The first new product from Rega for 2015 is their Apheta 2 moving coil cartridge.
Outwardly at first glance it looks identical to the original but close inspection reveals that every component including the beautifully machined aluminium body is new. This is now a one-piece design removing the separate part to which the magnet assembly is affixed. The purpose of this is to eliminate unwanted resonance between the 2 parts.
From their site:
Conventional MC cartridges utilize a steel suspension system (tie wire) which creates a high amplitude H.F. resonance (normally around 8-12kHz). Such resonance is unacceptable and is usually damped by a rudimentary piece of foam rubber.
However, the foam rubber deteriorates with age and cannot prevent the complete structure from vibrating and "ringing".
The specifics and adjustment of the tie wire and damping determine whether the cartridge is under damped (bright) or over damped (warm and bass heavy).
A happy medium is rarely achieved.
This encouraged Rega to pursue a new direction inspired by modern materials and the basic laws of magnetism. The Apheta 2 contains neither a tie wire nor a foam damper.
Moving coil aficionados will all recognise the long search for super clear, high frequency combined with firm, tight bass.
Apheta 2 retains the same non tie-wire design that made the original such a unique design. The removal of the tie-wire (which is highly resonant and requires the use of a rubber damper)
The magnet is now a super powerful neodymium type. The coils are meticulously hand wound on an iron cross 50% smaller than before. This results in a lower moving mass for even better tracking. The output is thus lowered from a rather beefy 500mv to a more useable 350mv, which will be easer to match with some phonostages.
The one part carried over is the stylus, which remains a Vital line-contact type, nude mounted.
Outward appearance may appear much the same but the sound is not. Brand new out of the box our rep’s new demo unit, upon first needle drop became our demo one.
This has to be one of the most refined cartridges I’ve ever heard. Gone is any trace of brightness or ‘sizzle’ that the original could be provoked into on some discs whilst not loosing any detail or high frequency information. In fact there is now so much more to listen to without any loss of musicality. Nowhere was this more apparent than voices. Sibilants are rendered totally natural, eerily so.
What also struck me was the almost total lack of surface noise. Indeed on the new reissue of Jethro Tull's Warchild I turned up my amp close to max during a very quiet passage and was amazed by the almost CD-like quietness. Also seemingly absent was any end of side distortion. All this should mean it's great for classical music lovers not just old rockers like me.
Bass is full, taught and powerful the like I’ve never heard from a Rega cartridge before. In fact, so taken was I with its performance I took it home to play on my set-up. By 2 am I had to force myself to go to bed!! Enough said.
It gets better. Rega now bundle the Apheta 2 with both the RP8 and RP10 and has lifted the respective performances to another level for just a mere £100 increase.
The Apheta 2 retails at £998, up from £920 and to me represents a real bargain in high-end moving coil cartridges, my home demo is testimony to that and I foresee many on non-Rega turntables. I suspect supply will be very short as I’m informed, due to finer manufacturing tolerances after major investment in high definition magnification equipment, maximum output will be 3 per day for the entire world supply.
On permanent demo on the ‘house system’ for any impromptu listen. Bring a record in and prepare to be amazed.
Apheta 1 left, Apheta 2 on the right.