The A.J. Conti Transcendence Turntable
Armando (A.J.) Conti designed his last turntable to serve as his personal reference. This final design represents a culmination of his life-long quest to build the turntable that is the most silent and true to the original recording. He first called this new design the “Comparitor”, but considered names such as “Masterdeck”, “Analog Masterdeck” or “Studio Masterdeck” later on. Unfortunately, he never had a chance to formally name it. Following his sudden death in October 2016, one name, at the suggestion of Joe Harley of AudioQuest, and proud owner of the new turntable, seemed like a fitting tribute to the designer and the reflection of the superior breath-taking design, the A.J. Conti Transcendence.
The A.J. Conti Transcendence turntable is A.J.’s tribute to the science and art of vinyl music reproduction, an expression of the pinnacle of record playback. It is the result of the same “Basis Systems Approach” of product development as used in other Basis products, where each individual subsystem contributing to the performance of the product is identified. Specific goals for the performance of each subsystem are developed based on their function. Each system is designed, based on fundamental principles of physics, and then tested and optimized to perform its function to the highest level. Only after each system has demonstrated superior performance at its defined function is it approved for use in the final product.
The Transcendence turntable performs at an astounding level, validating the “Basis Systems Approach” as well as proving the validity of the specific design features. The Transcendence exudes total confidence in playback and displays a mastery over the music, showing superior competence in dynamics, naturalness, harmonics, image size and specificity. Coupled with the SuperArm tonearm, the Transcendence brings vinyl reproduction closer than it has ever been to that natural, effortless, powerful sound of high-speed analog master tapes.
When A.J. was building the first Transcendence, which he called the Comparitor at the time, one of the design goals was to have a turntable versatile enough to accommodate any tonearm, no matter the dimensions or the weight. Since it was to be his personal reference turntable, total flexibility was required. This was accomplished through the use of a massive, solid aluminum plinth on which tonearms can be placed anywhere on their respective spindle-to-pivot arcs.
Today, audiophiles have the opportunity to benefit from this supremely capable design. Purchasing a Transcendence with a large base enables one to use any tonearm of any length and offers the possibility of placing it at a desired location rather than a fixed mount, provided that the location is the correct distance away from the platter spindle. Additionally, upgrades are stress-free, since components can be swapped without the need for disassembly.
The Isolation System
The Transcendence turntable is isolated from the listening environment through a constrained layer damping system. Using a visco-elastic material, a material which exhibits both a Hookean (spring-like) and a viscous response to vibration, the four suspension pods perform linearly and, as pure components with no hysteresis effects, conform to and satisfy the conditions of the ideal engineering models of these devices. The unique component configuration has refined the isolation system to such a high degree that an extreme level of isolation is achieved over a range greater than the ten octave audio range. Thus the Transcendence suspension takes the suspension to a higher level, providing by far the most stable, complete isolation available in the record player industry.
For the ultimate in neutral sound, the support structure which constrains the viscoelastic elements must be extremely rigid with any resonant frequency falling outside the audio range. The Transcendence “feet” in each corner are massive, precisely machined from solid billet. The results are supports that are massively rigid with a randomized resonant response well above the audio range.
The beneficiary of this superior energy-conversion isolation system is the listener. Musical details unfold with effortless certainty, conveying the emotion of the music with profoundly convincing realism by combining delicacy, immediacy, listenability, and explosive dynamics.
The Transcendence utilizes the most speed-stable type of motor available, the AC synchronous instrument motor. Basis modifies this motor with a custom magnet assembly to further smooth the power delivery and to assure a totally balanced rotating system. The motor coils are direct driven in a dual-phase manner to maintain coil-to-coil balance and achieve an optimal phase shift condition. This represents the ideal configuration with which to operate an AC motor, yielding a standard-setting combination of fluidity of transmitted power and stability of speed.
The custom motor is mounted in a massive, extremely rigid housing machined from a billet of stainless steel. The supremely inert, high-mass billet motor housing in conjunction with compliant elastomeric feet result in a low resonant frequency of the entire motor system. This low frequency system effectively damps any higher frequency motor vibrations.
The result of these extreme measures is a totally speed stable, quiet, cog-free drive system. Musical notes are unwaveringly solid, as expected; additionally, such exceptional levels of speed stability lend a coherence to the music and soundfield that must be heard to be believed.
The SuperPlatter and Bearing System
The Super Platter is composed of a precision machined record mat and a proprietary alloy body. The large mass of the Super Platter serves to minimize resonance while maintaining superior speed stability and track precision when combined with the Basis Vacuum System. This is evidenced in the incredible 0.01% wow and flutter and 0.012% speed drift, which are both industry leading numbers.
The material used in the record mat closely matches the density and stiffness of a vinyl record while having a high damping coefficient, thus dissipating the record’s vibrational energy through platter.
The oil-well bearing which supports this massive platter is a proven design that has seen use in many Basis turntables and has been modified to keep the center of gravity of the platter directly between the top and bottom bushings to bring lateral forces to a minimum.
Increased length between bushings, enhanced rigidity, vanishingly low friction and noise, and extreme performance coating technology assure the finest, quietest, most durable bearing possible. Double grinding and diamond lapping assure a shaft that is so straight, true, and perfectly round that bushing clearances can be adjusted in ten-thousandth of an inch increments to achieve the perfect match of the bearing parts.
The bearing and platter are matched early in the platter machining process, guaranteeing a rotational roundness approaching perfection on every unit. Deviations from absolute roundness are nearly undetectable with standard precision machining instruments, falling into the low ten-thousandths of an inch range.
The result is low friction and low noise, which translates to silent backgrounds, imperceptible grain, and a sublime listening experience. The Super Platter represents the ultimate in possible stability.
The sonic results of this relentless pursuit of perfection in the bearing and platter system are far more than extreme pitch stability, which the Transcendence clearly demonstrates. Such stability assures extraordinary harmonic veracity and integrity; the interplay of the harmonic structures and the subtle identifying textures of each instrument more fully convince the listener that real music is playing. Such constant speed results in a high degree of preservation of correct phase relationships, impacting not only the harmonic and tonal qualities of the music, but creating a mesmerizing imaging picture with sound sources “hanging in thin air”, totally independent of the speakers.
The Vacuum System
The Basis Vacuum record hold down system applies a controlled level of negative pressure to the underside of the record guaranteeing a perfectly flat record which is so tightly coupled to the platter that record resonance is eliminated. The true musical tonality and texture captured on the record are revealed, without any added coloration of vinyl resonance. The vacuum system restores even the most warped record to exact flatness, eliminating speaker damaging and power robbing “woofer pumping” due to record warps. Dynamics, imaging, musicality, bass power, and tracking ability are all brought to levels unreachable without the Basis Vacuum system.
The Basis conceived HFLV (high flow, limited vacuum) system combines rapid record pull-down with the gentlest possible handling of records. The laboratory-grade vacuum regulator and the precision indicator assure the user of consistent, gentle vacuum application while allowing total adjustability and flexibility. The remote pump allows flexibility in placement and assures silent operation of the system.