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Akasu - The Making of a Legend by Lee Paul Dalby

edited July 12

Prologue Part 1/2

The Akasu Elemento (AE) project was initiated by Lee Paul Dalby from United Kingdom 5 years ago without any commercial considerations and third-party funding support.  I was intrigued from the outset of this unique daring conception and closely followed its design and engineering progress ever since. It’s a freak of nature. A one of a kind. I proclaim it as the “Analog Turntable of the Century”.  

The goal is neither to claim it is the most expensive turntable in the world (there is not a price tag attached to it) nor whatever “the best” means. Indeed, the Akasu wasn’t made for resale. They will only ever be three: one for Lee, one for Chris of AE, and one for spare.  The ordeal is to exemplify an attitude and a standard of extreme artisanal craftsmanship, to ascertain it a legend. 

The objective of the design is to resurrect the soul of artists through recorded music on vinyl without sonic coloration by the materials that the turntable are built upon.  (Beware minimization of mechanical vibrations does not warrant the elimination of sonic signature of material from a lump of copper and alumimium). The engineering required to prove Lee’s philosophical goal is a gigantic undertaking never ever attempted by anyone hitherto. Lee counts on AE to unleash the full potential of it at Divin Lab.  (He had not listened to the Akasu before shipment to Hong Kong.) Dalby Audio Design and Audio Exotics shall make history.  

Akasu is something that wouldn’t be out of place inside the library of Buckingham Palace.  Lee joked with me and said, “Akasu will still be around decades later after I’m gone.” The word ‘upgrade’ does not illuminate positivism to Lee because it wasn’t the best it could be to begin with. ‘Do it once, do it right’, springs to his mind. This is not a typical business approach for repeat sales, but Dalby Audio neither aims at conveyer belt sales, nor schmoozing at biggest audio shows. Dalby Audio is simply enigmatic and off grid, just like it’s founder.

The Heart

At the heart of Akasu is an evergreen Garrard 301 transcription unit, discovered through a fascination with vintage audio in the theatre era of 1930s-50s. During Lee’s quest for vintage Western Electric over the years, a humble Garrard 301 caught a spot in his heart.  There was something charming about the sound quality that Lee likes it so much despite its obvious flaws, mostly due to mechanical rumbling noises crowding out finesse of musical details. It spurred him on to formulating a grand plan to transcend the 301 to be a masterpiece - with all the anomalies ironed out. 

Let’s get it straight here – other than the motor and the control levers remain, nothing is left.  The project is not a simple transcription of upgrading old parts.  Nothing is off the shelf and all components are custom made by craftsmen with respect to over hundreds of original CAD drawings. It is a gigantic engineering transcendence project with a clear philosophical quest - we should not hear what the turntable is made of by what materials. 

Lee states: “Turntable is a complication of systems fighting against each other. Negative and positive forces going about their business. The aim is to create the most silent environment for each system so that they work seamlessly without hindering each other.”  The complexity of making Akasu starts from within.  There are meticulous works on numerous tiny jewelry-grade engineering details not seen from the physical exterior. Lee has strong conviction that every little thing adds up, for instance, the deployment of hundreds of titanium screws matter to the consequential sound quality.  In reality, simple things aren’t always easy to implement. In fact, when pursuing such things, they become increasingly elusive and seldomly achieved. Yet Lee had chosen to carry on at whatever the cost. 



  • edited July 15

    Achieving Absolute Sonic Neutrality

    Lee works by his own law of material science.  Equipment sounds like the material it was predominantly made from. For example, heavy aluminium turntables sound dense and bloated because the metal has a sonic character of dry and hard. This explains why so many pieces of equipment made from aluminium on the market sound similar, be it speakers, amplifiers and turntables. 

    According to Lee’s analysis, these materials carry personalities which influence the acoustics of a turntable structure. They are: 

    1. Copper - Smooth, elastic and organic

    2. Carbon - Fast, Articulate, Academic 

    (However, it can sound thin and hard when used incorrectly) 

    3. Brass - Upbeat, Taught, Gravitas

    See(But resonates when used in isolation or in thin gauges)

    4. Titanium - Smooth, Stable, Fast, fluid

    5. Ebony - Organic, Detailed, Tuneful 

    6. Lignum Vitae - Expansive, Vibrant, Delicate

    7. Ceramics - Silent, Dynamic

    Lee decisively steers away from the liberal use of aluminium or acrylic because doing so imparts a strong material character to it regardless of what arm/cartridge/phono stage consequentially in partnership (I only learn about this after listening to Akasu).  The science is a balancing act.  He only uses aluminium in combination with other materials, however not to the point where they smear the sound. He also prohibits the use of material on ‘tone sensitive’ areas.  The Akasu combines specific materials to cancel out any overriding sonic personality of any material. 

    Such approach is costly particularly in the absence of a fixed budget and a market price point for it, notwithstanding the cost of labor researching the sequence of sandwiching them to achieve sonic neutrality.  Lee told me, “As a small company, I always gone the extra mile in product development. But it’s different in this case when the extra mile is down a rabbit hole. 

    The end result is groundbreaking because the turntable does not carry any sonic signature from the materials that it was made of.  Without a neutral reference point, there is no way I could tell before. Before experiencing the Akasu, I attributed sonic differences between turntable A and turntable B respectively to the deployment of magnetic bearing and heavy mass platter to annihilate mechanical vibrations.  I was wrong.  They sound different because they were made of different materials regardless of tonearm/cartridge choices. I understand this is a bold statement but it is true.  

    When the sonic signature of materials is removed, a whole new world of music opens up. Tonal colour delivery has become exponentially more polychromatic.  Depth of musical note elongates within a frameless holographical stage filled with energy and organic silence. Juxtaposition of musical themes amongst instrumental groups of any high quality symphonic recording is distinctly comprehensible. Superimposition of harmonics from violin over another layer of harmonics from viola/cello or wind/brass is immensely kaleidoscopic fathoming my auditory sense to uncharted area.  Spatial resolution of the Z axis is interminable continuous. Radiation of pianissimo/fortissimo energy naturally elicits musicality poetically/thunderously to my senses.   Replay of any symphonic score surrounds me with a whole range of tones that harmonise with a unique synchronicity I’ve never experienced before.  

    It neither does not sound like idler wheel nor direct drive.  Backgound of the stage alongside silence of notes are much more quetier than magnetic bearing design.  Let me repeat no other designs could remove the sonic signature of the materials that the turntable is made of regardless of their ingenious engineering designs to minimise vibrations EXCEPT the Akasu  

    This is a Eureka moment! This is the biggest awe in my career.  I fully understand by now why Lee said Akasu will live on after he is gone.  

    To be continued…

  • This is beautiful!  It needs so much determination to walk such a path. I may not understand completely until I have a chance to listen to it but I know for sure it is otherworldly.
  • edited July 15

    Prologue Part 2/2

    Technical Structure of Akasu

    The Akasu Elemento is constructed based on an overall 4-tier structure.  Level 1 is the 7-layer composite platform with the ebony frame housing the bearing in lignum vitae sleeve as shield; Level 2 is the substructure supporting the plinth; Level 3 is the motor and large titanium feet; Level 4 is the cradle.

    The design consists of 5 critical areas:

    (A) Internal skeletal framework (Level 1, 2, 3)

    (B) Lower cradle sub-chassis

    (C) Ebony perimeter frame

    (D) Motor and bearing

    (E) Power supply

    (A) Internal skeletal framework 

    It is split into 3 separate levels.

    LEVEL 1 - supports the upper chassis, bearing, platter and user controls.

    Upper chassis bearing and platter


    Level 1 is a top carbon faced platform that supports the original chassis plate. It is constructed by 7 different materials selected for their intrinsic qualities and to decouple from the 2 tonearm support bases.  Within the composite platform is a green memory foam used inside motorsport helmets for dispersing high energy in volatile impact situations.  Lee’s researches conclude they are highly effective layered between carbon fiber and brass in reducing mechanical vibrations generated by the idler wheel and platter. Lee also reduced the mass of the aluminium billet used within the 7-layer composite platform.  He took away as much material as possible by machining a series of 28 holes through the plate so that the energy storage is kept to a minimum. These holes are then tuned by adding silicone disks. 


    They are then integrated within the solid outer Ebony framework. The framework is made by 1.5inch thick solid Gabon Ebony with a 6-layer Canadian maple interlaced perimeter (see section C).  The combination of special memory foam, carbon, brass and aluminium billet are fixed together via titanium screws that is further isolated by 4 x Lignum Vitae buffers jointing to the maple interior wall. The whole top surface supporting the upper chassis and bearing thus decouples from the rest of the turntable.


    A similar system is used to silence the original chassis. Lee calls it the “Wave Break Plate’, which is a 3-part plate made by Lignum Vitae, Carbon and 9ct gold brass.  It is fixed around the main bearing and has a specific shape that aids the cancellation of vibration within the vicinity of the bearing and platter. It controls the original plate from flexing on a micro level. Carbon fiber plates are added to the underside of the original chassis in specific pockets alongside control amateurs and linkages.

    LEVEL 2 - holds two tonearm substructures and the two torsional braces

    Tonearm Bases and torsional braces 

    The Akasu Elemento has 2 tonearm positions: The tonearm support bases are complex in form. The geometry is set to house the Thales Statement arm under AE’s request. The rear left side arm base can be changed to allow use of other designs via different tonearm plates. 

    On arm position 1, there is a 2-inch thick Gabon Ebony tuning block. Upon that, there is a multitude of carbon, titanium and brass layers, with a 15mm thick solid copper top plate in 9ct gold finish. Again, Lee machined away any unnecessary material to stop energy building up in the structure. He further added Lignum Vitae pillars as the sole contact points between tonearm and the turntable. 


    The rear tonearm support system is similar to position 1 but position 2 has a solid copper base with 3 titanium bars holding aloft a 15mm thick copper plate finished in 9ct satin gold. Wherever necessary, he applies interface materials between metal and metal contact. Another small detail that brings worthwhile improvements.


    Other features on level 2 are “two torsion braces”. The first is positioned at the front of level 2 that acts as an energy brake. It is made from solid copper that stiffens the open frame design. It has a secondary role as a ballast because weight balance would tilt towards the rear side if it is absent. The second torsional brace is the one positioned under the main bearing finished in anodized black. It uses an adjustable copper cone that spikes into the underside of the Lignum bearing sleeve. One can adjust the force into the bearing sleeve to achieve the correct support. It can also be set to a passive position without any effect. This is preset at the Dalby studio not changeable by the end user. 

    LEVEL 3 - holds the high torque motor, motor supports and lower ceramic decoupling feet

    Motor support & Titanium Ceramic decoupling feet

    The motor support columns are simple in execution. They hold the motor in the correct space, and securely fixed it to the lower level 3. The composite plates holding them are partitioned by a viscoelastic gel material, reducing motor vibration in the lower frame. Attached to level 3 are titanium decoupling feet that 2 sets of ceramic bearings. They are constructed using a central 20mm ceramic bearing and 3 smaller 1/4inch bearings within the body of the foot. The 3 titanium feet rigidly sit atop the lower cradle platform. The turntable levelling is achieved by 3 adjustable pods on the top surface of the Akasu cradle.   

    The combination of special memory foam, carbon, brass and aluminium billet are fixed together via titanium screws that is further isolated by 4 x Lignum Vitae buffers jointing to the maple interior wall. The whole top surface supporting the upper chassis and bearing thus decouples from the rest of the turntable.

  • edited July 15

    (B)Lower Cradle Sub Chassis

    The lower cradle is the first line of defence to protect the Akasu from its environment. In reality most turntables sit in between a pair of loudspeakers due to space constraints. Some however wisely move their turntables away from the loudspeakers closer to the seating position assuming the presence of a preamplifier capable of driving long interconnects. Others have no choice but to place it between speakers. Loudspeakers move a lot of air distracting tonearm/cartridge to track precisely along the trajectory of the record groove. 


    The structure of the cradle is meant to quickly disperse energy created within the turntable so that no energy is left contaminating a silent operation environment. The 2-part open frame structure holds the turntable on the upper platform secured by 2 front corner pillars and a bridge at the rear. The pillars and bridge are made from a composite of lignum vitae, carbon fibre and aluminium. These form an offset for the upper platform and are silenced by Lignum Vitae bushes. Both the lower and upper part of the cradle are open frame design to reduce mass and energy loading. Lee then attached resonance control plates to the underside of the lower cradle base and to the upper platform. The Akasu cradle has adjustable titanium bearing cups to hold the turntables feet. 4 adjustable titanium spikes that firmly sit into solid 70mm titanium pucks on the underside base.


    (C) Gabon Ebony / Maple Frame

    Creating a solid 1.5inch Ebony (not veneered) frame is not to be trifled at. It’s fraught with expensive procedures and a trail of rejected parts that make you pull a strange face given the negative financial implications. Dalby Audio uses the finest craftsmen that work to the highest standards.


    Dr D. Pateman has been entrusted to make all of Dalby Audio wooden components for the last 12 years. His skills seen in this piece of ebony is extraordinary. It’s all painstakingly made by hand crowning for the Akasu Elemento. It is hard to put a cost versus time on such artisanal masterpiece.  Lee guesstimates over 150 hours alone in creating one ebony frame. It’s much more complicated than it looks. The Ebony surrounding frame also hides the majesty of the jewel-like parts inside. Lee doesn’t mind his turntable looking chaste but others close to him disagree. To get the best out of the frame, Lee grounded it to earth with pure silver in silk litz cable in order to annihilate noises in the megahertz frequency region. This is another small detail out of thousand others that yield sonic benefits. 

    (D) Motor and Bearing

    The motor is the original supply from Garrard, stripped and rebuilt. Significant improvements in performance were achieved by detaching the motor from the original cast plinth and supporting it from below in a controlled free space - this dramatically reduces noise feeding into the bearing. 

    The motor is attached via 3 solid pillars to the lower part (level 3) of sub chassis below the tonearm platform. It is dropped in its height position by 1.5mm to clear the underneath side of the cast plate fixing points, but still within strict tolerance for the idler wheel in alignment with the 3 speed stages on the central motor pulley. The motor has special Dalby Audio pure silver mains and earth cable that’s silk insulated inside the voltage safe protective outer sleeve. This is a super lightweight Litz cable that does not drag or pull the motor into bias to warrant motor precision and stability of operation.

    The outer bearing housing is machined from solid brass with special bushes and grounding treatments to the spindle. A distinctive lignum vitae sleeve is added to the outer bearing housing that silences noise from this critical area. A large lignum vitae washer is attached on the top to tune the bearing housing. Titanium screws are used to mate the bearing to the chassis.  

    The spindle has an extended length to accommodate the 2-part brass/graphite platter.  Dalby then added the “Pirueta Carbon Ebony Mat” to decouple the vinyl from the platter itself. This combination proves to be a silent and stable platform for the vinyl disc to rest upon so that the arm/cartridge could accurately retrieve more information from the groove.

    The platter arrangement is a solid machined brass billet combined with a 15mm thick graphite top plate housing CNC’s wave break slots. Lee says “I would never use brass alone due to a lively resonance character regardless of its thickness. When it is used in conjunction with a counterpoint material such as graphite, the result becomes more than the sum of its parts. Titanium fixings are deployed to create a perfect concentric fit”.

    (E) Power Supply – Regeneration of Sine Wave

    The construction of the PSU chassis is equally demanding. The side panels are taken from the same batch of Gabon Ebony used on the turntable. The top and bottom plates are carbon fiber, and front/back plates are made in 9ct Gold, Carbon fibre and macassar ebony. The unit sits on 4 solid gold-plated brass feet that are centre spherical. Ebony disks are supplied to prevent any slip.


    All of the internal circuit boards are isolated by a special gel used in the avionics industry. Lee has gone to great lengths to stop any unwanted vibrations entering into the electronics. Cabling, externally and intentionally is all made by Lee to the highest standard as though each of the cables can be sold separately as flagship offering. 

    The Akasu power supply is at the heart of the turntable performance. It is a solid-state device that regenerates sine wave from the mains supply. What Lee hears in England, will be the same as what is heard in Hong Kong or in the USA regardless of the mains feed. The power supply has many filtering systems both passive and active to make this so.


    The PSU is a dual frequency supply that generates the 33/45 RPM sine wave signal. A front panel switch is used for changing between 33/3 and 45 RPM and a rotary switch for adjusting either frequency in 0.01Hz steps with a maximum range of ±3Hz.

    It has one output to feed the turntable via a bespoke Dalby Audio umbilical cord. Connectors are gold plated military bayonet types. Conductors are pure silver and mono crystal copper cable with each of the 3 polarities having separate shields. Static free insulation is made by cotton, silk and FEP.  The PSU employs heavy gauge earth wiring made from Dalby Audio pure silver Litz in (8 AWG) silk for most of the areas. 

    Colour Codes for Frequency stability 

    The front LED indicator has 3 Different modes.

    Red indicates frequency is below correct frequency,

    Green indicates frequency is above the correct frequency.

    Orange indicates the right frequency. It flashes if the adjustment is turned past the limits (±3Hz).

    Once the orange light is achieved, a lock switch is located at the back panel that overrides the adjustment knob on the front panel. The LED indicator flashes if the lock switch is disabled and/or if the speed adjustment control is turned. There is a separate speed adjustment for each frequency (33/45 RPM), the offset is stored in memory and is unaffected by powering down from the supply.

    The PSU sits on a special isolation platform made from bamboo composite with viscoelastic gel supports. From addressing static discharge within the wiring and cable looms to the controlling of unwanted energy alongside an ultra-complicated decoupling system, all just for the power supply.


    The Akasu screams obsessiveness. Lee proves his theory by execution that can only be described as folly, stubborn and suicidal from a conventional business standpoint. The verification of his work at Divin Lab is a EUREKA moment for me.  It will serve as a reference for many generations to come.   

    Chris Leung


  • edited July 17
    The Making of a Legend by Lee Paul Dalby

    Part 3: A Photo Essay of “The Bond between Music and Nostalgia”

    五年前Lee Paul Dalby基於懷念堅持做了一件創舉,其不顧商業原則,以及研發時期奮力對抗病魔,所付出的精神,使我佩服。他將畢身傑作交予我,希望我可成就其心血結晶為永恆經典,令我感動。
    見到 “証據” 時,我看到的是背後的血汗。聽到音樂響起之後,我看到的是將來回望今天的歷史。時代不停前進,世事永遠變遷,可是引發感觸的原因,不論時空,卻永遠是一樣。所以我要將2023年七月四日以「相片講故事」的方式紀錄下來。

    Chris Leung
  • July 4, 2023 

    Work began at 11:00am

  • edited July 17

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