A few years ago when Rega set out to build the ultimate turntable, they looked at completely new ways to create a plinth with massive stiffness and negligible weight. So a project was set up to develop and expand its existing engineering expertise and philosophy, also bringing in and developing technology from F1 and aerospace.
From this the Naiad record player was born - the only cost no object product the company has ever built. It’s something the company considers the ultimate representation of its engineering ideas when executed with little regard for cost or ease of manufacture. In other words, the best deck Rega knew how to make at that time, given that Rega technology continues to evolve today!
The Naiad pushed out the envelope of the engineering, creativity and the materials science knowledge of Rega Research. This broader expertise proved to be invaluable and has trickled down to the development of more affordable turntables. The first one to really benefit was the RP8 launched some five years ago. The ideas and learning from the Naiad project have been refined and taken further and the current beneficiary of approach is the Rega Planar 8. The Planar 8 design incorporates as many of the Naiad’s design elements as could be included in a production model at a sensible and certain price point.
Every aspect of the Planar 8 is engineered to extract as much detail from the vinyl surface as possible. Rega have used the most advanced materials and engineering solutions built around a lightweight plinth to ensure the greatest level of performance.
The Planar 8 is a completely skeletal turntable and the idea is to minimise plinth mass whilst increasing rigidity. Rega’s philosophy is that mass absorbs energy and that ends up taking the life out of the music. The Planar 8 is constructed using an ultra lightweight Tancast 8 polyurethane foam core (a material developed for the aerospace industry). This material is sandwiched between two layers of HPL (high pressure laminate). HPL is exceptionally thin and extremely rigid. This new construction makes the new Planar 8 skeletal plinth 30% lighter than the original RP8 while offering increased rigidity over the previous model.
Rigidity is especially important between the tonearm mounting and main bearing, so Rega has added a phenolic brace between the two – thus adding strength without significantly increasing overall mass. These phenolic resin double braces are placed above and below the plinth where increased rigidity is required between the tonearm mounting and the main bearing, to ensure minimal movement between the two, thus forming a structurally sound “stressed beam” It thus increases accuracy in line with Rega’s criteria and turntable design philosophy of a “vibration measuring machine”. This rigid plinth design prevents energy absorption and unwanted resonances that would otherwise add unnatural distortions to the music.
Additionally, the plinth shape enables the means of fixing the arm-base, main bearing and motor, plus feet placed such that it stays secure when placed on a surface. There are three compliant feet to help absorb external vibrations.
The main bearing has been redesigned with a single piece machined aluminium sub-platter and hardened steel spindle which sits in a brass housing mounted in such a way to deter energy being transferred into the plinth.
Motor and drive
The Planar 8 also features the latest generation 24v, synchronous, low vibration motor technology. Linking all these mechanical entities together is another innovation - EBLT Drive Belts. For three years Rega has been researching and developing with chemists the use of a bespoke new rubber compound for drive belts. Using a specialised curing system, the new drive belt offers superior consistency of modulus (a constant representing the degree to which a substance has a particular property, especially elasticity). These new belts are manufactured on Rega designed, state of the art, super-accurate tools which produce 'perfectly round' and 'dimensionally accurate' belts, critical for perfect speed stability.
Power is controlled by Rega’s Neo power supply, which is hand-adjusted to match the motor optimally and minimise vibration. The Neo PSU is standard and offers electronic, speed change, advanced anti-vibration control and user adjustable electronic fine speed adjustment to ensure total accuracy and control over the motor.
The platter is a beautiful thing. It’s made of three pieces,, designed in such a way as to add mass to the outer rim, creating a flywheel effect to smooth out any small speed fluctuations. This three piece laminated glass platter is the result of collaboration with a British glass engineering company Pilkington and is constructed from two different types of high quality glass.
Planar 8 is fitted with the new RB880 arm that features an improved vertical bearing assembly constructed using an aluminium and stainless-steel, low mass assembly with vastly improved stability and rigidity. This tonearm is using Rega's advanced preloaded zero tolerance bearing assembly adjusted to less than 1000th of a mm, this gives friction free movement and zero levels of unwanted play. RB880 is then terminated with a low capacitance phono cable terminated with high quality, locking phono plugs to ensure the best possible connection
Rega haven’t left the P8 completely without protection from dust, a new acrylic cover is provided to simply lift off to play a record.
The Rega Planar 8 is available in four package versions. You can buy the deck without cartridge for £1699, but it can be equipped with the Exact moving magnet (+£210), Ania moving coil (£ 2199.00 inclusive) or with the Apheta 2 MC ( £ 2,439.00 inclusive) that we have on test here. The arm and table are capable of realising the benefits of a range or other high quality cartridges, provided, as always, the phono amplifier stage is of sufficient quality.
Set-up is easy. In the case of the Rega cartridges, the cartridge is pre-mounted and its alignment is guaranteed via Rega’s own three-point mounting system. All the user has to do is remove the packaging protecting the main bearing and arm, fit the tracking weight and set bias. The Apheta 2 tracks between 1.75 and 2 grams. Rega recommend 1.75 grams as a starting point.
The initial impression is that the Planar 8 it delivers a high level of level of clarity, depth and insight. The P8 and Apheta combination copes well with the music’s dynamics and changes in momentum. The presentation is insightful and organised with a high degree of composure. The Planar 8 always sounds in control no matter how complex the music becomes. Yet, that sense of control doesn’t water down the drive and excitement of the recording, (Groove Armada – Song 4 Mutya)
It is tonally well balanced. It’s smooth when required but still has enough bite when the music demands it. It has real solid authority and weight; the dynamics are powerful and unflustered. This is combined with stable and focused stereo imaging, rendering an expansive and finessed soundstage and locks instruments in place even when the production becomes dense. Image scale is good– the sound extending well beyond the edges of our reference Dynaudio Special 40’s.
While delivering each musical strand and intonation with clarity, it manages to bring everything together to produce a cohesive, enjoyable and tonally correct whole. Simply communicating the emotion in the music and performance is what the Rega does so well. One gets drawn in to listen to the music and the performance rather than the equipment
It has a glorious articulation with bass instruments that conveys punch, power and texture beautifully (Japan, Tin Drum – Talking Drum & Ghosts). The lows don’t over-dominate, but they do give a solid and deep underpinning for the rest of the frequency range to do its stuff. An articulate mid-range ensures that distinctive vocals come through with the intensity and insight they need. Highs are dynamic, balanced and not over explicit
The Rega P8 has a good sense of timing It brings a tonal neutrality and shape to music, with dynamic expressiveness, especially with the micro-dynamics that gives music a sense of “reality and performance. Low-level detail resolution is also outstanding. This turntable is pitch stable and quiet allowing through a wide dynamic range and cohesiveness, with little extraneous noise to affect your perception and allow insight into the performance (Ry Cooder – Bop Till You Drop).
The Rega Apheta 2 moving coil cartridge when connected to the Planar 8 provides an agile and responsive combination to help you experience vinyl as a high-performance format. Together they will play anything you throw at it and make sense of it all, whatever the complexity and dynamics of the music.
Rega aim for neutrality in engineering their record decks and essentially this turntable adds as little of its own character to the recording as possible. This means you hear a vast amount of whatever was laid down in the mastering studio or venue, every note and its nuance and shape making music vibrant and enjoyable. Insights and previously hidden or masked details emerge. Music sounds physically solid with a sense of detail, showing the depth and scale engineered in the studio, or imparted by the recorded venue, all with a remarkable realism.
Rega’s engineering ambitions have paid off. Rega has pushed the boundaries of performance at this level. The Rega Planar 8 has a remarkable ability to thrill, entertain and inform.
Rega Hi-Fi products are available from all branches of Audio T.