this is the best CD player I’ve ever heard
This is my review of the Rega Isis CD player. It may be unfashionable talking about CDs, especially after Rega’s recent sponsored Record Store Day, but this is the best CD player I’ve ever heard.
probably the best integrated amplifier I’ve ever heard too!
I’m reviewing it with Rega’s Osiris integrated amplifier, probably the best integrated amplifier I’ve ever heard too! With the Planar 8 on the opposite side of the bench with the Rega Aura Phono stage, what more can I say?
There is loads going on with this top loading CD that makes for a pure quality CD sound. Rega has gone for no amplification in the internal DAC. This is meant to make for a purer sound when the current output is amplified to produce a pure analogue output. Intuitively this sounds good to me, less messing about at the critical stages. The analogue section of the Rega Isis employs two Burr Brown PCM1794 digital to analogue converters, running in a parallel dual mono mode, the digital section has 10 separate power supply regulators in the circuit so every stage is being absolutely optimised for pure performance to generate a “wide dynamic range, low distortion, and linear signal”.
The Rega Isis (and Osiris integrated amplifier) come with their own big, punchy power leads and the Isis also comes with Rega interconnects that I am using into the Osiris. The quality is all laid out by the sheer weight of the box and the device itself. The Isis comes in with a custom solid anodised aluminium case weighing in at 19 kg and has the following dimensions: W 434mm x D 350mm x H 112mm. Because the CD is top loading style you’ll need a bit of head room. The Osiris amplifier, incidentally, probably wouldn’t stand stacking given the size of the gills at the side if it was being heavily driven.
Rega Isis Performance
My review is based on the leads and interconnects from Rega and I’m using Jern 14 speakers supported by a REL 5i sub woofer on a Jern cast iron base. The Jern 14 speakers are pinpoint perfect and are designed with the REL support in mind; when I reviewed them, I said at the time “I cannot commend these speakers enough, for the money they are out of this world.” Fitting for me then that they should present the output from such a premium system, don’t take my word for it, just read the reviews on the Jern site, they all say the same. I’m using the excellent QED Supremus speaker cable.
It is difficult to look purely at the CD player because I am also using the Osiris amplifier and it is similarly priced and similarly fantastic.
However, having hooked up the Isis to my long standing Roksan Kandy K2 integrated amplifier, output characteristics are similar, though the volume knob is at a different angle to the Osiris! In the past I have had the Elicit-R and absolutely loved the ‘baby’ Brio but the Osiris is on another level just in terms of presentation and power. We are at the highest level here.
Tons and acres and lakes of bass that I have previously not noticed
So to the Rega Isis then. Previously my favourite CD player has been the Oppo UDP-205 CD player, which is a bit odd as it is designed as a Blu Ray disc player. My first impression is immediate. Tons and acres and lakes of bass that I have previously not noticed, driven by the Osiris but presented perfectly by the Isis source. Many people will say spend money on the source, like the best turntable you can afford, like a Planar 8 or the best streamer, etc. Here the Isis confirms this thinking in spades, it is truly a proper Reference source.
The first track I’ve played on the Isis is ‘Let it Go’ (not that version) by James Bay, my daughter sang it at a concert recently, opening my mind to the lyrics which I had failed to understand! It is a really good song, well produced but I have never heard the bass line behind this track until now. What a track and guitar, and lyrics.
I have now come to the view that separates are the way forward with most things, take bean to coffee machines. If the coffee machine itself is great but the bean grinder breaks you’re done, no coffee. With HiFi, if the CD player moves on, or the streamer technology moves forward, you are only having to re-invest in one component. It’s just pure sense and this is the CD player to listen to.
The Isis CD player is really very rhythmic and musical… it has an analogue feel rather than just a raw clean, impersonal CD player
Time to go to the CD collection, and I realise I have so many missing discs these days, with kids and less attention being paid to them. It is time for ‘Amnesiac’, what an album. The Isis presents the cymbals wide open with the Osiris in ‘You and Whose Army?’. The pianos in the ‘Pyramid Song’ are perfection. Next to some James Bay guitar. ‘Scars’ is another fine track from ‘The Chaos and the Calm’, the guitars again are crisp and clear.
As I travel through my CD collection I come across Malcolm McClaren and the Bootzilla Orchestra’s ‘Waltz Darling’ from 1985, 36 minutes of musical gold. The album is a rangy with classical, pop and dance fusion styles. It is wonderful and after not hearing it for a long time now it is dynamic and comes across with such joy. The Isis CD player is really very rhythmic and musical; in discussion I ended up with a thought it has an analogue feel rather than just a raw clean, impersonal CD player. Appropriate from Rega, king of the turntable, of course.
I was, at this point, ready for a little ‘In Rainbows’ but I simply don’t have the CD itself. So I put the vinyl on the still here Planar 8 through the Rega Aura phono stage.
I have an SACD so I thought I would put this in. It is from Linn, and it sounds fantastic, clean, soft and the resolution is electric. What a sound.
USB Input 16 bit 44.1kHz
I realise at the end of my loan term with the Rega Isis whilst flicking through the manual, it has USB input, so it can be a streamer too, with the right separate. So I grab the Atlas USB C-B cable and I am away. I fire up my 24 bit OK Computer files, they are converted to analogue at 16 bits by the Isis DAC as that is the CD quality level, but it sounds lovely. What a bonus, just as I was thinking how good the DAC is on board. Then, of course, I put ‘In Rainbows’ on again.
Finally with the USB connected I fire up Tidal Desktop on my laptop and have a listen to my current indulgence, the amazing jazz/rap artist Loyle Carner, with the Ezra Collective, ‘What Am I to Do?’.
…the sheer beauty, both musically and aesthetically, of these Rega products
I’m a ‘Naim-boy’ I love the sound and the philosophy, but then I heard Moon by SimAudio and now I’m not so sure about Naim (but I’ll make do!!). Now I’ve heard Rega’s Reference Series and I just do not know where I stand. I am heavily invested in Naim for many historical reasons and I did say in recent post that if I was starting again I would probably go to Moon, but really, I’m changing my mind with the sheer beauty, both musically and aesthetically, of these Rega products. The grass is always greener though, isn’t it…
No Love, Like, Wish this week. I love, love, love this Rega CD player, with the Osiris amp, there is nothing I would wish for.
The Rega Isis is retailing near £6,400 and the Osiris is retailing near the same figure.
Some spare Isis pics.
Some spare Rega Osiris pics.