I think the photo is misleading you Jazz. It's true that the heatpipes pass through the outer fins, but the heatpipes do make direct contact with the base. The fins in the middle of the heatsink are cut away to allow this.
However, I do think that the base-to-heatpipe contact is a problem, not because there is an extra layer, but because the heatpipes only get about half the contact area they normally do. The bottom sides of the heatpipes are soldered directly to the base, but the top sides are reserved for the fins, which do not carry heat.
Unfortunately, I was unable to take a photo that could show the construction to my satisfaction; it's very difficult to photograph.
Yes, the photos mislead me, looking at them I can't say that the heatpipes are touching the base. Even so, you are probably right about poor contact with base. As far as I can see (and I hope I'm not being mislead here again) the heatpipes are not "flattened out" as for example Scythe has done with ninja to improve contact. Even if proper soldering helps contact I would think flattening heatpipes would have helped even more.