Of all the high-end superdecks, few generated quite as much interest as TechDAS’ Air Force One. Everything on a turntable that could be pumped up or held down by air or vacuum, was… and was made to a standard that most other turntable makers could only dream of. With the Continuum project now history, the ‘One has become the turntable among ‘Vinylista Extrema’. However, the price of the ‘One is a big ask for many enthusiasts, and the Air Force Two goes some way to address this (a still cheaper Air Force Three was shown at the Munich High-End 2015). This new turntable is a far smaller, transcription style design, with provision for three different arms. Weird and wonderful!
TechDAS took all the elements of the Air Force One and worked out what could be simplified. This isn’t an easy task: simplifying an air bearing or a vacuum hold-down system without fundamentally wrecking the advantages of such components in the process is extremely difficult, especially as Nishikawa-san (TechDAS designer and CEO) is convinced – rightly, in my opinion – that compression is pivotal in the design of any air-bearing system. This means the default, lower-cost way of making an air-bearing (a fishtank pump) is out of the running, and any TechDAS design has to rely on a custom-made solenoid-valve system with extremely small air holes, and an air condenser to cancel out ripple. And, like it’s bigger brother, the Air Force Two is required to be capable of being used with more than one tonearm, although in standard guise, for most people one arm is probably more than enough. While there is no ‘easy way’ put simply, the easy way to cut costs is not the right way to make a cheaper Air Force One.
Given that important set of limiting criteria imposed on the Air Force Two design before one fires up the CAD program, just how can you reduce prices? Well, first you remove the option of three different platter surface materials, replacing the 29kg stainless steel platter with a 10kg, solid cast aluminium design in the process. And you replace the air suspension system with oil-damped adjustable towers in each corner of the turntable plinth. And that’s about it. OK, so this means a redesigned, slightly smaller, lighter plinth, but the free-standing asynchronous, DC-controlled AC motor block, the air bearing and vacuum disc hold down, the adjustable speed control, and the separate (yet silent) air pump/condenser/power supply box are essentially the same. There is also a commonality of design, although the Air Force Two is more squared off. Although not by much; in fact, the shape of the Air Force Two is not regular, and it’s reasonably large, too.