Rega Planar 8 – Review

Rega Planar 8 – Review


This is my review of the Rega Planar 8, in turntable terms it is beautiful. Drawing heavily from the ultimate Rega turntable the idea was to make the Planar 8 an affordable ‘Naiad’.   The Naiad was Rega’s 40th Anniversary gift to itself that included everything they had learnt from the previous forty years.

Design

(some notes taken from the detail on the Rega site)

Skeletal Plinth

Rega Planar 8Where, for example, Michell Engineering go for mass and muscle with their turntables, Rega have chosen lighter and extremely rigid principles for their recent products, most noticeably this Planar 8.

The Planar 8 is the second Rega turntable constructed using their ultra lightweight Tancast 8 polyurethane foam core (a material developed for the aerospace industry).   This Tancast material is sandwiched between two layers of HPL (high pressure laminate). HPL is exceptionally thin and extremely rigid.  Therefore this Rega Planar 8 is 30% lighter than the original RP8, that was itself a skeletal design.

The Rega Planar 8 features the double brace technology between the tonearm and the bearing hub that creates rigidity and removes unwanted  energy absorption and unwanted resonances.

RB880 tonearm

Rega Planar 8The RB880 tonearm has a zero tolerance bearing assembly adjusted to less than 1000th of a mm, this gives friction free movement and zero levels of unwanted play.   A thinner stainless steel balance weight is used, allowing greater adjust-ability and compatibility.  Finally, the RB880 is terminated with a re-designed, low capacitance phono cable terminated with high quality, locking phono plugs to ensure the best possible connection.

The RB808 uses the latest Rega arm tube. Completely redesigned to redistribute mass, further reduce stresses and resonances.   This advanced design tube increases the stiffness and rigidity of the overall assembly and certainly adds to the Planar 8s performance.

I’ve found the Apheta 2 and the tonearm to be remarkably easy to cue up, even with my failing eyesight!.

Hub bearing assembly

The Planar 8 uses a new low mass central bearing assembly. A single piece machined aluminium sub-platter and hardened tool steel spindle run inside a custom brass housing which is cleverly mounted within the chassis. This new mounting is designed to eradicate unwanted potential energy being transferred or stored in the plinth.

Super flywheel effect triple layer glass platter

Rega Planar 8The Planar 8 uses a three piece laminated glass platter which is the result of collaboration with a British glass engineering company. This brand new platter is constructed from two different high quality Pilkington glasses. As a general rule the only part of a turntable that requires extra mass is the turntable platter in order to achieve constant rotational speed. However, a heavier platter creates more problems for the main bearing design so again an ideal compromise creates the best solution. Practically this means keeping as much of the mass to the outside rim of the glass platter to create more flywheel effect but keeping the inside of the platter as light as possible without sacrificing stiffness.

24v Low noise motor assembly

The Planar 8 uses Rega’s latest generation, 24v, synchronous, low vibration motor technology. Uniquely mounted using the highest level of coupling while retaining higher vibration isolation than any previous model. this new motor mounting technique (mounted from the bottom) has been taken directly from the ultimate Rega turntable, the Naiad. This unique mounting method removes all stress on the motor body. The reduced vibration and more rigid mounting delivers superior drive from the new EBLT drive belts.

Each motor is hand tuned to match its own custom Neo power supply before fitting to the turntable to optomise the anti-vibration circuit.

EBLT Drive Belts

Rega Planar 8For three years Rega has been researching and developing with chemists the use of a bespoke new rubber compound for drive belts.   Using a specialised curing system, the new drive belt offers superior consistency of modulus (a constant representing the degree to which a substance has a particular property, especially elasticity).  These new belts are manufactured on Rega designed, state of the art, super-accurate tools which produce ‘perfectly round’ and ‘dimensionally accurate’ belts, critical for perfect speed stability.  The drive belts on the new Planar 8 come in a pair.

Neo PSU

Rega Planar 8The Neo PSU offers a smooth power supply, an advanced anti-vibration circuit and fine electronic speed adjustment. It uses the RP10 DSP (digital signal processing) generator built upon a high stability crystal. The DSP generator will divide the accurate signal from the crystal to the exact frequency required to turn the platter at the selected speed. The DSP generator will also produce a near perfect sinusoidal waveform to drive the motor.   This, along with an efficient drive amplifier, generates a 24V, AC balanced signal of less than 0.15% distortion, which is completely unaffected by any changes in the mains/line voltage and conditions. This then drives the turntable’s anti-vibration circuit, which is situated beneath the turntable.

Apheta 2 MC

Rega Planar 8The new Apheta 2  cartridge features a super high-powered, neodymium magnet and a coil meticulously hand wound on an iron cross that is fifty percent smaller than the original.   This weight reduction allows Rega greater freedom to track the vinyl groove ensuring even more detail is extracted from the vinyl.

To further enhance the design, the Apheta 2 is housed within a completely redesigned, single piece, aluminium anodised body and protected by a CAD designed, clear rigid cover to protect the internal fine wires, making handling whilst fitting, safe and risk free.

Quality

I’ve not gazed at a cartridge as much as at this Apheta 2, …it just looks like a work of art

As with much HiFi these days you can genuinely feels the quality whether it is in the assembly of the product (couldn’t be easier) or the feel of the components.

The feel of the plinth is soft on the hand and foam body of the plinth feels like honeycomb and it is exposed to the eye.

The plinth and platter are perfectly flat on my surface, there is no opportunity to level them off if that was required, my bullseye spirit level is on point.   This reflects the engineering in the feet, plinth and overall design, I guess.  As my Rega friend said, “we make it perfectly rigid and level, it’s up to you to put it on something flat”; good point, well made.

Rega Planar 8

Apheta 2 Cartridge

Another feature, I noticed, my records seem to appear very flat, more than normal, sounds weird.  Maybe I’ve not gazed at a cartridge as much as at this Apheta 2, being see-through it just looks like a work of art.  This is obvious but I’m thinking the platter design and fabric mat are combining nicely.

Finally, I’m really liking the design of the Apheta 2 needle and the triangular alignment rig above it.  I am finding cueing up tracks to be a lot easier with this arrangement.

Review set-ups

Initially I had the Rega Planar 8 hooked up, via the Rega Phono MC, to my Naim NAC-N 272 pre-amplifier supported by a NAP250 driving my KEF R700s (with GAIA III feet, see review here!).

Latterly, I’ve had the Rega Planar 8 hooked up to a Rega Osiris amplifier which is a simply stunning combination.

Performance

the Rega Planar 8 has that little bit more, in terms of outstanding style as well as substance

My first impression, and the key to the fabulous sound of this Rega Planar 8, was how deep and voluminous the experience was.   There is no resonant or other noise detectable before the needle is dropped, even at moderately high volume.  The weight and power of the bass is my main take away from this experience and I really like it.  When I put on a very familiar review track, Radiohead’s “Deck’s Dark”, it is immediately deeper and has much more bass, depth even, than I remember with the brilliantly transparent Planar 6.  I recall the Planar 6 being lighter than I expected or wanted and this Planar 8 makes up for this problem, in spades.

After a first run, it was time to cue up the tracks, kicking myself again for not buying a record cleaning system.

Rega Planar 8 with dust cover

There is always some vinyl wise-ass telling you “it’s what you can’t hear, dude”. But I’m not a wise-ass and it really is what you can’t hear, here, because there is no noise floor, background whirring, sinusoidal shuffling, call it what you will at all.

The process of putting a record on this Planar 8 is the same as it ever was but the platter and needle process is such a joy I’ve been up and down like David Byrne’s elbows.

As I turn the Rega Osiris up, the vocal in Tracey Chapman’s ‘Behind the Wall’ is frankly naked and a fraction scary.  The pauses in between the lines are impeccably observed.  There is so much detail in here from the Apheta 2 cartridge. Indeed, I’m searching for detail and resolution at the start before moving onto rhythm and timing so it is time for a newly cleaned copy (by hand slightly disastrously) of ‘In Rainbows’ and the clean guitars in ‘Faust Arp’ are a fabulous listen before ‘House of Cards’ comes along with its characteristic clarity and edge.

Next, I’m off to Ed Sheeran’s ‘divide’ and ‘Eraser’ to start with. This album plays at 45 rpm so a flick of the speed button on the Neo PSU makes things rather easy these days. The drums are deep and effective, the production is also good so everything is delivered very clean indeed.

Then I’m off to sound stage and timing and Dire Straits’ fourth album ‘Love over Gold’ and “Telegraph Road” is just the place to begin. What a sound with the Rega Osiris really powering the track with such force. The soundstage is, once again from Rega, wide open and all the joy and rhythm of vinyl is to be heard here.  After this I need a break with some beautiful song writing and James Bay’s first album, aptly titled ‘Chaos and the Calm’ with ‘Move Together’ sounding like smooth 75% Peruvian chocolate, the individual guitar strings are glorious.

To wind down a bit and write these words I put on ‘Cigarettes after Sex’. As ‘Apocalypse’ envelopes the room the s’s are perfect no hint of sibilance. The Apheta 2 confirms it is an accurate and very exciting cartridge

Rega Osiris

A few thoughts on the Rega Osiris, retailing at over £6,000. It is a pure analogue blockbuster. Where the ‘entry level’ Rega Brio amp is fabulously bouncy and joyful at its price and I personally really loved the pure Class A Rega Elicit-R integrated amplifier, the Osiris is a different beast altogether. There is so much power and drive here I’m going to be really struggling to part with it.

The output from the Osiris is characterised by the sheer physical weight of the Osiris at nearly 26kg out of the box.  I strained my back foolishly trying to dead lift it from the floor 6 or 8 meters across the room. Even the remote control is heavy, it is like a small brick!  My favourite feature, the balanced XLR input that I have from my DAC.

Overall

If you are not going for a Planar 3 and you are looking at the Planar 6 you are obviously committed to some serious vinyl.  If you can afford a jump from the Planar 6 to an 8, I would tighten your belt and go for it.  The Planar 6 is a joy but the Rega Planar 8 has that little bit more, in terms of outstanding style as well as substance with the greater depth and resolution.

Love 

Wonderful deep sound

Ease of Installation

Accuracy of the Apheta 2 cartridge

Like 

The dust cover

Skeletal Design

Wish 

I genuinely would like some crazy colour options

A list of Rega dealers is on their site here.

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