This sleek £230 package is pretty much the best entry-level hi-fi turntable you can get. The long-established. Essex-based Rega company has an illustrious history of making vinyl spinners that sound better than they should for the money. Indeed it’s a distant cousin of the 1983 Rega Planar 3 – albeit cost cut down to the bone – and features everything you need for good, basic LP reproduction.
The RP1 is essentially a piece of painted MDF, with an Allied Motion AC synchronous motor installed to one side and a Rega RB101 tonearm opposite. In the middle is the main bearing, which supports a phenolic resin main platter, via the plastic inner platter, itself driven by a small rubber belt. The arm comes fitted with a Rega Carbon moving magnet cartridge, which is entry-level but from decent stock. Three different hues are available; Titanium, Cool Grey and White, and there’s a choice of different coloured turntable mats. Build quality is decent at the price but not impressive – for that you need to move to Rega’s RP4, or further up the range…
Setup is about as easy as it can get with a hi-fi turntable; it’s the usual Rega procedure of removing everything from the packaging, putting the platter on the subplatter, and fitting the counterweight to the arm. The cartridge comes prefitted and aligned, and the balance weight simply has to be moved to the end stop for optimum tracking force; the bias is already set. The usual Rega placement caveats apply; keep it as far away as possible from vibration (ground or airborne), and don’t play it with the lid on as it will ruin the sound, if you can possibly avoid it. At 120x450x360mm it’s fairly compact, but still looks like a ‘grown up’ turntable; it weighs just 4.2kg though, so does feel a little flimsy compared to its RP4 bigger brother, for example.
This wee turntable sounds okay – which at its price is a resounding accolade. You’re in the territory of some truly bad designs, basically variants on Chinese OEM disco decks, but the British-built Rega is a clear step up. It is reasonably speed-stable, nicely musical and enjoyable. There are none of the nasties associated with decks at around £100 less, and it’s fair to say that the new Rega PR1 comfortably outpaces a number of clones, rivals and wannabes at or near its price.
The deck comes well set-up, the supplied cartridge tracking well and sounding crisp and detailed. Bass is nicely bouncy, if not the deepest or most powerful around, midband is open and bristling with energy and treble decently smooth and delicate. Even at this price, analogue can do something that digital at any price just can’t; it’s a testament to the performance of the Rega that despite its lowly status in the analogue world, it could still remind me of this. You’re never aware that you’re listening to a low rent turntable, aside from the occasional tendency for violins to shout just a touch in the upper midband.
The Rega RP1 plays music in a relatively smooth and beguiling way then, and is never boring. Indeed its surefootedness is down in no small part to that RB101 tonearm, which is a class act. Overall this baby vinyl spinner is fun to listen to and never sounds in any way unpleasant. At the price, it’s a great package. You get a decently finished plinth, an unobtrusive belt-drive system, an excellent tonearm, plus a competent prealigned cartridge for the price of ten fancy vinyl reissues. It does a solid job of work without drawing the listener’s attention to its weak points – and for £230 that can’t be bad!