture

... comparing the TechDas/Graham combo with an Audio-Technica AT-LPW40WN, while using an AT-VM95E cartridge fitted to both turntables.

https://www.audio-technica.com/en-us/turntables/all/at-lpw40wn

Michael Fremer's picture

Your assertion is born of total ignorance, though it must be a comfortable perch from which to spew nonsense. I can very easily ridicule you but the editor is against that. On my own website I would not be so kind. Seriously, on what basis do you assert that it "cannot possibly sound different or better than a well designed $300TT (exclamation mark)?". I was recently asked to "proof" test pressings for the about to be released Tom Petty "Wildflowers" 9 LP box set. I digitized a track and sent it to the engineer who put together the box set and he responded "damn, my turntable doesn't sound like that!" But as you say, mine cannot possibly sound better than his. If I sent you a file of some familiar music you'd understand how foolish was your statement and why it's you who deserve ridicule.

Jim Austin's picture

His editor is against that. We are all respectful here.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

Jim Austin's picture

The suggestion that a $300 turntable would sound the same as a $300,000 turntable is so preposterous that I wonder if it was meant in jest.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

Glotz's picture

For once again, cutting through the junk.

And sometimes I truly forget I'm on the Stereophile website vs. Analog Planet.. (hence some recent transgressions...)

Go Mikey Go!

Go Mikey Go!

Jim Austin's picture

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

volvic's picture

Else, it may have been out of reach.

Anton's picture

Hey, they gotta contain cost somewhere.

mcrushing's picture

...of having the exact same discussion about every six-figure product?

The price of X is an obscenity... The manufacturer of X is a crook... Owners of X are self-deluding zealots... I could build X in a weekend with $1,500 in materials ... Y measures better than X, therefore X is inferior to Y.... If you buy X, you must be compensating for Z...

Did I miss any of the old saws?

I'm glad the AF1 exists. I'm glad people wealthy/insane enough to buy one exist. Most of all, I'm glad magnanimous TechDAS dealers exist — ones who let VPI-owning riffraff such as myself listen to gear they absolutely cannot afford.

Before you reach for your pitchfork: I'M JOKING. VPI makes killer tables and I am magnificently fortunate to own one. But I've heard the AFIII, – and the Zero – and they're better. Not a little better. A LOT better.

This is not to say you couldn’t drop my table into an AF1 owner’s system and still get a lifetime of satisfying music. Likewise, replacing my VPI with that $600 Onkyo would objectively increase the speed stability of playback in my system, and I could likely live with that table forever. But is that the point of all this?

Of course not. This is about PASSION. It’s about me stretching to afford my (used) dream table. It’s about Hideaki-San pushing his design concepts to absurd extremes. It’s about all of us living vicariously through Mikey, who gets the hifi equivalents of Formula 1 cars delivered to his house on a regular basis. (Speaking of: please tell me your review of the AF Zero is still going to happen at some point, Michael!)

So I guess my point is this: If you didn’t read this piece because you wanted to ogle an impossibly unaffordable state of the art piece of audio gear...why did you read it?

AaronGarrett's picture

Thanks for saying this. I've long ago given up on vinyl but I do love the insane perfectionist aspect of the pursuit of the perfect turntable. If you have this kind of money there are a lot worse things you can spend it on. Of course you could give it to Habitat for Humanity but if it's between this and a fancy car, or a very fancy watch, at least this is dedicated to making beautiful music. And music is one of the things that makes life worth living.

Glotz's picture

Loved it.

Ortofan's picture

... does not exhibit the highest levels of speed accuracy and stability, how can it possibly be referred to as an exemplar of the "state-of-the-art" for this type of product?

mcrushing's picture

...is a rubbery term. I'd define it as the highest level of general development in a given field at a given moment. I look at the AF1's design, engineering, ongoing R&D, materials, build quality, overall performance and sound quality, and I can't think of a table more deserving of the term. If you want to disqualify it for failing on one specific measurement, that's certainly your prerogative. SpaceX's rockets blow up on the launchpad sometimes, are they not state-of-the-art?

SOTA (the acronym, not the manufacturer) is subjective....like a lot of things in audio. Designing a SOTA turntable that costs $100k is one thing. Designing a SOTA turntable that costs $100 is another, and probably much harder. Either way, the designer sets priorities and makes compromises. You might prioritize speed stability. I might prioritize black backgrounds and reducing coloration from internal and external vibrations. Which is probably why I dig TechDAS's approach.

When it comes to speed accuracy/stability, I think there's a lot you can't control once you get a couple digits past 33.3. What's the speed stability of the cutting lathe? What's a warped record, or one with a slightly off-center hole, doing to your wow and flutter stats? I even question the integrity of the actual measurements: Which is more likely accurate? The onboard tacho and 0.1%-stepped speed control system in a $145,000 turntable? Or the pre-2017 iPhone Mikey keeps around to run the Platterspeed app? I don't have the data to tell you for sure.

But I do have experience listening to two of TechDAS's designs, and I can tell you I heard NO HINT of pitch problems. In fact, I heard no hint of an audio system at all. All I heard was MUSIC – around, behind, above, even below the speakers... But actually FROM those speakers? From them, and all the other the parts of the room where the music "wasn't" ....I heard NOTHING.

The music those tables/systems reproduced felt as alive as the people who once performed it. In my book, THAT is "the art."

dial's picture

I didn't know the designer was from micro seiki (http://www.hifiplus.com/articles/meet-your-maker-hideaki-niskikawa-of-techdas/?utm_campaign=Hi-Fi%2B+Weekly+Emails&utm_medium=email&page=2&utm_source=email-262). His main goal is to reduce vibrations. But like Teragaki the looks seem important.
Thanks Mr Reichert for your answers, didn't know about the Sao Win turntable, really beautiful like the Transcription 300 from IMF Electronics glass or plexi & metal... Saw one for sale at 2200 (don't ask me where USAM us audio mart).
Thanks to Mr Fremer too, we all know turntables with tonearms and cartridges don't sound the same, don't be angry please because of one person (still own my Goldmund studio/Magneplanar/Goldring 1042 but for everyday vinyl I use an old Sony PST 15, is it any good ?). I've heard strain gauge cartridges produce less crackles.

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