On classical music, perhaps the most demanding format to reproduce, I was also quite impressed by the TechDas. Here the speed stability of the ’table was manifestly apparent. I chose as an inaugural LP the Argo pressing that my TAS colleague Neil Gader bestowed upon me of Stravinsky’s masterwork Pulcinella. A few years ago we listened to it at TAS editor Robert Harley’s house, and I was much impressed by the sonics of this LP, which I believe HP, the founder of this magazine, had touted as well. The Air Force displayed excellent transient fidelity on the record. It was easy to hear the bowing employed by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields orchestra. Not only were the string sections crisply delineated, but the flutes had an airy and translucent quality. The sheer amount of detail delivered on fortissimo passages without any sense of breakup or incoherence was also quite remarkable. I reveled in the sense of communication between orchestral players that the TechDAS conveyed.
If the TechDAS displayed great dexterity and nimbleness, it never sacrificed the full sound that I alluded to earlier. On a London pressing of the German baritone Hermann Prey accompanied by Gerald Moore, the TechDAS provided a real sense of heft as Prey sang Hugo Wolf songs such as “The Gardener” and “The Assignment.” It scaled the dynamic peaks with aplomb and majesty, once again at a level I have seldom experienced. Throughout, Moore’s piano accompaniment was not a faint presence but a dramatic adjunct, lending the proceedings a sense of drama and suspense., particularly on the song “Nimmersatte Liebe,” or insatiable love.
What about the big and powerful and rumbustious stuff? It only seemed appropriate to conclude my auditioning of the Air Force with a pristine pressing that I picked up in Japan years ago. Madonna on “Lucky Star” was a treat to hear. Bass was full and extended and all the gee-whiz effects of the synthesized music were on display in their full glory. Madonna’s voice sounded nicely youthful and plaintive in parts.
But here the limitations, such as they are, of the Air Force III also became apparent. No, it doesn’t have the clout of the Air Force I or the Continuum Caliburn that I use in my own system. I’m not talking about separating the men from the boys. The differences aren’t a chasm, but then again, they are apparent, as you would expect, particularly if you’re an audiophile besotted with vinyl playback. To drop sonic depth charges, for the ultimate bang and soundstage scale you’re going to have to dig deeper, much deeper, into your pocket.
But if you’re looking to put together a top-flight system at a budget that doesn’t approach astronomical levels, then the Air Force III is surely a potent contender. Once upon a time, in my early youth, “made in Japan” constituted a warning sign. Those days, however, are long over. The fit ’n’ finish of the Air Force III are simply dynamite and the performance is, as well. Here’s the bottom line: If you really want to soar into the vinyl stratosphere, then call in the Air Force!
Specs & Pricing
Type: Armless turntable
Chassis: Precision-machined aluminum alloy, 21kg
Main platter: Precisionmachined aluminum alloy, 9kg
Drive system: Belt drive
Motor: AC synchronous motor
Rotation speed: 33.3 or 45rpm
Wow & Flutter: Below 0.03 %
Air pump and power supply unit weight and dimensions: 350 x 1600 x 270mm, 9 kg