Rega io integrated amplifier

It might strike some of you to start a Rega review talking about Naim, but the comparison begs to be made. Rega’s io is destined for legendary status.

Naim’s original Nait amplifier was a fantastic product, offering incredible musicality in a compact form factor at a price everyone could afford. It enticed thousands of audiophiles based on the above, and to this day, those still in possession of a working Nait cherish it.

 We’ve always been huge fans of Rega’s $900 Brio-R for the same reasons. While the Brio-R bests the vintage Nait in every way, it remains true to the concept of high performance, high value, and minuscule form factor. Though lacking the onboard digital section of something like the PS Audio Sprout (come on, this is Rega we’re talking about), the sound quality of the Rega’s discrete design and overall build quality is far superior. Rega says that the phono and amplifier section of this amplifier are straight from the Brio, so it’s easy to hear where its brilliance comes from.

Lowering the stylus on my older Rega P3 with Elys 2 cartridge, via a pair of FYNE 500 speakers makes beautiful music with a minimum footprint. Tracking through the first side of the purple bonus disc of Prince’s One Night Alone is spacious and delicate. Even though the FYNE speakers only have a sensitivity of 87db/1 watt, they are driven and controlled by the 30 watts per channel offered by the io with ease. The io only offers MM phono, but it is of very high quality. There are plenty of standalone phonostages selling for the $595 MSRP of the io failing to reveal this much music.

Different legos

Swapping the P3 out for a vintage Technics SL-1200 facilitates trying a few other MM cartridges from Sumiko, Clearaudio, and Shure. All offer equally fantastic results, so any cartridges in the $50-$500 range should be a good fit. The phono section of the io is extremely quiet, but Rega has been building great budget phonostages for decades. Experience makes the difference.

Also included in the io is a front panel, mini headphone jack. Trying to stay in the budget ethos, a few phones from B&W, Grado, and an original pair of Audeze 2s make for great personal listening. Again, we can’t think of a $595 headphone amplifier with onboard phonostage that we’ve enjoyed this much. Apartment dwellers not yet ready for speakers would be smart to acquire an io as a headphone amplifier for now, adding speakers later. The io is the perfect building block to transition you from personal listening to full room listening. Merely plug your phones in to disable the speaker outputs.

In addition to the MM phono input, there are two more line-level analog inputs around back, so you can add a DAC/streamer, possibly a tuner, or maybe even a tape deck. Staying compact, we used the Gold Note DS-10 DAC/streamer to provide digital files for additional listening beyond analog.

Quiet quality

In the end, the amount of music that the io reveals is the value proposition. There have been a handful of notable low power solid-state amplifiers over the decades, and we submit the io for top billing. Most amplifiers at this price (and beyond) struggle just to drive a pair of speakers. The io sounds like a component you would expect to pay quite a bit more for.

One of the biggest keys to Rega’s ability to build this much for this little is their corporate frugality, combined with major engineering chops, building nearly everything in-house. Having been to the factory a few times, their commitment to excellence and efficiency is amazing. They use a limited number of enclosures for the same products to minimize tooling costs, with as much raw material overlap as possible. Everything they do is refined, distilled, and simplified as far as it can, but no more. Finally, the highly skilled workforce at the factory assures things are built and tested to perform for the long term. The io is built with the same level of care that Regas top components are.

Sublime sonics

Using the io as an anchor for a $1,500 system will provide plenty of sonic bliss, but going upstream a bit proves just how much more this small amplifier is capable of. Swapping the FYNE speakers for the $1,500/pair Wharfdale Lintons and even the $4,000/pair JBL L-100 classics – both with excellent result illustrates how much resolution the baby Rega amp can muster. This amplifier could easily be paired with components costing a lot more. 

The io provides a lot of bass control, offering a lot of low-frequency definition when listening to bass heavy tracks. This was always an area that the original Nait lacked.

The ios’ high frequency response (especially when listening with more revealing speakers) has a level of polish that you’d expect in a $3,000 integrated. Again, there’s something special about a high quality, low power amplifier used within the realm of its capability. This amplifier plays music with the best.

Selecting tracks with multiple vocal layers shine through, and acoustic pieces give enough insight to feel natural. The io is dynamic, but like the Brio-R will hit a wall. 30 watts only goes so far, and this amplifier does run into a wall when taxed. It does not clip hard though, it merely flattens out dimensionally. The solution is easy, keep listening levels modest or get a pair of very efficient speakers.

Head of the class

The Rega io is so good, one is tempted to summon up a cauldron full of well-worn audiophile clichés. While it is excellent at first listen, the toughest part of reviewing a component offering such a high level of performance is that it begs being connected to much more expensive ancillaries to experience the depth of its true capabilities. You could grab a pair of budget speakers and a thrift shop turntable and live happily ever after with the io, but like that other legend from the UK, don’t be surprised to see this one in the company of much more expensive components. Watch for the audio forums of 2050 to speak of this amplifier in hushed reverence.

Of course, the io is worthy of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2020, but that doesn’t truly explain a product that gets the essence of the music so right. Audiophiles beginning their journey here may be spoiled for a very long time.

I need one!

The Rega io

$599 (NA distributor) (factory)

Issue 85


Old School:

The Adcom GFP-565 Preamp:
Last of the Breed

By Mark Marcantonio


Pro-Ject Speaker Box 5
By Mark Marcantonio

Journeyman Audiophile:

IsoTek’s Aquarius Power Conditioner
By Jeff Dorgay

TONE Style

Mini Weinermobile

Twist + Charging Station

Target Record Crate

The 28″ Blackstone Grille

Phillips Hue Lighting System

Louis Vitton iPhone 7 Case

Nintendo NES Classic


Playlists:  We share our readers choices from around the world

Audiophile Pressings: Elvis Costello, Jeff Beck and Iron Butterfly

Gear Previews

MartinLogan Classic ESL 9 Speakers

Rotel RAP-1580 Surround Sound Receiver

McIntosh MA9000 Integrated Amplifier


COVER STORY: Paradigm’s Persona 9H Loudspeakers
By Jeff Dorgay

Coincident Dynamite Spakers
By Mark Marcantonio

Long Term: The Pass XS Preamplifier
By Jeff Dorgay

Analog Domain M75D Isis Integrated Amplifier
By  Greg Petan

Totem’s Signature One Speakers
By Jeff Dorgay

Benchmark DAC3 HGC
By Mark Marcantonio

Rega’s Vivacious Brio

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 (factory) (US Distributor)

The Newest Rega!

The Sound Organisation is excited to announce the new Rega Planar 3 turntable and RB330 tonearm.

Arriving at the TSO headquarters by the end of May, the Planar 3 has improved sonic performance, aesthetics and usability. The new ‘Planar 3’ is completely redesigned for 2016, carrying over just two components from the previous model.

The UK based Rega team of designers, directed by Rega founder Roy Gandy, devoted two years of intensive development to perfect the Planar 3, and is the most intensive redesign of the iconic ‘three’ model ever. Complimenting the Planar 3 is the new RB330 tone arm. Engineered alongside the Planar 3, the RB330 is the culmination of 35 years of tonearm design experience.

Building on the success of the RP3, the new Planar 3 uses a lightweight acrylic laminated plinth utilizing an improved double brace system mounted specifically where the increased rigidity is required (between the tonearm mounting and the main hub bearing) forming a structurally sound “stressed beam” assembly. Rega’s low mass, high strength design directly addresses the issue of energy absorption and energy transmission, reducing unnatural distortions to the music.

Every aspect of the previous model was examined, exploring all options to extract more performance from this iconic turntable. As a result, the new Planar 3 shares almost no parts with the RP3 it replaces, all the way down to the clips at the end of the tonearm leads!

The Rega Planar 3 turntable is available June 2016, at all authorized Rega retailers.

$1,145.00 with pre-fitted Elys 2 MM cartridge; $945.00 without cartridge

RB330 will be available separately in a retail package for $595.00.

Watch for a full review at TONEAudio soon, as well as some sexy photos on our new site, The Analogaholic as well.

Rega RP10 Turntable

Our publisher has been a Rega fan since the fateful day in the mid-’80s when we happened by our local dealer (Audio Emporium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) to find them opening a shipment of Planar 3 turntables.  As they lifted a bright, fluorescent green table out, the sales guy quipped, “What idiot would buy a turntable in this color?”  Little did he know that’s been publisher Dorgay’s favorite color since age 6.  He solemnly replied, “I’m that idiot!” and we took that little British table back to his listening room and were subsequently blown away, being Technics SL-1200 guys at that moment in time, thinking there couldn’t possibly be anything better than direct drive.

Words like pace and timing weren’t even part of our vocabulary back then, but there was a ton of inner detail coming through those Magnepan MGII speakers that wasn’t there the day before, and to this day, both of us have always owned at least one Rega turntable.  For the record, my current reference is a P9 with Apheta cartridge, and it has served me well for some time now.

Evolution no. 10

Someone once said that an elephant is only a mouse built to military specifications, and on one level the same could be said for the P9 – you could think of it as a fully geeked-out P3.  The platter, drive mechanism, tonearm and power supply are all highly evolved versions of the basic Rega turntable.  For those of you that aren’t familiar, the tonearm on the earlier P3 and P9 shared the same basic casting, and now the new RP10 uses a highly refined version of the new casting for the RP3 (and is secured with the same red tape Rega has used for decades), yet the new RB2000 is completely handmade and finished to the highest of tolerances, as was the RB1000.

According to Rega, the RB2000 arm “is designed to have a minimum of mechanical joints while using the stiffest materials possible in all areas.”  Like its predecessor, the bearings are hand fitted and of highest quality, all handpicked for tolerance before insertion into the arm.

A new twist on the Rega platform, beginning with the RP3, is the mechanical brace: magnesium in the RP10, going between the tonearm mount and the turntable bearing, assuring maximum rigidity between these critical areas, while taking advantage of the new, skeletal plinth (further refined from the RP8 design) having seven times less mass than the original Planar 3.

An ex-automotive engineer, Rega principal Roy Gandy has always taken the advantage that less mass means more energy transferred from the record groove to the stylus tip, an opposite philosophy of the “more mass is better” approach embraced by some other manufacturers.  Gandy’s approach has always worked well, but in the past, the P3 and variations have always been accused of being somewhat lightweight in the lower register.  The former flagship P9 has always featured the liveliness that their tables have always been known for, with additional heft in the low frequencies.  Combined with a set-and-forget ethos, there’s no wonder the P9 has won the hearts (and ears) of so many music lovers that just want a fabulous turntable without the setup anxiety.

The race is on

So as much as we wanted this to be a standalone review, the question on the tip of everyone’s tongue – and on our Facebook inbox – has been, “How does the RP10 stack up to the P9?”  As the title of this review suggests, it is an evolutionary move.  Listening to the P9 and RP10 side by side easily shows the additional resolution present in the new table.

A speed check was the first test on our list, and utilizing the Feickert iPad app showed the RP10 to be dead-on for both 33 and 45 rpm speeds.  It’s still somewhat of an urban legend that Rega tables run “a bit fast” to provide a zippier sound.  In our experience, this just hasn’t been the case in the last 15 years or so, and the RP10 keeps them batting a thousand.  So, if you’ve had any internet-related anxiety about the speed of the RP10, forget about it.

Ease as always

Should you opt for the Apheta MC cartridge, which comes pre-installed (at least for US customers), it’s a winner on two counts.  The Sound Organisation, Rega’s US importer, sells the two as a package for $6,495, saving you almost a thousand bucks in the process – and they install the cartridge for you.  Even though this is super easy, because the Apheta features Rega’s three-bolt fastening, and as all Rega tables come from the factory optimized for correct VTA, the RP10 is possibly the only no-fuss, no-muss premium turntable.  All you need to do is set the tracking force to 1.75 grams and fiddle a little bit with the anti-skate if you feel so inclined.  If it takes you more than five minutes to play records on an RP10, you are overthinking it.

If the Apheta is not your bag, rest assured that there are a number of other great cartridges available that will provide excellent synergy with this table.  Here at TONE, we’ve used everything from the ZU Denon 103 cartridge all the way up to the $10,000 Lyra Atlas cartridge on both the P9 and RP10 with fantastic results.  You can read the Apheta review here[1] to get more of a feel for this cartridge, but for those not wanting to dig back, here’s a short synopsis:  The Apheta is a very fast, neutral cartridge with a lot of HF energy.  If you don’t have an MC phonostage capable of going down to somewhere between 25 and 50 ohms, the Apheta will make a poor showing and sound somewhat shrill.  Load it correctly and you will be rewarded with clean, detailed sound.

The P9 and the new RP10 are awesome for music lovers who want great sound without a fuss.  While I’ve listened to a lot of megabuck tables at the TONE studio, $5,000 is my sweet spot – and let’s be clear: I do not consider this the point of analog diminishing returns; however it is all the more I’m comfortable spending on a turntable.  So for me, personally, the RP10 gives me enough of a glimpse into the price-no-object tables for comfort.  Considering Rega has only raised the price $500 over the cost of the P9 speaks volumes for their manufacturing efficiencies.

More listening

As hinted at the beginning of this review, the RP10 does reveal more music throughout the range.  Transients are cleaner, the bass carries a bit more weight, and the high end is even crisper than before.  Regardless of program material chosen, the improvements made feel like going from ISO 200 to ISO 100 on your favorite digital camera (or film for those of you still embracing the medium).

Should you trade up from your trusty P9?  That’s a question only you can answer, and it will probably depend on what your dealer will give you for a trade-in and how wacky you’re feeling with the checkbook.  -Jerold O’Brien

Additional Listening

I’m probably more anxious than most people to finally get my hands on the RP10, as I saw the prototype of this turntable at Roy Gandy’s home about six years ago and it was fantastic back then.  You’ll either love or hate the skeletal design; I love it because it looks so un-Rega, but those of you wanting a more traditional-looking turntable can leave it in its full base.  Me, I’d rather see it in its naked glory and cast a few spotlights on it, letting the shadows fall where they may.

As Mr. O’Brien mentioned, this table, though more radical in design, is definitely evolutionary.  You won’t mistake the sound of the RP10 for an SME or Clearaudio table and that’s a good thing.  Most of the improvements to the tonearm and power supply are not easily seen from the outside, as is the second generation ceramic platter, but Rega tables are always more than the sum of their parts.

In my reference system through the Audio Research REF Phono 2SE, I noticed the same sonic improvements in the RP10/P9 comparison, but what I did notice on a more resolving reference system than Mr. O’Brien’s was that the RP10’s new arm and table design will accommodate an even better cartridge than the P9 could.  Where the Lyra Kleos was about the limit of what I’d mate with the P9, the RP10 could handle the Atlas.  I’m sure most RP10 customers aren’t going to drop $10k on a phono cartridge, but you could, and it can resolve more music than a Kleos will let through.  And that’s part of the magic with the RP10.  It’s a sleeper.

I’ve always enjoyed the Apheta with the P9 and now the RP10, but I found absolute bliss with my Dynavector XV-1s cartridge, offering a slightly warmer overall presentation than the Apheta.  Again, this will be decided by your ultimate sonic preferences and the RP10/Apheta combination is really tough to beat for the money.  Rega has hit a pretty interesting run with the RP10, as there are a lot of great turntables in the $10k–$15k range, as well as in the $2k–$3k range, but this price point is pretty wide open.

We could talk tech for hours, but do we want to?  Put a record on and relax.  Much like my P9, the RP10 has that extra amount of LF weight and drive (torque maybe?) that really makes this table a blast to listen to rock records with.  Going back to Deep Purple’s classic “Smoke on the Water” from their Made in Japan album was incredibly convincing when those famous chords were played.

Extended listening with a wide range of program material reveals a table that gets it right on so many levels.  Mounted on an SRA rack, there were no feedback issues, no matter how loud I played music, so the table’s design is working as it should.

Reflecting on my time with the RP10, I just wonder when Mr. Gandy and his crew will run out of ideas?  They remain fresh as ever, and I can’t believe that after more than 30 years, I’m just as smitten with Rega as I was the day I brought my first one home from the hifi store.  Now, can they just make it in lime green?  I’m happy to give the Rega RP10 one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2014.  -Jeff Dorgay

Rega RP10

MSRP:  $5,495 (without cartridge)  $6,495 with Apheta pre-installed (US Only) (US distributor) (factory)


Phonostage Simaudio MOON 610LP
Preamplifier Coffman Labs G-1A
Power Amplifier Conrad Johnson Premier 350
Speakers Vandersteen 5A
Cable Cardas Clear Light

Rega Aria Phonostage

Literally translated, the word aria means air in Italian, but it is often referenced as a lyrical, playful section of music as well.  All of these terms apply rather nicely to Regas latest phono stage of the same name.

$1,495 is a tough price point; there’s not only a fair amount of competition, but we’re well beyond “budget analog.”  Spending this kind of money means you’re indeed getting serious about how your record collection sounds.

Jean-Michel Jarre’s mid-80s techno classic Zoolook begins the first serious listening session, with the second track, “Diva” and I’m immediately drawn in to the analog magic going on here, with water droplets sounding as if they are running down the back of the listening room wall, while Laurie Anderson’s trippy, back tracked vocals, bounce between the speakers with a sinister breathing layered over some equally dark synthesizer riffs.

The first couple thousand dollars spent in each aspect of the analog reproduction change (cartridge, turntable and phonostage) occupies the straight up portion of the performance curve, with every few hundred additional dollars budgeted bringing major increases in musical revelation.

Like all Rega electronics, the Aria does not need extended break in.  It sounds great right out of the box, and stabilizes fully after a few days of constant play.  Being that it uses precious little power, leaving it powered up 24/7 allows it to fully stabilize electrically and thermally, offering the best sound.

The Rega way

Building on the past success of Rega’s IOS phonostage, (reviewed in issue 36) the Aria uses a discrete, FET design – no op amps here.  There’s a definite clarity that this phono stage brings that is immediately noticeable, and I must admit user bias; there are precious few op amp based phonostages that don’t have a fair amount of glare and haze in the presentation.  Fortunately, the Aria sidesteps this problem with its discrete design.

As with so many other Rega products, the Aria takes a unique approach, offering completely separate moving magnet and moving coil sections, rather than relying on adding a transformer or additional gain stage to the MM stage for MC duty.  This adds some flexibility to its use, allowing it to be used with two turntables, a wonderful option for the serious analog enthusiast.  While much of my listening was done with the Rega RP6 and RP8 turntables, featuring Rega Exact and Apheta cartridges, the AVID Ingenium, with two tonearms was called into play to explore a number of additional cartridge options, thanks in part to the easily swappable headshells on the Ortofon TA-110 tonearm.  However if you were going for an all Rega system, An RP8/Apheta and an RP3/Exact would be a great pair of tables to match up with the Aria.

The compact physical size of the Aria is unobtrusive, keeping the same form factor as Rega’s current Brio-R integrated amplifier, Apollo-R CD Player and DAC.  The rear panel has two pairs of RCA input jacks, one for MM and one for MC phono, with a pair of RCA output jacks to connect to the rest of your system.

A great all rounder

After trying almost a dozen different phono cartridges, from the $295 Rega Elys 2, all the way up to the $15,000 Clearaudio Goldfinger Statment, the only cartridge in my collection that was not an excellent match was the Grado Signature 1.  This is a moving iron cartridge, requiring a 47k load impedance, but only having an output of .5mv, needed more gain to really rock the house.  At $3,000, this cartridge will probably not be the first choice for an Aria user, but there are a wide range of lower priced Grados with .5mv output.  And should you possess one of these, the Aria will not be a stellar performer.  Anything else with a .3 – .6mv output, requiring loading of 70 -400 ohms should work just fine.

The 70 ohm setting is perfect for use with Regas top of the line ($1,795) Apheta, which in our experience has always offered the best balance of high frequency extension without sounding strident at a lower impedance loading.  The Aria reveals enough music to be a great place to begin your journey with the Apheta (especially considering that Rega’s US distributor, the Sound Organisation makes a very sweet deal when combining the Apheta with their upper end tables, the RP8 and RP10).

Highly musical combinations were also found with the Denon 103, Lyra Delos, and Ortofon 2M Black cartridges, providing high performance without emptying your wallet, and I would consider one of these or Rega’s Exact 2 ($595) to be the sweet spot for this phonostage.  Gain, loading and MC capacitance can be easily set via multiple DIP switches on the back panel, so you can change cartridge setup easily.

Quiet and dynamic

Just like the IOS, the Aria is incredibly quiet, a boon of all solid-state designs.  Listening to “Solea” from Miles Davis Sketches of Spain, on the recent MoFi remaster is a joy.  Davis’ horn begins the track slowly, and languishes throughout, with gentle drumming and cymbal work that floats throughout the soundstage.  All of the budget phono stages we’ve auditioned (except for the Lounge LCR) seems to flatten this piece into a two dimensional soundstage with precious little depth, yet the Aria brings life to the mix.  The Aria also excels in terms of dynamics – Davis’ explosive playing always a great trial for any analog components ability to follow musical transients quickly and cleanly.

An equally pleasant effect is produced with Jim James banjo playing at the beginning of “Love You To,” from his Tribute To EP. This somewhat processed recording has a ton of echo and space that really opens up and breathes via the Aria.  Extended listening with a variety of cartridges further underlines the resolution available, and the Aria’s ability to discern the difference between the warmth of the Denon cartridge, versus the more tonally neutral Ortofon cartridges.

Yet when asked to rock, the Aria delivers.  Keith Richards Talk is Cheap album is not a terribly well recorded rock record, coming across as somewhat flat and compressed, yet the Aria renders good separation between Richards grungy guitar and gravely voice, giving each plenty of space for the listener to enjoy.

The rumbling bass line in Lyle Lovett’s “She’s Already Made Up Her Mind” has the necessary weight to carry the track. Alternatively, the synth bass in RUN DMC’s “It’s Not Funny” manages substantial growl, while the opening bass riff in Rickie Lee Jones’ “Easy Money” (from the new MoFi 45 rpm remaster) proves that the Aria captures weight and finesse in the lower register.

Many will argue the case for a vacuum tube phono stage, because of their more organic presentation, but precious few at this price are well designed enough to offer quiet and control, offering warmth as an alternative.  The Aria will never be mistaken for a tubed phono pre, but it always tonally neutral without sounding clinical, and for my money, I’d rather add a touch of warmth in the phono cartridge and retain the level of resolution and quiet that this phonostage offers.

In the end…

As the performance curve continues straight up to the 10k range, comparing the Aria to phonostages costing twice as much is a pointless comparison, but compared to the others we’ve heard in the $1,200 – $1,500 range, it is solidly at the top of the heap, offering a stunningly quiet and highly musical presentation, without any fuss or muss.  Plug it in, turn it on and play records.  It’s that easy.  And the fact that you can plug a second table in is a big bonus.  Highly recommended.

The Rega Aria Phonostage

$1,495 (factory) (US Importer)


Amplification             Devialet 110

Turntables                 Rega RP3, RP6 and RP8, Avid Ingenium, Thorens TD-124

Cartridges                  Rega Exact, Rega Apheta, Ortofon 2M Black, Ortofon SPU, Lyra Delos

Speakers                    Stirling Broadcast SB-88

Cable                          Cardas Clear

Rega DAC

Analog audio is similar to analog photography in the sense that there haven’t been many game-changing technological advances in the past 20 years.  Most of the improvements have been the result of refining existing technology, upgrading materials and paying careful attention to the smallest details in assembly. The big, high-dollar turntables still spin a platter with a motor (often with a belt between the two) and that’s about it.  Granted, the world’s best turntable manufacturers are masters at refining this process, and even in the year 2010, continue to produce better turntables. But in order to get $20,000 turntable performance, you still have to spend $20,000.

Digital audio is a completely different ballgame.  Just like your favorite personal computer, much of processing a digital signal is about computing horsepower and is directly related to the chipset under the hood. There are a few manufacturers such as Wadia and dCS that take care of decoding and filtration in software, but for the most part, it’s the DAC chips and whatever tweaks in the analog circuitry combined with the power supply that determine the sound.

As with high-dollar turntables, the world’s best digital sound is still expensive because of the amount of parts and labor required.  However, the $1,000 DAC category is improving by leaps and bounds – Rega’s $995 DAC is a perfect example of this.

A quick overview

Like every other Rega product, the Rega DAC is simple, functional and offers high performance in its price category.  Rega principal Roy Gandy is not a man to jump on the latest trend.  True to his engineering background, he studies a product and builds it the way he thinks it should be done.  Rega’s website proudly mentions that they are “the last hifi manufacturer to produce a CD player,” and they could very well be the last high-end company to produce a DAC as well.  But it is a damn good one.

Rega uses a straightforward approach with no upsampling. Terry Bateman, Rega’s digital designer, said, “I wanted to keep the signal path to a minimum.  We didn’t use upsampling with the Saturn or the ISIS, and I wanted to follow the same spirit of these units.  Those users with a high-quality sound card can upsample there if they prefer.  The Wolfson WM8805 and WM8742 chips running at the incoming sample rates do a great job on their own, along with a nice drop of  “old school audio mojo.” The Rega DAC also shares its buffer circuitry with the Rega CD players, which has been one of the aspects of their design that has been overbuilt from the beginning. Rega’s CD players have a much larger buffering capacity than most, adding to the natural sound.

Around back, there is just a simple three-prong IEC socket due to a lack of space for a standard IEC.  There is a high-quality power cord supplied, but an audiophile who wants  an upgraded power cord can purchase an adaptor from Music Direct.

This will allow you to use the aftermarket cord of your choice, and should you desire keeping your DAC all Rega, the power cord that is standard issue on their flagship Isis CD player is available from Rega dealers for an additional $175.

Following the trend of a few other manufacturers, Rega has chosen to ignore a high-resolution USB input, sticking with 16/48 as the maximum data rate their DAC will process. Bateman mentions that when they first started development on the DAC about two years ago, their vision for it was as more of an audiophile component, and they felt that the computer user was looking more for convenience. With computer audio gaining a lot of ground recently, this may be a deal breaker for some. But before you freak out, how many high-res files do you have on your computer?

Another unique feature of the Rega DAC is the choice between five filter characteristics for each of the sample frequencies.  Bateman mentioned that he considers the “standard” settings to be position No.1 for 32/44.1/48k sample rates and position No. 3 for the higher sample rates.  For those wanting a highly in-depth explanation of the filter characteristics,  the Wolfson site offers a downloadable PDF.

Spectacular sound

At turn on, the Rega DAC sounded a bit grainy and somewhat thin in the lower register, but after being powered for 48 hours, this deficit was gone.  None of the Rega components I’ve used over the past 10 years have ever required an extended break-in time, and though this unit arrived with some hours on the clock, I don’t suspect the DAC is any different than any of Rega’s other hardware.  After it’s been on for two days, the Rega DAC really grabs you – in a good way.

I tried the Rega DAC with a number of digital sources.  First, for the customer with an older CD player just looking for a better DAC, I took advantage of my stock Denon 3910.  A Mac Mini running iTunes was thrown into the mix for the average computer listener’s perspective, and on the high end, I ran a digital cable from the SPDIF output of the dCS Paganini PTT transport.  A fair amount of music was played through the SPDIF output of the Sooloos Control 10 as well.

The Rega DAC really excels at tone and timbre.  Acoustic instruments sound natural and quite honestly, way better than even a digital snob such as myself ever expected a $1,000 DAC to sound.  The recent HD Tracks 24/96 download of Keith Jarrett’s The Koln Concert, revealed a healthy dose of texture and hall ambience, with plenty of Mr. Jarrett’s signature groaning in the background.  One of my favorite 24/96 warhorses is that ’70s classic from Chicago, Chicago V. The cymbals at the beginning of “Hit by Varese” had a healthy decay. When switching back and forth between the 24/96 file ripped from DVD-a and the standard 16/44 file, it was instantly apparent that the high-res file had considerably more air between the notes.

Most of the 24/192 files on the Naim HDX music server have been digitized from LPs in my collection and a handful originated on the Rega P9/Shelter 501II combination through the Audio Research REF Phono 2. So it was interesting to compare playback at the DAC’s highest resolution.   Again, I was amazed at how much of the essence of what was essentially a $20k analog front end could be reproduced without serious compromise.  The Rega DAC is an excellent choice for anyone thinking about archiving vinyl, provided you have an excellent-quality analog setup with which to capture it.

Playing high-resolution files is not limited to the RCA inputs, but according to Bateman, “24/192 is pushing the limit of the Toslink interface.  A high-quality cable will be required.”  That in mind, I had no problem playing 24/96 files from my Power Book Pro, with a four-meter Monster optical cable. (About $50 at Radio Shack)

Though the Rega DAC did an excellent job with high-resolution files and provides a compelling reason for downloading them, I still couldn’t help thinking that this DAC was   something special with standard 16/44 files, whether played from USB or SPDIF.  If you are an audiophile who has merely ripped your CD’s to a computer and doesn’t see high-res files in your immediate future, the USB performance is very good at 16/44.

A few comparisons

With the internet boards abuzz about whether the Rega DAC “sounds better or worse” than the bloggers’ existing CD players, I don’t think it is really a fair comparison because the DAC offers the ability to play high-resolution files. I suspect that the CD player will appeal to one type of customer and the DAC will appeal more to the computer/music server audiophile. So comparing the two directly is a moot point.

On many levels, I found the sound of the Rega DAC more akin to that of their flagship turntable, the P9 (which has been a long-term component in my reference system).  It shares the P9’s quick and open presentation with a healthy dose of pace and timing.  If this is the kind of sound that appeals to you, I think you will enjoy auditioning this DAC.

My theory on the rapid advancement of digital technology was confirmed when I compared the sound of the Rega DAC to my original Meridian 808, purchased about four years ago.  When using the 808’s digital SPDIF input, the difference between what was a $15,000 player four years ago was minimal.  Of course, Meridian is up to the 808.3 now, but it is amazing to see this ramp up in performance for the dollar.  I guarantee that there are no $1,000 turntables today that sound like a $15,000 turntable from four years ago.

Forget about the “bits is bits” theory; there are still plenty of ways to handle filtering, digital processing, power supply design and the output stage. DAC’s are just like phono cartridges: each has its own unique sound.  Where the Benchmark and Ayre DAC’s tend to be slightly on the analytical side of neutral and the Neko Audio DAC ($1,195, and no USB input) is slightly on the romantic side of neutral, the Rega is very close to dead center.  Interestingly enough, the Rega is one of my favorite budget DAC’s, much like the Simaudio DAC300 that also forgoes a high-resolution USB port to maximize the audio performance on the SPDIF side.

In the end, digital can drive you just as crazy as analog if you let it.  However, the Rega DAC’s strengths far outweigh the lack of a high-res USB input for most users.

Musical to the core

While there are definitely some other DAC’s at this price point that offer more functionality, the Rega’s strength is offering truly great sound from its SPDIF input, regardless of resolution.  Personally, I’d still rather have outstanding 16/44 through the SPDIF input than multiple input options with mediocre performance.  If this is your philosophy as well, I think the Rega DAC would find a very good home on your equipment rack.

And digital audio is much like the weather here in the Pacific Northwest; if you don’t like it, it will change shortly.  Though the digital game is one that is constantly improving, the Rega DAC is certainly a great place to hang your hat for now and just enjoy your music collection.

The Rega DAC

MSRP:  $995 (US)


Digital Sources Denon 3910    Mac Mini    Naim HDX    Sooloos Control 10    dCS Paganini PTT
Preamplifier McIntosh C500
Power Amplifier McIntosh MC1.2KW’s
Speakers B&W 805D with JL Audio Gotham
Cable AudioQuest Wild Blue Yonder interconnects and speaker cables
Power Running Springs Dmitri and Maxim    RSA Mongoose and Shunyata Python CX power cords

Rega Brio-R Integrated Amplifier

Too bad the folks at Rega aren’t in charge of balancing the trade deficit. While a substantial amount of modestly priced hi-fi is now produced in China, Rega continues to make solid designs built by hand by skilled craftspeople in its UK factory. That the company produces a 50wpc integrated amplifier with an excellent phonostage is quite admirable; that the firm does it at this level without going to the Far East is nothing less than incredible. Rega’s main man, Roy Gandy, is fond of saying that Rega likes to build products that offer top performance in their respective class. But this time, Rega hit the ball way out of the park.

Longtime Rega enthusiasts might be surprised that the price of the Brio-R is $300 more than that of the previous model, which has been around for about 12 years. However, the new version offers substantial gains even as it occupies a much smaller footprint. Think of the $895 Rega Brio-R as the Lotus Elise of integrated amplifiers; it’s not quite what you’d expect until you get behind the wheel. And yes, the “R stands for remote.

Make sure to use both hands when unpacking the Brio-R. The compact box is fairly heavy, weighing in at about 20 pounds. Peaking inside shows that Rega didn’t allow a square millimeter of space to go to waste. The Brio-R features the same enclosure as the Rega DAC we reviewed earlier this year, the shared approach keeping costs low and quality high. No detail is left to chance; the remote-control circuitry is even given its own separate power supply to ensure signal purity. Poking around inside reveals one pair of output transistors per channel, high-quality film caps, and a very short signal path.

Small Yet Strong

Despite its smaller box, the new Brio packs a bigger wallop than its predecessor. And there’s never been a more perfect example of specs not telling the whole story. While the previous Brio 3 is rated at 49 watts per channel and the new model at only 50 watts per channel (73 watts per channel into 4 ohms), Rega claims the new output stage can reasonably drive outputs “as low as 1.7 ohms.”

Indeed, while the last Brio struggled with low-impedance speakers, the Brio-R effortlessly sailed through. Driving a pair of Magnepans usually translates into the kiss of death for most small integrated amplifiers (and a few larger ones, as well), but the Brio-R did a very respectable job of powering the notoriously power-hungry MMGs reviewed in this issue. It’s also worth noting that my Cambridge Audio 740C (rated at 100 watts per channel) was not up to this task. Moreover, the Rega had no problems driving my vintage MartinLogan Aerius. A reasonably priced integrated that can tackle Magnepans and MartinLogans without problem? High marks are in order.

Like the prior Brio, the Brio-R features an onboard MM phonostage, also improved in sound quality and sensitivity. In the past, users that didn’t utilize a Rega phono cartridge complained about a lack of gain in the phonostage, an issue that required serious twisting the volume control to achieve reasonable listening levels. With a sensitivity of 2.1mv, the Brio-R had no troubles reaching full volume at the 12:00 level when outfitted with a Sumiko Blackbird cartridge, which boasts an output of 2.5mv. Thanks to its quietness, I was even able to use a Grado Master1, which has an output of only .5mv (47k loading). Doing so necessitated setting the volume at almost 2:00 for the maximum level, but the Brio-R remained up to the task.

Setup and Controls

The Brio-R will have you listening to music in a jiff. The spartan front panel shares the same design brief as the Rega DAC, with a power button on the left, volume control on the right, and a button that requires a touch to toggle between inputs. The mute control is only accessed via the remote, which also allows for volume level and input switching.  And the Brio-R can only be turned on and off from the front panel.

Around back, five inputs and a fixed level output made for an excellent match with my recently restored Nakamichi 550 cassette deck, which incidentally is almost the same size as the Brio-R. For the tapeheads, the output has a level of 210mv.

The only caveat? Input one is the phono input and not marked as such. Plugging in a line-level source here will cause a hateful noise at best and blown tweeter at worst, so proceed with caution. If you’re not a vinyl enthusiast, get a pair of Cardas RCA caps, if for no other reason than to prevent a mishap. Rega turntables do not have ground wires. But if you’re using a ‘table that has one, the ground screw is underneath the amplifier’s rear face.

The Brio-R uses a standard IEC AC socket, so those that enjoy swapping power cords can geek out all they want. However, the RCA jacks and speaker binding posts are so close together that some cables will not be compatible. And while the average consumer that purchases a Brio-R may not step too far into the world of premium cables, the amplifier is good enough to warrant doing so. Given the restricted space, speaker cables with spades are almost out of the question; grab bananas or banana adaptors.

Sounds Like Separates

Resolution often sets separate components apart from integrated amplifiers. The Brio-R has an overall clarity that I have never experienced at this price—and I’ve heard my share of much more expensive pieces that struggle to sound this good. After all, only a handful of sub-$3k amplifiers provide true high-end sound; the Brio-R belongs at the top of that short list. It truly sounds like separate components.

At the beginning of John Mellencamp’s “Sweet Evening Breeze” from Human Wheels, a Hammond organ faintly enters from the far back of the soundstage, barely registering a whisper. Other inexpensive integrateds I’ve sampled (except for the PrimaLuna ProLogue1) don’t resolve this. Or, what does come through is flat and on the same plane as the rest of the music—a blurry rendition. Oingo Boingo’s “Nothing Bad Ever Happens” from Good For Your Soul has similar textures, with multiple layers of guitars and keyboards that, via substandard gear, blend together and smear. By yielding genuine dimensionality, the Brio-R is a budget component that you can listen to for hours on end, fully engaged in the presentation.

The amp claims a fair share of headroom as well. Whether listening to KISS, with or without a symphony orchestra, the Rega didn’t run out of steam until played at very high volumes. Switching to the 99db sensitivity Klipsch Heresy IIIs (also reviewed this issue) resulted in a completely different situation. This combination achieved near rave-level SPLs with Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral. The opening drumbeats to “Big Man With a Gun” were big and powerful, yet the little Rega didn’t seem to break a sweat.

Your favorite speaker with a sensitivity rating of between 87–91db should prove a more than acceptable match for the Brio-R’s power amplifier section.

Vinyl Adventure

The phonostage in the Brio-R should prove a perfect match for anything in the $100-$600 range and when used with the Rega RP1 and its Performance Pack, an upgrade that includes the Bias 2 MM cartridge. The latter features a tonal balance slightly tipped toward the warm side of neutral, helping less-than-stellar LP pressings sound their best.

For example, a friend that brought over budget treasures purchased for fewer than $3/each couldn’t believe the performance wrought by the RP1/Brio-R combination. Again, the Brio-R’s phonostage offers excellent resolution and a very smooth upper register. And while the RP1/Bias combination turned in a great show, switching to the P3-24 and Blackbird offered a substantial helping of “what the analog fuss is all about.”

Good Things Do Come in Small Packages

The Rega Brio-R sets the benchmark for an $1000 integrated amplifier and then some.  While it’s easy for those that regularly hear the world’s best (and often most expensive) gear to get excited about great sound, it’s truly thrilling to hear this level of sound quality from an amplifier with an $895 price tag. Music lovers on a budget no longer have to sacrifice quality. This one could make a crazed audiophile out of you where you least expect it.

The Rega Brio-R

MSRP:  $895 (US) (UK)


Digital source Simaudio 750D    Cambridge 650BD
Analog source Rega RP1 w/Bias 2    Rega P3-24 w/Sumiko Blackbird
Speakers Magnepan MMG    Klipsch Heresy III    Vienna Acoustics Hayden Grand     Spica TC 50
Cable Audioquest  Columbia
Power IsoTek EVO3 Sirius

Rega RP8 Turntable

Five years ago, when visiting the Rega factory in the UK, I joined a group of Rega dealers to witness something very special at Rega founder Roy Gandy’s house.

A new skeletal plinth design that was supposed to be a step above the flagship P9, featuring a one off, ceramic platter and what appeared to be an RB1000 tonearm.  Needless to say the sound was fantastic and the following day, back at the factory, we saw more.  Gandy and staff were coy, referring to it as a “prototype,” and a “work in progress,” tempering our enthusiasm, telling us that “it could be out in a few months, a few years, or not at all.”  So, I returned to the States empty-handed, but I did learn how to play cricket.

But time flies when your having fun, and we now have the RP8, looking surprisingly like that prototype I saw years ago, but for a few minor changes.  And, on one level the RP8 is a pretty big jump forward for Rega.  They have always championed a low mass plinth design as the path to analog greatness and the website hints that “this is the first of the skeletal plinth designs.”

Featuring a new RB808 tonearm, which looks like a further refinement of the direction taken with the RB303 on the RP6 turntable, introduced last year, and also features new, lower capacitance tonearm cables, that look very audiophile-like in nature. The RP8 has an MSRP of $2,995, however US customers can purchase one with Rega’s $1,800 Apheta MC cartridge attached and set up for $3,995.  A major bargain, if you have the right phono stage.

The hub/subplatter features a machined aluminum cap, extending all the way down so the belts can contact the full surface. Rega claims that this, combined with the new tonearm provides for increased resolution, and the first record auditioned, Herbie Hancock’s Empyrean Isles brings a new perspective on this Blue Note classic, and illustrates a turntable, tonearm and cartridge all working together as a system.

One of the toughest things facing an analog enthusiast is getting this combination correct, so that the optimum trackability, resolution and stereo separation can be achieved.  Freddie Hubbard’s Coronet bleats out of the left channel, completely occupying the left half of the listening room, with the proper height and spatial relationships – is both beguiling and convincing. The drum kit is miked equally hard right, with Hancock on piano, gently floating in the middle, with Ron Carter’s bass keeping the bass on track, yet dissolved into the stereo image.

Quick Comparisons – up and down the range

Utilizing the Audio Research REF Phono 2SE, with two identical inputs and the ability to load both phono cartridges at the 50 ohms required for utmost HF smoothness (and honestly, my ARC SP11 mk.2, with it’s 30 ohm setting is pure bliss with the Apheta moving coil cartridge, but alas only one input) makes it a snap to compare the RP8 to both the RP6 and P9 to see just how much higher the bar has been raised.

The MoFi version of Aimee Mann’s Lost In Space underscores the improvements on two levels.  This densely layered record needs a first rate analog rig to lay bare all the intriguing textures and spatial cues, which the RP8 aces.  Perhaps even more intriguing is the LF performance of the RP8 – it’s very close to that of the P9.  If you haven’t experienced the P9, it’s not like the rest of the Rega range.   It possesses incredible weight and body.  The RP8 has a similar weighty feel, you almost don’t expect this kind of locked in bass response to come from a table that is the opposite of some of todays massive record players.

That machined aluminum subplatter pays another big dividend; much better pitch stability, and consequently revealing more low level detail.  Where Mann’s delicate voice wavers ever so slightly during “Guys Like Me” on the RP6, it is rock solid when switching to the RP8.  This doesn’t mean the RP6 is rubbish, you don’t notice the difference as easily until you play it right next to the RP8, and let’s face it, the RP8 costs twice as much.

The biggest surprise comes in a side-by-side comparison with the P9.  While the $5,000 P9 still has more LF weight and an even dreamier, more defined high end, the RP8 closes the gap tremendously, leaving this reviewer to wonder what Rega has on the horizon with the RP10.  An urge to spin the recent remaster of Devo’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! Illustrates the huge soundstage the Apheta is capable, with synthesizers and special effects everywhere.  Moving up to the P9 offers an even bigger soundfield, yet pace and timing are equally enticing with both decks, yet the P9 takes the lead, with the opening, distorted bass line of “Mongoloid,” offering more grunt and more texture.

Ticking the necessary boxes

It wouldn’t be an audiophile review without some female vocals, eh?  The Low + Dirty Three In the Fishtank 7 LP seemed the perfect place to start, with it’s dreamy, ethereal vocals, fading way off into the distance of the soundstage on the opening track, “I Hear…Goodnight,” with Mimi Parkers gentle brushwork on the drums so faint, it would be lost on a budget rig.  This record also clearly illustrates the ease by which the Rega combo handles the violin – exquisite.

Going up in tempo to Me’Shell Ndegeocello’s Plantation Lullabies proves that the RP8 and Apheta can rock in a major way; Ndegeocello’s thunderous bass riffs command authority with this table and cartridge anchoring her sensuous vocals all the while.

We covered the Apheta in detail in issue 10 at it’s introduction.  In five years, it’s only gone up in price $300 and my opinion hasn’t changed.  This is a fantastic cartridge with a lightnening fast response, but it must be loaded properly or it will sound harsh and thin.  With comparisons to the RP6 and P9 out of the way, I could go back to in-depth listening through the ARC SP-11 mk.2, which has an incredible on board phono stage that just happens to have a loading setting of 30 ohms – perfection for the Apheta.

This allows the cartridge to have maximum dynamics, smoothing out the HF response at the same time.  Keith Richards “You Don’t Move Me,” From his Talk is Cheap album features great acoustic playing by the riff meister that hangs between the speakers.   Richard’s voice has never been his strong suit, yet it is rendered with plenty of body here.

Regardless of the program material chosen, the RP8/Apheta combination delivers the goods. Though you’ll save a few bucks should you choose an Exact 2 cartridge, if you have a phonostage up to the task, the extra $500 for the Apheta upgrade is the smartest $500 you’ll ever spend in the world of analog.

The nitty gritty

For those not familiar with Rega turntables and phono cartridges, they are the ultimate in simplicity, when it comes to setup.  The Apheta cartridge uses three screws instead of the usual two and this provides perfect alignment.  Your RP8 can arrive with the Apheta already installed, so all you need to do is five minutes of basic assembly (fit the belt, the platter and set tracking force/anti skate) Analog bliss is about 15 minutes away, if you’re really poking.

Personally, I love the skeletal plinth and as I have no children or furry creatures to threaten my analog world, I can bask in the RP8s high tech glory.  Those less fortunate, fear not.  The RP8 comes with a traditional plinth and dust cover that will protect it from the environment.  I could not discern any audible advantage or disadvantage to the extra hardware, but congratulate Rega for providing it.  My audiophile buddies were polarized, they either thought the RP8 was really cool, or tried to explain to me how it couldn’t work.

We could discuss techie bits in further detail, but you can read about that here, on Rega’s website.  Suffice to say they all work together brilliantly and the RP8/Apheta combination reveals more music than most in its class, if not all.  Mounting the Apheta on the VPI Classic 1 gives a warmer, slightly more bass heavy presentation, but it does not offer up the resolution that the RP8 does.  It’s like the difference between a Mini Cooper S and my Fiat Abarth.  You either prefer the more nimble ride of the Abarth or the somewhat more posh ride of the Cooper.  There’s no wrong choice.

However, if you want a high performance record player with next to zero fuss required, I can think of no better choice.

My Rega journey began with the Planar 3 in 1982, and somehow over thirty years later, I have the feeling it’s not over.  Roy Gandy and his crew are a clever group, and as long as they keep refining their turntables, there will be new vinyl adventures from this fine British company.  I’m very happy to award the RP8/Apheta combination one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2013.

-Jeff Dorgay

The Rega RP8 Turntable

MSRP:  $2,995   ($3,995 bundled with Rega Apheta MC cartridge) (factory) (US importer)


Cartridge Rega Apheta MC
Phonostage Audio Research REF Phono 2SE
Preamplifier Audio Research REF 5SE, Audio Research SP-11mk. 2
Power Amplifier Octave Jubilee Monoblocks
Speakers Sonus faber Guarneri Evolution
Cables Cardas Clear
Power IsoTek Super Titan
Accessories Furutech DeMag, DeStat, GIK acoustic treatments

Rega RP9 and Apheta Cartridge

This is a review from way back, issue 10 to be exact.  But, as we are just getting our hands on the current RP8, it might be interesting for some of you to revisit our thoughts on the P9 and the excellent Apheta phono cartridge.

We usually review cartridges as separate items, but because this is Rega’s first moving coil cartridge (and it has been in development for a few years)designed to mate perfectly with a Rega arm, especially their flagship RB1000 arm featured here on the P9, a joint review it is.

In case you are not familiar with this turntable and cartridge, the P9 has a suggested retail of $4495 and the Apheta Moving Coil cartridge is $1695.  The accessory Tungsten counterweight is an additional $100.  This is definitely a serious turntable, folks.  Rega has been steadily moving upmarket with their P5 and P7 models, which are great turntables in their own right, but the P9 is the flagship and having spent time with both of them I feel that the P9 is really in a class all its own. (Ed. Note: These are now $4,995 and $1,995 respectively and the P9 has just been discontinued)

I enjoy Regas understated elegance.  If you want a big, bulky turntable, that screams “dig me”, the P9 is not going to be your cup of tea.  At first glance the P9 looks like a P25 with a larger wood base, but that would be missing the boat. Don’t let the subtle styling fool you; a peek under the traditional felt mat reveals a high tech ceramic platter, with a machined sub platter beneath.  The plastic part in the P3 and P25 is gone.

Cast your glance aside to the RB1000 tonearm.  According to Rega, it takes one technician as much time to hand assemble and adjust an RB1000 arm as it does to make 30 RB300’s and it shows the first time you pick that tonearm and set it down on a record.  Definitely a work of art.

And the idea that Rega has a moving coil cartridge, is also pretty exciting.  Designed from the ground up, they have eliminated the tie wire and foam damper found in conventional moving coil designs.  The result is indeed, very clean sounding with a tremendous amount of detail on tap.  As much as I like the sound, I love the clear body, allowing you a peek inside, a nice touch!­  A more in-depth technical analysis of the new arm and power supply, can be found on the Rega website.
Thanks to a power supply that is the same size as a Rega integrated amplifier, you no longer have to pop that platter and move the belt on the pulley to get 45rpm playback.  Just plug in the umbilical cord, turn it on and choose the speed you want.

I can’t imagine that there is anyone out there who hasn’t heard of Rega, or even owned one at one point in time.  My guess is if you did, it was probably a P2 or P3.  Aside from the Linn LP-12, the Rega P3 is probably one of the best selling turntables in history; certainly if we are talking about belt drive tables.  (NO Surly emails from Technics SL-1200 owners!!)

Like anything that has been around for a long time, there are a number of misconceptions, urban myths and other bits of misinformation floating around.  So let’s get the BS out of the way and clear the air.  Here are the Rega myths exposed and explained once and for all:

Rega turntables don’t have good speed accuracy, they tend to play a little fast.

Way back in the beginning of the companies tenure, some of their tables did play a smidge fast but that has not been an issue for many years now.  The engineering staff at Rega has painstakingly worked to rid themselves of this problem and they are so particular, they actually measure speed with a record playing to take the drag from tracking a groove into account.

Even with the P1, this issue is LONG a thing of the past and our review sample has perfect speed accuracy.  A new belt solved the slight speed issue with my own P25, so check this first if you are having an issue on an older table.  Most turntable manufacturers suggest changing the belt yearly or at least every other year.

Rega turntables don’t have deep bass, they sound a little thin.

This one is a matter of personal taste.  I have always found the P2, P3 and P25 to have more of a “fast” sound compared to other tables in its price range, with fantastic detail retrieval and smooth midrange.  One mans fast is another mans thin.  In all fairness, my bias is towards minimonitors and panel speakers so I’m not a big bass freak to begin with.  However even on a full range system, Rega tables have always come across as well balanced and bass has never been an issue.  Perhaps those complaining of thin bass response did not have the VTA set correct – this can be an issue with other manufacturers cartridges, but easy to remedy.

You can’t adjust VTA on a Rega and hence can’t use other manufacturers cartridges very easy.

Again, not true.  Granted, it’s not as easy to adjust the VTA on a Rega table as it is on an SME, but should you decide that you would like a cartridge other than Rega (which have a 14mm stylus to top of the cartridge body distance) there are a few options.  You can use one of the aftermarket VTA adjustment devices or if you measure this distance on your cartridge, chances one of Rega’s tonearm shims will do the trick.  They now have these available for the RB250/300/600 arms as well as the RB700/900/1000 arms and you can just order whatever combination you require from your dealer in 2, 4 or 10mm thicknesses.

That felt mat drives me nuts, I’ve had way better luck with (insert mat of the week here)…

Just shut up and use the felt mat.  It works just fine, especially when you are spinning a lot of records in a listening session.  You can just leave the platter spin and change records, fantastic! Let’s get back to the job at hand and talk about the P9. Right.

Initial setup

The P9 arrived with the new Apheta moving coil cartridge installed, but it can be set up in a jiffy yourself, should the need arise, thanks to Regas three point mounting system.  Attach the wires, insert the screws and you are good to go!  No adjustments to make, just tracking force (1.75g) and Anti-skate; not quite as easy as putting a CD in the drawer, but the easiest turntable setup you’ll ever experience.  Five minutes and you will be playing records!  I dare you to accomplish that with any other $6000 record player.

Loading is the secret to making the Apeheta sing.  At least 100 ohms, 50-75 if you can and a touch lower if you’ve got it.  If you only have a 1000 ohm setting on your phono stage, there is a high probability that you will find the Apheta bright.  Anything higher than that and you will definitely find it bright and possibly way too bright.

Setting the Modwright 9.0 SWLP to 50 ohms and the BAT VK-10SE  at 33 ohms was perfect.  Down here, the cartridge can still breathe and the top end is smoothed out very nicely.  All of my serious listening was spent with the ModWright, because I felt that this was a good match financially as well – a $3k phono stage is probably a more realistic combination for a $6k turntable than a 7k phono stage.  However, the P9/Apheta combination has enough resolution to justify it, should you decide to go there.

A great first impression

Often times, first impressions really do stick with you and getting the P9 out of the box was quite a surprise.  I was very impressed with the table right away, with the P9 offering a much bigger and more powerful presentations than past Regas I’ve listened to.  If you were on the bubble and in the “Rega tables sound a bit thin” camp, you can flush that misconception down the toilet.  The P9 has a very authoritative presentation, especially in the lower registers.

The first record I put on that familiar felt mat was Patti Smiths Trampin’.  The first song on side two, Cartwheels has some very deep bass riffs that were reproduced with the usual Rega texture but a lot more weight than I’m used to.  The next cut, Ghandi has a lot of air and some very tasty drum fills over the top of some very strong bass parts too.  What the P9/Apheta combination excelled at was keeping everything placed about the soundstage, without losing focus or grip.  Some cartridges I have heard in this price range get mushy when the music gets texturally complex, but not the Apheta.

This is when you know that you are listening to first class analog, the sense of air and texture is there along with plenty of detail, yet lacking in grain.  The more I listened, the more I was impressed with the Apheta cartridge and marveled at how it had a speed, extension and clarity that I would normally associate with CD, yet with the smoothness I would expect from analog.  Quite anomalous behavior from a company that didn’t even start making digital products until recently.

And their top of the line digital player has an amazing amount of the positive attributes of good analog.  Very interesting indeed, but you will have to wait until our next issue to read about the Saturn!

It’s getting better all the time

The P9 ticks all the boxes at its price point; smooth, even frequency response, plenty of LF weight and definition, and enough PRAT to satisfy that crowd as well. Getting comfy with the Apheta only requires a short break in period – a few days will do the trick. Moving it out to the main reference system with the ASR Basis phono stage (again, loaded at 50 ohms) it was easy to compare to the SME 10.  The Apheta is a fantastic match for the ultra low noise floor of the ASR, providing CD quiet backgrounds on pristine vinyl surfaces.

Moving through the gamut, listening began in earnest with the recent Willie Nelson album, Songbird, which was produced by Ryan Adams. This is a great album, with a lot of depth and spatial cues. Definitely one of those “delicate space between the notes” kind of records that really conveys Nelson’s vocals in a more soft-spoken manner.  Same with the Johnny Cash American Recording album; the presentation of Delia was RIGHT THERE.

The P9/Apheta has such a good combination of resolution and ease, it makes for fatigue-free extended listening sessions. Load this baby wrong and you will curse it forever.  Get it right and it is a very nice dose of analog bliss.

The Apheta works well with dense musical passages, regardless of whether it was ten layers of overdubbed guitars or the violin section in an orchestra, meaning the heavy metal fan and the orchestra lovers will be able to find peace here.

Exploring other options

Just to be thorough, I did spend some time mounting other cartridges to the P9 to see how well it would perform.  Again, it passed with flying colors.  My Sumiko Celebration has a 14mm stylus to top measurement, so it did not require any spacer, just a quick HTA adjustment and a rebalance of the tonearm.  A bit more on the lush side than the Apheta, this might be a good combination for those needing a bit less detail than the Apheta offers.  A pair of  2mm spacers made it easy to mount the Shelter 90x – another excellent choice for those wanting a more romantic presentation.

Tough to beat

Once you get to this price range in turntables, there is quite a bit to choose from and every table has its own characteristic sound.  Right now I have an Oracle and an AVID Volvere here in the studio which are similarly priced and while I don’t believe in shootouts, I will say the P9 holds its own with the others in it’s class that I have at my disposal.

If I could change one thing on the P9, I would love to see it offered with a set of balanced connectors so those of us running a fully balanced phono stage could take advantage of the additional noise reduction this configuration offers. That’s my only gripe and it probably only applies to 2% of the people who might buy this table.

The Rega P9 excels by offering a mega analog experience with none of the hassle that you might expect from a high performance turntable.  This is as close as you can get to close and play ease of use with this level of musicality and detail.  Yes there are tables (at this price point) that might reveal a little more of this or that, but if there is another table for this kind of money that offers up this much music, yet requires NO setup expertise, Ill eat that felt mat.

An old friend of mine used to say, “Dude, why do you want a Rega, you can’t tweak it!”  To which I would reply “Dude, that’s why I want a Rega, I don’t want to tweak it, I want to listen to records!”

And I still feel that way 28 years later.  This one’s a keeper.  Highly recommended.

The Rega P9 Turntable and Apheta moving coil cartridge

MSRP:  Table:  $4,995, Cartridge:  $1,995   (tungsten counterweight, $100)

Manufacturer: (Factory) (US Distributor)


Cartridge Shelter 90x, Sumiko Celebration, Dynavector 17D3
Phonostages Aesthetix Rhea, BAT VK-10 SE,  ModWright 9.0SWLP, ASR Basis Exclusive
Preamplifier Conrad Johnson ACT2/series 2
Power Amplifier Conrad Johnson Premier 350, Nagra PSA, McIntosh MC275
Speakers Martin Logan Vantage, Tetra 506 Custom, Penaudio Serenade
Cables Tara Labs The One, Cardas Golden Reference
Accessories Furutech DeMag, DeStat, GIK acoustic treatments

Rega Apollo – R CD Player

Rega’s Apollo-R smokes the dCS Paganini. Okay, it’s not that awesome, but I got your attention, no? In all seriousness, the Apollo-R is a damn fine CD player. Even as computer audio continues to be all the rage, many people still enjoy dropping a CD into a transport and pushing “Play.” Rega is one reason why they do.

The Apollo-R matches the recent Brio-R and DAC in size and form. Rega uses a similar but not exactly the same case for everything—a strategy meant to retain high quality and performance while keeping the price low. However, Rega components sport a smart, stylish, and functional look. Legacy customers will notice the top-loading “spaceship lid” is continuous with that of the previous Apollo. The major difference is that the Apollo-R boasts a “half-size” enclosure akin to the Brio-R integrated amplifier and DAC.

Rega CD players do not take a disproportionate amount of time to acclimate or “break in.” Once unpacked and set up, the Apollo-R sounds smashing, and opens up even more once powered up for 48 hours. While Rega offers an upgraded mains cable with its flagship ISIS player, and extends this approach via the Apollo-R, purchasing an expensive power cord doesn’t jibe with the overall ethos. More improvement is easily had with the Rega DAC.

A Major Improvement

“The Apollo does a fantastic job with the fundamentals. Pace, timing, and tonality—they are all here in great quantity for the price.” That’s what I said about the Apollo in Issue 14. Both generations of Apollo possess a very analog-like quality, but aren’t the last word in transient attack or bone-crushing dynamics. Considering how many CDs are now mastered, such shortcomings aren’t awful.

Still, the Apollo-R adds extension and sock without compromising traits that made the original model so wonderful. That’s progress, especially when you consider the initial unit sells for $100 more. Notably, the advancements have not come at the cost of lost jobs at the UK-based Rega factory. Every product is still handmade by skilled technicians, many of which have labored at Rega for decades.

In Service of the Music

The minute you begin listening, Apollo-R’s signature characteristics spring to the surface. Highly non-digital-sounding, the player excels in peeling back the layers of complex, compressed recordings without instilling harshness. The Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen is a somewhat-compressed CD that instantly goes south when experienced on a mediocre unit. But the disc reveals a fair amount of texture on a resolving player that straddles the boundaries of resolution and musicality.

On the record’s title track, it’s all too easy for lead singer Greg Dulli’s voice to become buried amidst the growling guitars, doing no service to this 1993 epic. The Apollo-R takes the challenge in stride, keeping Dulli’s vocal track separated from the other musical information. Black Dub’s self-titled debut suffers the same problem. The disc is crunchy and slightly compressed, enough so that it diminishes the overall experience. The Apollo-R tremendously improves the music delivery, again providing requisite separation while locking in the deep bass grooves.

Where the first-generation Apollo claims inherent smoothness, it’s obvious that some of the benefit comes at the expense of air and extension. The bell in “The Wedding” from David Bowie’s Black Tie White Noise showcases more natural decay via the Apollo-R. On the original model, it goes flat and decays too quickly. The new player sounds much more like the $2,595 Saturn and in some ways, better.

The Apollo-R’s greatest forte? The nimble way it navigates tough musical passages without losing its way. Diana Krall’s Live in Paris sounds great on damn near anything, but properly playing back Metallica or Rachmaninoff takes a great CD player. The Apollo-R passes both tests with ease.

Maintains the Pace

If you frequent either UK audio forums or newsstands, “pace” and “timing” frequently appear. These words apply to a hi-fi component (or a whole system) in terms of how well the latter keeps individual players sorted without sacrificing musical cohesiveness. Have you ever heard a band in which the drummer can’t seem to keep time with the rest of the group? That’s pace. Have you ever heard amateur musicians attempting a symphonic piece, and fail at starting and stopping in unison? That’s timing. And while not quite as magnified through a stereo system, music doesn’t adequately lock in and focus if reproduction mechanisms are found lacking.

The better your system, the more cohesiveness will be present. If you listen to a very inexpensive CD player, focus gets lost. As the source quality improves, so does this aspect of musical reproduction. The Apollo-R shines at keeping the pace in a manner that even curmudgeonly listeners will appreciate.

Tonality to Spare

So far, so good. But natural tonality separates great components from mediocre ones. Here, again, the Apollo-R proves sublime. On jazz and classical favorites, piano and violin are reproduced in a highly convincing fashion. This is not a CD player for which you’ll make excuses.

A few years ago, many audiophiles would brag about how a $400 turntable could humble the best CD players. Those days are over. Comparing the Apollo-R to the new Rega RP3 with Exact cartridge results in a much closer heat than I expected. While the vinyl possesses a skosh of midrange warmth absent in the digital player, the latter offers wider dynamic range and impact.

Comparing two excellent pressings of Beck’s Sea Change from Mobile Fidelity verifies these findings. Yet, when one biases the comparison, performing the same experiment with a random copy of Johnny Winter’s Second Winter and Mobile Fidelity’s gold Beck CD, the Apollo-R surpasses its analog counterpart. After hearing a few discs on the Apollo-R, it’s amazing to think about how far digital has come. Such performance would have cost thousands more at the turn of the century.

To DAC or Not to DAC

Rega’s $999 DAC takes the Apollo-R even further. Is it worth an extra grand? If you have a highly resolving system, you won’t be disappointed. Not to mention the upgrade affords five digital inputs and greater system-expansion capabilities—including the ability to play high-resolution files.

The DAC also brings superior smoothness to the overall sound, and when switching back and forth between the Apollo-R’s analog outputs and those of the DAC, graininess appears in the Apollo-R that you wouldn’t notice if you hadn’t comparatively listened to them. The units’ chipset is similar. Yet the DAC enjoys a beefier analog stage, a larger power supply, and the ability for the user to select digital filter options.

Unlike getting a sports car equipped with finely tuned sport suspension, where you sacrifice some ability driving on normal roads in exchange for increased performance, there’s no downside to adding the DAC. If you have an extra thousand bucks, and your dealer is kind enough to let you take the DAC home for the weekend, you’ll have a tough time bringing it back Monday morning.

A New Plateau

Rega has been on a roll for years, introducing a plethora of products in the top, bottom, and middle of its range—all of which share the common goal of striving to be class leaders. Admittedly “the last major high-end company to produce a CD player,” the firm doesn’t release transports just to add a button here or there. Substantial increases in performance are required. A recipient of our 2012 Exceptional Value Award, the compact Apollo-R CD player achieves those feats and more.

Rega Apollo-R

MSRP: $1,095                                  (UK)                            (US Distributor)


Amplification                          Rega Brio-R, Burmester 011 pre/911 mk. 3 power amp

Speakers                                  Harbeth Compact 7es3, MartinLogan Montis, GamuT S9

Cable                                       Cardas Clear

First US Review: The Rega RP3

Roy Gandy, the founder of Rega Research, proceeds with new ideas and new products at his own pace. Two years ago, Gandy had a prototype table in his listening room that looked as if it could have been a replacement for the P9 turntable, the top end of Rega’s range. But with an impish grin, Gandy quickly pointed out that it was only an “engineering exercise” and that the concept could either make it into production in months, not at all, or “be incorporated somewhere else in the range.”

And now, we have the RP3. While the RP1 came to market as a replacement for the relatively recent P1, the P3 model that the RP3 replaces has been evolving for more than 30 years. Beginning its product life as the Planar 3 back in 1978, the P3 is not only the ‘table that put Rega on the map in the US but the one that gave the company the widest brand identity. It’s tough to find a veteran vinyl enthusiast that isn’t familiar with the P3.

So it isn’t at all surprising to see that, just weeks after its release, the $895 RP3 creating its fair share of buzz. From a technical standpoint, Rega upgraded a number of areas: The main bearing, tonearm, and plinth. (The 24-volt motor has not changed; it is the same motor found in the current P3-24 model.) What’s more, the company enacted the improvements while holding the line on the price. Fence sitters should grab an RP3 sooner than later. Its price already increased in the UK, and given the unpredictability of currency variations, there’s no telling how long the “introductory pricing” will last. Rega’s US importer, Steve Daniels mentioned that this is only for the US market and that it was his choice to keep the price down in order to build excitement for the new model.

Expecting a major overhaul? Move on. At Rega, it’s evolution not revolution, so current P3 owners need not worry that their current investment is worthless. Those that have an older ‘table lacking the 24-volt motor (P3, P3-2000, Planar 3, P2, and P25) can purchase an upgrade kit for $225. The new motor is better in every way—quieter and more balanced, translating into less rumble and a lower noise floor. The best reason for upgrading? The new motor allows you to add the TT-PSU power supply to the ‘table, and boasts the ability to change platter speed at the touch of a button (instead of removing the platter and moving the belt on the pulley) and further refinement of speed accuracy.

While Rega claims that the RP3 uses “virtually the same motor” as the P7 and P9, there is some variation on the theme. Higher-range models utilize more sophisticated power supplies, and the P9 uses a dual-drive belt system. This method follows Rega’s approach to tonearm design, where top-line RB 700 and RB 1000 arms start as the same casting but get machined, balanced, and assembled to increasingly higher standards. It’s one reason why Rega products offer such consistently high value; the firm doesn’t reinvent the wheel with every model.

On the new design, Gandy’s automotive engineering background instantly becomes apparent. He believes excess mass is detrimental to performance, and his ‘tables always champion low mass rather than a high mass approach that tends to go in and out of fashion. The RP3 advances this strategy, with a lighter-mass plinth than the P3-24. A careful look at the tonearm mounting reveals the new “double brace” that Rega incorporated. The machined part allows for increased stiffness between the tonearm and turntable bearing—perhaps the most critical area for structural rigidity. This is the key component in the RP3, and contributes to both the lack of midrange smear and generous soundstage width.

Apples to Apples

With a P3-24/TT-PSU already on hand as a reference ‘table, a direct comparison between it and the RP3 became painless courtesy of the two-input Audio Research REF Phono 2 preamplifier. Both ‘tables had a brand-new Rega Exact MM cartridge ($595) and were precisely set to 1.75g via the Clearaudio Weight Watcher digital scale. A quick check of turntable speed via test record and multimeter confirmed that both ‘tables were spot on at 33.3RPM. The REF Phono 2’s dual inputs were both identically configured for gain and loading, and thanks to a few sequential records from Mobile Fidelity, a direct comparison was only seconds away.

When using the Exact with the new RB303 tonearm, the plastic washer required for the third mounting screw is no longer necessary, a luxury that provides an even more secure mechanical connection between cartridge and tonearm. The three-screw mounting arrangement makes it much easier to get cartridge alignment right. It’s a shame more manufacturers don’t take advantage of this configuration.  For those wanting the ultimate convenience the RP3 can be ordered with the Elys 2 cartridge pre-installed for $1,095 or the Exact for $1,390.

The Comparo

Staff member Jerold O’Brien was enlisted to preside over the turntable connections and provide comic relief. To avoid any pre-conceived bias, he did not tell me what turntable was playing at any given time. He merely started both records, letting me switch between the two via the REF Phono 2 remote and take notes. It only took a few choice cuts to decide on “Input 2,” which ended up being the RP3. O’Brien arrived at the same conclusion a day later when he returned to check my progress.

Rega turntables have always had a fast, lively sound that some have found slightly thin. The RP3 offers a robust improvement in bass weight over the prior P3-24. While listening to favorites from Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Deadmau5, I noticed a firmer low end and additional texture. The new ‘table offered superior pace and bolder bass lines.

The RP3 also claims the edge in HF detail and freedom from grain. The P3-24 never sounded grainy before, but when listening alongside the RP3, the difference was clear. The gap widened when I added the TT-PSU external power supply to the equation.  The decrease in noise floor and increase in low-level detail allowed the RP3 to take advantage of the Exact cartridge to a degree that the P3-24 could not. Listening to Godley & Creme’s L revealed a density that’s always eluded me on ‘tables in the RP3’s price range. Much like a Frank Zappa composition, various layers of overdubbed information are present on the record, and while this characteristic won’t reveal tonality, it does reveal resolution. The RP3 kept the pace intact on “Sandwiches of You,” a particularly tough track that features spastic vibes, numerous vocal layers, and fitful drumming. Where the P3-24 becomes somewhat vague at the peak of such activity, the RP3 presents the layers sorted. Again, adding the TT-PSU paid considerable dividends.

The new RB303 tonearm is another major factor in the new ‘table’s increased clarity and resolution. While the two arms look similar, a rigorous examination of the pivot area reveals the new arm to be beefier than its predecessor. Combining the latter aspect with careful attention to mass distribution and improved bearings further explains the additional detail I experienced—particularly with acoustic music. When comparing nearly identical pressings of Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die, sax and flute solos possessed more body with the new ‘table, regardless of what pressing I spun.

Almost as telling as its performance with music, the RP3 handled the occasional pop and tick much more efficiently. Whereas such sporadic bits of noise had a certain amount of duration and overhang on the P3-24, the new ‘table quickly disposed of the annoying components. The resultantly improved transient attack gave drums a refreshing vitality, whether it was the processed Roland Space Echo solo during Peter Criss’ “100 Thousand Years” from Kiss’ Alive! or the pristine rhythms of Art Blakey’s “Elephant Walk” from Orgy in Rhythm.

For those fearing the REF Phono 2 too upscale for a pair of $900 turntables, the difference between the RP3 and P3-24 is still easily discernable when listening through the Croft Micro 25/Series 7 combination we reviewed earlier this year, via a pair of recently restored JBL L-100s. To make the test even tougher, the highly un-audiophile speakers were connected to the Croft combo via 16-gauge Radio Shack lamp cord.

A New Benchmark

With so much chatter about high-resolution digital files and new $1,000-and-under DACs introduced on what feels like a monthly basis, it’s refreshing to see this much dedication spent on an equally priced turntable. The RP3 stands as one of the best price/performance ‘tables on the market today. If you can add the Exact and TT-PSU to your budget, all the better. But if not now, they certainly make for a great upgrade path as you go further down the road. Enthusiastically recommended.

Rega RP3

MSRP:  $895, TT-PSU $375, Exact Cartridge $595

Manufacturer Information (US) (UK)

Rega Isis CD Player

Rega has established a solid reputation over the last thirty years now for building reasonably priced components packed with value beyond their price point. Rega turntables have always been a triumph of function and simplicity, with a legion of fans that span the globe. Founder Roy Gandy is a champion of giving his customers high performance without a high price tag, and didn’t even start building CD players until about ten years ago. His sense of humor is evident in their website, where it’s mentioned that Rega was “the last major high end company to build a CD player.”

About that same time Rega also introduced the P9 turntable. Then $4,000 and now $5,000, ten years later (with the tonearm upgraded from the RB900 to RB1000 status), this was Rega’s only entry into more expensive components. One of my reference turntables for the last few years, the P9 is a very special table, offering performance well beyond its pricetag, just like every other Rega product.

In 2008 that trend was continued with the introduction of the IOS phono stage and later on in the year, the Elicit integrated amplifier. Something was definitely up at Rega. Though still very reasonably priced in market terms, at about $3,000 each, these components were still a considerable step up from the Fono and Brio.

A visit to the Rega factory this year revealed a company more committed to performance and value than ever. Rega is a fantastic mix of 21’st century modernization and early 20th century craftsmanship, with their own spin applied. Towards the end of our tour of the plant, the group I was with was taken to an assembly room where something very different was going on.

A $9,000 CD player, from Rega?

That’s not a typo. Yes, that’s right, $9,000 for a Rega CD player. But it’s a very special CD player. In the past, Rega has always been fanatical about offering the highest value they feel that they can build. Because they only outsource a tiny percentage of their production, they have become very efficient and eliminate multiple sources of markup that eventually get passed on to the consumer.

They have not varied from their chosen path with the ISIS a single millimeter, however the focus has changed somewhat. The ISIS is the first product Rega has built that has not had a target cost attached to it; it’s simply the best player that Gandy and his staff feel they are capable of building, with cost no object. Coming full circle to Rega’s core values, the pricetag is only $9,000. The average Rega customer that’s been raised on P3 turntables and Apollo CD players ($800 and $1,000 respectively) is freaking out at the thought of a $9,000 CD player from their favorite British HiFi manufacturer. Has Roy Gandy gone mad?

If anyone should be freaking out, it should be the manufacturers of CD players in the $20 – $50k range. It’s definitely a contender and in typical Rega fashion, offers value way beyond its price point. Even if you haven’t had the chance to see them assembled at the factory, the minute you open the box, the attention to detail is apparent.Rega crate

The ISIS comes packaged in a very sturdy yet tasteful mini-crate with the ISIS logo cut in the high-density, closed cell foam internals. It gives you the feel that something special is inside, without being extravagant. When you remove the 55-pound (25kg) CD player from the box, you know it. The massive aluminum chassis reveals a look not unlike past Rega players, with their famous “spaceship” top loading door and red LED’s on the front panel, but seriously fortified all the way around.

In addition to the player, a substantial billet remote control is included that is on par with what you would expect with the world’s finest audio gear as well as a pair of high quality RCA interconnects and a substantial power cord. I would value both of these items in the $500 – $1,000 range if you bought them as aftermarket items. A very nice touch I’d say, but I’d love to see you being able to have the option of them being terminated with XLR’s.Rega remote

Which leads us to something else you’ve never seen from Rega, a pair of balanced XLR jacks on the back panel. This takes advantage of the ISIS having fully balanced, differential circuitry throughout. There are also standard RCA outputs for those requiring it. The DAC in the ISIS uses a pair of Burr Brown PCM 1794 D to A converters running in parallel dual mono mode. Analog and digital stages have their own separate power supply transformers and there are ten individual voltage regulator stages in the digital section along with another ten for the analog stage. This is indeed a very serious bit of digital hardware.

Those worried about the viability of the CD format and getting your player serviced in the future, fear not. Inside the owner’s manual, there is a signature from the technician that assembled your ISIS, another tech that QC’d the electrical and mechanical systems and the tech that tested and archived not one, but two spare laser units. I think it’s safe to say that the ISIS will last longer than most of its owners and I appreciate this attention to detail, with CD transport mechanisms getting scarcer all the time.Rega rear view

An outstanding DAC that happens to play CD’s, or the other way around?

As the market for high performance CD players is probably nearing its end, Rega gives you the option to use the ISIS as a USB DAC as well. Personally, I’d love to see an SPDIF input on this player, but considering the recent success of the Ayre USB DAC, I’m guessing this is not a deal breaker for the current crop of audiophiles that are more computer based.

While you might be clinging on to your shiny discs for now, the ISIS gives you the options to go both ways and that’s what makes the ISIS such a great value. The DAC performance of the ISIS was also outstanding when streaming files from my Mac Book Pro via the USB input, which is switchable from the front panel or the remote. The only serious drawback to the ISIS is it’s inability to read 24bit/96khz files and this may be the Achilles heel for someone wanting to make this player part of a more computer based system. With 24/96 files becoming the new standard, this will limit your music choices going forward. Personally, I see the ISIS in the same light that I do my Naim 555, a statement CD player for someone with a large collection of physical media.

Which $800 bottle of wine would you like with your dinner?

With the ISIS in short supply worldwide, the question everyone has been asking me is how does is stack up ultimately to the five figure players I have here as reference components? Damn good, I say. Comparing the ISIS to my reference Naim 555 was an interesting study in presentation. It was a big help that we had the ultra revealing YG Acoustics Anat II speakers around for the duration of the review. As part of a six-figure reference system, the 555 still had the ultimate edge in terms of overall analog-like smoothness, but not by a large amount.

Interestingly, the edge went slightly in favor of the ISIS in terms of tonal contrast and transient attack. When listening to the cymbals at the beginning of “Euthanasia Waltz” on Brand X’s Livestock CD, the Rega player offered slightly quicker attack on the leading edge, but didn’t decay as smoothly as the Naim. However, when comparing the playback of this track to the Wadia 781i, the ISIS had a definite edge in upper end refinement, though it did not have quite the subterranean bass slam of the Wadia. (Neither does the $32k Naim player)

But this level of tonal contrast is what I kept coming back to with the ISIS and I would say that is it’s shining virtue. It has more than enough extension at both ends of the frequency scale to keep the fussiest audiophile happy, with plenty of weight to the presentation, but much like the YG Acoustics Anats, the ISIS has a delicacy about it that few players at any price match. Acoustic instruments have a layer of texture that is unmistakable with the ISIS and makes the player a lot of fun to listen to. Spinning “Down On the Farm” from Guns N’Roses The Spaghetti Incident, you can really distinguish the difference between Izzy Stradlin’s guitar setup and Slash, better than I’ve ever heard on this disc. And of course your favorite female vocals will sound just fine.Rega lid open

Tonal accuracy is also a strong suit with the ISIS. Lovers of acoustic music will notice the extra layer of detail and tonal body that the ISIS provides. Going back through some of my favorite jazz standards from Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins underscored what a fantastic job this player does at nailing the tonality of acoustic instruments. Naysayers of high end digital will be taken back at how natural this player sounds with violin and piano.

Of course we’re splitting hairs here, but that’s the kind of things that people purchasing five figure CD players do. A bit of madness if you will, but all good fun. The ISIS is a player that allows you to make that last jump to where you become immersed in the music, instead of thinking “this is really good for digital.” Again, there are only a handful of players at any price that achieve this lofty goal.

Perhaps not for the typical Rega customer

The Rega ISIS is a digital audio player that is worthy of being on the top shelf with the world’s best components. I own a couple of those players myself, and after extensive listening and close comparison, this player delivers the goods. If you own one of these players, you probably won’t be trading in your Naim, Wadia or Meridian player for the ISIS, but that’s not who I feel this player is aimed at. If you are someone who has always lusted after one of those $20 – $50k players, but can’t or won’t write that check, the ISIS is the way to go. I’ve had the privilege of listening to most of the world’s best CD players, some with pricetags that you’d swear should be on the window of a Porsche instead of a CD player and I feel the ISIS will deliver 95% of the performance of the five figure players for nine grand. It’s well worth the asking price; If I had to start over, I’d buy an ISIS, pocket the other $20k and go shopping for a nice used Boxster.

With that in mind, the Rega ISIS has stayed true to their core values by offering a product that offers the best performance in its price class. This is why we chose this player as our Digital Product of the Year for 2009. It makes a stellar match to their new OSIRIS amplifier, that will be reviewed in the December issue of TONEAudio. And, yeah it’s that good too.

The Rega ISIS CD Player

MSRP: $8995.00 (USD)

Manufacturers Information: (US Distribution)


Preamplifier: Burmester 011 Preamplifier

Power Amplifier: Burmester 911mk. 3 Amplifier, Rega OSIRIS Amplifier

Speakers: YG Acoustics Anat II Studio

Cable: Shunyata Aurora Interconnect, Shunyata Stratos SP spkr. cable

Power: Running Springs Dmitri Power conditioner, RSA HZ power cords

Exclusive-The Rega RP1

RP1-1Rega met the budget turntable challenge in 2006 with their entry-level P1 turntable, offering the budding vinyl enthusiast a way to join the Rega camp with a brand new table and Ortofon OM5e cartridge for only $400. While Rega has always been one of the best values going in turntables, inflation and world currency markets have taken their toll everywhere. I remember purchasing my first Planar 3 turntable (back in 1979, without cartridge) for $389. Those were the days.

The P1 was a strong seller, though the table did draw criticism for its MDF platter, which did not yield the best wow and flutter specs. Many P1 owners spent an additional $65 and quickly upgraded to the glass platter that used to come on the older versions of the P2, with a definite improvement.

Rega founder Roy Gandy is a mechanical engineer to the core and is always looking for a way to improve his products. When I visited the Rega factory last summer and again this spring, Gandy made it a point to tell me how much thought goes into his entry-level turntable. (Though he wasn’t spilling the beans about the RP1 in March…) “Every fifty cents that you spend at this price point is a challenge, and it’s always a great exercise to see just how much performance can be incorporated into the final design.”

Enter the RP1 four years later than the introduction of P1 and with only a $50 increase in MSRP; this table is a massive improvement. In all aspects the RP1 is now on par with the P2, but more about that as we continue… Now I know why Roy Gandy’s Acura NSX has a heavy layer of dust on it, he’s been spending a lot of late nights in the lab.

Keeping it simple

Rega has always stood for simplicity, but in recent years, they’ve added some stylish finishes to their turntable range, especially the P3 models that are available in a rainbow of colors. For the RP1, they stripped it to the bone, and have three finishes available; white, grey and platinum, which looks like white with just a tinge of grey mixed in.

There is no external power supply like the P3-24, which allows the turntable speed to be changed at the push of a button. If you want to spin 45’s, you’ll have to take the platter off and move the belt manually to the other groove on the pulley, just like in the old days. The new RB101 tonearm uses a three point mounting platform, just like the rest of the Rega tonearm range, and utilizes composite materials as in the RB301 arm.
Unbox and go… almost

There’s no easier turntable on Earth to set up than the RP1. It comes with the cartridge already mounted. Breaking out the Clearaudio test record and portable strobe showed the speed to be spot on at 33 r.p.m. The OM5e has a tracking force range of 1.5-2.0 grams with a suggested tracking force of 1.75 grams. If you slide the counterweight all the way up to the ridge at the back of the tonearm, you will have a tracking force of 1.8 grams. Bias/antiskate was left at the factory setting of just over one gram and I was spinning my first record in about five minutes. This is the perfect table for vinyl newcomers; anyone can set it up.

In my hurry to start spinning records I did notice some inner groove distortion on the first few records I played. Checking the cartridge setup with MoFi’s Geo Disc revealed that the alignment was indeed off a tiny bit. I’ll chalk that up to being bounced around on a variety of carriers between the UK and my doorstep. However, a quick adjustment was all it took to put things right and five minutes later I was back to Neil Young.

The sound and some comparisons

Having owned every turntable Rega has produced so far except for the P7, the lineage was apparent as I played the first track. The RP1 has a substantial helping of the “Rega Sound”, with speedy attack, and a clean midrange. I had saved some 24/96 digital samples of playback from the P1 (courtesy of my Nagra LB digital recorder) and there was no mistake that the RP1 is a major step up. Listening to samples of both turntables playing selections from The Netherlands Wind Ensemble’s Beethoven Wind Music, the dramatic reduction in wow and flutter in the new table was instantly apparent. Flute and oboe had a woodier, more solid texture to them. In case you don’t have a copy of this record around, a more accessible selection would be Jethro Tull’s “Song for Jeffrey” from their Living In The Past album. You should be able to draw the same conclusion with Ian Anderson’s flute playing.

RP1-3The combination of an improved platter and bearing are a big hit on the RP1. Listening to samples from both tables on the MoFi edition of Genesis’ Trick of the Tail had the RP1 again trumping the P1 in bass weight on “Squonk” and HF definition and delicacy on the title track. Cymbals definitely had a smoother decay on the RP1 as well.

Borrowing a friend’s P2 with an identical OM5e installed, allowed for a real-time comparison. The ARC REF Phono 2’s identical inputs, gain and loading could be set identically for both tables allowing a rapid switch between them, minimizing aural memory losses. I was also able to compare the RP1 with the standard platter and the glass platter of the P2. Since Rega is discontinuing the P1 and the P2 in favor of the RP1, feeling that it provides comparable performance to the P2, I must concur with their findings. Even on my reference system, featuring a $12,000 Audio Research REF Phono 2, these two tables are too close in performance to hear a difference with the supplied cartridge. I think that speaks volumes for the performance of the new RP1.

Rega has done a lot of work on their new phenolic resin platter and again, this is a success. Repeated swaps between it and a standard Rega glass platter were impossible to define, so even though your brain might be telling you that the plastic platter can’t work, it does. The familiar felt turntable mat that has been with Rega turntables since the beginning is present and accounted for on the RP1, though I suspect the new platter’s textured surface provides a better mat to platter interface than the old glass platter did on the P2 and P3.

Numerous comparisons between the new platter and the glass platter on the RP1 was inconclusive; you can spend the extra dough on a glass platter thinking you are getting an “upgrade” but I couldn’t hear it. The only area that the P2 bested the RP1 slightly was when I swapped the OM5e for the (almost $400) Denon DL-103R moving coil cartridge. I suspect this was due to the RB-251 tonearm on the P2’s tighter production tolerances than the arm on the RP1. Using a $400 cartridge with a $450 turntable may be negating the “budget” concept of the RP1 though. And remember, I was hearing a miniscule difference on a six-figure reference system.

Substituting the new Croft Micro 25 preamplifier and Series 7 amplifier currently in for review ($1,395 ea.) and a pair of the KEF XQ20 speakers ($1,995 pr.) for my reference system made for a more realistic showing of the RP1. I also spent a fair amount of time with the RP1 plugged into my Marantz 2275 receiver and JBL L-100 speakers with excellent results. In both of these systems, the difference in sound quality between the RP1 and the P2, with identical cartridges was non-existent. Those looking for a great table on a budget can feel very confident with the capabilities of the RP1. And the handful of RP1 owners that will feel the need to upgrade, spending a few extra hundred dollars on a more resolving cartridge will also be justified, the table is that good.

After extended listening sessions in three very different levels of systems, the RP1 definitely delivers a solid helping of analog magic. When comparing the Rega to the sound of the OPPO 83SE digital player, the Rega table definitely had the edge over digital playback, sounding much more open and natural.
A great place to start your analog journey

While plenty of budding audiophiles will argue to the ends of the Earth over the merit of the RP1 versus a few other contenders that are similarly priced, the fact is that the RP1 offers solid performance, excellent value and is a great place to start listening to vinyl. Remember, while the others are discussing minutiae, you could be spinning records, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

The Rega RP1
MSRP: $449 (UK) (US)


Croft Micro 25 preamplifier, Series 7 amplifier, KEF XQ 20 speakers, Running Springs Haley
AudioQuest Columbia interconnect and speaker cables

Rega Elicit – A top shelf integrated

Elicit openingEd. Note: This review was published in late 2008, but we somehow failed to upload it this spring when the site was overhauled. Our apologies!

Rega has had a string of great products lately, including the improved P3-24 turntable and the stellar Ios phono preamplifier. While I might be accused of being biased toward Roy Gandy and company, it’s pretty hard not to like them when everything they’ve sent our way has been such a home run. Actually, I’m getting more and more biased towards having a great integrated amplifier in your system.

Integrated amplifiers in general have been making a comeback for a while and we’ve had quite a few of them in our paws this year that have been spectacular. The Sim Audio Moon i-7 at $7,000 is one of my favorites and features a beefy 150-watt per channel power amplifier section. The Naim SuperNait at $5,000 is less powerful but has a versatile DAC built in along with a fantastic headphone amplifier stage.

Perhaps you don’t require a built in DAC or a headphone amplifier and you would like to spin some LP’s without having to purchase an outboard phono stage? Enter the Rega Elicit. For $3,000 without a phono stage or $3,200 with your choice of MM or MC card installed, the Elicit could be the amplifier for you. My review sample came with an MM board, as Rega did not yet have the MC boards in stock, so we will do a follow up on the MC board as soon as we receive one.

The Elicit has more than enough inputs to be the center of your HiFi system. If you order yours with the phono board installed, there are five more high level inputs; four on the input selector as well as a tape monitor input. There are three outputs as well; a variable level output marked “preamp output” that you can use with a powered subwoofer or perhaps an additional power amplifier in a biamped setup, a fixed level output marked “record output” for a tape recorder, CD recorder, etc., and an additional fixed output marked “record output link” which is functionally equivalent to the record output. Rega says that the phono preamp is a plug in card and mentions “future options.”

Elicit Rear

The Elicit is rated at 82 watts per channel and while we don’t measure our amplifiers output on a bench, I can say that it played just as loud with the same speakers as the Naim SuperNait (rated at 80 watts per channel), so as long as your speakers have a sensitivity of at least 86db the Elicit will have enough power for your application. I do find the subwoofer output critical for an amplifier at this level, I’ve auditioned too many pricey integrateds that ignore this feature.

This amplifier is continuing in the path that Rega has started down with the Ios phono stage as part of their premium line of components. “This is the best integrated we are capable of making” Roy Gandy told me in a recent phone conversation. “The circuit has actually been around for a while and we’ve been refining it.” If you aren’t familiar with Rega as a company, they do not rush to market with anything, always waiting until a product is built exactly the way they want it. Their website says at the bottom of the page “they are the last major HiFi manufacturer to produce a CD player.”

Peeking inside the Elicit shows the attention to detail, with premium parts everywhere and I’d like to emphasize that there are no Class-D modules or op amps anywhere; the Elicit’s circuitry is all discrete.

Music in five minutes

Even with a turntable, CD player and subwoofer, I was rocking out in no time with the Elicit. The instruction manual is straightforward, as is the remote. As you are lifting the Elicit out of the box, you will notice how beefy it is – there’s a major power supply lurking under the casework. With a similar form factor to the rest of the Rega components, the Elicit will look right at home with a P9 and PSU power supply, an Ios phono stage, or a Rega CD player. The big difference is the openings cut in the left and right sides, revealing some massive heat sinks for the output stages.

The volume control is somewhat recessed in the front panel and is microprocessor controlled, changing volume in +/- 1db steps. Rega claims better than .2db channel balance, which I had no reason to doubt. I liked the row of LED’s that light up around the volume control as you increase the level, as an alternative to a large LED panel with numbers. And yes, those of you that get grumpy about glowing LED’s can dim them from the remote.

Top quality sound

You’ll forget all the specs the minute you fire up the Elicit; this is something special indeed. While I liked what I heard immediately, after a couple of days of continuous play the Elicit opened up even further.

Because I see the Elicit as the core of a very high performance system, I made it a point to use it with quite a few different speakers, including the MartinLogan Spires in for review as well as the 53 thousand dollar Loiminchay Chagalls. Even with the mega Loiminchay’s, which are known for their exceptional resolution of fine detail, the Elicit held it’s own.

The good news is that the Elicit has enough current drive to power the Logans just fine and every other speaker I was able to throw at it. So unless you need concert hall levels or just have tremendously inefficient speakers, the Elicit should be able to drive most speakers with ease. I ended up settling in on the system mentioned in the sidebar, with a pair of Harbeth Compact 7ES-3’s, a Rega Saturn CD player and a Rega P3 turntable with Clearaudio cartridge.

I’m fortunate enough to have a very high performance system to listen to every day and while this system I’ve assembled does not eclipse my six figure reference setup, it does nail the fundamentals so well, that it’s easy to forget that you aren’t listening to a much more expensive system. Listening to music that isn’t terribly demanding on the frequency extremes, like the new James Taylor album, Covers, or perhaps some chamber music will easily fool you into thinking you are listening to something a lot more expensive.

Elicit Detail 1

What fools you into thinking that you are listening to much more expensive gear is the tonality that this amplifier provides. While you won’t confuse the Elicit for a tube amplifier, it does have a drop of warmth to the presentation, sounding closer to the Luxman 590 (All class-A) than say the Moon i-7 or the SuperNait. Listening to my favorite classical discs was very pleasant indeed, with the Elicit having an unmistakable ”rightness” about it.

I briefly added the Luxman D-7 combination player that we have in for review, so that I could listen to the new Analogue Productions SACD release of Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus and it was awesome, showing off the dynamic capabilities of this amplifier. When Sonny blasts away, the Elicit did a fantastic job at capturing the transient attack. I had equally good luck with some of my favorite Mahler and Shostakovich discs. At moderate to loud levels, I always felt like there was enough headroom to enjoy the music without strain.

The Elicit’s performance under torture is also worth mentioning. I spent a few hours working outside the studio and had a good playlist full of Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and Snow Patrol playing, running the Elicit at full volume for about four hours straight. The heatsinks got a little warm, but not hot to the touch, indicating robust build quality.

At the risk of sounding vague, the Elicit is very musical. While some solid-state amplification, especially at this price point can sound somewhat harsh and fatiguing, this was never the case with the Rega. Towards the end of the review period, I moved it to my desktop system with a pair of Stirling Broadcast LS3/5a’s and MartinLogan Grotto i subwoofer. This system has incredible midrange detail and a very smooth high end along with an uncanny amount of resolution listening nearfield. Anything that is the least bit fatiguing will become torture during 10-hour Photoshop editing sessions.

Having spent the last two weeks of producing the August issue, listening to this combination nonstop, it was always enjoyable, even after 12-hour shifts, playing a very wide variety of music. I’m sure the parts quality and all discrete circuitry had a lot to do with this.

The hidden jewel

I was not prepared for the surprise that I had when I plugged my P3-24 into the Elicit. I have reviewed a number of integrated amplifiers and preamplifiers that charge $500-700 dollars for a plug in phono board that aren’t nearly as well executed as this one is. While I used Rega’s P3-24 with the Clearaudio Maestro Wood at first, I was so impressed with what I heard, I even upped the game, going to my P9 and Grado Statement combination. While this was pushing things beyond the resolution of the onboard phono stage, it still sounded great.
Elicit phono
The internal phono board more than held it’s own when comparing it to a few of the $700 external phono stages I’ve had the opportunity to sample, so for many vinyl lovers, this will be a great place to start. Being solid state, it is extremely quiet with good dynamics and an amazingly open top end for an under $200 upgrade.

Granted the internal phono stage will pale in comparison to Regas Ios (which costs as much as the Elicit), but it’s a great place to start. That being said, using the P9 with the Ios and the Rega Apheta MC cartridge was very impressive indeed. Not a bad way to go for a compact, all analog system!

A great alternative to separates

With integrateds gaining momentum all the time, if you haven’t investigated them in a few years, you will be taken back by just how much performance is now available. The Elicit is the perfect amplifier for someone who wants a high performance music system, regardless of configuration. The fact that you need fewer cords and cables is a big bonus.

Remember, what you get for $3,200 is a preamplifier, a darn good phono preamplifier and a power amplifier all on one chassis. Even buying modest interconnects in an all separates system would be another few hundred dollars and you would require a lot more rack space to get the job done.

It’s also very important to point out that while some of you in the audience might not quite grasp the significance of this $3000 British integrated, Rega has never made an integrated at this price point. They’ve built an amazing reputation on their Brio at $695 and the Mira at $1195, so this is big bucks for Rega. The Elicit offers so much at this price point because Rega builds their products in quantity and everything shares similar casework and packing materials. Unlike some boutique products that penalize the owner for building in small numbers, Rega reaps the rewards for running a tight ship and passes those savings on to their customers.

I defy anyone to put together more performance with a separate power amplifier, preamplifier and phono preamplifier at this price point. I’m happy to say that we are purchasing the review sample to become part of the permanent collection here at TONEAudio.

Elicit Front_silver

The Rega Elicit
MSRP: $2,995


Analog sources Rega P3-24, Rega P9, Rega IOS phono stage

Digital sources Rega Saturn, Luxman D-7i
Speakers Harbeth Compact 7ES -3, MartinLogan Spire, Stirling Broadcast LS3/5a

Cable Furutech Reference III (speaker and interconnect)

Accessories Running Springs Haley with Mongoose power cords, Finite Elemente Pagode Signature Rack