THE ART OF SPIN
The ultra-high-end turntables offered by Basis Audio can reproduce the kind of fidelity you associate from studio master tapes
Perfection does not come overnight. At Basis Audio, it has been the product of a 35-year journey that began when Armando “AJ” Conti decided to turn his talent and discipline to creating the perfect turntable, one that would only convey the purest core of the music contained with a record. He did so by treating itas a technical problem and then applying physics and engineering, sparing no time, effort or cost until he found the best solutions. “Nothing would stop him in his quest to design the best turntable,” says Jolanta Conti, widow of AJ Conti and President of the New Hampshire-based company. “He would not let anything get in his way.”
AJ’s uncompromising standards, passion for music and technical know-how led to supreme achievements such as the Work of Art, which New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) wanted to display as one of the finest examples of modern industrial art, and The A.J. Conti Transcendence (named after his death), a groundbreaking turntable that critics have praised as “one of the greatest achievements in high-end audio”. Conti designed tonearms of similar craftsmanship and precision such as the Vector 4 and the award-winning SuperArms 9 and 12.5. He died in 2016, but his legacy exists in the ideas he left behind for improvements and refinements, and the outstanding turntables that still give customers endless satisfaction today.
“He believed audio equipment should not detract from the music,” explains Jolanta. “He wanted to make his turntables and tonearms as transparent as possible. He was fanatical about minute aspects of his design and would wake up at 3am if he had a new idea or wanted to test something. He did not expect perfection from humans, but he did from machines.”
The holy grail for AJ was to create a turntable that made records sound like the master tapes used in studios, and purchased two master-tape machines so he could conduct sonic evaluations. Conti sourced the finest materials, and even designed new equipment to construct parts if he couldn’t find what he needed to suit his exacting specifications. Engineer Alex Bourque was astonished by the power and clarity of Basis turntables when he joined the company in 2018, but now understands how Conti achieved these results.
“The drive system, for instance, has to be made so it spins at a consistent speed,” says Alex. “This seems simple but it’s actually very challenging as there are often very tiny changes that manifest themselves in some of the high sonic frequencies with more complex structures. To get the perfect belt, we grind it to a specific and consistent thickness. We also do the assembly here. That is critical. The care and attention of that final assembly is very important to reach the required performance level. It’s that continual attention that ensures those levels of quality are maintained.”
What makes this all the more remarkable is that for much of the time AJ Conti was striving to refine and improve the turntable, the vinyl medium was dying. But, as Jolanta points out, Conti was never one to be swayed by gimmicks or trends. Now vinyl has become popular once more, and Conti’s dedication to persevere in pursuit of perfection has been vindicated. “We get customers coming in with turntables they bought 30 years before,” says Alex. “We help get them up and running again. It’s that long term commitment to something that has been designed to be serviced and repaired so it will last for a long time and continue to find the truth that was contained in a vinyl record.”