Until now, we haven’t included a turntable in our list of Recommended Reference Components, mainly because we hadn’t come across one that we felt established a performance baseline by which others could be judged. That changed in May 2014, when Oliver Amnuayphol reviewed the Rega Research RP8, which so impressed him that he purchased the review sample to use as his own reference turntable.
The RP8 comes equipped with Rega’s RB808 tonearm, for a total retail price of $2995 USD. When Oliver reviewed the RP8, Rega’s Apheta cartridge was available as a factory-fitted option, for a total retail price of $3995, representing a savings of $795 over buying turntable and cartridge separately. (The Apheta has since been replaced by the Apheta 2.) However, Oliver reviewed the RP8 and RB808 with the cartridge he knew best: the Lyra Delos.
Oliver found the RP8, like Rega’s other turntables, very easy to set up: “It was really just a matter of pulling the works out of the box, setting the platter atop the subplatter, hooking up the power supply, and plugging it in. If you’re using the outer frame, all that’s involved is setting the inner plinth/platter/tonearm unit within the outer plinth, so that the support feet of the former insert into those of the latter. Three triangulated rubber O-rings inside the outer plinth’s supports automatically center both sets of plinths and feet.”
Although the RP8 follows the design principles Rega has used for its earlier turntables, which have favored stiffness and lightness over size and mass, its construction is quite different: “The RP8’s plinth (it’s also used in the flagship RP10) begins life as a core of closed-cell, nitrogen-injected, polyolefin foam. As much as possible of this is machined away, to leave only a frame. This frame is then sandwiched between top and bottom sheets of ultrathin phenolic, to produce what’s known as a stressed-skin structure. This sort of construction confers many benefits, including excellent structural rigidity and quick dissipation of vibrations -- two properties that are the foundation of every Rega turntable. Rega claims that the mass of the RP8’s plinth is only one-seventh that of the plinth of the original Planar 3.
“The skeletal frame also features a substantial-looking bearing assembly, on top of which sits a subplatter of CNC-machined aluminum. Atop that sits Rega’s all-new main platter of laminated glass. The platter’s three-layer design is a stroke of genius: Two ring-shaped, concentric platter layers are bonded to the top layer’s underside such that the mass of each successively lower layer is concentrated farther toward the platter’s periphery. Thus, the platter’s mass is greater only where it needs to be: around the rim, instead of over the bearing. This keeps the platter’s center as light as possible, while maximizing both the flywheel effect and rotational stability.”
Throughout his review, Oliver’s praise for the sound of Rega’s innovative RP8 was plentiful. At the beginning of his “Listening” section, he stated: “After I’d dialed in the Delos, I set the RP8 atop my Target wall shelf, placed on the platter and supplied mat a 200gm reissue of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue (Columbia/Classic Records CS 8163), pressed the Rega’s power button, and settled in to listen. As soon as I heard the catchy opening bars of ‘So What,’ I knew I was in for a treat. The RP8 sounded excitingly lively, neutrally balanced, and harmonically complete. Music emerged from a silent, inky-black backdrop, and images were precisely rendered in holographic manner, with abundances of spatial and sonic detail.
“In fact, the more I listened, the easier it was to hear just how special the Rega was with that last quality: The RP8 resolved more detail than any $3000 turntable had any right to. I was able to hear details in the music I’d never heard before.”
Oliver then used several musical selections to illustrate “how well the RP8 ran through the audiophile’s sonic checklist.” He pointed out the turntable’s “deep-bass reproduction,” which he said “was among the best I’ve heard, entirely convincing in both its quality and quantity”; its well-developed midrange, which allowed it to reproduce voices accurately; and its treble, which he said “was exemplary -- pure through and through, well extended and free of grain, without any undue brightness.” He also said that “Rega turntables have always been known for their pace, rhythm, and timing, and the RP8 carried on this tradition with apparent ease.”
Yet with all those qualities, Oliver felt that one of the RP8’s greatest strengths was “its fully developed, ultrawide dynamic range. . . . From Dance of the Knights through Tybalt Recognizes Romeo, on side 2 [of André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra’s recording of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (LP, Angel SC-3802)], the Rega deftly tracked both macro- and microdynamic changes, letting through the full brunt of the music’s power and drama. After that, Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, with Lorin Maazel conducting the Cleveland Orchestra (Telarc CD-10042), and Harry Connick Jr.’s We Are in Love (Columbia CK 46146), let me hear how the RP8’s dynamic prowess made for thrilling, captivating, emotionally riveting music each and every time.”
Oliver concluded: “Although I was already familiar with several Rega turntables, none could have prepared me for how good the RP8 was. This outstanding record player delivers musical and sonic goodness in spades. Its blend of class-leading detail, exciting yet natural tonal balance, and exemplary dynamics will have you spinning your favorite LPs for one marathon listening session after another. And its surprising low-end potency and articulation will make a believer of anyone who thinks excellent bass is the purview of only gargantuan, mass-loaded ’tables.” Two paragraphs later, Oliver put the RP8’s value in context: “You’re going to have to spend a heck of a lot more than $2995 to best the Rega RP8 in any major way.”
Given all that, it’s no surprise that Rega Research’s RP8 received a Reviewers’ Choice award when Oliver’s review was published, a SoundStage! Product of the Year award at the end of 2014, and, now, recognition as a Recommended Reference Component -- as well as the distinction of being the first turntable to be made part of this exclusive list.
Manufacturer contact information:
Rega Research Limited
6 Coopers Way
Temple Farm Industrial Estate
Southend on Sea, Essex SS2 5TE
Phone: +44 1702-447660
Fax: +44 1702-432427