The very top end of turntsablism is dominated by a few great names, but perhaps the biggest one at this time is the Japanese brand TechDAS. Coming from good high-end stock (chief designer and CEO Hideaki Nishikawa is one of the doyens of high-end audio, and worked at Stax and – perhaps more relevant for the current brand – was chief designer for Micro-Seiki). In other words, his skills as a turntable designer are some of the best in the business.
The original Air Force One turntable is a remarkable affair, using air damping and vacuum hold down to deliver one of the most authentic sounds in record replay. Unfortunately, such audio perfection comes at a cost, and the Air Force One was at the high end of super high-end audio. The Air Force Two swapped oil damping for air, and came with a one-piece platter to make it less expensive, but ‘less’ was still out of reach for almost all of us. Which brings us to the Air Force III, the ‘affordable’ TechDAS design.
Air Force III ues a smaller chassis, which not only lowers costs, but means the deck can support up to four tonearms. This is made from a precison cut block of solid aluminium. Aluminium features strongly in the platter, too, as the basic type platter is made of high-mass solid aluminum. TechDAS claims other types of platters are in development and will be made available as optional upgrades. The company usually honours its pledges, so you can bank on that claim.
Instead of having built-in insulators as seen in the bigger Air Force designs, the turntable sits on four feet, using a pin point support method, which will prevent feedback in most settings (TechDAS is considering an air-insulation platform for more difficult environments). Most importantly however, the Air Force III uses the core ‘air control’ technologies of the Air Force One, such as an air bearing that floats the platter at 30µm and a vacuum disc hold down. Unlike most air-bearing arrangements, TechDAS prefers a compression system to a glorified fish-tank pump, because such things (found mostly in dialysis and heart-lung machines) are inherently ripple-free and noiseless. Just a mark of how obsessive – in a good way – the TechDAS team are, the deck has speed control, with ±0.1rpm adjustments, not for DJ use, but for those with perfect pitch who can’t stand a record that is cut a fraction of a rpm too slow or fast.