This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

There are a few points where the Mini-Basis did betray its limits more clearly to justifying the existence of the pricier and more advanced models in ASR’s line. The first and foremost is unquestionably midrange elegance, resolution and openness. Tonally the ASR is quite good, not as rich as a Flight Phono or as accurate and transparent as the E03 but honest to allow for easy recognition of instruments. The limit comes more from a feeling of slight compression and lack of the interior light the other units provide. There is an inner elegance to the presentation and instrumental textures with the Flight Phono and the E03 that is hard to describe but missing with the ASR. The first version of the Mini-Basis was sometimes faulted for being tonally too light and I have a feeling the MkII Mini-Basis Exclusive successfully overcomes this (while I did not have an original to compare, the ASR under review never lacked density or weight) but in a system already as tonally dense as mine it might actually veer too far the other way (it was especially true with the Esoteric A03 amplifier in the mix, another tonally dense machine in addition to the Wyred4Sound preamp and the Zu Essence speaker which are both up there when it comes to tonal richness).

In most systems it may not come across as clearly but at times I wished the ASR would provide more insight and greater visibility into the midrange and a slightly more fluid articulation. Which brings up the question of the Magic power cord provided as part of the Exclusive package. I would normally not have questioned its use but as fate had it, the wrong cord was delivered initially (a 20-amp version that fits the ASR amplifiers instead of the 15-amp version) so I ran the ASR with an Accustic Arts Ferrite II for a few weeks. I liked the association with the Ferrite II cord better. It helped provide some additional insight into the midrange and added the inner light I felt was missing with the all-ASR setup. As always with power cords, your results may vary but if listening to an ASR Mini-Basis Exclusive at a dealer, I would not hesitate to ask for an audition with a different power cord to see what best fits your needs and desires. Don’t assume the ASR cord will automatically be best. In my case it was not.

The second aspect where I felt the ASR was left behind by the pricier units is how it handled poorly recorded material and older discs. One of the endearing traits of the Mini-Basis Exclusive is how it can up its game on very well recorded material to the point that on the very best LPs I own, it was sometimes hard to tell it apart from the Flight Phono except for that midrange refinement and elegance already mentioned. Yet on older LPs discs with distortion or compression or just average discs, the ASR did not manage to inject a second life by overcoming their limitations. The Esoteric E03 and Flight Phono achieve this revival in completely different fashions (through dynamics and resolution for the E03, through exquisite tone and distortion elimination for the Flight Phono) but both make challenged recordings more enjoyable. The Mini-Basis was not able to transcend my old Arthur Fiedler recordings with the Boston Pops.
This last comment again applies as compared to far more expensive units. I actually found the ASR to do a good job on those recordings when compared to the Clearaudio Nano (which to its defense costs about 1/10th of the ASR) and the SQ-PH1t (the tube unit handled distortion quite well by rubbing on some tube balm on but struggled with compressed dynamics at times when the ASR did the more honorable job).

After close to three months with the ASR Mini-Basis Exclusive, one thought struck me as I finalized this review. I had three phono preamplifiers connected to my system, two that I would consider aspire to the very high-end (E03 and Flight Phono) and the ASR which I consider to be a mid-priced phono preamplifier. The revelation was that when listening for pleasure or for the reviews in the music section and the ASR was connected, I felt no need to switch back to one of the pricier models. I knew they were a mere cable swap removed. I knew they were better, in some ways significantly so. Yet the ASR never left me wanting for musical enjoyment even though I could point to specific audiophile attributes where it did not match up. So I wondered why that was. While I certainly do not want to kill the Mini-Basis Exclusive with faint praise, after weeks of listening to it the strongest quality of this phono preamplifier in my mind is how it does nothing wrong.

I might complain about a certain tightness in the midrange and the fact that it does not quite match the mightier units under review but the message you should take home is that  for its asking price, the ASR Mini-Basis Exclusive delivers a reasonable share of Flight Phono or E03 goodness. It delivers the qualities of a great solid-state preamplifier (silence, dynamics, bass control) and mitigates some of the past objections thrown at the predecessor with better extension and more tonal richness. Transparency is good though not exceptional but I’ll be the first to say that transparency with harshness and edge is not a good trade-off. The ASR again struck what I found to be a good balance between enough resolution and transient sharpness without a hint of harshness. Most critically, the ASR’s omissions are never dramatic to spoil the fun of listening to music. That may sound like faint praise but is not always the case.

Some pieces of equipment jump at you to impress with an overwhelming quality but over time many compromises peel out from behind the initially flashy presentation. No such thing is true with the Mini-Basis Exclusive. It may not wow upon first listen but it won’t disappoint over the long run either because it is very well balanced, well rounded and more full-featured than is typical for mid-priced phono preamplifiers. This is a mature, very well thought-through piece of equipment that delivers a lot for the dollar. If your budget for a phono preamplifier stops at $3000, the ASR Mini-Basis Exclusive should be on your short list. I am willing to bet that you won’t feel the need to revisit that choice for a very long time.

This Epilogue reports on my concluding impressions after I'd completed the 6th installment of this review series.

Quality of packing: Good.
Reusability of packing: A few times.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Easy.
Condition of component received: Flawless.
Completeness of delivery: No issue.
Website comments: Limited information in English, more available in German
Human interactions: Responsive and helpful (US distributor).
Pricing: Good value in a highly competitive segment.
Final comments & suggestions: May not be the most impressive phono preamplifier at first listen but one that you won’t tire of and which reveals its talent progressively to whomever takes time to discover its virtues to end up being a very attractive choice in the mid-price phono preamplifier segment. Try various power cords before buying and see which fits your system best. It may or may not be the ASR Magic Cord coming standard with the Exclusive Mini-Basis.