Reviews

Rega’s Vivacious Brio Getting Better All the Time!

The dictionary in my Macintosh defines Brio as “vivacity of style or performance,” but in the case of Rega’s Brio integrated amplifier, it has a vivacity of style and performance. With so many choices these days, it’s tough to sort through it all.

Though England’s Rega Research is best known for their turntables, they have been making a full line of high quality amplifiers (and speakers) for decades. The new Brio you see here is a perfect example of an integrated amplifier with an outstanding on-board phonostage, featuring more than enough power to drive any pair of speakers and a headphone input for personal listening.

This beautiful amplifier will only set you back $995, and it’s small, 8.5”W x 3”H x 13.5”D footprint will fit anywhere, making it a perfect choice for the space challenged music lover. We paired our review sample with the awesome Totem Signature One speakers ($2,650/pair) and Rega’s legendary Planar 3 turntable ($1,145 with Elys 2 cartridge).  While you don’t have to spend that much on a pair of speakers to build a great Brio-centric system, know that it is up to the task.

Around back, there are four analog inputs for any other components you might have, like a digital to audio converter (DAC), CD player, tuner, or even a tape deck. Considering the mighty cassette from the 80s is making a mega comeback, you never know. Taking this a step further, the Brio offers a “record output,” just begging you to make a mix tape, which I did, inspired by a recent screening of Guardians of the Galaxy. Firing up the Nakamichi cassette deck with a fresh tape and a pile of 80s favorites, all rendered by the Rega turntable, this proved to be a fun and engaging experience – something a streaming playlist just doesn’t provide.

If you aren’t going all-Rega, the Brio features a standard MM (moving magnet) phono input, so you can use it with any turntable sporting a moving magnet phono cartridge. We auditioned the super stylish, vertical Pro-Ject turntable as well as the newest offering from EAT, all with excellent results. Rega has always been known for making great phono sections and the Brio is highly capable.

Regardless of what medium you choose to use with your Brio, the sound quality is fantastic, and that’s what makes this little amplifier such a great value. Rega build quality is equally great; we’ve been using a number of their products without fail for decades now. Thanks to a broad dealer network worldwide, in the unfortunate event that your Brio ever needs a bit of help, it’s never far away.

The Brio’s 50 watts per channel is enough to drive most speakers to realistic levels, and more than enough to get most apartment dwellers evicted, so you can look forward to distortion, fatigue free music, regardless of how loud or how long you listen. After initial listening with the Totems, we auditioned the Brio with a number of different speakers, some considerably more expensive and came away highly impressed with the level of refinement that this amplifier delivers. TONEAudio Magazine gave their overall Product of the Year award, judging the $995 Brio-R against other components with six-figure pricetags. A side by side comparison with a friend’s last generation Brio-R proves the new model sonically better in every way.

A bare bones remote helps control the Brio from your listening position, but it is small, so keep it in view or you might lose it. The only other caveat with the Brio is that the speaker outputs on the rear panel are very close together, so if you haven’t bought speaker cables yet, make sure they have banana plugs. Anything with spade lugs will be tough if not impossible to use.

Finally, the headphone section of the Brio is dynamic and powerful as well. Running it through a number of playlists with a wide range of headphones again proves its versatility, making it a great headphone listening station, even if you don’t have speakers yet!

If you need high performance on a tight budget, with a slender form factor, Rega’s Brio integrated amplifiers is one of the best you can buy.

The Rega Brio Integrated Amplifier

$995

www.rega.co.uk (factory)

www.soundorg.com (US Distributor)