The Rega Planar 1, hailing from the esteemed English hi-fi manufacturer, is a standout among entry-level turntables. Despite its budget-friendly price tag, this compact audio gem promises a listening experience that transcends the limitations typically associated with more affordable models. In this comprehensive review, we will delve into every facet of the Rega Planar 1, examining its build quality, design, technical excellence, practical features, usability, and, most importantly, its remarkable sound performance. Whether you’re an audiophile seeking an upgrade or a vinyl enthusiast stepping into the world of analog music for the first time, the Rega Planar 1 holds the promise of delivering a musical journey that defies its modest price point.
Uncompromising Craftsmanship and Sustainable Values
Rega, a company known for its unwavering commitment to craftsmanship and sustainability, places the Planar 1 at the forefront of their lineup. Each unit is meticulously handcrafted at their Southend-On-Sea headquarters in England, embodying the mechanical and ethical principles that define the company’s identity. This dedication to quality extends beyond assembly, as Rega sources components, even minor ones such as belts, felt mats, and ball bearings, from local and European suppliers. The result is not only a turntable that reflects this regional and sustainable ethos in its price but one that also delivers a sonic performance that defies expectations. The Rega Planar 1 emerges as a testament to what can be achieved when precision engineering and environmental consciousness converge.
- New Walnut effect finish added for 2022
- EBLT Advanced drive belt fitted as standard
- New matt finish for 2021
- RB110 tonearm with ultra-low friction play bearings
- Factory Carbon moving magnet cartridge
- Phenolic resin, flywheel effect platter
- High quality, 24 V low noise synchronous motor
- Lifetime warranty against manufacture defects
Build Quality and Design
The Rega Planar 1 is a testament to meticulous craftsmanship and thoughtful design. Rega’s commitment to quality is evident in every aspect of this turntable, from its choice of materials to its construction.
The turntable’s chassis is crafted from a simple yet durable MDF board, a choice that not only provides stability but also helps in reducing unwanted vibrations that can affect sound quality. While the Planar 1 boasts a matte structured coating on its MDF chassis, its more expensive sibling, the Planar 2, features a high-gloss laminate finish, differentiating the two models.
One standout feature of the Planar 1 is its 24-volt synchronous motor, precisely machined from aluminum and securely connected to the chassis. This motor ensures a stable and consistent rotation speed, contributing to the turntable’s overall sound quality. Changing between 33 and 45 RPM is a breeze thanks to Rega’s own belt, manufactured using their specialized tools in collaboration with a British rubber specialist.
Another notable element of the Planar 1 is its platter. Unlike the Planar 2, which has a clear glass platter, the Planar 1 employs a hard and dimensionally stable phenolic resin platter. While less expensive, this choice has no compromise on durability, as it can withstand a lifetime of use without showing any signs of wear. The platter’s bearing system is also robust and engineered for long-lasting performance.
When it comes to the tonearm, the Planar 1 is equipped with Rega’s own RB-110 tonearm. While it may differ slightly from its big brother, the RB-220, the RB-110 maintains the same level of care and boasts German ball bearings for smooth operation. This tonearm is designed with precision in mind and is mounted without any play, ensuring accurate tracking and minimal distortion.
In terms of aesthetics, the Rega Planar 1 embodies a minimalist and timeless design. Its clean lines, simple elegance, and the absence of unnecessary frills make it a visually appealing addition to any audio setup. The turntable is not just a piece of audio equipment; it’s a statement of both form and function. Its compact size and sleek appearance make it suitable for a variety of spaces, from dedicated listening rooms to living areas. The focus on design also extends to practical aspects, with the turntable’s setup and controls being intuitive and user-friendly.
In summary, the Rega Planar 1 is a showcase of Rega’s unwavering commitment to quality and design excellence. Its use of high-quality materials, precision engineering, and minimalist aesthetics come together to create a turntable that sounds exceptional and adds a touch of sophistication to any audio setup.
Comparison with Competitors
When pitted against its direct competitors, the Rega Planar 1 stands out as a compelling choice for discerning audiophiles and vinyl enthusiasts. One notable competitor in this price range is the New Horizon 121, a turntable known for its respectable performance. However, the Rega Planar 1 manages to seize the spotlight in a head-to-head comparison. Even with a slight modification, using a softer AT91 needle and a Rega felt mat, the Planar 1 surpasses the competition. The difference is particularly striking when listening to diverse music, such as Timber Timbre’s “Sincerely, Future Pollution.” The Rega Planar 1 not only delivers more powerful bass but also exhibits a remarkable level of dynamism, allowing musical nuances and emphases to shine through with clarity. It’s worth noting that these observations are made with practically identical pickups, emphasizing the Planar 1’s inherent capabilities.
While some may explore the option of upgrading the Rega Carbon cartridge with different needles for enhanced treble definition, it’s essential to recognize that this modification may not consistently deliver the same smooth transition between mids and highs as the original needle. Alternatively, users can replace the entire cartridge with a choice like the Ortofon 2M Blue or an Audio-Technica VM95SH, both of which offer refined and clean sound quality. The Planar 1 is a solid foundation for higher-quality cartridge systems, with its torsion-resistant tonearm and stable, noise-free rotation. In essence, the Rega Planar 1 excels in its stock configuration and provides an enticing platform for audiophiles to further tailor their vinyl listening experience.
The Rega Planar 1 excels in usability, making it an ideal choice for novice and experienced vinyl enthusiasts. Setting up this turntable is a breeze, and it’s designed to get you listening to your favorite records with minimal fuss. Out of the box, the Planar 1 comes with the Rega Carbon cartridge pre-mounted, which simplifies the initial setup process. Additionally, the drive belt is already in place, further streamlining the installation.
One standout feature is the user-friendly speed change mechanism. Shifting between 33 and 45 RPM is effortless, requiring only a manual adjustment of the belt from a smaller to a larger level. While it involves removing the platter and mat briefly, this task takes seconds to ensure a hassle-free transition for those who wish to explore different record speeds. Additionally, the turntable’s tonearm lift operates smoothly and without any wobbling, making it easy to cue up your records precisely. Setting the tracking force, typically recommended at 2.5 grams for the Rega Carbon cartridge, is straightforward and accurate as you position the counterweight on the back of the arm and push it forward. In essence, the Rega Planar 1 offers an intuitive and user-centric design that ensures a hassle-free vinyl listening experience.
The Rega Planar 1 embodies technical excellence in various aspects, setting it apart as a standout turntable in its price range. Rega has spared no effort in designing a turntable that combines precision engineering with performance, ensuring that users enjoy a high-quality listening experience.
One of the key technical strengths of the Planar 1 lies in its 24-volt synchronous motor, meticulously crafted from aluminum. This motor is directly connected to the turntable’s chassis and operates with precision, delivering stable and consistent rotation speed. This motor design is critical to maintaining pitch accuracy and minimizing any speed fluctuations, ultimately contributing to the Planar 1’s excellent sound quality.
The choice of materials is another testament to technical excellence. While the turntable’s chassis is made from MDF, it is done so with a focus on structural integrity and vibration control. MDF is ideal for turntable construction as it offers excellent damping properties, reducing resonance that can negatively impact sound quality. The Planar 1’s platter, made of hard phenolic resin, shares a similar philosophy. It is both dimensionally stable and resistant to wear, ensuring that it provides a reliable and consistent platform for vinyl playback over the long term.
The tonearm on the Planar 1, the RB-110, is a prime example of precision engineering. While not as complex as some of Rega’s higher-end tonearms, it is designed for torsional rigidity, minimizing any unwanted resonance and tracking errors. The use of German ball bearings in the tonearm further enhances its smooth and precise movement. Additionally, the Planar 1 employs a non-contact anti-skating mechanism, effectively controlling the stylus during playback. Although it lacks adjustable settings, this mechanism remains fixed and is well-suited for users who prefer a more straightforward setup.
In terms of technical specifications, the Planar 1 offers precise control over tracking force, with the recommended 2.5 grams for the Rega Carbon cartridge, ensuring that the stylus accurately follows the grooves of your records. The turntable’s speed stability is also commendable, with minimal deviation from the target speed. These technical attributes collectively contribute to a turntable that offers impressive sound quality and operates with precision and reliability.
In conclusion, the Rega Planar 1’s technical excellence is evident in its thoughtful design choices, precision engineering, and attention to detail. From its motor and materials to the tonearm and tracking control, every aspect is geared towards delivering exceptional performance and sound quality. This technical prowess ensures that the Planar 1 competes favorably with turntables in higher price brackets, making it a compelling choice for audiophiles and vinyl enthusiasts seeking outstanding value.
The Rega Planar 1 may be an entry-level turntable, but it doesn’t skimp on practical features that enhance the user experience and simplify the setup process.
- Pre-Mounted Cartridge: One of the most practical features of the Planar 1 is its pre-mounted Rega Carbon cartridge. This means that the cartridge is already installed and aligned correctly on the tonearm right out of the box. This significantly reduces the initial setup time and eliminates the need for users to grapple with the delicate process of mounting a cartridge, which can be daunting for beginners.
- Belt-Drive Mechanism: The Planar 1 utilizes a belt-drive mechanism for its platter, which contributes to its overall sound quality and offers practical benefits. Belt-drive turntables typically produce less motor noise and vibration, resulting in cleaner and more accurate playback. This design choice aligns with Rega’s commitment to minimizing unwanted resonance and ensuring a pure listening experience.
- Non-Contact Anti-Skating: The turntable incorporates a non-contact anti-skating mechanism, a practical feature that helps to maintain the proper tracking of the stylus across the record’s grooves. While some advanced users may prefer adjustable anti-skating mechanisms, the fixed anti-skating on the Planar 1 simplifies setup for beginners and reduces the risk of misadjustment.
- Easy Speed Change: Changing between 33 and 45 RPM speeds is straightforward with the Planar 1. You only need to manually move the belt from a smaller pulley to a larger one. This method is quick and hassle-free, requiring minimal effort and no complex adjustments.
- Low Maintenance: Rega has designed the Planar 1 to be user-friendly and low-maintenance. Its durable components, including the phenolic resin platter and robust tonearm, require minimal upkeep. This means that users can enjoy their vinyl records without the constant need for adjustments or maintenance tasks.
- Simplified Setup: Rega has taken great care to make the initial setup of the Planar 1 as straightforward as possible. The already mounted and aligned pre-installed cartridge is a practical choice for beginners, sparing them from the complexities of cartridge setup. Additionally, the turntable’s controls are intuitive, with easy-to-follow instructions for counterweight adjustment and speed changes.
- Compact Design: The compact and minimalist design of the Planar 1 makes it practical for a wide range of spaces. Its unobtrusive form allows it to comfortably fit on shelves, audio racks, or dedicated turntable stands. This adaptability ensures that the Planar 1 can be integrated into various listening environments.
In summary, the Rega Planar 1 is a sonic performer and a turntable designed with practicality in mind. Its pre-mounted cartridge, simplified speed change mechanism, non-contact anti-skating, and low-maintenance features make it an excellent choice for users of all experience levels. This user-friendly design allows enthusiasts to enjoy their vinyl collection with ease, without the need for constant adjustments or technical expertise.
Listening Experience (Sound Quality and Sound Test)
The Rega Planar 1’s sound quality is where it truly shines, delivering an audio experience that surpasses expectations for an entry-level turntable.
One of the standout characteristics of the Planar 1 is its harmonious and balanced sound signature. This turntable is a master at presenting music in a natural and uncolored way, allowing the listener to hear the nuances of their vinyl collection without any undue emphasis on specific frequencies. Whether you’re spinning new releases or vintage classics, the Planar 1 excels at faithfully reproducing the original recordings.
The Planar 1’s sonic prowess becomes particularly evident when listening to different music genres. In rock music, it impresses with a beautiful and resonant bass that adds a layer of depth and character to the tracks. This bass quality sets the Rega apart from many of its competitors in the same price range, making it a compelling choice for rock enthusiasts.
The Planar 1 showcases stable and precise spatiality for classical and jazz genres, creating an immersive listening experience. The turntable’s clean tracking ensures that every note is faithfully reproduced without distortion, preserving the intricate details of these genres.
Despite its relatively simple cartridge and stylus, the Planar 1 manages to avoid sounding overly dark in the treble range. Instead, it presents a balanced and clean high-end, allowing for an enjoyable and fatigue-free listening experience across various musical styles.
A noteworthy attribute of the Planar 1 is its ability to easily handle challenging sections of records. Traditionally, high-frequency passages close to the label area of a record can pose difficulties for pickups and tonearms due to the decreasing radius. However, the Rega system, similar to the AT91 in the New Horizon, handles these challenges admirably. It consistently scans cleanly, simplifying the upper treble without becoming overwhelmed. This means that records with intact dynamics come to life effortlessly, filling the listening room with vibrant and dynamic music.
While some users may opt for upgrade needles to achieve the last bit of treble definition, it’s essential to note that the results can vary. The transition between mids and highs may not be as smooth as with the original needle. Alternatively, changing the entire cartridge can be a more elegant and clean-sounding upgrade option, such as the Ortofon 2M Blue or the Audio-Technica VM95SH with its fine, long-lasting Shibata grind. The Planar 1’s solid foundation and design allow for these higher-quality systems to be seamlessly integrated.
In conclusion, the Rega Planar 1’s sound quality exceeds expectations for its price range. Its harmonious and balanced sound signature and its ability to handle various music genres make it a standout performer. Whether you’re a rock enthusiast, a classical music lover, or enjoy jazz, the Planar 1 faithfully reproduces the essence of your vinyl records, providing an engaging and enjoyable listening experience. Its ability to gracefully navigate challenging sections of records ensures that it remains a versatile and impressive turntable for audiophiles and music enthusiasts alike.
Reasons to Buy/Not Buy It
Reasons to buy the Rega Planar 1 include its exceptional sound quality, sustainable manufacturing, and ease of use. It offers excellent value for its price point and is suitable for both beginners and experienced vinyl enthusiasts. However, those seeking extensive adjustment options may find the fixed anti-skating mechanism limiting.
Want to know about turntables? Read about turntables and their types.
Like Turntables? Read about three popular turntables in our reviews
In conclusion, the Rega Planar 1 is much more than just an entry-level turntable. It delivers sound characteristics comparable to its higher-priced counterparts with minimal compromises. This affordable yet high-quality turntable offers an uncomplicated setup and a listening experience that brings music to life. The Planar 1 is an excellent choice for those looking for an introduction to the vinyl world or an upgrade to their current setup. Its harmonious performance ensures that it remains a reliable and enjoyable companion for many years to come.
Advantages of the Rega Planar 1:
- Exceptional Sound Quality: The Planar 1 delivers impressive sound quality for its price range, offering a balanced and natural audio experience across various music genres.
- User-Friendly Setup: With its pre-mounted cartridge, straightforward speed change mechanism, and non-contact anti-skating, the Planar 1 is easy to set up, making it an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced users.
- High-Quality Construction: Rega’s commitment to craftsmanship is evident in the turntable’s build quality. It features a robust chassis, durable phenolic resin platter, and precision-engineered components that contribute to its longevity.
- Sustainable Manufacturing: Rega’s focus on local and sustainable manufacturing processes ensures that the Planar 1 is both environmentally conscious and reflects the company’s ethical principles.
- Versatile Design: The turntable’s compact and minimalist design allows it to seamlessly fit into various listening environments, from dedicated audio rooms to living spaces, making it a versatile addition to any setup.
Disadvantages of the Rega Planar 1:
- Fixed Anti-Skating: While the non-contact anti-skating mechanism simplifies setup for beginners, advanced users who prefer adjustable anti-skating settings may find this feature limiting.
- Limited Tonearm Adjustability: The Planar 1’s tonearm offers fewer adjustment options than higher-end models, potentially restricting fine-tuning for users who desire precise customization.
- Basic Cartridge: While the pre-installed Rega Carbon cartridge performs well, audiophiles seeking an even higher level of sound quality may need upgrading to a more advanced cartridge, adding to the overall cost.
- Integrated RCA Cable: The included thin, permanently attached RCA cable may limit users who prefer the flexibility of using their preferred cables or those with specific cable requirements.
- Manual Speed Change: Although the speed change mechanism is easy to use, it requires manual adjustment by moving the belt from one pulley to another, which may be less convenient than automatic speed switching in some turntables.