Turntable of the Year $1500-$3000

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The UK’s Rega will need no in­tro­duc­tion to vinyl fans — this turntable brand sur­vived through the sup­posed death of vinyl by ex­pand­ing its elec­tron­ics of­fer­ings, but now finds it­self in an enviable position to ser­vice those re­dis­cov­er­ing the black arts with a se­ries of new and up­graded turntables. Last year its en­try-level Pla­nar 1 took out one of our awards; this year we were trans­ported by the de­liv­ery from the $1999 Pla­nar 6.

You might think this looks a fairly bare-bones kind of turntable for the price (which doesn’t in­clude car­tridge: the two stan­dard of­fer­ings are the pic­tured and re­viewed yel­low mov­ing-mag­net ‘Ex­act’ car­tridge fac­tory-fit­ted as a $2399 pack­age, or the mov­ing-coil Ania car­tridge, a $2799 pack­age). But Rega doesn’t be­lieve in large and solid plinths. Mass ab­sorbs en­ergy, rea­sons Rega, and slowly-re­leased en­ergy adds col­oration, and lost en­ergy equals lost mu­sic. For Rega it’s all about light­ness, stiff­ness and brac­ing. It aims for the light­est pos­si­ble chas­sis, with the stiffest pos­si­ble brace. So the dark sur­face of the plinth is no com­mon plas­tic but a Po­laris high pres­sure lam­i­nate, be­tween the lay­ers of which lies an aero­space-de­vel­oped ul­tra-light­weight polyurethane foam core called Tan­cast 8.

Sim­i­larly the plat­ter has two lay­ers — one smoked-Pilk­ing­ton glass, one Op­tiWhite clear — bonded to­gether so that the outer edge is thicker than the cen­tre, thereby achiev­ing a sta­bil­i­tyen­hanc­ing fly­wheel ef­fect with­out in­creas­ing the plat­ter mass to a level which might af­fect the bear­ing.

And there’s an out­board power sup­ply with elec­tronic speed change and user-ad­justable fine elec­tronic speed ad­just­ment, some­thing which was pre­vi­ously only avail­able on the range-top­ping RP10, show­ing how Rega trick­les its higher lev­els down as tech­nol­ogy al­lows.

Set-up is en­joy­ably sim­ple, and within 15 min­utes we were en­joy­ing its sound — the Rega/Ex­act com­bi­na­tion defin­ing sound­stag­ing more clearly than our ref­er­ence at the price, tight­en­ing the image of, say, a cen­tral vo­cal, but still de­liv­er­ing all the spa­tial im­pres­sion of live record­ings. The best vinyl sounded clean as a whis­tle, tight as a platy­pus pocket, even at full cli­max — not a hint of com­pres­sion, dis­tor­tion or soft edges, but full-on bass and in-yer-face im­pact.

“The Pla­nar 6/Ex­act combo is tight, ac­cu­rate, mu­si­cal and friendly to use, while the off­board elec­tronic speed con­trol car­ries ac­cu­racy to the next level. A won­der­ful turntable.”

(This through a Mu­si­cal Fidelity phono stage.) And while its im­me­di­ately no­table mer­its had a fo­cus on del­i­cacy and de­tail, it could also rock out and cre­ate im­mense bass im­pact with the right record­ings; we loved the way it could en­er­gise the room with a well-recorded LP like Philip Glass’ ‘1000 Air­planes On The Roof’.

Clearly, Rega’s light and rigid en­gi­neer­ing fo­cus is a suc­cess. The Pla­nar 6/Ex­act combo is tight, ac­cu­rate, mu­si­cal and friendly to use. It was al­ways go­ing to fea­ture in our Awards.

More info: www.syn­er­gyau­dio.com

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