With an idea, innovation can trigger an impulse which must have happened to Jeff Tien more than once. He is the designer of the Tien Audio turntables from Taipei City, Taiwan. In his early days, Mr. Tien learned to play the violin. His parents were very busy. To compensate for their regular absences, they bought him a Pioneer turntable. From his allowance he started to buy records. By the time Mr. Tien went to university to pursue architectural studies, the era of CD had risen. Unlike most of his friends and fellow students however, he stuck by his beloved vinyl.

Base with four StillPoints | platter with bearing sleeve | arm board

After graduation, Mr. Tien started working life as a civil servant. Here he received a Taiwanese government grant to study architectural planning at an American university. After some time and since blood always trumps water, he began a second-hand record shop slash repair and maintenance center for record players. His excellent work created a good reputation and the idea—yes, here it comes—of building his own turntable began to germinate. This evolved into a direct-drive table with Birch multiplex plinth which was well received. A next model sported an acrylic plinth due to import regulations in many countries where wood products are concerned.

Over the years, Mr. Tien's turntable collection kept growing and with his mounting experience of repairing many different makes and models, his knowledge and insight into the complex matter of analog replay became rather substantial. Every record player has its strong point and Mr. Tien found a way to combine them all in innovative ways. The result was the TT3.

TT3 solo, then mounted to TT5 base

This TT3 turntable is built around three motors which drive the platter via a special belt. A turntable with a single motor spinning a belt pulls the spindle in one direction. This creates one-sided strain on the bearing. Two motors are better but with three surrounding a round platter, strain divides equally to balance out. In Mr. Tien's experience, lack of spindle strain enhances low-frequency response. But this is not all. Each of his spring-loaded motors can rotate 360° and is thus not rigidly fixed to its housing. Once the belt is in place, all three motor axes tilt toward the spindle. Together with the belt's very low elasticity, this construction optimally supports spindle and bearing while the belt turns the sub platter at three small pressure points from the motors' belt tension.

Outboard Keces P3 power supply

The low elasticity belt is the result of endless search for the right material and geometry. According to Mr. Tien, it took him sifting through a dozen material samples before he finally settled on a form of silicone which won't stretch or deteriorate with age.