Rega Elex-r £949
Give Rega’s Elex-r a high-five; this is the fifth consecutive year that this amplifier has secured a What Hi-fi? Best Buy Award.
Arcam, Audiolab and Cyrus have all released quality rivals for the Elex-r over the years but none has been able to match the Rega’s unique set of talents. This is a very special piece of kit.
The Rega clan is a close-knit family, and the Elex-r resembles its cheaper Brio sibling in a number of ways. Like the Brio it’s an all-analogue affair with a quality moving-magnet phono stage – capable of handling turntables costing well over £1000. It, too, has four line-level inputs and a quality of build that immediately inspires confidence.
The casework is functional rather than luxurious but it’s neatly finished and feels as though it will last for years. Unlike the Brio, though, it has no headphone output. It certainly takes a lean line when it comes to features, but start listening and you’ll soon come to appreciate the value of this amplifier’s single-minded approach.
Listening to the Elex-r is pretty much like having everything that’s good about the Brio but lifted a notch higher – all the Brio but with more brawn. This amp delivers a fast, agile sound that’s as rhythmically surefooted as we’ve heard at this level.
A minute or two listening to the tumbling percussion of Arrested Development’s Children Play With Earth is enough to establish that the Elex-r is head, maybe even shoulders, above anything from its rivals when it comes to rendering rhythms.
There’s an addictive sense of liveliness and energy, something most rivals tend to tone down in the search for greater refinement, and it demonstrates authority and scale better than anything we’ve heard at this price too.
It’s equally at home with a classical or vocal-led piece like Nina Simone’s I Put A
Spell On You. There’s a newfound sense of rawness and realism in her deep, guttural delivery, and the Rega conveys nuances better than any of its peers.
The Elex-r might have crept up in price a bit since it last bagged this Award, but if you want to get to the heart of your music and you’ve got £949 to spend on an amplifier, we’d say spend it here.
Realism and energy abound here – and it’s got rhythm over and above its rivals