Rega Planar 1 £249
The similarity between the Planar 1 story and that of its big brother, the 3, is striking. Both are long-running designs that have been carefully honed over the decades. That evolution has kept both right at the cutting edge of performance at their respective price levels.
Much like its big brother, this latest generation of Planar 1 has seen major changes, despite showing little outward sign of the progress made. Pretty much everything you see has undergone some form of modification, from the Thermoset, gloss-laminated plinth, with its on/off switch hiding beneath the front left corner, to the new RB110 tone arm with its precision bearings and automatic bias adjustment. Even the platter has a higher mass than the last version, which improves speed stability by increasing the flywheel effect.
There are also hand-me-downs from higher up the range. The Rega Carbon MM cartridge (also supplied on the pricier Planar 2 deck) is fitted as standard, and this is the first of Rega’s entry-level turntables to house a 24V synchronous AC motor with an aluminium pulley, offering low noise and, again, better speed stability.
It takes a few moments of listening to our first LP of choice, The Tallest Man On Earth’s Dark Bird Is Home, to realise the new Planar 1 is a shoe-in for this Award. We’ve long admired Rega’s spry presentation and it welcomes us like an old friend as Kristian Matsson waves his hand over the album’s opening chords.
This is not an entry-level amount of detail: the roomy-sounding acoustic guitar is complimented by the reverb in Matsson’s first vocal line; the distinction in treatment of each part is clearly audible, setting the vocal apart like a bird gliding low but parallel to the ground.
Some turntable manufacturers could be said to have a tendency for playing up to ‘analogue warmth’, but if you can render a record as faithfully as the Planar 1 does, that warmth of its rivals begins to feel like the sonic equivalent of dousing your Christmas dinner in tomato ketchup.
There is energy in the Planar 1’s rendering of more animated numbers and a solidity that supports the subtler ones, while often its combination of precise timing and broad dynamic reach makes its rivals’ performances sound like half-hearted rehearsals.
No other record player at this price can better the ’1’s depth of engineering or its ability to bring records to life.
Rega’s movingmagnet Carbon cartridge helps the Planar 1 achieve excellence