Day One at Munich High End 2017

Day one at High End Munich 2017 was of course a busy day of press conferences and room visits, encounters with old friends and the usual combination of being dazzled by what's new and shaking off jet-lag.

TechDas called an 11:00 A.M. press conference to introduce on the Air Force One Premium turntable the massive motor system that will be part of the Air Force Zero—an upcoming "statement" turntable projected to cost up to $300,000 and designer Hideaki Nishikawa's final turntable project.

The motor shown is a prototype using a rare Papst NOS (new old stock) unit of which only 50 exist, all now owned by TechDAS for use in the Zero. The motor features an air bearing and is a 3 phase 12 pole design. The air bearing is for the entire combination of the outer rotor and the one piece pulley/fly wheel component.

Also on board was a prototype Tungsten upper platter and Tungsten disc stabilizer.

Attendees go to hear the motor driving the Air Force One Premium with an SAT tone arm fitted with a TechDAS cartridge driving CH Precision electronics including the P1/X1 phono preamp. Speakers were from Vivid. The sound produced blew more than a few minds who had never heard such from vinyl records this level of dynamics and iron-fisted control.

There's a lot to report from the show but that's all for now. Much more to come.

Dorian Workman's picture

I want one. Can I use your reviewer discount Mikey?

J. Carter's picture

It will only cost you the price of a small house instead of a big house.

Dorian Workman's picture

My wife won't mind at all down-sizing from our current place to facilitate this purchase.

Anton D's picture

They should call it the Jean-Michel Basquiat turntable.

Only 12 poles in the motor. That's too bad. I hope the exclusivity can make up for it!

RR's picture


Ortofan's picture

... the high-end audio industry is moving beyond the price range of most automobiles and into that occupied by light aircraft.
One might consider that apropos for a company whose product is named Air Force One.

Dorian Workman's picture

Ha ha! Classic.

RR's picture

Will this turntable work inside a flying gullfsrteam?
I wonder
I wonder
I wonder

Martin's picture

I love it, if I could afford it, like just about everyone else reading this, I would get one.
However. Here are some thoughts.

I recently went and saw "Gimme Danger", the Rockumentary on Iggy Pop and the Stooges from Jim Jarmusch. Which motivated me to go get Iggy and the Stooges three great records, S/T, Funhouse and of course, "Raw Power".
I noticed the Rhino reissue of "Funhouse" in the record shop around the corner from me. It says on the sticker, "LPs cut from the original analog masters"., etc. etc.
Rhino is pretty well regarded, has a good name, so, figuring, this must be a pretty good reissue worthy of my own turntable, an SME 20 with a Lyra Skala, I picked it up.
Looking for issues of the others online, someone - yes - at the Hoffman forums, love 'em or hate 'em told me, "The Rhino Iggy Pop reissues were cut at Capitol, so even if they used tape, the signal goes through digital delay".
Ok, 1. Can anyone confirm this?
2. If true and quite frankly it seems reasonable given the way things are going, then WTF??!!!
That digital delay can't be at a resolution of more than 96/24. From Capitols perspective, why bother? Nobody can prove it, no one can tell the difference anyway, right?
And how many others are done this way?
So even if the reissue company goes to the effort of getting the tapes, doing a good mastering job, they are at the mercy of the company cutting to vinyl, who may well fuck it up.

Then.... When I picked the record up, the record store currently underwent a renovation and radically expanded its vinyl selection. They now have thousands of LPs in the shelves. Real shelves, lots of them. With lots of different stuff.
What struck me was over 90% of the vinyl they had, was DIGITALLY SOURCED. Most of it 44.1/16 to 96/24. Lots of different record companies, MOV, Universal, various european labels, the odd MoFi, analogue productions - hugely expensive here.
96/24 digital, does not, IMO hold a candle to an analogue record. It ain't subtle either.

So you have the truly wierd situation, that here, someone has built a truly fanatical turntable, aimed at extracting everything from the grooves that is in there, and for the most part succeeding, while on the other hand, the industry, record labels, etc. are firmly headed in the other direction, putting less information into the grooves. Digital dreck is digital dreck, whether it's a CD, a download or... in the grooves of a disc of plastic.
Air Force One can't get out of a set of grooves what's not in there.

But seriously, Air Force One on the one hand - getting everything out of the grooves.
The record labels/companies, putting less into the grooves.

Michael Fremer's picture
I will ask Ron McMaster but I would like to think "preview head".
Martin's picture

That would be GREAT!
Ron McMaster, by the way mastered the vinyl of "Blue and Lonesome", he did, I think a really good job. Given what he must have had. The vinyl is considerably better than the CD or the hi-rez. digital download. The digital versions are compressed past the point of sanity and clip, every track, continually.
If you could ask Ron McM. what he mastered from, I think a lot of people would be grateful for the info.

I kind of depend on Rhino to do the right thing. Plus I've had really good experiences mostly with their stuff. Both older and reissues. It's one of the names to depend on.
As an aside, I was playing my way through the Rhino 11 Volume, LP set of soul shots from the mid 1980s' a few weeks ago. The sound ranged from average to sonic spectacular. Some of it, I swear, they got the single master tape to work with. Highly recommended.

To come back to new vinyl and digital, the record/music shop window had a whole bunch of records in the window, plus turntables, etc. Which is nice, but here is what I saw, with what I know or am pretty sure is the source:
Led Zeppelin 4 - reissue. 96/24 digital.
Pink Floyd - Animals. 96/24 digital. This one is egregious, the sticker says: "Mastered from the original analogue tapes by Bernie Grundman, etc" without mentioning mastered to 96/24 digital
Iggy and the Stooges - Raw Power. The two mix set, the original and the Iggy mix from later. It's a European press I think, so probably 44.1/16, 44.1/24 or maybe 96/24 digital. Most likely 44.1/24.
Coltrane. Label is Jazz classics. I'm pretty sure this is 44.1/24
Taste - on the boards. 44.1/24 or 96/24 digital.
Duane Eddy - Twistin N Twangin. European label. 44.1/16 or 44.1/24
Abba - Waterloo. Back to Black, Universal. I think these are mostly 44.1/24.
Count Basie - Basie on the Beatles. Jazz Classics label, a European press. 44.1/16 or 44.1/24.
The Ramones - Road to Ruin. Rhino reissue. Analogue. So far as I know.
Michael Jackson - Off the wall. European press. I'm guessing 44.1/24 or 96/24.

This is a representive selection. I would say over 90%, maybe 95% of the vinyl I saw, like 9 out of 10 or 19 out of 20 records, sifting through the racks, and there were a lot of racks and a LOT of records, were all digitally sourced. And not what I would call particularly high resolution either.
The point is, having an air force zero, you have to search to find fodder for the beast. Because most vinyl I see on sale here is digitally sourced.
Don't get me wrong, I like digital and am a great fan of high resolution digital for its convenience and pretty good sound quality, the recent Led Zeppelin 96/24 remasters are a case in point, they are really good.
But this is silly.
Yes, there is MoFi, Analogue Productions, ORG and others. But you really have to know and research what you are buying.
I'm wondering if this is feeding the fad. Most of this is not quality that is being produced. Yes, it sounds pretty revelatory to someone who has grown up on a diet of MP3 and CDs, but it is definitely not viable over the long term.

Ortofan's picture

... that from analog discs with your SME 20 and Lyra Skala, what player are you using?
Have you tried a dCS Rossini, for example?

Martin's picture

which has a separate power supply with a tube rectifier, a good one, and separate input and output stages. The output stage is tube driven. When I got the thing a couple of years ago, I upgraded the tubes over what it came with. It sounds pretty good, it's not a dcs rossini or vivaldi, but given they go for 30,000 $ or so.....
When I was auditioning and thinking, the Nagra stack was the only device under 10-15K I heard that was better.
I run it mostly with a couple of USB sticks plugged into the back. 192/24 and 96/24 files sound very good. 44.1/16 files ripped from CDs incidentally sound better from the USB than played from the CD. Go figure.
Comparison- the Stones SACDs vs the DSD sourced vinyl. The vinyl has the edge, it's a bit fuller, rounder and warmer, but the difference ain't huge.....

Michael Fremer's picture
Michael, No, I have a preview head!!! Ron
Martin's picture

And Thank You Ron McMaster
for using a real preview head.
Obviously I will carry on buying Rhino vinyl :-)

Also, Ron, thank you very much for the good job you did on Blue and Lonesome. Your vinyl mastering is playable. The squashed digital CD and high res downliad done by Stephen Narcussen is awful.

Leviethan's picture

Has he always had an analogue preview head, or is this a recent thing? I'm wondering about the Rhino reissues of The Stooges and Funhouse. I have the first one, and it sounds really, really good.

Leviethan's picture

Sorry, I inadvertently used the pretentious spelling of analog! It's only OK for British people to spell it that way.

Leviethan's picture

Sorry, I inadvertently used the pretentious spelling of analog! It's only OK for British people to spell it that way.

RR's picture

is the same version as yours, the one that was gifted from Mr. C. Kassem of Analog Productions.
It seems to me that particular version of the "Tea for the Tillerman" lacquer was cut from a special tape machine that employs a preview head, having a fully-analog signal path from tape to lacquer.
The LP looks nice too. It's a colored vinyl; green-ish with a hint of blue.

Question being: which version is the one and where to buy from?


Michael Fremer's picture
Cut at Sterling Sound..
vinyl1's picture

...Pabst is a beer, Papst is the motor.

Michael Fremer's picture
Papst smear is correct
RR's picture

it(analog) stores audio information in a "random-sample-length" defined by pattern of the tape oxide master (if not direct to disk recording), pattern of the lathe, mother, father and pressed vinyl molecule, etc. All we need is just a very speed-stable tape transport and turntable considering the rest are taken care of. Simple.

On the flip side, digital stores audio information in "not-so-very-random-clock-sample-length" defined by the analog to digital clock, stability of clock, ADC module responsiveness, etc. Another thing, remember how "digital audio" used to sound without dither-noise(translate: amplitude randomizing noise)? Horrible.