I have been fortunate to have listened to a lot of Rega equipment here at hifiandmusicsource.com. My experience started in 2016 with the Rega Elicit-R integrated amplifier, which remains one of my favourites. The updated Brio reviewed a year later, blew me away on price and performance.
With the stunning Brio (rated at 50W per channel) retailing near £600, an even more affordable amplifier model was needed to support the Rega’s Planar 1 and Planar 2 entry-level turntables. Three years after conception Rega’s Io was born, based upon the electronics in the updated 2017 Brio (that itself was an update of the original Brio) but rated at 30W per channel. It was launched in March 2020 at the beginning of the global pandemic and has been so successful that Rega has been working flat out to keep up with demand.
Rega has also just launched its Kyte entry-level two-way speakers priced at £499. A review of these new Kytes will follow on this site in the coming weeks. The Kytes take their name and heritage from a line of bookshelf speakers successfully introduced by Rega in 1993.
The Io and the Kyte are set to form part of a new one-box packaged system called the Rega System 1 that includes a Planar 1 turntable and a length of speaker cable. This system is slated to roll out in the Autumn this year and is likely to be priced near £1,000-1,100.
The Rega Io has class A/B electronics and is completely analogue with two line-level inputs and an input for moving-magnet cartridge from a turntable, like a Rega Planar 1 or 2. There is a built-in headphone amplifier with a 3.5mm jack socket on the front and remote control is supplied.
The Rega Io is just 180 x 68 x 290mm (WxHxD), a footprint that will sit on a sheet of A4, and it weighs in at 2.9kg. The Io retails at £379. You can look up the Rega Io specification on their website with this link.
The Rega Io is a compact box with a matt black metal chassis. The shiny black plastic front facia has the illuminated red ‘REGA’ logo at the centre. The input selection is managed by a single button.
The rear of the Io is solidly built with nothing wobbling or moving. The loudspeaker binding posts are silver-plated to save on cost but seem shallow to me with my banana speaker plug terminations on the speaker cable sticking out several millimetres even though they are fully inserted. The RCA inputs are fine and well spaced and have enough room for fat fingers.
Initially, I had the Io set up in place of the Naim Uniti Star in my kitchen/living space. I was using the Uniti Star as a streaming preamplifier with RCA output to the Io. With this arrangement, The Rega Io was driving my pair of old KEF R700s that are rated at 89dB sensitivity into 8ohms. I am using Atlas Achromatic speaker cables and the new Atlas Ailsa interconnectors to the Uniti.
Soundstage and dynamics
Using the Uniti Star at unity preamplifier output the Io is surprisingly dynamic. I say surprisingly because the Io’s 30W per channel compared to the Star’s integrated 70W made me check I was using the Io in the first place. Starting in Qobuz with Daft Punk’s Get Lucky (24-bit/88.2kHz) I was looking for dynamic performance and to hear if the thump from my familiar KEFs was still there. The Io delivered this with the bass port breathing heavily, it was a strong performance at a good volume.
I moved on to Dire Straits and their hit track Private Investigations (Qobuz, 16-bit/44.1kHz) from Love Over Gold. There are several sharp guitar blasts as the track reaches a conclusion from the quieter phases and this demands a rapid dynamic response which the Io copes with well. The channel separation in the guitar/xylophone interaction (about 4 min 30 sec in) of the track is clear and the resolution when the glass is dropped in the background (around 5 min 40 sec) is all handled with ease by the Io. I have a Qobuz playlist here.
It was inevitably time to plug in a turntable and I have an and old-school RP3 fitted with an Elys 2 moving-magnet cartridge. I have to say that it is great having the RP3 plugged straight into the MM input of the Io amplifier and not have to bother with the phono stage set up. This is surely one of the key advantages of a good phono stage in an amplifier and Rega has all the expertise you need.
I put on a near new copy of Live Drugs by the War on Drugs, what a great record this is. The War on Drugs selected their best live pieces from over 40 hard drives for this album from a period of several years. Their recording of Accidently Like Martyr, a cover of the bittersweet track written by Warren Zevon and covered by just about everyone, is a perfect track for me. This first run vinyl pressing comes over with such a large soundstage for such a small amplifier and the energy and vibrancy of the music is conveyed with ease by the Io.
I checked that the punch from the amplifier was there in the MM input with my original copy of Peter Gabriel’s So and the track Sledgehammer. My version is the original and that background intro that was accidentally cut on the record a bar too early is there, and the Io is so revealing that it delivers this clearly. The punch from the Io was confirmed too.
Klipsch Heresy IV
I was intrigued as to how the Io would perform with the Klipsch Heresy IV speakers that I was so impressed with recently. With a high sensitivity rating of 99dB, the Io drove the Hereseys with ease, as expected.
I concluded my time with the Io with a full run-through of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. The Io is such a fine performer it is almost impossible to understand how Rega has delivered such value for money. Finally, I realised how quiet the MM input is in the background, but of course, Rega does have many years of experience in building phono stages.
Using a pair of Focal for Bentley Radiance headphones I have a late evening play with the headphone output. The speaker output is terminated on inserting the headphone jack and the performance of the headphone output is more than very acceptable. The Radiance headphones retain their dynamism and fast response in Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.
I did have a listen with a pair of more reasonably priced headphones, a pair of Focal Spirit, since the Radiance headphones are over two and half times the price of the Io and the performance was still exceptionally good.
There is a functional remote control to manage volume and source input but with such an analogue system I have not used it, except to see if works.
As a package with 2 line inputs, a remote, a headphone amplifier and a very good moving-magnet input stage, this is an absolutely outstanding amplifier
My time with Rega’s Io integrated amplifier makes me remember how much fun I had when starting out on my hi-fi journey, in my case with the similarly powered NAD 3020e. Rega has achieved such a terrific performer that there really is not anything to dislike at this price. It might form an entry into the hi-fi world, but the Io would support your upgrade path for years to come with this performance. With an amplifier, really it is all about tone and soundstage for me. The tone is perfectly fine and the soundstage from the Io is remarkable. As a package with 2 line inputs, a remote, a headphone amplifier and a very good moving-magnet input stage, this is an absolutely outstanding amplifier.
Value for money
Can build a new system around it
I was starting out in hi-fi again
The full specification for the Rega Io is on their site. It is priced at £379.
Nice review Simon, thank you. I currently have an IO driving MA Silver 200 floor standing speakers, it’s a good combination. I’ve heard many great things about the Heresy IV’s and was considering the upgrade. Due to the sensitivity of the Heresys I expect the IO will drive them well but did you find the noise floor on the IO was quiet enough with the Heresys? Also, how would you describe the sound of the IO/Heresey combination and does this combination suit any particular type of genre? Cheers
Hi, thanks for the question. All I can say is the Heresy IV were terrific but I achieved the best sound from them with a modest tube amplifier. The solid-state electronics were a bit too much for me. If ever there was a case to audition something before you buy it the Heresy IV is that case. Good luck, keep us informed, the IO is awesome and I liked the MA Gold 200s I seem to recall