I’ve gone through a few different turntables in the past year or two, including two different Dr. Feickert Volares, an Origin Live Resolution, a Dr. Feickert Woodpecker, a Wilson Benesch Full Circle, and now, the Basis Audio Debut Gold Standard. The Basis Audio turntable reviewed here has the vacuum platter system, speed adjustment via changing belt position on the drive pulley (some come without speed adjustment and some have that facility built into a separate motor controller), and has the excellent Graham Engineering 2.2 tonearm installed.

basis audio debut review

SHORT VIDEO CLIP FEATURING THE BASIS AUDIO

 

INSTALLATION

This table is a beast. I’ve owned a VPI TNT table in the past and the Basis Audio Debut occupies a similar footprint but weighs even more than the TNT. It’s a big table and you’ll need an oversized platform. Fortunately, I still have the original VPI TNT rack, which is perfect for the Basis Audio’s extended girth.

When I first read the instructions for setting up the Basis I found it a little daunting, to be honest, but the process couldn’t have been simpler, thanks to an excellent manual and some first-rate engineering design. The only tricky part is getting the novel suspension system in place, which is aided by a purpose-made tool. Basically, each of the four corner posts is a pod for the suspension system, the inner plinth hangs freely, suspended from a rubber belt inside each corner post/pod. Once you hang each of the 4 corners using the tool, it’s a simple case of leveling the plinth so it sits equidistant in the frame, then roughly adjusting the true level using the screwed foot adjustments.

Incidentally, I’ve had problems with turntable isolation in my room on every deck I’ve used prior to the Basis Audio. Problems have included reaction to footfall on my suspended wooden floor and acoustic pickup from my quad of subwoofers. The Basis Audio Debut has operated perfectly free from any ‘isolation’ anomalies, a testament to its well-designed suspension system.

basis audio debut turntable review

Installing the tonearm on the armboard was straightforward as everything had been installed previously (prior to full disassembly). Sliding the armboard into the cutout is a little tricky, it’s such a snug fit and you need to be careful as you lower the board into the cutout so you don’t let go of it abruptly as you lower it down the last few millimeters.

Once you have the basic assembly complete it’s time to get a buddy to help you lift the deck onto its final resting place, before installing the platter and making fine adjustments for level. Yes, this thing is too big and heavy to risk moving by one person. That’s my recommendation anyway. Once on the TT rack, you can install the platter and then easily make fine adjustments to level via the foot adjusters.

basis audio debut turntable review

Installing the vacuum system couldn’t be easier, so long as you have the latest version of the instruction manual and not the version that I had! To cut a long story short, I couldn’t get the vacuum platter to suck, and spent a lot of time messing around, which really sucked. Eventually, after talking with Alex at Basis Audio and receiving the latest instruction manual, I came to learn that the vacuum hoses need to be inserted into the quick-release fittings with considerably more force than seemed ‘normal’. Once the correct amount of force was used, voila….everything sucked!’

The engineering employed throughout the design of this table is just a delight to behold. It’s precise, well-considered, effective, and practical to use. It’s also ergonomically as perfect as anything can be. Place a record on the platter, drop the special spindle lock in place, flick the switch on the vacuum control unit and within two seconds the record will be fully clamped to the platter. Then, flick the power switch on the left side of the turntable and the platter slowly and silently comes to life.

Plenty of plastic air hose is supplied with the system so I was able to locate the vacuum unit in an adjacent room, around 15′ from the turntable. The remote vacuum unit houses the pump and connects to the pressure adjustment unit via the long section of the hose, so in my installation, I can’t hear the pump running or any noise from the vacuum system at all. I wouldn’t recommend placing the vacuum pump unit in the listening room if you can avoid doing so. Even with a brand new pump, the unit is audible when in operation (clamp mode), and would be distracting were it situated too close to the listening seat.

ARM / CARTRIDGE ALIGNMENT AND INSTALL

As I said at the start, this isn’t a full-blown review of the Basis Audio Debut turntable, it’s just a basic overview aimed at appeasing/satisfying the people who’ve emailed to ask my impression. Perhaps I’ll come back to pad things out at a later date when I’ve more time available.

basis audio debut turntable review

I started out installing a new Sound-Smith Zephyr cartridge on the Graham 2.2 tonearm, a cartridge purchased from my old buddies at HifiHeaven in Green Bay, WI. I also had some time with my Benz LP-S, and later an AQ7000.

The Graham 2.2 tonearm is the ‘Deluxe’ version that comes with the dealer installation kit. The kit makes installing most cartridges on the arm an absolute breeze, even for me with my jittery hands. The basic procedure is:

  • Remove the detachable armwand
  • Loosen the tonearm at the armboard base
  • Install the supplied adaptor over the spindle
  • Move the arm assembly and insert the nipple on the spindle adaptor into the small hole on the headshell. Once inserted, lock the arm assembly at the base and you’ve now accurately set the P2S distance.
  • Attach the cartridge to the headshell
  • Clip the supplied gauge/magnifier onto the headshell and align the cartridge using the gauge and magnifier. Once aligned, lock the cartridge into the headshell and re-check alignment. You now have the overhang set properly and the cartridge body parallel.

From there on it’s a fairly standard procedure for setting anti-skate (wire/balance), VTA, and VTF. You should be spinning tunes in well under one hour.

LISTENING IMPRESSIONS

Regardless of the cartridge used, the Basis Audio stands out as providing a rock-solid foundation to the music with plenty of extension at both frequency extremes, plenty of detail and air. My old Origin Live Resolution MKIV was a master at capturing detail and resolving low-level information and my Dr. Feickert Woodpecker was a master at providing a solid foundation to the music, giving things a real authoritative and ‘live’ feel. For some time I felt these two virtues might be mutually exclusive in a turntable, but the Basis Audio Debut Gold Standard combines both, together, simultaneously, and almost perfectly. Bass is extended, deep, solid, taught, and tuneful, but masks nothing from the top-end, which is light, airy, detailed, extended, yet remarkably smooth. The midrange has an incredible presence, female vocals are rendered in a remarkably lifelike way, beautifully lit from within and with near-perfect timbre and tone. But more than anything there’s seamlessness, ease, balance, and authority to the music, that makes everything sound so natural and true to life.

Ellington’s “Blues In Orbit” is an excellent recording on the Columbia label and was rendered via the Basis Audio turntable with a real live ‘you-are-there’ feel, – dynamic, low levels of coloration, with an especially clear and transparent midbass. Horns were never forward, bright, or aggressive, but were always portrayed with clarity and air and perfectly etched into a large (deep, and wide) soundstage. No matter what I play on the Debut the overall tonal balance was never forward, and never bright in the highs, but always detailed with plenty of air and sparkle, even with the more laid-back Benz LP-S.

It’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of the vacuum platter system as turning it off lifts the record about 1/8th of an inch upwards from the platter surface, enough to require an adjustment to the VTA. What I did try was to use a heavier record clamp to press down the record tighter to the platter, then run the thing with the vacuum off. While not entirely a controlled experiment, it was close enough to highlight that the vacuum platter system plays a significant part in the exemplary performance of this turntable. With the vacuum engaged, there’s an inkiness to the background that dissipates with the vacuum switched off. With vacuum on, there’s an enhanced sense of solidity and slightly more low-level detail emerging with a starker level of contrast from the background.

Although possibly imagined, I felt I sensed a lessening of unwanted surface noise with the vacuum system engaged, though the effect on surface noise was minimal. My conclusion on the vacuum platter system is simple – it’s worth the extra money over the base, non-vacuum model, it really is.

CONCLUSION

I’ll try to add more detail to this ‘listening impressions’ overview at some point in the future, but the Basis Audio Debut Gold Standard Vacuum turntable is a first-rate deck, particularly when combined with the Graham Engineering 2.2 tonearm and a quality cartridge like the Sound-Smith Zephyr or any good quality MC. In a good system with a good phonostage like the Manley Labs Steelhead, the Basis Audio never lacks detail retrieval, air or ambiance, nor bottom-end extension, weight, and control. Sounds emerge cohesively from a dead-black background and are portrayed with impressive dynamics, clarity, and transparency, and with a great sense of authority.

I think the only way forward from here, based on my experience with a range of turntables from VPI, Origin Live, Music Hall, Dr. Feickert, etc, would be to step up within the Basis Audio brand.

CAH

March 2022