North American Public Debut Of Techdas Air Force Zero And Wilson Audio Master Chronosonic/Subsonic

April 11, 2019
Santa Monica, California 
I attended last night the invitation-only North American public debut of the TechDAS Air Force Zero turntable (about $400,000) and the Wilson Audio Master Chronosonic and Master Subsonic loudspeaker system (about $800,000).

Maier Shadi, the well-known and widely-respected proprietor of The Audio Salon, in Santa Monica, California, who hosted the event, was introduced by Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio. Maier did an amazing job of converting in only a couple of weeks a large storage room into a great-sounding high-end listening room. I noticed the liberal use of sound absorbers on the ceiling and on the upper sections of the walls, and a large number of SMT Varitunes and SMT diffusers covering the front wall and the side walls.
Michael Fremer brought his own records and took responsibility for spinning vinyl.
Nishikawa-san and Motofumi-san of TechDAS discussed the new Air Force Zero turntable, the culmination of Nishikawa-san’s life’s work designing and building turntables. Nishikawa-san explained that the Air Force Zero platter consists of five sub-platters totaling 120kg in weight. The Artesiana stand weighs 320kg. The floating bases total 100kg.
This is the metallurgy of the sub-platters from top to bottom:

1) tungsten or titanium top platter​
2) stainless steel platter​
3) gun metal platter​
4) stainless steel platter​
5) stainless steel bottom platter.​

Air is sucked through all five platters to achieve vacuum hold-down of records. There is no airspace anywhere in the five platters.
The motor, a 3 phase 12 pole vintage Pabst synchronous motor, itself has an air suspension. A motor drive controller determines the speed of rotation of the platter and the phase of the motor.
Nishikawa demonstrated how with the vacuum hold-down off if you tap a vinyl record on the platter, you hear the tapping through the speakers. With the vacuum on the same tapping of the record produces no noise whatsoever through the speakers.
The Air Force Zero was outfitted with a SAT CF12 tonearm and a 12” Graham Phantom Elite with a titanium arm-wand. On the CF12 tonearm rode a “barely broken in Atlas SL” cartridge. A TechDAS cartridge was mounted on the Graham tonearm. There was no SME 3012R mounted on this Air Force Zero, as has been seen in some photos of the turntable.
I noticed Transparent Audio cabling with network boxes emulating the swoopy shape of exotic cars, and Dan D’Agostino amplifiers and electronics, and, of course, two Wilson Audio Watch Controllers for the Master Subsonics.
Neil Gader and Paul Seydor, both reviewers for The Absolute Sound, also were in attendance.
Nishikawa selected the first several tracks we all heard, including one from Harry Belafonte Live at Carnegie Hall. After that Michael Fremer did an amusing and patient job DJing.
Among other interesting things Michael played an A/B comparison of a jazz title, with one record remastered by Electric Recording Company of England, and another record remastered by Acoustic Sounds. For something very different Michael played an eight minute track of a female English rap singer accompanied by instrumentation by a classical orchestra.
Michael thought he was done with his DJing chores for the night when Paul Seydor asked him to play three vocals tracks from a Jacintha album, I think. Michael concluded the night with a satisfyingly loud “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones.
The Wilson Audio Chronosonics and Subsonics looked almost beautiful in a champagne silver color. As we typically see in Wilson Audio subwoofer installations, the Subsonics were pushed back into the extreme front left and front right corners.
Overall the system was incredibly dynamic, and provided a sense of unlimited dynamic ceiling and capability. The system sounded “light on its feet” while at the same time capable of delivering thunderous power with a very high “jump factor.”
As we all know it is difficult to conclude anything objectively and accurately about the overall sound of a system, and the contribution of the individual components thereto, in the best of circumstances, but when you are listening to unfamiliar music on an unfamiliar system in an unfamiliar room it is difficult to ascertain anything at all. With that broad disclaimer I nonetheless think I heard one full notch higher level of realism and easier suspension of disbelief than I have ever heard before. This system took me one step closer to the sound of musicians playing live in the room with you. The piercing bite of brass instruments, the sensation of lungs breathing air into instruments such as saxophone and trumpet, the richness and power of piano, as well as the gentle tinkling of piano keys, I think all sounded more real than I have ever heard them before.
Ron Resnick – Mono and Stereo Senior Contributing Reviewer