Basis 1400 Turntable Reviewed

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Basis 1400 Turntable Reviewed

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Basis_1400_turntable.gifHorrifyingly, we're only one month shy of it being 10 years since I reviewed the Basis Debut turntable. Good Gawd, does time fly! In the past decade, the LP has continued to decline in sales, popularity and importance, but enough vinyl freaks survive to support a few stalwart manufacturers. So what happens to those who - unlike Linn, Pink Triangle and Rega - do not manufacturer amplifiers, speakers or CD players? While Basis hasn't abandoned the costly Debut (which now has a moniker along the lines of 'Debut Gold MK V' or some such), the company has responded to the havoc wreaked by CD with turntables way, way down the price ladder. Oh, and making world-class espresso machines... but that's another story.

Like Clearaudio in Germany, Basis developed a series of turntables which can be upgraded periodically, eventually evolving from the entry-level 2000 into the one-below-the-Debut 2800, with a sticker of £7900. Indeed, for the better part of a year I've been using a bog-standard 2000, which sells here for £1995 with Basis' version of the OEM edition of the Rega tonearm. But, given the brilliance of the sub-£1000 Wilson-Benesch Circle, it was clear that even the top value-for-money offered by the 2000 wasn't a low enough tariff for those who have to satisfy an analogue craving with a less-costly fix. So it was without hesitation that I put my name down for a review sample of the Basis 1400, to see just how inexpensive could be the entry into Basis ownership.

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To the review sample's £995 must be added £169 for the Basis 300 arm (although there's a Basis 250 for £95). It was also suggested that I use one of the company's record pucks, costing £65 and confirming what I learned with the 2000, which I never use, uh, . Judicious shopping, then, means that you can enter the Basis family for under £1150 if you're happy with a budget cartridge and the most basic version of the OEM Rega arm.

Given so many similarities, the 1400 struck me initially as a 2000 in clear, rather than black perspex. But closer examination reveals other detail changes, the most obvious being that the 1400 is a locked system, with no upgrades available and no path up to the 2000 short of selling or trading in your 1400. Like the 2000, the 1400 is minimalist, compact and absolutely uncluttered. Its primary parts consist of a clear acrylic main chassis, sturdy brushed aluminium legs, a matt-finish acrylic platter reminiscent of Pink Triangle's and an outboard motor assembly. The latter, it should be stated, is identical to those used in every Basis model up to and including the Debut, so the 1400 isn't simply some cheap, badge-engineered Basis wannabee. But the main bearing of the 1400 of a lower grade than that of the 2000 - which the same as the Debut's.

Using the Rega-sourced Basis 300, surely the best-value tonearm on the market, means a slight savings for UK customers because the British importer was allowed to take delivery of the Basis-branded arms directly from Rega instead of watching them fly round-trip to New Hampshire. To UK music lovers, it's embarrassingly but deservedly familiar, with its black arm tube and natural metal cueing lever, counterweight and lower arm pillar. But there's one difference which will bring smiles to all those who know how much Rega disputes the need for concerning one's self with such a minor, insignificant detail as VTA: Basis provides a custom arm-mounting arrangement for its versions of the assorted Rega OEM models to allow for VTA adjustments. Additionally, the arm says 'Basis' on the arm rest, below the pivot, to complete its aesthetic appeal.

With main measurements of 430x302mm, the Basis 1400 ignores the trend toward enormous turntables unsuitable for most equipment stands, or in need of dedicated tables. If you must go smaller, Wilson Benesch's Circle or any of the Regas are viable alternatives, but the Basis is no sufferer of elephantiasis. It still adheres to the 430mm 'rule' which has pretty much determined the way hi-fi is housed (not unlike cookers, washing machines, etc, enjoying a standard under-the-counter height of 900mm to make life easier). However, you still have to allow enough shelf space beyond the main dimensions for the motor assembly, with a footprint of a 75x75mm and standing 100mm tall to make the pulley level with the platter.

Here's where you detect another detail change from the 2000: the 2000 features a cut-out along the back edge of the plinth in which to position the motor assembly. It's purely there for convenience, but a nice tough which shows why you pay more for a 2000. As you can tell, only the drive belt connects the motor assembly to the turntable, thus ensuring total isolation from motor-borne vibration for the bearing-platter-LP-cartridge-tonearm loop. As a result, the Basis 2000 system is deliciously quiet during operation. (Nit-pickers will point out that the motor assembly can interfere with the turntable through the shelf material on which they're both resting. In the interest of total paranoia, I would point out that one could, if one wished, rest the motor assembly on another stand...)

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