The Work of Art Turntable
The Basis Work of Art turntable is Basis Audio’s tribute to the science and art of vinyl music reproduction, an expression of the pinnacle of record playback. The Work of Art project began in the early 1990’s, 10 years into the life of Basis Audio. In 1999 the Vector prototype, the first Basis tonearm, was able to more clearly show turntable and phono cartridge differences than ever before, and inspired new interest in the Work of Art project at Basis. The unflappable neutrality of the Vector allowed more informative listening sessions and measurement procedures to be conducted. After full testing and realizing the breakthrough performance of the Vector, Armando Conti, founder and President of Basis Audio, challenged and dedicated himself to build a turntable platform worthy of the Vector. Basis Audio introduced The Work of Art turntable, Basis Audio’s statement of the ultimate turntable and arguably the finest record player ever produced, at Winter CES of January 2004.
The Work of Art turntable is the result of the same “Basis Systems Approach” of product development as 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 the function of that system. 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 Work of Art turntable performs at an astounding level, validating the “Basis Systems Approach” as well as proving the validity of the specific design features. The Work of Art 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 9 tonearm, the Work of Art brings vinyl reproduction closer than it has ever been to that natural, effortless, powerful sound of high-speed analog master tapes.
The Isolation System
The Work of Art turntable is isolated from the listening environment by a “mass-spring-damper” suspension system. Using viscous fluid for the damping, the spring and dashpot components 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 Work of Art suspension takes the industry leading Debut Signature suspension to a higher level, providing by far the most stable, complete isolation available in the record player industry.
In addition to providing an extreme level of isolation, the Work of Art suspension system performs a critical function which no air or conventional isolator addresses. By coupling tightly to the subchassis the isolation system quenches both vibrational energy channeled into the subchassis by the tonearm and impingement energy of the airborne musical signal fed into the subchassis. Equally effective in either direction at converting vibrational energy into heat energy, this superior system is unique in the audio world at performing the critical subchassis damping function.
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 Work of Art 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 billet alloy, incorporating integral cooling fins on the top. The motor temperature is stabilized at an ideal level by the housing’s high mass, the special highly conductive alloy, and precision machined cooling fins, resulting in more precise motor bushing clearances, facilitating retention of motor lubricant, and reducing thermal aging on the motor windings.
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 Bearing and Platter System
The bearing is a new design, advancing the legendary Debut bearing generations forward. 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 one-ten thousandth of an inch increments to achieve the perfect match of the bearing parts. The platter, made from the center of a solid block of acrylic and stress relieved, represents the ultimate in possible stability. 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 unmeasureable with standard precision machining instruments, falling into the low ten-thousandths of an inch range.
The sonic results of this relentless pursuit of perfection in the bearing and platter system are far more than extreme pitch stability, which the Work of Art 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.
Suspension Support Structure
For the ultimate in neutral sound, the support structure for the suspension must be extremely rigid with any resonant frequency falling outside the audio range. The Work of Art supports in each corner are massive, machined from billet, architecturally shaped beam arms. To eliminate flexure the support arms are over-engineered to such a degree that each could support a full sized truck despite being cantilever beams in nature. To further reduce deflection at predominant natural frequencies the cross-sectional area of each arm is modulated as a function of height. The moment of inertia of a structural beam is directly proportional to the third power of the thickness, with the flexural properties gaining a concomitant third power change in magnitude. Along with the lack of parallel sides on any surface of the structure, the results are supports that are massively rigid with a randomized resonant response well above the audio range. The sonic result is a structure which forms a perfect, neutral hanging point for the fluid damped suspension system.
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.
Extreme high performance and reliability always take precedence over form at Basis Audio. Basis products are aesthetically defined only after the “Basis Systems Approach” of product development has resulted in successful performance. Even the revolutionary visual design of the Work of Art turntable is the practical marriage of artistic shaping of structural components with the functional requirements of those components. No part is “extra” or unnecessary and no performance concessions have been made for the sake of style. In the tradition of the finest examples of industrial design, the Work of Art is a superior performing piece of equipment as well as an aesthetically groundbreaking object of artistic expression.
Producing a "Work of Art"
Unfortunately, production of such an intricate piece of equipment as the Basis Work of Art is not like “churning out” a mass-market consumer item.
The Work of Art is an ultimate statement of precision, performance, and the art of analog playback. The turntable itself is indeed a piece of art, sculpted from solid billet pieces of material. Not one part of shape is extruded or molded. All of the features, contours, and architectural shapes are created by precision machining operations. Further, all machining is performed by “Tool and Die-Makers”, machinists of such high caliber as to be differentiated by their ability to create the special tools, dies, and molds that are used to produce molded, cast, and stamped products. Only the best machinists ever achieve this level, working on dies that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and yet may be ruined by one wrong move on the maker’s part. Most such machinists, after attaining this status, no longer will accept production work of components for products, reserving themselves for the more difficult job of creating tooling. Due to the challenging nature and the prestige of the Work of Art, Basis has been able to convince two Tool and Die Makers to machine all parts for this product. Combined, these two craftsmen have forty-five years of experience. One has been a supplier to Basis Audio since 1984, and the other since 1987. This type of machining, consuming thousands of hours for a small production run of the Work of Art, is one of many reasons why the Work of Art will always be unique in the marketplace and will represent the pinnacle of analog playback and art for decades.
Most consumer products are designed with an eye toward “ease of production”. The Work of Art, however, is no normal production product. Instead, the Work of Art was designed to be an ultimate work, whose design is based only on the requirements of performance and unique, sculptural shape. Even the polishing of the four-inch thick acrylic subchassis is a major difficulty: normal acrylic polishing businesses refuse the work due to its difficulty and the cost of the component should they damage it. Therefore, the designer of the Work of Art performs the acrylic polishing using his own proprietary process.
Basis Audio hopes that the above helps explain both some of the intense requirements of building the Work of Art, and why quantities of this product will remain limited for the life of the project.