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RMAF 2015: TechDAS adds muscle with Air Force Two, joins forces with Einstein, Graham Engineering and Audiomachina

Techdas-Graham-Einstein-8

The TechDAS Air Force Two ($52,000 USD)  fitted with the Einstein Audio The Pickup MC cartidge (approx. $8,500 USD) and Graham Engineering The Phantom Elite tonearm.

TechDAS need to get Harrison Ford to star in their sequel to Air Force One. Let’s be original and call it Air Force Two.

This turntable is a behemoth, and with the Graham Engineering Phantom Elite tonearm ($12,000 ~ $13,000 USD depending on length) handling translation duties from the Einstein Audio The Pickup MC cartridge, I’m going to call the sound coming through this analog front end a juggernaut. Music was absolutely being propelled from the vinyl.

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Pickup MC

Pickup MC

Having Einstein Audio handle the phono (approx. $10,000 USD) pre (approx. $30,000 USD) and power (approx. $30,000 USD monoblocks) amplification certainly didn’t hurt anything sound-wise either. Speaker duties were the Audiomachina Maestro GSE loudspeaker.

Einstein Phono

Einstein Phono

Einstein preamplifier

Einstein preamplifier

Einstein power amplifier

Einstein power amplifier

There seems to be quite a number of schools of thought on speaker design, with two of the main ‘trunks’ before the tree branches off into the many dozens being to either embrace or reject resonance. Some work with resonance and celebrate what a resonant enclosure brings to the harmonic range, others engineer their speakers to have completely inert enclosures made of a variety of hybrid composites or metal (Read: No wood. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a guitar, cello or piano without resonance – or wood – never mind a speaker. But hey, that’s just me), and treat the drivers strictly as pistons (this is a simplistic explanation, but these are room snapshots, not in-depth reviews, so apologies to anyone if this is not a treatise on speaker design).

The Audiomachina Maestro GSE are from latter school of thought with extremely rigid, resonance-rejecting enclosures, and proved to have synergy with the TechDAS, and Einstein front end.

Keeping the music musical

Keeping the music musical

Dr. Karl Schuemann, president of Audiomachina has an obvious passion and skill in designing his Full SSA (Solid Slab Aluminum) enclosures for the Maestro GSE that allowed the music to keep its mojo and sound musical to my ears. Harry Belafonte at Carnegie Hall had all the hallmark traits I associate with this LP; plenty of air and space around Belafonte’s voice and a nice gut-punch midrange of congas and bass.

Audiomachina Maestro GSE ($80,000 USD).

The good Dr. Karl and his Audiomachina Maestro GSE ($80,000 USD).

Bob Graham, namesake of Graham Engineering was also on hand to answer questions regarding the Phantom Elite, which he said featured a redesigned pivot assembly that incorporates constrained-layer damping, a new high-density and non-magnetic tungsten bearing insert, and new armtube featuring a larger and more rigid damped-titanium design.

Graham Phantom EIlte

Graham Phantom Elite

The man with the tonearm.

The man with the tonearm.

The TechDAS, Einstein, Phantom and Audiomachina combo proved once again that analog is alive and well, with the number of MC cartridges I’m familiar with that are pushing $10,000 USD (or more) growing every year. Obviously the market demand is there, and I for one look forward to seeing (a rather aging, but handsome) Harrison Ford in Air Force Three.

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About Rafe Arnott (324 Articles)

Editor and Creative Director for Part-Time Audiophile & The Occasional Magazine.