Intro paragraph on the Rega Aethos here…..
This is my Rega Aethos HiFi Review. It is a blockbuster of an integrated amplifier, full stop.
This is my Rega Aethos HiFi Review. It is a blockbuster of an integrated amplifier, full stop. It is such a joy and a privilege to be able to run a site like this and the Rega Aethos is the reason why I do this. I’ve had the opportunity of listening to many integrated amplifiers in the last couple of years and this one is right up there in respect of dynamic performance and effortless presentation.
The Rega Aethos is a classic Class A integrated amplifier that has everything you need. There’s no digital faff in here; it is just a full-on 125W per channel analogue amplifier. There are loads of inputs and a really decent headphone output so it has everything you need.
I loved the Rega Brio, priced near £600 at the time (May 2017) and before that the Elicit-R (June 2016), the big sister to the Brio but this Rega Aethos is the big brother Class A integrated amplifier. The Rega Osiris is, of course, the Daddy of them all. This whole range of amplifiers is just perfect for you, depending on your budget and needs. If you’re entering the Hi-Fi world the Brio is simply fabulous and you might struggle to get away from it. The Osiris is THE ONE to aspire to and it appears this Rega Aethos is pitched perfectly in the high end of the middle range of affordable amplifiers on which to build a system of your life.
The Rega Aethos has an all-new custom-designed case. Employing four 160 W 16 Amp output transistors per channel, this delivers 156 W per channel into 6 Ω and 125W into 8 Ω. The pre-amplifier stage uses class-A discrete circuitry throughout. The Power amplifier stage uses a low source impedance Class-A driver stage. This is based around two complementary pairs of 160w Sanken Darlington output transistors. Tbh, there’s a lot more on the Rega site here, basically, it is British craft at its best.
The amplifier is weighty, coming in at 17.5 kg and it is slightly oversized compared to standard-sized equipment. The chassis has a brushed black finish that is cold to the touch, until you turn it on and run it for a while, see below! The cooling fins on the sides are, thankfully rounded off, otherwise, there would be some serious injuries. I really like the Aethos badge on the top, the whole thing is aesthetically gorgeous, in summary, and it looks like it should do!
On the aesthetics, the Aethos does look a lot more attractive than, say, the Elicit-R or even the Osiris, with the curved chassis exposing the fins.
I have the Rega Solaris remote which is rather comprehensive for just the Aethos, but it is good.
I’m using an Oppo Blu-Ray disc player (BDP-105, the 205 is the one to have if you can find one) as my CD source with generally Vertere Redline RCA connectors into the Rega Aethos. Thereafter I’m using a Bluesound Node 2i as a streaming source, though I could use the Oppo. I’m generally using Tidal Masters. My output is to my Jern 14 DS speakers supported by a REL T/5i subwoofer. I have QED Supremus speaker cable. The sub is bare wired to the Aethos terminals that have a hole in them for ease of wiring. This helps me with timing in particular.
I did have the Do Acoustics speakers for a while as reviewed in this article, they were great, but I am a bit more familiar with my Jern speakers so this seemed a better review option.
For the headphones, I’m listening to some Oppo PM-2s and also some Focal Spirit headphones that are functional but relatively decent.
My Rega Aethos came with a Rega power lead, big and thick and this is standard on this product I believe.
Here’s my Aethos playlist (there’s no mistake, Boyzone are meant to be there! There are some weird ones in here that I’ve taken from other reviews as it is always interesting to see what people are listening to listen to. My standard listens are in here too; Ryan Adams, Radiohead’s House of Cards, etc.
The Oppo BDP-105D is the best CD source I have and one of the best in my view. It is clean, has a ‘Pure Audio’ setting that turns off everything that is not needed and it sounds great.
….here I have a huge effortless soundstage
I’ve hypothesized many times that the amplifier sets the tone of a system and here I have a huge effortless soundstage, the Jerns easily handle the power and they go loud, blimey.
In Rainbows, in particular House of Cards, on CD from the Oppo is fantastic, and the presence and the dominant image is captivating (listened to the album twice!). Separately, I love the layering in Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes and again the complexity is handled well by the Aethos and the crystal clear Jern 14 DS speakers. I really have this Rega Aethos singing.
I’m also using the Oppo as a 2.1 cinema source with a small short throw projector. The Aethos delivers the 2.1 sound brilliantly and the dialogue is clear with Netflix and really very impressive indeed. I’ve wasted so much time watching Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense on this set-up!
Streaming Bluesound Node 2i
I’m using the desktop Blu OS App with the outstanding Node 2i. Although I may prefer the Auralic Altair G1 Streaming Source or better still the Vega with this amplifier the Node 2i offers a fine source as an alternate.
The resolution through this amplifier is beautiful. A morning of listening to Van Morrison on MQA can prove this to you. Into the Mystic by Van, in MQA quality is a really dreamy experience and takes me away from the incredible madness of 2020. Channel separation is clear and very noticeable in such tracks as Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Flight from the City and the snappy snares in Father Mountain by Calexico with Iron and Wine are just brilliantly delivered. Nils Frahm’s pianos sound wonderful too.
The headphone socket is perfect, the big one, 1/4″ for a start so that it takes proper headphones. It cuts the output to the speakers without bother and it is clean. The imaging and channel separation is perfect to the ear.
Just before the Rega Aethos went home I thought I would put it in our kitchen/living area where I have the excellent Naim Uniti Star. I noticed it had a pre-amp out, making it the ideal daily streaming source. I have a pair of wonderful KEF R700s hooked up here too. So swapping over the amplifier duties to the Rega Aethos was a simple matter and using the pre-out from the Uniti Star with some new Vertere Redline RCAs served two purposes.
The difference in the performance of the R700s was immediate with the track What Heaven’s Left, again by Calexico with Iron and Wine. The KEFs do need plenty of pushing to get the bass extension and in a relatively short space of time as the Aethos warmed up the KEFs kicked in. The energy and volume in the room are immediately noticeable and the soundstage, front and centre are very enjoyable indeed. It was well worth the slightly odd set-up to hear the KEFs with the Aethos.
The Aethos runs hot, and I mean hot! But who cares, if you don’t sweat after a workout you’re not doing it properly. As a Naim owner, I’m used to leaving stuff on all the time but the Aethos is up and running beautifully after a pretty short space of time because I’m turning it off after a session. No problem.
I did notice the Aethos was a bit cooler with the Uniti Star, probably because I was setting the Uniti’s Gain setting to 100 (maximum) so the Aethos was doing less work? I am not sure on my electronics here but the empirical evidence suggested as much.
Finally, the only very minor gripe I have is the volume control on the remote is a bit too sensitive, but the volume control itself is perfectly effective.
I would quite like a balanced input option with the Aethos. That’s not available but if you were going to match a decent DAC with this amplifier, like an Auralic Vega, you would probably favour balanced output from it. It’s only a small thing and frankly, it sounds great anyway from an RCA connected digital source so I’ll move on.
…..so you’re really in for the Rega Aethos
As I have mentioned above, my experience of this whole Rega range from Brio to Osiris has been nothing short of pure dynamic joy and I can’t recommend these amplifiers highly enough, I would love to build my review system around the Aethos, among others.
It is obvious to me to make a comparison with the iconic Naim Supernait 3, reviewed here. The Naim Supernait 3, which is priced around £500 more than the Aethos is similarly impressive, dynamic, yet understated. The key differentiator is the Supernait 3 has a very impressive MM Phono input built-in finally. Naim has found a way of installing a MM input that would not be compromised by the power input. This is worth considering if vinyl is part of your HiFi requirement. Another amplifier consideration to think about is a requirement for digital signal input that the likes of Micromega and Anthem offer in the packages. These amplifiers were both very nice indeed though I would say that you’d need to be clear on your needs and have a good listen.
However, the balance of probabilities is that if you are looking at the Aethos and you already have a Rega Planar 6, 8 or 10 (or a 3?) you will have a matching phono stage so all of that goes away and I may suggest in that case you are going to want a dedicated DAC in any case, so you’re really in for the Rega Aethos.
All things considered and with an excellent headphone output, this Rega Aethos is the analogue blockbuster that you need to listen to, particularly if you have a high numbered new Planar turntable. It’s an ‘Outstanding’ recommendation for me, I’ve not got a ‘Blockbuster’ one yet, I’m working on it though!
Usual Rega understated look
A more subtle remote volume control
(from the Rega Site, Aug 2020)
Power outputs at rated 230/115 V supply voltage:
125 W RMS both channels driven into the rated load of 8 Ω
156 W RMS both channels driven into 6 Ω
No load 12.5 V
32 Ω 2.7 V
54 Ω 4 V
300 Ω 9 V
Source impedance 109 Ω
Record output level (with rated input levels) 219 mV
Record output impedance 560 Ω
Pre-amp output level (with rated input levels) 840 mV
Pre-amp output impedance 100 Ω
Input sensitivities for rated output level:
Input 1-5 and record input sensitivity 224 mV @ 17 kΩ
Maximum input level 11.5 V (record output amplifier overload point)
Direct input sensitivity 840 mV @ 50 kΩ
Power amplifier gain 31.6 dB
Frequency response @ 100 W into 8 Ω:
Line input 1-5 and record 10 Hz (-0.8 dB point) to 30 kHz (-0.5 dB point)
Direct input 10 Hz (-0.8 dB point) to 50 kHz (-0.5 dB point)
THD+Noise @ 100 W into 8 Ω:
Direct input (Power amplifier only) Typically 0.007% @ 1kHz (measurement bandwidth 22 Hz to 30 kHz)
Fuse ratings T5 AL 250 V – 230 V/ 50 Hz and 220 V / 60 Hz
T8 AL 250 V – 115 V / 60 Hz and 100 V 50/60 Hz
Dimensions W 433 mm x H 95 mm x D 360 mm (including speaker terminals)
Weight 17.5 kg