Out of this World
Anthony Kershaw auditions the Rega Jupiter CD player
Fourth in line from the original Rega Planet CD player (1996), the Jupiter is the result of Rega's trickle down digital technology. This ascendancy has taken seven years, beginning with the Planet, a fabulous-looking if somewhat underachieving product, to the greatly-improved Planet 2000, followed by the even better separates Jupiter & Io Transport and Dac, those now housed in subject of the review, the one-box Jupiter. Welcome to the Rega Millennium.
I had heard many good things about the Jupiter and called the Canadian distributor to see if they had a review sample. They had one handy, and in the gorgeous new 'alloy finish'. I love the look and feel of Rega's products, and the Jupiter in this finish is especially beautiful. Before hearing a note, I had a notion that the sample would not be leaving my house. Yes, to some, looks in high-end audio are very important. What a treat if it sounded as good as it looked.
The care in design and manufacture will be clear to all but the uneducated eye, and owner Roy Gandy's pursuit of excellence continues with the Jupiter. While using similar circuit topology, the one-box improves slightly over its twin sister separates, Jupiter and Io, in several areas - The DAC is improved as is the power supply and clocking stages. It also uses the new extruded aluminum case, with a heat sink jutting out of the base. The brilliant top loading mechanism that was a highlight on the original Planet is maintained, though now located in the center of the case.
The Brits love their power supplies, the importance of which is highlighted in the Jupiter. It has seven! Rega uses a high performance Sony CD mechanism, and to minimize the effect of footfalls, a case isolation system (they call it the Viscous Coupled Foot System, better known to us Regaphiles as 'squishy feet'). Along with the better power supply(s), the primary improvement is in the DACs. The dual differential 24 bit IC40 DAC chips are sourced from Edinburgh's Wolfson Microelectronics. Additionally, Rega has taken the greatest care with both data regeneration and clocking stages.
I was lucky to 'head to head' the Jupiter next to some pretty fine players, including the Metronome Technologie CD-1V 'Signature' Tube, the Cary CD-303 and the Naim CD 3.5. At US$1895.00, the Rega is quite a bit cheaper than the three other players, and if buying into the high-end adage that 'you get what you pay for', all three should be superior to the Jupiter. The Cary was spectacular in resolving the minutest detail of the source, and in a really beautiful way. The Naim's musical presentation was exceptional, if not quite as refined as the Cary. And the Metronome was typically Gallic, unique in style and substance. It caressed the sound out of the disc, adding a gorgeous sheen not always found in the original recording. How did the Jupiter rate?
Superbly, it turns out. The Jupiter has honesty to the source that has been retained from the Planet 2000, and refines the 2000's honesty resulting in a wider soundstage, better imaging, and more refined timbre. The highs, mids, and lows all benefit from the improved power supplies and DACs, and shed light on inner detail that was at times missing from the significantly cheaper 2000. That it compared favorably to the three stellar players, is a testament to the Rega team's design excellence and attention to detail.
Vocal music of the most difficult kind offered the Jupiter few problems, with only Renee Fleming's refulgent soprano losing its last ounce of refinement (Strauss Heroines/London 466314). Strauss in full bloom can do that to even the most esoteric of players. Where the demands of very healthy chest tone were less noticeable, the Jupiter carried the day, giving the listener a clear view of the singers' interpretation, subtlety of delivery, and intonation. Jazz and pop divas sounded splendid, with their classical counterparts slightly less so.
Full-blown orchestral fortissimos were terrific when the Jupiter was partnered with high-quality amplifiers. In this regard, the Jupiter outshone the entry-level Burmester Rondo CD player, when hooked up to the amazing Burmester 911 Mk. III power amplifier. The Jupiter shed an honest light on even the most complex of CDs - thorny orchestral tuttis were unraveled quite easily. Mahler's Ninth Symphony (Telarc 80426) has the Rondo Burleske at its center. This movement is the thorniest of the thorny, complexity personified. Although the Amazon turntable/Moerch arm combo offered even more detail via Solti's LSO/Decca LP version, Rega's statement digital product allowed the listeners to hear resin on bass strings while the upper register instruments were pounding above. This was especially impressive.
The impression of excellence remained during the Jupiter's lengthy stay. It was welcoming of the best and worst of digital, giving nothing but an honest account of each CD played. As such, Roy Gandy and his team at Rega have produced another wonderful CD player, full featured, beautifully designed, and priced fairly. According to all audiophile tenets, a winner.
Jupiter CD player
Manufactured by Rega Research Limited
119 Park Street Westcliff - on - Sea, Essex, England SS0 7PD
Price: US$1895.00 CDN$2695.00
Source of review sample: Canadian Distributor
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