Rega’s first Planet CD player – not to be confused by the original Planet turntable – was the company’s entry-level silver disc spinner of the mid nineteen nineties. This, as its name suggests, was the 2000-model year update, and an interesting bit of kit. Ergonomically it’s a treat, simply because it doesn’t have a conventional drawer loading disc tray arrangement – Rega says its cantilevered top loading affair saves money, which allows more funds to go to the transport and case design itself. Better still, the front fascia isn’t festooned with every feature under the sun. Rather, you get four differently shaped bits of rubber plus a circular backlit power switch.
The display is a run-of-the-mill Sony fluorescent affair, but there’s even a twist here too. Rather than the tiresome cold blue hue you get on the Japanese giant’s budget CD spinners, Rega gives you a soothing crimson red. It looks fantastic, and is the perfect finishing touch to what is a beautiful slice of industrial design. Inside, beneath the top loading lid assembly, lurks a new underslung Sony transport and much of the old Planet circuit topology. The difference is that the 2000 model features improvements to the DAC, power supply and coupling capacitors. The former is a 24bit Delta Sigma Rega IC40 affair (said to be a Burr-Brown modified to Rega’s specifications), with an extra power supply for the digital section. The latter uses a toroidal transformer with separate windings for the display and analogue audio stages. Evox film and non-polarised electrolytic capacitors can be found in the signal path, with low impedance caps used in the power supplies.
The extruded aluminium case is well built but hardly from the Japanese school of heavyweight manufacturing. It’s pretty compact at 435x100x270mm but don’t forget that being a toploader it won’t slot into your system rack. The Planet 2000 uses Rega’s VCS feet (viscous coupled system) to give it a degree of mechanical isolation from its environs, which the company claims to ‘eradicate the need for a suspension’. Round the back there’s the usual fixed audio line outputs, plus optical and coaxial digital outputs, and an IEC mains socket. The player comes supplied with ‘get you started’ phono leads, but recommends the use of Rega’s own Couple interconnect. The optional remote control adds a host of features, including Program, Repeat and – most usefully to me – Display Off functions.
The Planet 2000 is not a rich sounding player like its immediate predecessor, but nor is it dry and clinical as some of its oriental rivals can be. Instead it treads a fine line between dryness and neutrality – there’s a slight thinness in the upper midband which you notice especially on female vocals such as Kate Bush’s The Man with the Child in his Eyes. Rather than carrying the full breadth and body of Kate’s voice, there’s a slight lightness of touch and edge to the sound. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t roughness or rawness, but we’re definitely in another country to the rich, resonant roundness of the old Planet turntable!
Cue up Kraftwerk’s Expo 2000 and you hear a beautifully sumptuous analogue synthesiser sound. Most striking is the Rega’s handling of harmonics – it carries these better than any player of its day. Although not artificially tonally rich, everything sounds vibrant and alive. There’s detail aplenty and it all gels together quite magically considering the modest price. Bass is a little light but extremely fluid. Add this to the player’s liquid midband, where tunes are easier to follow than any other sub-thousand pound silver disc spinners of its time, and the effect is great fun. Way back at the turn of the new millennium, it served up a cosmic sound. These days you can get a good example for around £250, which is a bargain.