Rega RP1 vs. Planar 1
Rega turntables are recognized worldwide as some of the best record players available today. Through years of careful evolution, attention to detail, and a desire to always do better – Rega has helped ensure modern record players continue to grow in popularity.
Two of their most popular models, the Rega RP1 and Planar 1, are often mentioned in online forums, “Best Of” Lists, and product reviews. Today, we compare these two Rega turntable models to determine which is the best investment for any turntable enthusiast.
Rega, as a company, was born from the passions of one man – Roy Gandy. Initially a music lover, by the age of 18, Gandy had developed an interested in hi-fi stereo equipment. Although he took work as a technical editor for Ford, his passion for hi-fi electronics and turntables would soon take him in a new direction.
Rega began as a partnership between Gandy and Tony Relph. Rega has been making turntables since the early 1970s. In fact, Rega produced their first turntable, the Rega Planet, in 1973. The three spoke, steel and aluminum turntable helped put Rega on the map.
The partnership may have ended shortly after it began, but Gandy was determined to keep the Rega brand alive. After leaving Ford, Gandy invested in a factory in Rochford, UK and advancing his turntable. By 1975, the Planar 2 was on the market, followed in 1977 by the Planar 3.
By 1980, Rega had a cult following. Exporting products to twelve countries, with only thirteen staff, Gandy needed to expand. Investing in an old mill in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, Gandy was able to create a hi-fi factory and expand his production line.
While Gandy had relied on Danish and Japanese manufacturers for the tonearm on his turntables, he wanted to improve. In 1983, Gandy was able to find a casting company who would help him revolutionize the tonearm. The resulting RB300 tonearm won an international award for “Excellence in the Field of Aluminum Die Casting”.
The Rega has been sold with the Japanese-made R100 cartridge for years. However, Rega redesigned their cartridge and began producing the RB100. By early 1988, Bias and Elys cartridges soon replaced both and helped transcend the sound produced by Rega turntables. (In fact, they sold more than five times the anticipated amount within the first month of production!)
In 1989, Rega began manufacturing the Ela loudspeaker. Designed to work with the Rega system, these accessories became sought after compliments to their turntables.
The early 1990s saw the final step in the completion of the Rega design, as we know it today. In 1991, Rega began to produce the Elex and Elicit – two amplifiers developed to complete the turntable package. (Another new hi-fi manufacturing facility was added to help Rega maintain the space and capability to produce high-quality amplifiers and speakers in 1992.)
Rega’s drive to provide high quality, affordable turntables has continued to help the company grow. With each new model, Rega strives to provide buyers with the most advanced technologies through which to play their records.
Things to Look For in a Turntable
There are a few basics and key terms you should understand when it comes to evaluating a turntable.
A plinth is the flat platform that forms the base of a turntable. Plinths come in several different materials, which can affect their rigidity. Reducing vibration and providing a strong platform is ideal.
A platter is the actual turntable piece, on which your record will sit while playing. Platters should be heavy enough to offer a flywheel effect. They should also be made of a rigid material. Some platters will come with a rubber mat to help protect records.
Motor & Drive Type
There are two types of motors used with modern turntables.
A direct drive is one that connects the motor directly to the platter. Direct drives are known for their ability reach the desired speed almost immediately. However, they are also notorious for their vibrations. Vibrations are bad when it comes to your record player as they diminish the quality of the sound.
Belt drives, on the other hand, are known for their reduction of motor-related vibrations. While they are slower to reach the intended speed, the sound quality is typically better. Belt drives do have additional parts, however, that may need replacing. Replacement belts are often the most necessary drive repair.
Tonearm, Cartridge & Stylus
The tonearm, cartridge and stylus are responsible for translating your record’s bumps and grooves into the sound frequency your speaker plays. The tonearm itself connects the cartridge and stylus to several vital features, like the counterweight, bearings, cueing lever, pivoting, and anti-skate adjustment knob.
The cartridge, on the other hand, relays the readings from the stylus to the tonearm. While cartridges wear out overtime, most experts recommend you opt for a magnet cartridge over a ceramic one.
The stylus is a diamond or sapphire tipped needle component. As it meets your record, it relays the bumps and grooves of your record to the cartridge it is attached to. Overtime, you needle will likely need to be replaced. Failure to do so can damage your record so paying attention to the wear on your needle, as well as the dirt that may build up on it, is important.
Rega RP1: The Stats
The RP1 is going out of production. However, there are still plenty available on the market today.
The RP1 offers users a simple, straightforward, unadorned experience. The semi-automatic, minimalist design offers users a sleek profile. The RP1 plinth comes in white, grey or platinum. Atop it, sit the phenolic platter, composite RB101 tonearm, moving magnet Rega carbon cartridge, power switch, and dust cover. The RP1 is powered by a belt drive can play both 33 1/3- and 45-RPM records.
The RB1 does not include speakers or an integrated pre-amplifier. Output interfaces for the RB1 are limited to stereo RCA audio out only.
For those who are not familiar with turntables, switching between playing 33 1/- and 45-RPM records may be a bit tricky. Users will need to remove the platter and manually move the belt into the correct position. (This “old-school” method of switching between record types is nothing new. However, many modern tables have added an external power supply that allows users to automatically switch with the touch of a button.)
When the RB1 hit the market, vinyl enthusiasts of all levels fell in love with it. While the base unit makes for the perfect entry into the vinyl world, every component can be upgraded to the point even an advanced user would enjoy. The easy-to-use, budget friendly Rega RB1 offers listeners with quality sound, a solid performance, an upgradeable package.
Rega Planar 1: The Stats
The Planar 1 is the Rega RP1 replacement. As such, Rega has proudly proclaimed that the Planar 1 is the most user-friendly model they have ever produced. Meticulously designed with improved performance in mind, the Planar 1 just may live up to that proclamation.
Like the RB1, the Planar 1 has a semi-automatic, minimalist design. The sleek plinth is made of high-pressure acrylic laminate laid over particleboard; it comes in a glossy black or white finish. The newly designed RB110 tonearm includes an automatic bias adjustment feature. As with the RB1, the Planar comes with the Rega carbon cartridge and a phenolic platter. The power switch, however, has been relocated to the bottom, instead of sitting atop the plinth. A dust cover is still included.
The belt drive for the Rega Planar 1 has undergone a redesign. In fact, it is the first Rega turntable to use a 24v motor. These motors are made to be low-noise and brushless to help maintain a more consistent speed.
As with the RB1, the Planar 1 does not come with built in speakers or a pre-amplifier. The output interfaces, like the RB1, are limited to stereo RCA audio only. You will also need to remove the platter to switch between 33 1/3- and 45-RMP records.
The Bottom Line?
The constant drive to provide top engineering, quality turntables has helped keep the Rega brand alive today. From a passionate music lover to a high-quality turntable production – Rega has always kept the listener in mind.
Both the Rega RB1 and Planar 1 offer mid-ranged user experiences. They are moderately priced for the quality they provide. Similar minimalist designs, phenolic platters, moving magnet carbon cartridges, and dust covers make both comparative. Both are considered semi-automatic, as well, with the same manual belt relocation requirements when switching between 33 1/3- and 44RPM records. Both models also lack built-in speakers and a pre-amplifier. They both limit output to stereo RCA audio as well.
The standout difference here is a big one when it comes to sound. The belt drive advances on the Regar Planar 1 are a noticeable improvement. While the RB1 still provides quality sound, the new 24v motor helps the Planar 1 belt drive run almost silently, providing even better sound.
At the end of the day, we believe the new Rega Planar 1 provides the best overall value. With a new and improved motor, the quality playability and user-friendly approach make the Planar 1 our favorite Rega turntable. (However, the RB1 still makes for a nice purchase as well. It may be going out of production, but it is certainly not down for the count!)