This is a review of Rega’s excellent new Planar 2, like its sibling Planar 3 a leap forward in merit and quality from the box to the ear. Rega has made a bold move in upgrading their range of award winning and top selling turntables in this new burgeoning market† and the project has been a huge success in my view. The styling is characteristically cool, the price is characteristically high value and of course the performance is characteristically exceptional.
Given that the key selling points of Rega are ‘characteristically’ similar, this may imply little change but far from it. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this but the Planar 2 feels like the old ‘award winning’ RP3, I’m sure the Planar 1 will be step up to the RP2 and the Planar 3 is the boldest step forward of them all given its historic pace-setting position in the market (see my review here). So a lot has changed but at no noticeable cost in performance.
† vinyl record sales are at a 28 year high, so says Fortune magazine (Apr ’16) and when Bieber and Taylor Swift are putting music out on vinyl, you know it is a growing market!.
Out of the Box
I made a point of timing how on it took me to carefully unbox my pristine Planar 2, set it up and play something. It took me about ten minutes. The Planar 2 is similar in weight to the new Planar 3 but does just feel that little bit lighter. Given I feel a turntable should weigh as much as possible, 5.5 kg seems to be a bit light for me. However, the assembly is minimal, placing the 10mm thick ‘optiwhite’ platter gets you right in the mood. Balancing the arm with the new screw-on balancing weight is simple and applying the tracking force takes two screws (360 degrees), equating to the 2 grammes the standard supplied Carbon cartridge requires. There is no bias adjustment, it is automatic, so it really couldn’t be easier.
The Planar 2 is very attractive to look at, as is the Planar 3. My sample as you can see in the next section is black but the Planar 2 is also available in high gloss acrylic white. I am sure more colours will come along as the products mature (I love Rega’s gloss red colour) but my suggestion of a Farrow & Ball (posh Cotswolds paint!) range of coloured plinths was widely derided! The only slight problem I have with the shiny black finish is the fingerprint issue. It is a nightmare. Go for white if you have OCD type fingerprint issues!
Specifically, the Planar 2 has a new design tonearm, it is a custom hollow aluminium tonearm, called the RB220. There is a stiffer & lighter-weight bearing housing which incorporates automatic bias adjustment, which makes set-up a lot easier (as I found). The new arm housing has a new arm clip for holding the tonearm securely which I certainly prefer to the older clip. The cartridge shell pick up design is retained and is ergonomically lovely.
The Planar 2 features a new 24V low noise, low vibration motor however I do not think it is upgradable in the same way the motor can be upgraded in the Planar 3. The Planar 2 is fired up with the power switch on the underside in the same way as the new Planar 3. Speed adjustment with the belt adjustment remains under the platter as before. No problem. Also of note, as you can see in the next section below, are the lighter cables from the tonearm compared to the Planar 3.
I have noted no quality issues at all and the box design has certainly been improved. Cartridge alignment was perfect so I had no use for the alignment protractor, save for checking the factory set-up. As you would expect , performance has been a joy, see below.
Spot the Difference
I thought this picture would be interesting, the Planar 2 is as good to look at the Planar 3. The same (I think) lid is used on both new turntables, for the purposes of my testing I generally don’t bother with the lid.
Planar 2 Performance
I am listening to the Planar 2 through the Rega Elicit-R integrated amplifier with the built-in moving magnet cartridge input. As with the Planar 3, this is a truly excellent partner for this product. My speakers are still my trusty B&W CM7s bi-wired with Atlas cabling.
The first thing I tried was a rejuvenated (cleaned properly) copy of Darklands by Jesus and Mary Chain from 1987. Side B, of course. ‘April Skies’ (I was there the first time round) is a
definitive ‘goth’ classic and one that I am pretty familiar with. The Carbon cartridge is able to dig out the formidable bass line with ease here and it is a very pleasant, if dark (musically) sound. Encouraged by such a robust and full sound coming from the Planar 2 I thought I should pick something a fraction more refined before heading for my ‘goto’ vinyl of choice, Ryan Adams.
A really nice vinyl album I like at the moment is James Bay’s ‘Chaos and the Calm’. This is my choice for refinement (meaning high production value), guitars, pianos and vocals at the moment (yep, I’m a year behind everyone, buy hey). The Planar 2 handles the delicate track, ‘Move Together’, wonderfully, presenting clear and detailed vocals and the acoustic guitars with ease, this is a very comfortable listen and really is quite remarkable for the price of this turntable. Try ‘Let It Go’ on this album too as an alternative to the ‘Frozen’ version! Oh, and ‘Scars’ for the guitar intro!
Finally, feeling very happy with everything I had heard to date it was time for some Ryan Adams, ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’, my very favourite piece of vinyl. Side 3, which includes ‘Sylvia Plath’ is wonderful with the depth of the Carnegie Hall being transferred into my room, showing the Planar 2 drawing out the detail in the record with every piano key, harmonica breath and chord delivered by our modern day Dylan!
If you can afford it and you need your entry level turntable the Planar 2 is a winner
I am very impressed with this Planar 2, it works particularly well with the accomplished Rega Elicit-R integrated amplifier. Although you may argue the amplifier is possibly mismatched price wise at over £1500. The Planar 2 retails at £375 including the carbon cartridge which is surely a bargain at this time. If you can afford the Planar 3, I think I would go for that as a longer term investment, if you can’t afford the Planar 2, wait for the Planar 1. If you can afford it and you need your entry level turntable the Planar 2 is a winner. Remember you’ll need a phono stage when you’re budgeting for turntables, in my case this was incorporated in the amplifier.
Value for money
Ease of set-up
Plug and play
I was twenty years younger
Can’t really wish for anything more at this price.
The Planar 2 retails at £375 including the carbon cartridge.
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