Apparently, no one has listened to both. Does anyone have any experience with the long term quality of the two brands?
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Youve hit on the biggest problem today with analogue and that is making valid comparisons between different components. Unfortunately I dont experience with the two you specifically reference. I have owned both a VPI and a Basis table so I can offer that up even though its not really a fair comparison since the two are at the opposite end of their respective product lines. I did use the same arm and cartridge in the period of overlap where I owned both tables.
I started off with a VPI HW-19 Mk IV with the stand alone motor (sama). This was my first venture into audiophile tables coming from a decidedly mid-fi Technics belt drive that was awful. The VPI didnt solve one of the main problems I had and that was isolation from the springy wood floors in my 1928 frame house. I had to tip-toe around to avoid sending the stylus flying. The other issue I had with the VPI was the motor needed rebuilding every two or three years. VPI was great about it and never had to pay for the service but it was annoying.
When I got to the point where I was ready to upgrade I looked past the top of the line VPI TNT and went for the Basis Debut. The build quality and the suspension are in a different league. No regrets here. I know guys around town that also have various Basis tables that range from a highly tweaked 1400 to vacuum Debuts. They all have the same superlative build quality and have recommended them to friends looking for a table.
That said, there are other interesting alternatives in todays market that should be considered. The Raven is good if you dont need the isolation the suspension can provide as is the Galibier which would be my top choice in a non-suspended table. The SOTA is also good choice in the suspended category even though they have flown well below the radar for the last few years.
The bottom line is that there is no definitive answer to your question. Even if someone had evaluated both tables in their own system, ascertained the differences and came to a conclusion, theres no guarantee that you would come to the same conclusion. Theres too much personal preference/bias in the process. Same holds true for the reviews you read in the audio rags.
I have had alot of exposure to VPI all through the years,at many friends' homes.Also,I too like Basis...but...
Basis is very costly,though quite good(an understatement).I appreciate their upgrade path,and a good vacuum system is still very effective.Personally,I cannot for the life of me figure out why SO many hugely expensive "high mass" designs with NO true clamping system can be so popular?
Anyway,the current crop of VPI products(especially their better offerings) are superb!The HRX "fully maxxed out" is about as good a table/arm "system" as anyone is likely to need(as in hear)!
One thing about "quality" in tables,not particularly mentioned often enough....
Be wary of those mfgrs who do not make a "Quiet" system!With today's ultra high resolution cartridges and phono stages,even the slightest buzz,or hum can affect our music...
In my experience,with the monies asked today,one should expect a noise free product....that stays that way!!
Good luck...either way,you should be quite happy with your choice.
I went from a HW-19 IV to a Basis Debut Vacuum/Vector arm combination. I later added a separate power supply/motor control unit. This is a terrific table, though the VPI was no slouch either.
The vacuum clamping system is a particularly nice feature with the Vector. It is amazing how well this dampens vibrations from the vinyl itself. If one places the arm in a groove with the table at a standstill, a fairly hard tap on the record near the stylus with a pen or other object will produce little output from the cartridge compared with doing the same thing with other tables.
The VPI offers a rim clamp, but, I am not a fan of those tricky to use devices. They just offer too many opportunities to accidentally hit the cartridge with the clamp or to set the needle down in the wrong place and have the needle snagged by the clamp.
Larryi is right about the ring clamp "potential" disaster.My close pal had "that" scenario.He was a bit careless,and became cantilever-less-:)
Lucky for him,the cartridge importer was a super nice guy,and gave him a new one for free(Titan i).
Still,it does work well in the coupling of an LP.How many designs "really" couple an LP correctly(which is clearly audible,in the "utmost resolution of a musical signal").
I'll give serious kudos to Basis for doing that to the max!....and....
From my experience with a Debut/vacuum unit on the BIG four tower infinity speakers,the table "is" dead quiet!!I LOVE the Debut,but sadly it is a bit out of my reach,especially with an upcoming wedding for my daughter....OUCH!!!
Yet,the latest VPI HRX is a KILLER combo(including the new 12.7 arm) at a superb price(I won't say bargain,because it seems "anything" in high end audio is a bit pricey).Comparable performance from the competition is quite a bit more moola.This system I've heard "do" all of the famous LP's from Mercury,RCA and Decca etc.Believe me when I state it is about as good in retrieving musical info as you can get.BUT,you do have to be careful with that ring clamp.
I make no arguement against anything someone can afford,but it "is" nice to save a few bucks on occassion.
I own a Basis 2500 Signature with a Graham Phantom arm and love that combination. If you can't do a home demo or listen to other peoples systems, then your are stuck to opinions here or reading magazine reviews. Reviewers have given the 2200, 2500 and 2800 all with Vector arms excellent reviews. Reviewers have given the VPI HRX with VPI arms excellent reviews. Clearly these are both great combos and just either would be a great choice. From reading those reviews I think some writers seem to describe the VPI combination as ever so slighly dark and slighly cold. I would describe the Basis products as very neutral. Maybe the HRX has the slightly lowest better bass.
The Basis systems have a much smaller footprint than the HRX which is very large. Footprint size may or may not be important for you, but you will need much more width with the HRX.
They are both available now, "used", on Audiogon at great prices. Buy one, get it home and just enjoy the music.
Thanks to all for your opinions. I was more familiar with the VPI products but had read some very good reviews regarding the Basis set up. It's reassuring that, in all likelihood, either one would be a good match with the rest of my components. Two of my main concerns were reliability and the ability to update as improvements come along.
It is almost impossible for anyone to truly audition turntables and tonearm combinations in any sort of controlled manner. Home audition is pretty much out of the question. So, one can go around listening to different systems with different turntables, arms, cartridges and phonostages. If the system sounds really great, then the particular components, which would include the turntable and arm, must be decent or they would have dragged the whole down. At best, a crude measure.
When I was looking for a table, I asked someone I know who was a distributor of a major line of gear what he thought were the tables to look at. He has heard hundreds of dealer and home setups so he has a better sense of what works in a variety of systems. I was looking at the SME 30/V combination, Simon Yorke table, Avid Acutus, etc. With no hesitation, he said the one that stands out was the Basis Debut. His company actually has interests aligned with a competing product, so the recommendation was not tainted by personal interest. Having nothing better to go on, that is the table I ended up buying. Later, I added the Basis power supply.
Another vote for Basis here, not because I have extensive experience with several tables just because I have been 100% satisfied with both of my basis tables. I shopped VPI, Clearaudio, and Basis primarily when I decided to get back into vinly. To Larry's point - they all sounded good at the dealer showrooms but my research and belief that A.J. Conti is such a master craftsman pointed me to basis.
My first table was his entry 1400 signature and essentially ran digital right out of my system. I have since upgraded to the 2200 signature and couldn't be happier. The build quality and suspension system is impressive! It's a tough decision and whatever decision you make I'm sure will be right for you. For me, once I get into a brand of components that's usually where I stay - all tables have long upgrade paths including Basis. Good luck!