the material of the wires in the tonearm, or the interconnects to
the preamp, and, granted, you'll get more attention than having
switched to a tonearm with, say, an azimuth adjustment. After all,
how much can it matter? The tonearm is not in the direct path of
the signal. All it does is hold the cartridge, and as long as the
geometry and VTF are within reason, it's doing a good job. Once
But the tonearm's
role goes well beyond a mere support function. Due to its early
appearance in the playback hierarchy, the tonearm can have a profound
influence on the overall outcome of the musical event. And that's
without touching on any functional or even aesthetic aspects of
As a matter
of fact, I submit that the tonearm is not only the most active,
but also the most influential component in your system. Every time
a record is played, the tonearm is involved. It's an integral part
of the playback ritual. The tonearm not only points the cartridge
in the right direction, it also cues over to the right spot, raises
the cartridge, and lowers it into the groove.
But it's not
until the stylus settles into the groove that the tonearm becomes
a crucial, active component of the reproduction chain. Besides having
to keep the cartridge in step with the advancing spiral of the groove
itself, the tonearm has to bear the swings and narrows of outrageous
excursions. With luck, these will be recorded information, but anomalies
of the black disc also have to be accommodated.
analogy: A pair of binoculars can be the brightest and the best,
but if you don't hold them still the magnification and resolution
are wasted. Gripping them in your hands is not enough; even with
your elbows pressed to your sides, all you will see is a blur—the
image wanders, jitters, and drifts. But if the elbows are supported
on something firm, like a wall, everything steadies. Put the binoculars
on a tripod, and the results are rock-solid.
has a similarly vexing task, only carried a step further. Take the
same binoculars to a floating boat, stand up in it, and now try
to sight on something far away. Better still, look at a bird in
Well, a stylus
riding a record groove has similar requirements. The cartridge has
to be held rigidly and perfectly aligned by the tonearm in order
to avoid image shifts, blurred transients, grundge, and the like.
Except for one small problem—the groove is a moving target.
It is cut in a spiral, requiring the tonearm to keep up with this
path. The pressing could also be off-center, or worse, warped. It's
a one-shot deal, in real time no less, without the benefit of error
acting from a shifting reference position, has to provide the cartridge
with enough steadying influence to allow the stylus to correctly
garner every recorded nuance from the speeding record groove. And
as if all that was not enough, the requirements also include adjustments
for VTF, VTA, azimuth, and overhang.
complicated. But is the tonearm really influential? Most definitely.
The point is that a tonearm can make or break (oops, poor choice
of words, here in the world of megabuck cartridges) a cartridge.
A cartridge cannot do the same for a tonearm.
For once, you're
not at the mercy of garbage in, garbage out; instead, you're in
a position to minimize it. What we have here is a case for generating
minimum distortion at the point where the signal originates. It
has been said before, and I'll say it again—if you don't get
it right at the beginning, forget it.
is there to make the cartridge look good by customizing its relationship
to the groove, which, in turn, will optimize the interpolation of
the recorded information. Here I refer to more than just the built-in
facilities for trimming VTA and azimuth settings. We have now entered
the subtle world of structural resonances, bearing stiffness, and
similarly complex design problems. We have also crossed an imaginary
line separating the engineering world from the realm of art.
I rest my case.
there are individuals who not only respect tonearms, but who are
committed to perfecting them. One of these people, Leif Haggmark,
designer and developer of the Airtangent tonearm and the Swedish
Magnepan and Krell distributor, has left no room for doubt about
The idea behind
this tonearm was to accomplish everything I have discussed and then
some. That "then some" includes low moving mass in both
planes, controlled resonances in the armtube, and user conveniences
galore. Also, the finish is excellent, the design admirable, and
the execution stunning.
very exciting product. But there must be a catch somewhere. There
is—it costs $3200. Sure, the Airtangent is imported from Sweden,
but the biggest reason is the small number of audiophiles who partake
of such sumptuous goodies. It's a case of supply and demand—of
performance, that is.
The reigning ethos is that every little vinyl niche hides yet another
nuance that must be explored. As a result, equipment that can live
up to such expectations must perform to an upward-spiraling performance
standard. Such high-performance products are available, but somebody
has to foot the bill for the development—that small number
of customers who appreciate these specialty items. The result? High
bottom-line manufacturing costs for such products as the Airtangent.
It saddens me to see the very limited
press that some very significant product developments get. It's
a shame that more people will not enjoy or benefit from these remarkable
fruits of intense dedication, nor those responsible get the recognition
they deserve. But such is the fate of singlemindedness, I suppose.
But as small as the high-end community is, the appreciation for
audio exotica is intense. Leif tells me that a total of 325 Airtangents
have been sold worldwide.
The Airtangent started out innocently
enough. Leif merely intended to satisfy his own need for an all-out
tonearm, so he built a few prototypes. Word of his achievement somehow
got out—in the audiophile community there is really no such
concept as secrecy—and his fame spread quickly. Before he
realized it, his pet project had outgrown the bounds of unassuming
private adventure. At that point Leif made a decision to go into
the tonearm business and the rest is history.
Speaking to Leif bore out my theory
that achievements in the high end are based on the drive of a few
individuals. His intensity, pride, and perseverance are nothing
but admirable. (He got up at 4AM—his time—to phone in
an explanation and some background information for this review.)
It was also fascinating to see that express shipments from Sweden
were much faster than some of the local transactions. In most instances,
two days was all it took.
It is also why he never stops making
improvements. A case in point is the cueing mechanism. When I first
saw it, all he had was a manually operated mechanism. It did what
it was required to do, but that was all. Next thing I know, the
cueing bar is motor-driven. Leif had incorporated a small motor,
normally used in cameras, in his design. Just recently I received
a very sleek-looking mechanism which hides the movement of the cueing
bar. This adds considerably to the overall elegance of the design.
Leif says that he is driven to design the perfect product; I have
detected nothing in his attitude that would lead me to doubt that
Just what makes the Airtangent so special? Let's start with first
impressions, something especially important for a tonearm costing
How many high-end products do you
know that come packaged in an attache case? A flip of the lid is
all that's needed to display each of the Airtangent's component
parts, all properly secured in neatly contoured compartments of
bright red foam. Against that background, the black and metallic
finish of the components stands out ever so much more prominently
and invitingly. This beautiful sight is bettered only when the Airtangent
has been installed on a turntable.
Of course, the basic design is something
we should know more about. In the case of the Airtangent, it's all
in the name. While the "Air" part is obvious, the "tangent"
may not be.
A tangent is a straight line touching
a circle at one point only. More of interest here is another geometric
fact: a tangent is always perpendicular to a radius of that circle.
Simply put, if we keep the tip of the cantilever tangent to the
record groove, the tip will always remain on the radius of the groove.
Since the raison d'etre of a straight-line tonearm is to replicate
the original traverse of the cutting stylus, we are home free. All
we need is a virtually frictionless bearing design—and air
is the way to go.
Such rigorous design requirements
demand exacting tolerances. Not only must the parts fit properly,
the structural integrity has to cope with resonances, stress, and
stability. Recognizing this, an interesting conglomeration of materials
can be found interspersed throughout the Airtangent, including acrylic,
aluminum, copper, steel, magnesium, and titanium.
Every conceivable adjustment has
been built into the Airtangent. Tracking force is set by a sliding
counterweight, overhang and azimuth by a movable arm tube. VTA has
a ball-bearing race with rack-and-pinion "steering." Also
included is a damping trough for taming more exuberant playback
But the one feature that sets this
arm apart from the crowd is a honey: cartridges, completely adjusted
and aligned, can be changed in seconds! That alone should make the
Airtangent worth the price of admission!
As the air-tube is suspended only
at one end, the other end is free, allowing the air-bearing sleeve
to be easily slid off. Whole tonearm assemblies, balanced and set
for each individual cartridge, can be exchanged with the greatest
of ease. Just unplug a single connector for the cartridge signal,
and the air-bearing sleeve and armtube are free to be removed. Slide
another assembly in place, connect it, and you're all set to use
another cartridge. The whole process takes less time than it took
to read this.
But there's more. The icing on the
cake is the electronically operated cueing bar for lowering and
raising the cartridge, as well as the end-of-record auto-lift feature.
The latter feature is a truly worthwhile convenience seldom seen
on a high-end tonearm (footnote 1).
Last, but not least, my favorite
part—execution. Nothing but the best workmanship and parts
have been used. For example, Tiffany are used for the output connections
to the preamp, and Lemo connectors elsewhere. I've already mentioned
the interesting intermingling of exotic materials in use here, as
well as the Airtangent's stunning design presence. But it's at the
detail level that praise should be heaped. Every little detail seems
to fall into place, resulting in a product that has my highest admiration.
I don't hesitate to mention a Rolls-Royce
and an Airtangent in the same breath—it's a design that easily
conjures up thoughts of other renowned creations. The Hasselblad,
for one, springs to mind for obvious reasons—its reputation
is legendary, and it also hails from Sweden.
hath Leif wrought
The basic air-bearing mechanism is very simple. First, take a hollow
rod and hold it stationary, in a horizontal position. Next, close
off one end, and force pressurized air outward through numerous
tiny holes drilled radially in the wall of the rod. Now slide a
sleeve over it, keeping the clearance between the two pieces to
about one thousandth of an inch (25um), and attach an armtube for
the cartridge. You're in business (footnote 2). Well, almost.
In the Airtangent, one end of the
hollow rod is attached to the "mounting tower," a block
of acrylic roughly 2½" high and 1½" square.
The rod, 6 7/8" long and 1" in diameter, is suspended
horizontally as a cantilever. This rod—the air-tube—is
the source for the tiny air-streams used to create the air bearing
for the sleeve assembly. To maintain the required accuracy and stability,
the air-tube is manufactured from titanium. The air holes are not
visible to the naked eye. The air can, however, be felt if a hand
is placed very close to the tube.
The mounting tower is actually in
two parts. One half is stationary and bolted to the armboard. The
other is free to move vertically, and acts as a central coupling
point for all the components comprising the tonearm. A miniature
rack-and-pinion gear assembly is provided to move the two pieces
with respect to each other. The two pieces are accurately linked
by a vertically aligned linear ball bearing, and can be moved with
respect to each other with the help of the rack-and-pinion.
The key word here is "vertically"—OK,
you guessed it—that's the VTA adjustment. The shaft of the
pinion is accessible, and attaches to a lever. VTA changes are effected
by rocking the lever, vertically displacing the air-tube and the
sleeve-bearing assembly. A locking screw secures the desired position.
This couples the two pieces of the mounting tower together, and
provides the necessary mechanical integrity for stable playback
The stationary half of the mounting
tower fastens to the tonearm board with a ½" bolt. (Even
the ½" Allen wrench is provided in the mounting kit.)
Torquing this bolt home establishes very solid contact between the
But Leif goes beyond this. To avoid
rotation of the mounting tower in the horizontal plane, three pointed
screws, about 1/8" in diameter, extend through the tower vertically.
The points penetrate the surface, anchoring the whole assembly in
The active parts of the tonearm
are attached to the air-bearing sleeve. Here, on the platter side,
we find a clamp holding one end of the armtube for the cartridge.
This 71/4"-long magnesium armtube does not differ significantly
in size from those in ordinary pivoted designs. It's a sleek-looking
tapered tube extending over the platter, with a rectangular platform
for the cartridge at the end. The other end is gripped by a clamp
on the aluminum air-bearing sleeve. This keeps the weight down and
the rigidity high. The inside is filled with foam for damping, and
to keep the cartridge signal wires from rattling.
The clamp is loosened to align the
cartridge, thus freeing up the armtube. For overhang, move it along
its axis; for azimuth, around it. The settings are locked into place
by tightening the clamp.
A sliding counterweight on the opposite
side of the air-bearing sleeve balances the cartridge and the armtube
to provide the required VTF. A couple of weights are supplied, one
large, the other smaller, to accommodate a range of cartridges.
For the same reason, the armtube comes in two stiffnesses: the standard
armtube, and a mechanically bolstered version (optional) for cartridges
requiring more rigidity. Leif mentioned the MC-3000 and the Koetsus
as candidates for this application.
The cartridge signal passes from
the armtube to the mounting tower via Litz wire from a special source.
Besides its electrical purpose, this miniature cable is the only
mechanical link between the air-bearing sleeve and the outside world.
Some very careful positioning of these wires is necessary to avoid
drag from this source. The spring action of these tiny wires can
seriously impede the virtually frictionless air bearing if not treated
with care. These wires are terminated at a miniature Lemo connector
which plugs into its mate on the mounting tower.
Signals from the arm proper are
routed to a pair of Tiffany jacks on an outboard termination box.
This interface box also provides a junction point for the vinyl
air-supply hose from the pump. (The latest versions also house the
circuitry and battery for the cueing mechanism.) The On/Off switch
for this mechanism terminates here as well. I found this box very
useful, as all external connections—electrical signals or
air supply—are conveniently co-located.
Leif's thoroughness extends all
the way to the air-supply pump. To provide even air flow, the pump
includes a reservoir for storing a small volume of pressurized air.
The pneumatic nature of air helps smooth out the individual thrusts
of the pumping action.
Any way you look at it, the overall
result is very impressive. The Airtangent projects a powerful, elegant
I can't tell you how happy I was to have everything fall into place
very smoothly while mounting the Airtangent. I wanted to get the
job done quickly and get on with using the tonearm, but I also wanted
to savor this process; I seldom handle such refined equipment.
Leif came through. Except for a called-for ½" drill
bit, everything necessary for mounting, setup, and adjustment was
supplied. He has assembled a very comprehensive collection of tools,
templates, and alignment aids to simplify the installation of his
tonearm. Most everything you can think of was included here: the
necessary Allen wrenches, a drilling template, the hardware, and
a number of setup jigs. These last consisted of a blank record to
help set the final level of the turntable, and the straight-line
jig for positioning the stylus of the cartridge. I was impressed.
After savoring each component during
the get-acquainted process, I proceeded to mount it on the armboard.
Fortunately, I still have the VPI HW-19 Mk.II on loan from Harry
Weisfeld. Of the many aspects of this product that type it as an
audiophile product, one in particular stands out. This turntable
is extremely well-suited for changing tonearms. With each tonearm
mounted on its own tonearm board, the whole assembly can be removed
easily and substituted with another. I can report happily that the
Airtangent was mounted without a hitch. As a matter of fact, I was
pleasantly surprised how smoothly the setup and alignment went.
Of great help here was my previous experience with the ET-2, another
parallel-tracking, air-bearing tonearm. That arm taught me the importance
of leveling, and how to deal with little nagging problems such as
dressing the cartridge signal wires for minimum drag.
But not everything came up roses.
Wiring the termination box was pretty frustrating: too many inaccessible
parts in cramped quarters, and short tonearm leads, required that
the work be performed very close to the turntable. I hope Leif gets
a chance to redesign the box next time around.
Other improvements could be made:
First of all, a high-quality stylus-force gauge should be included
with a product like the Airtangent. That would make the set-up process
independent of existing equipment.
Second, a dial gauge should be available,
maybe as an option, for calibrating the VTA settings. At the very
least, some markings along the linear bearing in the mounting tower
are desirable to keep track of the VTA position. And don't tell
me to use the position of the rack-and-pinion lever; that's too
coarse, and not in keeping with the precise nature of this instrument.
Third, the azimuth adjustment should
be more substantial. It's not enough to loosen the clamp and rotate
the armtube. These rotational increments are haphazard, and, while
better than none at all, something along the lines of the Triplanar
method would be welcome.
Airtangent has made wonderful progress
in rewriting and generally overhauling their instruction manual.
I have seen three editions of it, and am happy to report vastly
improved results. The initial version was written in Swinglish and
left a lot to be desired. Now, besides much-improved English, illustrations
have been added and helpful hints abound. The latest version is
clear, instructive, and truly helpful.
As you have no doubt surmised, I have nothing but the highest regard
for the design and execution of this product. But it was the sonic
performance that really took me by surprise. I had a very good idea
that it was going to be good—too much reliable fanfare had
preceded it—but I was unprepared for the excellent sonic revelations
Oh yes, this was special. It was
obvious well before the first cut was completed, and before any
adjustments were optimized. I just knew that I was dealing with
an extremely exciting product, and that a new level (at least for
me) of sonic refinement had been attained. And that's from someone
who owns the SME V and Well-Tempered tonearms.
The music immediately came to life
with a marvelously refined and inordinately stable soundstage, the
lifting of several layers of veiling, and, overall, meticulous,
rich, and harmonious reproduction. It was stunning!
Airtangent is my name, and details
are my game! That's what this tonearm was telling me. It sure was
music to my ears: mesmerizing, thrilling, I couldn't get enough
of it. I played whole sides of album after album, marveling the
whole time at how much more information was still available from
records I have been playing for years.
Three cartridges were used to evaluate
the Airtangent: Koetsu Rosewood Sapphire Signature, Ortofon MC-3000,
and Monster Cable Alpha Genesis 1000. All three performed extremely
well, but the most potent coupling resulted with the MC-3000. The
very low tip mass and the Fritz Gyger "Replicant" stylus
profile contributed to the spectacular sonics, which featured detail,
definition, and dynamics with unprecedented precision.
To be fair, since I am singling
out performance aspects, it should be mentioned that the Alpha Genesis
1000 turned into a remarkably dynamic performer; I nodded in approval
many times, while the Koetsu displayed harmonic richness of sumptuous
proportions. I have no doubt that each cartridge benefited handily
from being fitted to the Airtangent.
Other equipment used for this review
consisted of the following: the VPI HW-19 Mk.II turntable supported
by an Arcici "Lead Balloon" stand; Museatex PA-6i, ARC
SP-11 Mk.II, and Krell KRS-2 preamps; Krell KMA-100 Mk.II, Classe
DR-9, and Museatex MTR-101 power amps; Apogee Diva and Celestion
SL-600 loudspeakers; Museatex interconnects and speaker cables.
I suspect that the apt ergonomics
of the Airtangent aided the excellent sonic performance. The significantly
simplified setup procedure made it possible to quickly zero in on
the best performance, thus setting the tone for very relaxed listening
sessions. Since readjustments were convenient and could be approached
without apprehension, the tonearm was viewed and treated favorably
at every step of the way.
The Airtangent had a very transparent,
smooth, and delicate character. I got the feeling that the stylus
behavior was more precise now that the alignment requirements were
better fulfilled. Since the stylus was positioned to deal with the
complex groove modulations more effectively, the musical mosaic
appeared to fall into place effortlessly. An excellent demonstration
of this is the "Silent Night" cut from Cantate Domino
(Proprius PROP 7762). Not only was the sweep of the choir very wide
and deep, it was also wonderfully delineated to individualize the
members of the choir. The acoustic of the church and the multi-hued
choral colors were rendered with marvelous presence. The carefully
crafted sound appeared less labored, conveying a feeling of freedom
That goes for
every cartridge I used—each responded with more detail. And
since detail is the staple of such desirable sonic commodities as
air, space, nuance, intonation, and harmonies, just about every
recording became an exciting adventure.
Most of the drama materialized in
a soundspace presentation of billowing proportions. The soundstage
not only grew considerably as far as width and depth was concerned,
but became more coherent and seemed filled to capacity with ambience
cues. The performers, in general, remained in their accustomed positions,
but now their presence was more prominent and clearly outlined.
While better imaging contributed considerably, the more gratifying
contribution was the airy surround enveloping each performer. Everyone's
presence was more profound, and the illusion of a more credibly
recreated musical event was more pronounced. The music could be
as diverse as the solemn Cantate Domino, or Larry McNeely's bluegrass
on Sheffield (LAB-9), and the presentation was clearly perceived
in a more involving fashion.
The most-asked question about the
Airtangent was the low end. "How's the bass? Does it go low
enough?" they would ask. What I heard through the Divas did
not give me an indication to suspect a shortfall in low-bass performance.
The wallop and push were there to render full orchestras credibly,
with enough attack and excellent dynamics.
In fact, the definition in this
area, as heard on the Telarc Carmina Burana, was remarkable. The
impacts of bass drums and the decays that followed were rendered
with great clarity. And when I played Robert Gibson's piece for
double-bass and oboe (Spectrum SR-313), it seemed I could count
In keeping with its ability to keep
every note and nuance in place, the Airtangent displayed an unremitting
ability to portray most of each recording's essential attributes,
good or bad, starkly intact. Though such thorough truthfulness can
become a liability, the situation here was the direct opposite.
Sure enough, a number of recordings were brought to their knees,
revealing a few very unsavory character flaws. But most of the time
these exposes were exciting. Many recordings could now be seen in
a more fascinating light than before, and were, therefore, sonically
Improved dynamics also contributed
significantly to the second coming of many of my recordings. I repeatedly
found myself marveling at the added sock, push, and punch of many
favorites. The Chesky Scheherazade (RC-4) was a good case in point.
The shudders and throbs of full orchestral assaults pulsated with
more energy and involved more acoustic space.
Digging out old favorites can very
dramatically point to sonic gains. The "Most of Us are Sad"
cut from The Eagles album (Asylum SD-5054) did just that. The voices
had more power, the drums kicked harder, and the bass guitar had
additional strength. That's not to imply any loss of delicacy. Many
new nuances sprang forth with vim and vigor, and the articulation
of transients and harmonies was rendered with remarkable clarity.
The Airtangent also had a say in
trackability. The same cartridges had been used in other arms, namely
the SME V and WTA, and, while the results were generally gratifying,
a certain loss of control at high recording levels was apparent.
Loud passages would tend to become edgy and turn nasty.
A good example is Van Morrison's
Moondance album (WB BSK-3103). Here Van has been recorded to give
his already ragged voice a very peaky edge. I didn't realize how
much of an improvement was possible until the Airtangent was used.
His voice was still as raucous and shrill, but now it was much more
revealing of the inner complexities which were a blur at other times.
As an added bonus, the instruments of the band could also be heard
more vividly, with more focus and far more space, making for a significantly
I thought it only fitting that the
Airtangent be compared with the SME V. This remarkable incarnation
of a pivoted approach has become a benchmark of sorts for tonearms.
Its price also benefits handsomely from mass production, making
it a more accessible product at $2000.
As fine a product as the SME V is,
it does have a few shortcomings. The first has to do with VTA changes.
Curiously enough, even though this arm has no provision for adjusting
the azimuth of a cartridge, azimuth can be disturbed while resetting
VTA. It can happen when the main support pillar of the SME V is
canted while increasing VTA. Since the VTA screw is located off
to one side of the arm pillar, it pushes harder on that side when
turned to raise the back of the arm. An azimuth change results unless
the pillar is manually restored to a vertical position; an upward
pull on the anti-skate dial support does it for me. Sumiko maintains
that tightening the clamps gripping the arm pillar will restore
it to a vertical position, but my experience does not bear that
The second shortcoming concerns
the large diameter of the armtube at the pivot end. When going for
very low VTA settings, especially if a warped record is played,
the back of the arm can end up too low, and hit the outer edge of
the record. This problem becomes acute when playing the innermost
It might have been more informative
to pit the Airtangent against the ET-2, since both are tangential-tracking,
air-bearing designs. I feel, however, that bringing in the SME V
at its $2000 price is more realistic. Anyone considering the ET-2,
a terrific buy at $900, is not likely to suddenly opt for a $3200
product. $2000 is a bit closer.
Both tonearms are excellent performers,
but differ greatly in concept and execution. For me, the ergonomics
clearly favor the Airtangent. My priorities call for the ability
to adjust everything, and the Airtangent is more complete. In day-to-day
use, both are easy to live with. The cueing mechanisms are equally
effective, but the motor-driven Airtangent approach has a special
appeal for me. Sure, it's one more thing prone to failure, but it
is also ever so much more fascinating technically. Of course, the
end-of-record lift feature speaks for itself—a winner if there
ever was one.
Mounting a cartridge in the SME
V is a snap; and I have it down to about 10 minutes now. But the
Airtangent, even though the initial setup takes much longer, out-features
the SME V with its interchangeable air-bearing sleeve assemblies.
Here cartridge changes happen in 30 seconds or less, and with perfect
registration of all settings save VTA. If you recall, that's an
extremely easy task on the Airtangent.
Be aware that the extra air-bearing
sleeve/armtube comes at additional cost, since only one is included
with each Airtangent. Furthermore, if only one cartridge is to be
used, all of this flexibility is a moot point. But you tell me—What
audiophile will not jump at the chance to change cartridges that
I found the
Airtangent to be my preference sonically as well. The smooth demeanor
and wealth of new details of the Airtangent significantly contributed
to its overall performance. The SME V was found to be more robust
in the low end, and slightly more aggressive. It contributes a more
forward and direct quality at the higher frequencies, and, while
fast and detailed, falls short when compared to the Airtangent's
extension and delicacy. Furthermore, the soundstage is not as ornate,
or as rife with crucial details.
Spectrally, the Airtangent is smoother,
with better extension at the higher frequencies. The SME V summoned
a very solid foundation for the music and, most of the time, produced
a more prominent balance in the lower ranges. To be sure, the Airtangent
might be accused of some leanness in this area. I found it to be
a better balance for me, however, as it blended more effectively
with the equipment at my disposal. The added bonus was the transparency
and definition of the bass frequencies. Yet it was in the midrange
that the Airtangent did the most good. Every cartridge produced
a more transparent presentation, and the Koetsu's legendary midrange
richness became more apparent when mounted in the Airtangent. The
lower midrange could be seen in a new light, adding impact and heft
in a very palpable manner.
I'm completely taken with the Airtangent tonearm. But you don't
have to be a CPA to realize that, for the price of an Airtangent,
you can get the SME V and a top-flight cartridge. Of the three cartridges
mentioned, only the Koetsu is above that budget—something
to consider carefully.
Just remember that the Airtangent
outperformed the SME V in a majority of cases, and, for all its
complexity, is very easy to use. So what if you have to remember
to turn off the air pump? That's more than compensated for by the
end-of-record lift mechanism. For the consummate audiophile in me,
the Airtangent tonearm is, in many respects, a dream come true.
At the same time, it is also one of the finest products that I have
ever encountered. For anyone who believes technology is something
to be savored, the Airtangent is certainly served up most delectably.
It is one of those rare products in which functionality, ergonomics,
and aesthetics are blended with resounding success. The Airtangent
is an elegant affirmation of just how synonymous high-end and high-tech
Of course, I
Description: Air-bearing, parallel-tracking tonearm.
Made in Sweden.
Approximate number of dealers: 30.
US Distributor: Krell Industries (1989). None (2001).