The Air Reference tonearm is considered a 'final purchase' by Arthur Salvatore on his website, "high-endaudio.com". Why?
This arm was years ahead of its time in design, and beautifully realized by Leif Häggmark, the man behind audionord, the Swedish company that produces the fine Air Tangent products. According to Leif, fewer than 50 Reference tonearms were made and sold world wide. The serial number of this one is 30.
I'm only selling because after moving into a retirement home, I have to downsize.
This specific Air Tangent Reference was done a bit differently from the others, at the behest of the original owner (I bought the arm from this original owner). A reviewer who wrote for Ultimate Audio, Listener and HiFi+, he wanted to supply his own air compressor to allow a much larger air reservoir, to minimize fluctuations in the air line. As per his request, this arm does not have the air pump supplied with other instances of the Air Tangent Reference, and the power supply (which would reside with the pump in that dedicated housing) is bare and exposed to the environment as a result. The only thing I suggest, if you don't choose to house the PS in some sort of additional enclosure (I did not), is to keep it covered when not in use, to protect the relays from dust.
This arm comes in a few separate pieces, and the original manual. The original packing (metal flight cases) were kept by the original owner, I don't have them. But I will carefully pack all the parts so they will arrive unscathed.
So, what's so special about this arm, and this specific instance of the Reference?
o Tangential tracking o Relatively high pressure air bearing o Carbon fibre wands for the cartridge mounting o Remote control for cuing and adjusting VTA on-the-fly o Well regulated air pressure for optimum performance of the air bearing
The tangential tracking feature is often touted because records are 'cut' in this fashion, and a tangential arm, properly set up with a perfectly centered record will have no tracking error from one end of the groove (the start) to the other (the end). But the spindle hole of an LP is usually not perfectly centered in general, though it could be argued that tangential tracking can only make things better. Among those things is much more even wear of the stylus, which should count for a great deal.
The air bearing is not only critical to getting the tangential tracking 'thing' to work, with infinitesimal friction of the air bearing, but it also provides superb damping, and this perhaps more than anything else leads to its effortless sound, of the reduction of the 'mechanical' feeling that sometimes intrudes on the listening experience. Of course there are other good arms, but this one is really special, and quite rare.
Were you to purchase this arm, you should really know what you're doing in mounting and setting up this arm. The manual (which was actually written by the reviewer who first owned the arm, as a favor to Lief) is well written but there is no substitute for experience in setting up an arm like this. Even a very slight deviation from 'level' will cause the arm to malfunction -- floating suspensions and the like will not work. The remote can be a bit balky, requiring the command to be resent to be received by the control/display unit. These occasional glitches are minor.
You will need to provide your own air compressor, one is not included in this sale. The requirements, according to Lief in private correspondence, are:
A 1 gallon tank is more than enough. Air flow is less than 1 litre / min. Pressure must be 5 bar. And to be reduced to fixed setting on display unit. You need also a freezer to milk the water out of the air.
I used a compressor with a 20 gallon tank, and given the moisture traps using desiccant (provided), did not need the freezer. This is particularly true if the air is not too humid, though I used this in south Florida.
Cosmetics: not as tidy as the 'stock' version that includes the pump (and includes the power supply in that same enclosure), but the tonearm wiring (done with the superb Discovery tonearm wire) is very cleanly done. The manifold has a small scratch that was there when I purchased the arm. The Display/Control unit looks fine. The remote shows finger prints but presumably these can be removed before you add your own :-)
I am asking $7500, the arm retailed at $15K new in the U.S.
The images show cartridges and turntable and other things, but these other items are not included in this sale.
No pump or compressor. Provided is the arm manifold, two armwands (wired with Discovery tonearm wire) that slide on the manifold's cylindrical rail, the Display/Control unit and the remote control, desiccant, moisture traps, tubing and air compressor fittings; and the manual.
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