Friday, October 21, 2016

A.J Conti- RIP

I was saddened to learn today of the sudden passing of A.J. Conti, founder of BASIS Audio.  I only ever had email exchanges with him but found him enormously helpful and polite, even as I queried him on an old design of his I was considering buying second hand off Ebay. Not only did he confirm a detail on the table, he actually told me who the previous owner was and how the table compared to his newer designs.  The story of how he demanding he was of the belt tolerances on his tables that he took over the manufacture himself when his supplier baulked at the requirements, has become lore.

You can read more over on TAS but this is very sad news for his family and the audio industry. A great gentleman has left us.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bryston BLP-1 spinning happily

Bryston shipped me one of their new turntables last week and the timing could not have been better as I'd been missing my records. The BLP-1 is a tidy, lightweight design that comes with a solid platter, installed arm, external power supply/speed controller, a record weight, and a hinged dustcover. I had it out of the box and a cartridge installed in less than 1 hour of unhurried and careful work, of which at least some of this time was making sure I maintained the packing materials in an order that would make safe return shipping a breeze come the time. This was probably the simplest new table set up I've experienced since the my days with a Rega 3.

In fact, comparisons with the Rega are not too far removed in some ways. The BLP-1 embodies the philosophy of rigid,  non-resonant lightweight construction with a built in belt-drive motor. What you are getting here for the nearly $4k price is a high-torque motor that gets up to speed quickly and maintains it. The costs also seem to have gone into a hardened bronze bearing, 35mm Delrin platter and a decent tonearm, manufactured for Bryston to their design by Goldnote of Italy. 

Having only a Sumiko Pearwood Celebration II cartridge on hand, itself a $2800 cartridge while I waited for a sample of Charisma Audio's re-bodied Denon 103 to pair with the BLP-1, I naturally had to mount it and give the player a spin. And I'm glad I did. From the first bars of Bucky Pizzarelli and Bud Freeman's Buck and Bud LP, it was clear there was something good happening here. The music flows from this table, with plenty of detail and upper-end life, a very musical mid-range and, surprisingly (I suppose) solid bass. I say 'surprisingly' as it's hard to shake the impression of one's eyes -- a lightweight table is going to sound, well, 'light' is it not? OK, acknowledge the power of one's sight to color one's hearing and try to listen more closely. This table does not make lightweight music, oh no, it has balance, air and resolution to go with the midrange body that makes music come alive for me.

For the last few nights I've been spinning record after record with tremendous enjoyment and am beginning to really get a sense of this table. I still think the arm looks and feels a bit light, and the pressure fit counterweights (with allen screw lock down) would seem like a slightly imprecise way to adjust weight (my years with the SME V have spoiled me) but routine use has shown how expectations can be challenged by the evidence of thoughtful design. Re-checking everything this morning I find all the settings made last week remain, the arm lift works precisely and cleanly, the motor gets up to speed fast, and the table just continues to sound as good as it should for the price. Indeed, as it sits this weekend on a Minus-K platform with a near $3k phono cartridge, feeding an ARC Ref2SE phono stage, the B-LP1 is delivering the type of sonic goods that this partnering gear demands.  Don't think this one is going to be outclassed easily.

OK, this is only a taster, a full review will come when I've had a few more weeks with this and had a chance to install the Charisma cartridge but early impressions suggest that there's a new contender on the block for a one-stop, easy to set up, good sounding analog rig.  Stay tuned.