The new Rega Reference IOS Phonostage.
A week or so back I had a e-mail from Rob at Rega Research offering me a chance to audition their new Reference IOS Phonostage but there was a small catch, I could only have it for 24 hrs being that there are only 3 in existence and he was on his travels to various dealers.
Excited by this I popped into the store ( I was on leave at the time ) and collected said unit. Oh my, this has to be the largest phonostage I’ve ever seen, matching its stable mates, the Isis CD player and Osiris amplifier. Oh and the heaviest too at over 15kg! Yes, it’s built in exactly the same way as the aforementioned to further dampen resonances, staggering.
The reference IOS is a serious reworking/refinement of their standard IOS phonostage having itself received many a glowing review over the years. Lifting the lid off shows many changes and enhancements and of course that beautiful casework. Feature-wise there are two major additions, a pair of XLR inputs are included alongside the usual RCAs with a switch on the rear to select either but more usefully, for me at least, is a mono switch on the front for use when playing mono discs of which I have many. This allows one to fully enjoy these records without the distraction of any surface noise coming over in stereo either side of the mono soundstage. This is a feature that is often lacking in many systems either on the amp or phonostage so full marks to Rega here. The remaining Reference IOS features are as the standard IOS and to save me time can be found here. (Select >products >amplifiers> IOS).
So, how does it sound? In a word, INCREDIBLE! Rob had loaned me the standard IOS too for comparison and as great as that one is, the Pro was in an altogether different league. The first thing I noticed was just how well is separates all the instruments and layers whilst holding them together musically; frankly it was revelatory. The noise floor was also somewhat lowered and with all this came a greater sense of pace and timing, indeed there was an almost CD like quality to it and of course by that I mean the good aspects of CD reply namely clarity and speed and lack of unwanted noise or bloom aligned with the greatness we all so much love in vinyl reproduction which digital media at any level can’t quite match.
Many of my favourite albums were revisited, those that I’m most familiar with and discovered nuances and instrument interactions previously masked but by 2:30am I really had to drag myself off to bed, honestly, I could have stayed up all night as record after record begged to placed on the platter.
My first encounter with the Rega Reference IOS may have been short but it was oh so sweet!
Apparently I’m the first dealer in the world to hear it so many thanks go out to Rob for putting himself out to give me this opportunity and I look forward to some more quality time with one.
Availability: Now shipping
UPDATE: I missed it SO much I ordered one and today, 14th Oct. (a bigger event than today's launch of the iPhone 4s, for me at least) it's arrived. Serial no. 00002. Rega inform me they lost the stickers for no.1 and that I'm the 1st in the WORLD to own one!