Review: Basis PSTT Interconnect
A few months ago I took delivery of a Basis Debut vacuum/Synchro Wave/Vector 4 rig to replace my long serving Wilson Benesch Act 1 TT/Act 2 arm combination. This proved to be a revelation with the gorgeous Vector 4 playing a major part I believe in getting me closer to the recorded event than I had ever experienced and I had the suspicion that the PSTT cable also was doing something special. Love the Vector and love the Debut!
I run a balanced system mainly because my CD player(Marantz SA11s1 with full RAM mod) which in truth I don’t listen to all that much really sounds better balanced and I don’t want to duplicate cabling. Luckily my Xono offers a balanced out option. My reference cables were Sonic Art Reference(IC’s and PC), a relatively inexpensive silver/copper alloy cable with excellent shielding made in the USA to the specifications of its Australian designer. With this cable you must specify which pin is hot in your balanced configuration as hot and cold runs maintain signal separation. It takes a good 200+ hours to give of its best but when run in it is very, very good. It had replaced PS Audio Transcendent which, in turn had replaced PAD Colossus.
If I was going to upgrade I thought the PSTT should be a contender given the performance I was getting via the Vector but I thought I should also try out another highly rated cable which was available second hand and could be sold off if it didn’t cut it in my system. So I bought a second hand pair of Acoustic Zen Absolutes.
All cables I used had at least 200 hours on them prior to me doing a comparison. I used a pair of IC’s from CD to pre and from phono to pre and maintained my reference from pre to power and the Audience AU24 speaker cables were unchanged. Power cables were Sonic Art Reference, which synergies considered should have favoured the Sonic Art IC’s. Also in the second stage of the comparison I experimented with power cords as well. I’ll get to this shortly as they did make quite a difference.
So I had the Sonic Art Reference, PS Audio Transcendent, The Absolutes and the Basis PSTT. I had matching power cords for each with the exception of the Absolute. Masochistic? O lot of permutations which proved frustrating and very time consuming but it was kind of fun too.
For those interested in such things, all bar the Transcendents featured Neutrick XLR’s with the Absolutes having the highest quality set. The PS Audio’s XLR’s looked pretty cheap but worked effectively and the cables were easy to swap in and out and were easy to place given their flexibility. The Absolutes were clearly the best looking cables, well maybe a bit too much bling and had impressive packaging, assisting perhaps in justifying to some the very high price. They were also by a long way the easiest to use, being very light and flexible. In the finish stakes the PSTT’s also were very good but they were the most inflexible. The Sonic Art Reference looked like very good home made cables and had no packaging but all finishing was of a high standard. They took the longest to break in and were fairly stiff but easier to swap in and out than the PSTT’s.
While the phono stage to pre connection highlighted difference most effectively was therefore the one I used the most in the comparisons, I conducted comparison tests with my CD/SACD player as well. This allowed me to change out the power cable too, something I could not do with the Xono’s proprietary power cord.
It quickly became very obvious that 3 cables were similar in the way they portrayed the flow of the music and one cable stood apart as quite different. The one that was different was the Absolute. It was smooth and detailed and very pleasant to listen to but compared with all the other cables the musical drive was MIA. The emotional connection with the performers was just not there. Now there may have been some matching issues which could have disadvantaged the Absolute but each of the other three cable’s basic character remained whatever IC/Power combination I used. The performance of the Absolute did not make we want to rush out and get an Absolute PC to see if things got better. I’ve already sold them so I’ll never know. I can, however see why some buyers with digital only systems would like the Absolutes.
Each of the other IC’s worked best with their own power cord but I could detect only very differences difference between the Sonic Art Reference PC and the Basis PSTT PC, despite the price differential. Both are excellent. The PS Audio Statements were very smooth but less detailed than the Basis or Sonic Art. As I had already changed the PS Audio Transcendents for the Sonic Art Reference and had tried the full connection including pre to power it is not surprising that they came in at number 3. The Transcendent was quite detailed comparatively and had good drive but its images were a little more constrained, less 3 dimensional than the Sonic Art Reference and there was a very slight tendency to graininess on some discs unless the PS Audio Statement PC was used. The Sonic Art Reference really shone when paired with the same brand power cord and the sonic landscape it portrayed was very enticing. The music was alive with excellent drive and 3 dimensionality. I would have been happy with the Sonic Art Reference (they remain in my view a fantastic buy) if it hadn’t been for the Basis PSTT. Damn that AJ Conti!
With the Basis PSTT I found I was getting everything I got from the Sonic Art Reference but with even more drive, greater clarity and a stronger connection with the musicians. From one set of cables I felt the performance of the PSTT was so good that I changed my pre to power as well. With all PSTT cables, excepting the speaker cables where I retained the AU24’s, the sonic performance was simply stunning. The bass performance was astonishing. Deep, controlled and highly detailed. I hasten to add there is nothing overblown here. Very neutral in fact as is the rest of the audio spectrum. Nothing exaggerated, nothing added, nothing subtracted. You get the music and nothing but the music. All the usual descriptors seem redundant. Yes the soundstage height, width and depth are excellent but you don’t thing about these aspects and everything appears just right and you sit back and enjoy the performance. I found the experience most relaxing as if all the artificial artefacts in the replay chain had been stripped away.
The Basis PSTT cables are very expensive, being on par with the Absolutes and are a little difficult to work with compared with the others listed in this review but this is one case of getting what you paid for from a sonic performance perspective. The manufacturer makes some bold claims on behalf of the Basis PSTT IC’s.
From what I have heard they actually deliver on the promise! Once I experienced what they offered there was no turning back in spite of the cost. I would unreservedly recommend them to anyone looking for a cable that just gets out of the way and lets the music come to the fore but be warned, they are not tone controls. Other components in my system will, no doubt change over time but the Basis PSTT’s are here to stay. They truly are superb.
LP's/CD's used in this review
LA 4 - Going Home LP
Cassandra Wilson - Glamoured LP and CD
Jennifer Warnes - The Well LP and SACD
Count Basie - Basie Jam LP
Duke Ellington - Dukes Big 4 LP
Charlie Byrd - The Guitar Artistry of Charlie Byrd LP
Jimmy Little - Life's What You Make It CD
Basis Debut Vacuum/Synchro Wave/Vector 4/Orpheus
Pass Labs Xono
Wilson Benesch Act Speakers
REL Stentor 3
Marantz SA11s1(RAM full mod)
Solid Tech stands
Clearaudio Magix 2
Boston Audio Tune Blocks
Audience AU 24 bi wire speaker cables
Acoustic Zen Absolute
PS Audio Transcendent
Sonic Art Reference