Rega design and make turntables for all budgets. Ian Peel finds out how their ultra-high-end deck fares when paired with some top separates and some heavy doses of Stevie Nicks and ABC…
Additional equipment Naim amp, Sopra speakers and REL subs
This month, we’re travelling up to the very top of the turntable ivory tower, to the floor marked Rega, where the Essex-based hi-fi stalwarts have the RP10 at the top of their range. Coming in at an eye-watering £5,498 (including the Aphelion MC cartridge), we had to match it up with a similarly salubrious set of separates.
So we added one of Rega’s Aria phono stages (£798), notable for its full aluminium casing to completely screen any stray RH signals. Next up, a two-stage amplification system courtesy of Naim Audio: a NAC-N 272 streaming pre-amp (£3,469) and a NAP 250 DR power amp (£3,680).
In terms of speakers, a very striking pair of Sopra No.1s from Focal (£6,999) complemented – and this was a first for me, too – a pair of (as opposed to a single unit) sub-woofers: the S/5 SHO from REL Acoustics (£1,999). That’s a mortgage-sized system; more than 20 grand in total. So let’s play some records!
First up, something contemporary: ABC’s The Lexicon Of Love II (the boxset edition of the vinyl). And how glorious it sounds on lead single Viva Love. Every nuance is present, every string flourish reproduced beautifully. The overall effect is joyous, with Martin Fry’s vocals coming across as particularly urgent. The drums and percussion are audible in a way I hadn’t noticed on Spotify: on vinyl, and on this system, they’re very much to the fore, almost in Technicolour.
To put the system through a tougher test, I replaced ABC with Rhino’s recent reissue of Stevie Nicks’ The Wild Heart from 1983. The production, the songwriting and the instrumentation on this album has always come across as somewhat muddy, clunky and – at best – playing it safe. That much I know from my old CD copy.
But the combination of the re-press and the Rega really lifts the music up, lifts the spirits and turns something ‘very 1983’ into something ‘very 2017’. So I headed straight to the album’s pivotal track, I Will Run To You, produced by and performed with Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, and figured this is the exact platform a 180-gram repress is designed to be played on.
The look and feel of this turntable is a delight. As you can see, it’s sparring with Wilson Benesch’s Circle 25 (as reviewed in Issue 2) in the looks department. But whereas the Benesch’s design is the height of modern art, the Rega is a little less avant-garde. Easier on the eye, but still with a ‘wow’ factor.
I was as impressed by the build as the design; the deck is incredibly light, built on a skeletal plinth made out of polyolefin foam at its core – Rega’s latest experiment in a quest to find not only the lightest, but also the most rigid, of plinths. Sitting on top of this is an incredibly heavy ceramic platter; and the included-as-standard RB2000 tonearm is generally regarded as the company’s best to date.
It’s interesting to see the 45rpm and 33rpm switches positioned not on the turntable itself, for a change, but on the separate power supply (an RP10-specific piece of Rega kit, yet to be marketed and sold separately). This keeps any prodding away from the more delicate parts of the deck, though we did make sure to move the power supply at least one level of shelving down from the deck itself, to stop any transformer hum being picked up by the cartridge.
The deck worked in perfect harmony with the subs from REL Acoustics (which, very handily, plug straight into the left and right speakers, as opposed to into the amplifier). They seemed to audibly pressurise the room, keeping everything tight and within its four walls. I feared that without them, no matter how hard the Rega worked to reproduce the bass, it would have been dissipated through the partition walls, down into the floor.
What we have here is a specific sort of high-end turntable. The sort for people who play records quite a lot. You could spend the same amount of money on a high-end deck that’s designed and engineered to within an inch of its life –fine if you maybe play a favourite piece of vinyl once a month. But if it’s more of a daily habit and money is no object, this is the turntable to go for.