Basis Audio 1400 Signature Turntable

The 1400 Signature is the entry level turntable from Basis Audio and the mind of legendary designer, A.J. Conti. While reviewing some cartridges recently, I got to play a little with this gorgeous looking slab of post modernity. Sadly, its manufacturing life is coming to an end, to be replaced with a new 2000 Series. The new ‘table will add silicone suspension and a few other technical goodies. The 1400 Signature comes with no suspension, save for the small Sorbothane-like pads under the three legs.

As our readers may get a deal on some 1400s still in stock, I thought I’d give you a quick review of what I heard. Knowing audiophiles, they’ll want to have a good listen to the new 2000 before committing, but why wait? The 1400 is a superb turntable and might possibly be offered at a discount in the here and now.

Basis Audio offers its own, highly regarded Vector Tonearm on the 1400, but will install a Rega 301, which brings the retail price in at CAD$3500. Conti adds a custom arm-mount for VTA, which obviates the need for Rega shims.

The auditioned model with Rega arm

The auditioned model with Rega arm

I heard the ‘table with two Ortofon cartridges, the Blue ($199) and the moving coil Cadenza Red ($899). The Blue is one of the great bargains in high end audio. I wrote about it here. The Red offers more detail and refinement — a more sophisticated sound stage, if you like? The instruments sounded livelier and fleshed out. But, the Blue is no slouch in these regards, and for a ridiculously low price. Yet, it was interesting how easily I could hear the differences between the two carts, no doubt because of the synergy of a famous budget arm and the Basis 1400 Signature platform.

The 1400 offers a rock solid presentation — I listened to it on a carbon slab of some sort on a standard rack. I’ve found that unsprung turntables really benefit from some sort of added support, whether carbon fibre or outboard suspension like the Townshend Seismic Sink. Anything to decrease resonance and the effect of footfalls. And, with a very low noise floor, the transparency was nothing short of hypnotic. Don’t forget to add the Basis Reflex Clamp, which really helps in the transparency and overall balance of the soundstage, especially front to back.

The outboard AC synchronous instrument motor runs silent and deep. Startup, both 33 and 45 (a quick belt reposition), is quick to the touch and pitch remained unsullied by speed anomalies. Basis ‘modifies this motor with a custom magnet assembly to further smooth the power delivery and to assure a totally balanced rotating system.’

The outboard AC synchronous instrument motor

The outboard AC synchronous instrument motor

I listened at great length to the knockout reissue of a Decca classic: Meyerbeer: Les Patineurs – Massenet: Le Cid. Both cartridges explained the somewhat facile music in more sophisticated terms to me. I always groaned when faced with a boatload of notes from Meyerbeer or Massenet, but the performances by the Israel Philharmonic are so damned good (conducted by the vastly underrated Jean Martinon) and the sound so exquisite, that I enjoyed every note and phrase. Bass was refulgent and accurate — no boominess or bloat. Nice and tight. The midrange was glorious, as it is with many well-designed turntables I’ve reviewed, but the treble was possibly even finer. So beautifully detailed, with the right zip, the correct tizz, the pleasant soprano. So many turntable, tonearm, cartridge combinations of the ‘inexpensive’ variety get this tessitura all wrong. Treble fans, listen to this ‘table.

Like all good turntable manufacturers, Basis Audio believes in trickle down technology. Basis states: ‘…the 1400 platters and bearings are machined by the same precision machinists, on the same tooling, as the similar parts of the Debut and Work of Art! The 1400 uses the same motor as the Debut. It would be impossible for the 1400 to be produced at its price without the simultaneous production of Debut parts. As for the design pedigree, it is undeniable: the same designer of the Work of Art and Debut designed the 1400.’ As such, I’m sure the new 2000 model will benefit from the collective good at Basis Audio.

I spent a long and lovely day with the Basis 1400 (all amplification pre, post and phono were courtesy of the superlative new Strumentos from Audia Flight). Would I buy one? That’s an easy, ‘yes’! It’s a superb ‘entry level’ turntable and is worth seeking out before they disappear forever. Audiophilia will be getting a first review of the new turntable later this summer, but don’t wait for us. Go to a Basis dealer and have a good listen. Highly recommended.

Further information: Basis Audio