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Turntable & tonearm

CS Port
TAT2 & AFU1-2

Manufacturer: CS PORT Co., ltd.
Prices (in Poland): 286 499 zł
• turntable TAT2: 170 000 zł | tonearm AFU1-2: 97 000 zł
• pomp POU: 15 000 zł | base LOB2: 4499 zł

CS Port Co., ltd. | Office nishinakano
1-1-18 nishinakano Toyama 939-8084 | JAPAN

Provided for test by: FONNEX


Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Images: CS Port | Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Marek Dyba

No 196

September 1, 2020

CS Port is a Japanese company offering three turntable models - each with an air cushion under the platter - a tangential arm, as well as preamplifiers and power amplifiers. It was established in 2014 and is run by its founder, Mr. TOSHIMICHI MACHINO. For this test we received its basic TAT2 turntable with the POU1 air pump and the AFU1-2 tonearm.

he LP IME 1 Ionizer / Demagnetizer, tested by us in May this year, allowed us to introduce this Japanese manufacturer to you. Until recently, it was known only in its own country, for some time it has been available in several places around the world, including Poland.

CS Port's lineup focuses, at least in my opinion, around turntables. Although it includes also includes high-end tube amplifiers, the brand’s advertisement suggests a kind of emphasis on this type of products. The CS Port currently offers three turntable models from three price levels: LFT1, TAT1 and TAT2. At the top there is the LFT1 model with a 40 kg granite base, a 27 kg stainless steel plate and a 2.4 kg plate clamp. And now, the most important element that is characteristic of this company: platter in all CS Port turntables moves on an air cushion.

Sounds familiar? - Good, that's why both, the Micro Seiki, and then its heir, TechDAS, names have to be mentioned. These are the best known applications of this technique in audio, but of course not the only ones. In Japan Micro Seiki is an iconic brand and other products of this type, whether they like it or not, have to be compared in some way to this brand. Which you can see in both, TechDAS and the tested CS Port turntables.

| A few simple words…

Owner, designer

⸤ Mr. Toshimichi Machino | photo: CS Port


My name is Machino TOSHIMICHI MACHINO and I am the owner of CSPort. CSPort is a new company that has only been established for 6 years. We are specializing in the high end audio market. All CS Port products have been designed by me. I'm training young engineers to be able to design them in the next few years.

CSPort products are the result of my 3 years of experience in machine tool design, 40 years of designing switching-power supplies and 50 years of hobby audio. My main techniques are in the area of switching power supplies and audio amplifiers, especially noise suppression techniques. The details of the amplifier include not increasing the number of amplification elements, not applying negative feedback, not using chemical capacitors in the amplifier's signal circuitry and power supply, and applying noise suppression.

The TAT2 is characterized by use of a granite base, a stone that has been stabilized for over 5 million years and a 17 kg stainless steel platter to reduce unwanted vibrations by means of weight. The surface of the platter is also mortised and the records are held together by heavy stabilizer.

One of the issues of classic designs is the fact, that the frequency of the motor drive servo enters the audio band. Than this servo noise is picked up by the cartridge. The same is true for synchronous motors because they feature a mechanical servo. It takes some time for the TAT2’s platter to get to a constant rotation, but it is achieved without a servo hence there is less audible noise. TM

| TAT2

Chassis | The TAT2 turntable is the smallest model in the CS Port offer. This is a non-decoupled mass-loader turntable of the Thread Drive type, i.e. with a line tied around a platter, not with a belt (CS Port uses the name Yarn Drive) . Its base measuring 440 x 128 x 320 mm is made of granite, has a rectangular shape and rests on four adjustable feet made of stainless steel. An optional LOB2 granite platform, costing PLN 4499, can be placed under it.

The more expensive FLT1 and TAT1 models feature square bases, in which they resemble the top Micro Seiki turntables. Both also feature stand-alone motors, and the TAT2’s motor is integrated with it - hence its different shape. Its base is made of a 19 kg granite slab and perhaps that is why the turntable resembles the products of the Polish company Ancient Audio. Another high-end company that makes their turntables from granite is the Swiss company De Baer, quite well known in the Japanese audio world.

Fun fact: Ancient Audio once made a turntable with a granite base for Jarek Śmietana, a Polish jazz guitarist.

String | The motor with the power supply is "suspended" under the base and is enclosed in a metal housing. It is unobtrusive and it makes the turntable’s form looks “light”. From the top, in the base, manufacturer put large, color-lit (green - red - blue) buttons setting the speed of rotation. There are two speeds available: 33 1/3 and 45 rpm. We can also fine-tune the speed using three smaller buttons.

The motor spindle with the drive wheel mounted on it are fitted into a precise aluminum element. The motor is bolted to it with two screws. Unscrewing them allows you to move the motor towards the platter, which is needed to properly stretch the "string". The TAT2 is a variation of the "belt-drive" drive, but instead of a soft belt it uses a rigid "line". The Kondo (Ginga), Melco (3560), SPEC (GMP-8000EX) turntables were equipped with a similar drive, as well as the La Platine model from the French company J C Verdier. Even though today string-drives are most often found in Japanese turntables, La Platine remains its iconic realization.

| Thread Drive

⸤ The J C Verdier La Platine turntable with a magnetically decoupled platter - please note the very long string | photo J C Verdier

One of the criteria for classifying turntables is how the torque is transferred from the motor to the platter. This can be done directly, when the platter axis and the motor axis are one and the same - these are DIRECT DRIVE (DD) turntables. You can also use a soft pulley, which is pressed against the platter on one side and against the motor axis on the other - it is a IDLER DRIVE (ID) drive. And finally, you can drive the platter via the belt - it's a BELT DRIVE (BD).

The belt may be made of rubber and have a circular, rectangular or square cross section, or it may simply be a wide flat belt. It can also be made of a non-stretchable material, such as an audio tape or a string, in which case it is called THREAD DRIVE (TD). TechDAS offers a variation of this type of drive, i.e. with a rigid tape.

Each of these types has its advantages and disadvantages as well as die-hard fans and opponents. the ID and TD drives, or BD ones, but with a rigid connection between the platter and motor are the least common nowadays. The advantages of the latter solution include:
  • minimal transmission of vibrations,
  • low cost of implementation,
  • no signs of aging.
Among the disadvantages, a lower resistance to vibrations than in the case of a connection with a rubber belt is pointed out and the necessity to make a knot on the thread; Rubber strips are much smoother and often made as continuous one piece.

So we have a drive, with the torque transmitted to the platter by a rigid line. It is transferred from a pulley to a platter using a "string". For this purpose, TAT2 uses Kevlar in the form of four intertwined aramid threads.

Motor | Another element of the TAT2’s design worth attention is the motor control that doesn’t use a servo. A classic solution among turntable manufacturers are power supplies with a feedback loop. They operate constantly regulating the rotational speed by comparing the signal from the platter tracker to that of a quartz oscillator. If there is a difference between them, the system introduces a correction signal accelerating or slowing down the platter.

It is a follow-up circuit, i.e. one that makes corrections AFTER an error occurs, similar to negative feedback in audio amplifiers. Therefore, it is important that it runs with the lowest possible delay. The CS Port engineers believe that these types of systems adversely affect the sound. So in TAT2 they proposed a servo-less system that only serves to give the platter an appropriate initial speed and maintain it, but without constant corrections. So there are markers on the perimeter of the platter, read by a photo-diode. Let me add that the asynchronous motor used in this device is a brush-less and low-noise unit.

Platter | The elements that all CS Port turntables have in common are the platter and the record clamp. The TAT2’s platter weighs 17 kg and it is made of stainless steel and has a diameter of 296 mm. The precision of its workmanship and finish is impressive. Four holes are visible on its upper surface. If it were a TechDAS turntable, I would say that it is a record suction system but there is none here. These are used to screw handles in onto them in order to move the platter.

There is no other way to do it, because after inserting the spindle into the bearing, the platter rests directly on the base, with no clearance for fingers to slide into. So how does it turn? - We already talked about it, but let's repeat: The CS Port uses a thin air cushion in its turntables on which the platter moves.

An external pump POU1 delivers air under pressure. It was designed for the top model, the LFT1. It’s operation is very quiet so one can put it anywhere. The air runs from the pump to the turntable via plastic tubes. They seem not to be of such top quality as ones used by the TechDAS, but they work surprisingly well.

| AFU1-2

One can use up to three tonearms with the TAT2. They should be mounted in the corners, fixed to aluminum beams. You can use any tonearm after ordering a proper beam for the tonearm of your choice. One of the choices is the tonearm developed by the CS Port.

It is one of few turntable manufacturers who developed their own tonearm – the AFU1-2. It is a part of the middle line, unlike the reviewed turntable that belongs to the opening series, but it is used for all turntables. It is a linear tracker tonearm that moves on an air cushion. The air is delivered from the chassis via a short tube with the initial source being the air pump mentioned before.

You can learn more about linear tracking tonearms in the reviews of the Bergmann Audio, Holbo and Bergmann Audio.

AFU1-2 measures 310 × 81 × 327 mm and is a classic design for this type of tonearms. Its main element is a thick tube and the arm itself moves along it. Air exits tube via a hole drilled in it, and it is the thin (0,01mm) air film that allows the tonearm to move along the main tube. The arm itself is attached to an aluminum block. A counterweight is screwed on the other side of it. This is a tonearm with a de-touchable headshell, same as, for example, SME, Jelco, Dynavector, Ikeda, etc. Note - the headshell is not included, one has to choose a headshell separately.

The arm can be used with cartridges weighing 20 to 40 g with VTF of 1.5 to 5 g. Its base weighs 1 kg and looks very solid - this is where the signal comes out through a 5-pin DIN (male) connector. The arm is operated manually, using a long mandrel made of carbon fiber. It is not a cheap tonearm - it costs PLN 97,000.

The whole set, as we reviewed it, costs a whooping 286 499 PLN…


How did we listen to it | The TAT2 turntable was tested with the AFU1-2 tonearm from the same company. I also used the POU1 pump (purchased separately) and a granite turntable base. The compressed air for the tonearm is taken from the base of the turntable through a tube with a smaller diameter than that running to the pump. The latter works extremely quietly, but because the arm requires lower air pressure, the company offers a special П-type air filter, which is plugged in between the pump and the arm (the test was carried out without it).

⸤ Miyajima Laboratory cartridges in the „headshells” – on the left the Destiny model with Oyaide headshell, on the right the Zero and Shelter


Headshell | The tonearm is delivered without any headshell. You can mount the Ortofon SPU cartridge, which is integrated with a headshell, but in any other case you need to purchase a headshell(s) of your choice.

For this test I used two cartridges that I know, like and respect: the stereo Miyajima Laboratory Destiny and the monophonic Miyajima Laboratory Zero. I used the former with the excellent Oyaide HS-CF headshell made of carbon fiber braid with silver wires, and the latter on the more modest, but also very solid, Shelter Model 1011.

The company offers an interconnect with a DIN plug that I used. However, I conducted a large part of the listening sessions with the excellent Siltech Royal Signature Avondale II cable. The preamplifier was also quite modest, but I know it inside out, because it has accompanied me for years as a tool and I used it to listen to turntables many times more expensive than the CS Port TAT2 - it was the RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC. Sooner or later I will finally replace it with something else, but for now - it still does its job.

Problems | There are two things that one notices when operating this turntable. The first one is related to the motor. There are three smaller buttons above the large control buttons. Two are used to choose a rotational speed of the platter and the third one shows the „compliance” of the read rotational speed with the one set by the oscillator. So, when the "Lock" button is highlighted in red, the turntable rotational speed should be nominal. However, it is not like that - the button is backlit quite quickly, still while the platter continues to speed up.

The second challenge is the diameter of the spindle one puts a record over. This is a universal problem every designer has to face it. The point is that the LP hole diameter is not always the same, it differs with time of LP’s production and between press plants. The deviation is not big, it's a fraction of a millimeter, but it is important enough to make our lives difficult. If a manufacturer wants to be able to listen to all records with his turntable, he chooses a spindle with a smaller diameter. But then the plate is often not centered, there is some space between the hole in a record (wider) and the spindle (narrower).

You can enlarge the spindle, but then some discs won’t fit. The CS Port chose an intermediate solution - I had no problems with the vast majority of discs. There were, however, Acoustic Productions discs, re-releases of Blue Note, which came in with considerable resistance. There were also titles like Music For Stargazing by Przemysław Rudź, which I wre not able to play (Audio Anatomy AA-002-16-LP, 2 x 180 g LP, 2016).

Apart from these two element, the operation of the turntable and the arm was hassle-free, pleasant and satisfying. Good job!

Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)

⸤ Andreas Vollenweider, Caverna Magica (...Under The Tree - In The Cave...), CBS 25 265, „Halfspeed Mastered”, LP (1983)
⸤ Charlie Parker, Charlie Parker at Cafe Society 1950, Jazz Historical Recordings HR-138-EV, LP (1973)
⸤ Frank Sinatra, No One Cares, Capitol Records/Mobile Fidelity MFSL-1-408, „Special Limited Edition | No. 186”, 180 g LP (1959/2012)
⸤ Freddie Hubbard, Open Sesame, Blue Note/Classic Records BT4040, Quiex SV-P, 200 g LP (1960/1999)
⸤ Hania Rani, Home, Gondwana Records ‎GONDLP037, 2 x 180 g, Creal Wax LP (2020); ⸤ Miles Davis, The Musings of Miles, Prestige/Analogue Productions AJAZ 7007, „Top 100 Jazz | 45 RPM | Limited Edition #0706”, 2 x 180 g, 45 RPM LP (1955/?)
⸤ Otis Redding, Otis Blue, Volt Records/Rhino 8122795608, „Record Store Day Limited Edition | No. 5340”, 2 x 180 g LP + 45 RPM SP (1964/2015)
⸤ The Bassface Swing Trio, The Bassface Swing Trio plays Gershwin, Stockfisch SFR 357.8045.1, 180 g LP + SACD/CD (2007), ⸤ Yuri Tashiro Piano Trio | Aiji Arai & The Beat Sounds, Digital Explosion, EastWorld EWJ-80181, „Soundphile Series (Digital Recording)”, LP (1980)

The CS Port turntable belongs to a group of audio products that can be considered both "tools" and "entertainment". On the one hand, they are fantastically solid in what they do, repetitive, not capricious, not fussy and able to show the differences between pressings, releases and variants in a simple, easy and unforced manner. The other side is just as interesting. The Japanese design does not stop at the sound description, but goes much further, interpreting it in its own way.

This is a paradox, because the term "tool" suggests an absolute objectivity and transparency. However, I know from experience that this type of audio is simply boring, and even tiring in the long run. And if we assume that music is "acting on emotions", then since we do not feel them while listening to music with a given audio product, something is probably wrong with it, right?

Therefore, in my opinion, a real "tool" is an audio product that perfectly differentiates the signal, and on the other hand causes us to engage in what we listen to, even at the cost of deviating from neutrality. Or maybe not at the "cost", but "due to". This deviation, however, needs to be deliberate and be a part of a larger vision, not an accident.

In an interesting mini-interview in Stereophile magazine, Jürgen Reis, MBL's chief engineer, one of the most renowned audio designers of our time, says:

Musicians create certain emotions in their brain or body and want to experience the same emotions when playing music. Since listening to live music activates regions of the brain other than listening to phantom images [through speakers or headphones], good engineers need to use tricks to help the brain work in a similar way. Acoustically, it's not the same sound, but you have to convince your brain that they're similar.

„Stereophile” July 2020, Vol. 43, No. 7, p. 83

I see it in a very similar way. In the sense that in my opinion a "neutral" sounding audio component is not the one that just does not add anything from itself, but one that adds little, takes away even less, but above all one that is able to convey the emotions of the musicians and - ultimately - intentions of the composer (author of music and lyrics). And the TAT2 turntable with the AFU1-2 tonearm is just such an audio product.

I "used" it for an extended period of time for testing other products and for reviews of albums. I got used to its sound. I calibrated it. However, when I sat down to start the first listening session devoted only to this device, I decided to listen to monophonic records first. On the one hand, because I have an excellent cartridge for this purpose, the Zero by Miyajima Laboratory, and on the other, because in mono sound it is more difficult to hide the unevenness of the frequency response, there is no way to deceive the listener about the depth of the sound stage and even harder to fake high resolution.

As it turned out, I didn't have to resort to this trick, because everything I heard earlier with the stereo cartridge and records was confirmed. First: robustness. It is a sound in which it is difficult to point out any element that would break out of the particular presentation’s idea. I am talking about "difficulty", and yet - in my case - it was an "impossibility": I was not able to find any such an element.

As I say, this is not an absolute clinical "neutrality". The CS Port emphasizes the lower end of the range in a fairly wide range (low Q), building large, reliable, full sound sources. At the same time, they are not „blown up", which manifests itself in the fact that the sound is big, but "pumped up". Here, big sound means strong, dense, massive instruments, large vocals, and an incredibly extensive sound stage.

Secondly: incredible energy. I would even say that it is clearer than robustness of the sound, because it attracts attention from the first to the last album. But, as it seems to me, it is based on the above-mentioned approach to sound and is something derivative - hence the second place.

But do not be fooled by this list, because - as I assume - the way in which the CS Port TAT2 transmits energy from a vinyl record to our apartment will be THE THING that will make you fall in love with this turntable, perhaps even with this particular cartridge. Because it's more about energy than "rhythm". The latter is perfectly reproduced, I have no doubts about it. Both the Freddy Hubbard’s Open Sezame on the Classic Corners re-issue, and an excellent re-issue of the The Musing of Miles on two 45 rpm discs from Analogue Productions, and all subsequent albums sounded fast, powerful, „forward”.

And all this without brightening the sound. Because there is nothing easier than deceiving less experienced audiophiles and hardening the attack, emphasizing part of the midrange and treble - it all results in an impression of speed and energy. While in fact it is rather an extremely irritating distortion of reality. The CS Port shows you what it should look like. Therefore, even with such difficult albums to play as the Otis Redding's Otis Blue I heard what is most important in this music - "soul" and rhythm.

And thirdly: fullness. It is a turntable that creates a connection with a listener in an extremely easy way. It does so using several elements. Mainly by building a large, saturated sound field that starts quite close to us and ends far beyond the line connecting the speakers. Therefore, the voice of Frank Sinatra in the title track from the No One Cares suddenly pops up in front of us, which makes us shiver. Because it is so saturated, so big, so solid.

And at the same time, everything that is on the sides, i.e. in this case in the background, has equally high resolution and energy. In such presentation of the vocals, the modification of the bandwidth executed in this system helps. The idea is to emphasize some of the upper bass and lower the upper midrange. I have already described the former - here it added fleshiness and a kind of "self-confidence" to the sound. The latter is an element that - we finally got to that - suggest everyone should listen to this turntable at home and decide whether it is what one looks for.

If we were talking about loudspeakers and discussing bass-reflex tuning, we would say that it is a slightly over-dampened design. It would not be a weakness, let alone a problem, but a conscious choice of a designer. The reviewed turntable could be treated the same way. This is why the sound is so well-balanced and it never irritates with brightening or harshness. Although the presentation is highly energetic it also is rather smooth - the Digital Explosion by Yuri Tashiro Piano Trio, digitally recorded in 14 bits, sounded incredibly well! - it was not fatiguing at all.

And it will be the same with other recordings of this type, i.e. with not quite clear treble, maybe lacking some resolution. However, since this is an uncompromising recording, without audible compression, with a remarkably recorded kick drum, the disadvantages of analog-to-digital encoding during the recording, and then digital-to-analog decoding when cutting the varnish, are relegated to the background with this turntable.

| Summary

Writing a summary of this test, I am listening to a Japanese CD with a historical recording of the Charlie Parker's concert from Cafe Society in 1950. This is a recording in which there is no bass at all, even upper one, but there is a lot of upper midrange. Usually it sounds unpleasantly sharp, and in extreme cases it feels like the music is only part of the noise and crackle.

However, I think that the Japanese released it with owners of turntables like this one in mind. Because it is able to extract music from this "modulated noise". It shows flaws of the recording - in the Broadway Theme sound is harsh, and in the Peridio there are clear issues with bass, not in music, but in the recording system. And yet I am listening to this album with pleasure and interest.

It turns out that due to the fact that the TAT2 turntable with the AFU1-2 tonearm and Miyajima Laboratory cartridges sounds incredibly nice, but it also leaves plenty of space for information about the recording. Its upper midrange is slightly muffled, so some recordings may seem to lack some "openness" and expressiveness. Its upper bass, in turn, is slightly emphasized, which means that subsequent recordings and albums exhibit a certain "continuous sound", because the turntable makes them sound a bit similar in this respect. Even so, even with the à la Hendrik Pauler’s (Pauler Acoustics / Stockfisch) double bass, it won't be a problem.

But that's how the TAT2’s designer, Mr. Toshimichi Machino, sees the music. Because an audio product, a good audio product, is always a reflection of how the world is perceived by its creator. In the case of the tested turntable, it is a world that is precise, but also full of emotions, energetic, but never fatiguing. It’s simply the high-end world at its best. So I am happy to award it with our RED Fingerprint.

Technical specifications (According to the manufacturer):

| TAT2
Base: granite JIS0 | weight 19 kg
Platter: stainless steel | weight: 17 kg
Record clamp: stainless steel | weight: 2.4 kg
Motor: DC, brush-less, low-noise
Motor control: quartz oscillator, no negative feedback
Speeds: 33 1/3 | 45 rpm
Rotation precision: ± 0.3%
Wow and flutter: wow 0.2% | flutter <0.04%
Power consumption: 40 W
Dimensions (W x H x D): 440 x 128 x 320 mm
Accessories: power cable AC, 2 x drive strings, air tube Φ4, tonearm base (of customer’s choice)
Sold separately: granite base LPB2, air pump POU1


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Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
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Record mats:


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Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC