Much of the technology incorporated in Rega's recent RP8 turntable transitioned up to the new flagship RP10. As such, a read of our recent RP8 review would be a good idea before continuing with the RP10 review. In addition to the new technology added to the RP8, the RP10 was designed with those and some truly new extraordinary design cues that set a new bar for Rega.
More on the new cues later. Enough said that the Rega engineers threw the kitchen sink at the RP10 design. What they designed captures the essence of Rega's sound philosophy and has taken it to stratospheric heights.
I knew this ahead of the review period because the RP10 was a capital purchase for Audiophilia. Any magazine purchase is researched and researched again, so I had a few hours with the RP10 prior to purchase. What we found in the RP10 was elegant engineering between arm and 'table producing the most glorious sound.
We had been in the market for a new turntable for quite some time. Price was an issue, so the magnificent Bergmann Audio Magne was out of the running (it would have been my first choice). I am a big fan of VPI and Clearaudio, too. I heard models from both manufacturers. Either would have suited our purpose, but the Rega RP10 won the audition.
The price for the RP10 is US$5,495 (without cartridge). $6,495 with Apheta mc cartridge pre-installed (how we purchased ours).
One of new features on the RP10 is the platter. I love this thing! How can you love a platter? This ceramic beauty is milled to capture the flywheel effect, which it does superbly. It is a thing of beauty. It graduates from the glass platter of the RP8, already a superb solution. Rega describes it as '...produced from ceramic oxide powder which is compressed, fired and diamond cut to ensure perfect accuracy and flatness across the surface. The new platter features a modified construction with improved coupling to the sub platter.'
The RP10 boasts the same skeletal design as the RP8 and maintains the same bracing and phenolic sandwich in the plinth. Rega says '...The all new RP10 turntable utilises a unique new stressed skin structure produced from thin phenolic skins, sandwiching a featherweight nitrogen expanded, closed cell, polyolefin foam core. This material has been developed exclusively for Rega over a three year period. The RP10 plinth is 7 times lighter than the weight of the original Planar 3 plinth. Rega has added even more stiffness in the crucial area between the arm and the main bearing.'
Another upgrade is the motor. The RP10's motor is a 24v twin phase synchronous unit and controlled by a new power supply.
The new aluminum RB2000 arm is handmade by three Rega engineers with tolerances so tight, no adhesive is used. It's a mighty ending (so far in the story) to the iconic RB300. I'm not sure what was producing the sounds I was hearing during the review period, arm or 'table. A combination of both, surely. But the arm is elegantly engineered -- it floats over the surface providing the blackest of black backgrounds. Sounds emanate from the hall/stage not through an engineered arm. It's here where Roy Gandy's sound philosophy has triumphed. I've not heard the RP10 with anything other than Rega mc cartridges, but the synergy attained between 'motor, platter, sub platter, plinth, belt, arm and cartridge is astounding. Truly a world class system.
Rega describes the new arm as '...a brand new low mass, precision engineered, vertical bearing assembly has been manufactured to further compliment the inherent design philosophy of the RP10 turntable. The RB2000 uses the latest award winning Rega arm tube. Each one is meticulously hand polished (keeping mass to an absolute minimum) and has been completely redesigned to redistribute mass and further reduce stresses and resonances. This advanced design tube increases the stiffness and rigidity of the overall assembly, whilst reducing stress on the bearings even further.'
The arm is set at the factory, with a cartridge installed if requested. The counterweight is tungsten and is very sensitive to placement. Overhang, cartridge tracking and antiskate take moments to setup.
Setup is fairly straight forward with Rega products. My 'table came direct from the Canadian distributor with cartridge (Rega Apheta mc) installed. I still chickened out from doing my own setup. I know, I know! As a grown ass audiophile, I should know how to do it. I've done it before. But, still had the local professional come in. So, I had my local Rega dealer install the Rega wall shelf and after the boys were done, the local Rega specialist (from the same store) tweaked the 'table.
I used the turntable in skeleton configuration. The base is only needed if you want to use the dust cover. I never do.
The phono cables are attached and bespoke by Rega. They seem to do a fine job of delivering information. Rega gives you a tailored solution -- no clamping, no vertical tracking angle, not much tweaking of any kind. It's been designer Roy Gandy's philosophy since day one. It works.
As I gave away in the opening, the sound is glorious. The RP10 gives you the jump in performance over the RP8 that it gave over the RP6 -- and a lot more. A wider, deeper soundstage, even more of the vinyl 'presence' analog fans love, a very quiet background, and a very refined timbral presentation [reviewers, even in Rega RP10 reviews continue to use the word 'tonality' in place of 'timbre'. Tonality is a musical term implying pitch. Completely different animal - Ed]. What surprised me the most was gorgeous layering of instrumental sections. On The Reiner Sound (Classic Records Reissues), the Chicago Symphony's woodwinds (especially in Rhapsodie Espagnole by Ravel) were very specified. Spot on imaging, but layered to perfection. As Ravel builds up the colours, the RP10 was right there with him and the orchestra. This layering, which I heard on many recordings, was very beguiling. The RP10 even topped the Bergmann 'table in this regard.
The Rega Apheta mc Cartridge is not quite as refined as its v2, but it does a good job of unraveling complex musical structures. I put at least 100 hours on the cart before serious listening began. Out of the box, it's a little bright.
Speed was rock solid -- a nice surprise as Rega's are supposed to run a tad fast out of the box. An old Meridian LP of pianist John Bingham playing Schubert Songs arranged by Liszt (a rare and stupendous LP if you can find it) was steady as she goes. No wavering of piano tone and spot on pitch. [Full disclosure -- John was a musical mentor of mine at Trinity College of Music, not only a fabulous pianist (and a student of Neuhaus at the Moscow Conservatoire), but an amazing teacher. Some of my greatest 'flute lessons' were in John's piano lessons, which I audited - Ed]
My test LP for bass is the Classic Records reissue of Jean Martinon/LSO playing Shostakovich Symphony No. 1. Sure, the recorded bass and the orchestra's bass section are superb on this LP, but it's London Transport's rolling stock under Kingsway Hall (between Aldwych and Holborn tube stations) that appears every couple of minutes that's what so impressive. Only the best 'tables/arms show the rumbling clearly. Clear, here.
The Rostropovich/von Karajan/DGG stock vinyl pressing of the Dvorak Cello Concerto demonstrates just how beautifully the Rega combination handles the treble. Whether divided high violins playing pianissimo (deadly poor on weaker 'tables) or the great Rostropovich playing at speed on the highest harmonics, the RP10 controlled everything beautifully and all the gorgeous timbre was left intact, just like the midrange and the bass.
The Dvorak LP demonstrated the micro dynamics, but the Rega was equally brilliant handling anything macro thrown at it. Case in point, Arcana by Varese. Decca reissue with Mehta/LA. A few minutes in, there is a forte/piano (or sfz, more likely) so dynamic, it never ceases impress everybody in the room. They're usually scraping themselves off the ceiling. It helps the performance is as good as the incredible recording. The Rega passed it off as another day at the office. Nothing you have in your collection is going to faze this 'table.
While listening to well used jazz and blues LPs (Philadelphia Jerry Ricks 'More Bottle Blues' on a Roksan reissue; Bill Evans 'Waltz for Debby' on a Analogue Productions reissue), I noticed that the clicks and pops were at a minimal and the backgrounds were black, black, black. The low talking coming from the back of the club during Evans' incredible performance of My Foolish Heart (how rude!) was much clearer than I remember and the background was silent. Same for Jerry Ricks. His guitar chords would fade out perfectly -- the root would disappear leaving 3rd 5th and 7th to diminuendo argumentatively, but so musically. What a musician! Unschooled, but pure natural talent. The Evans LP is available everywhere, The Ricks is rarer, at least in this pressing, but worth a search.
During a relaxed (non review session), I discovered what this 'table is truly all about and brings us to a conclusion. The synergy discussed before is always at the behest of the music and musicians. Listening to the legendary Reiner/CSO/RCA Song of the Nightingale, a simple cello strum demonstrated on one note just how wonderful the Rega RP 10 is. Lots of quality turntables give timbral accuracy to this beautifully played note. Some give it energy and retain the beauty of the instrument. But, the Rega gave it life. Life in Symphony Center all the way back in 1958. A veritable time machine. In audiophile and musicians terms, perfect weight, stress, thumb strike, and with a real life feeling. It was quite unnerving to hear, and happens rarely to these musicians' ears. I'm not sure even the Bergmann 'table captured it so perfectly.
So, a perfect choice for us and one of the most natural candidates for an Audiophilia Star Component Award. Very highly recommended.
If there's a Rega dealer near you, get there as soon as you can and hear one. I've heard the RP6 an RP8 at shows that were set up poorly and sounded dreadful, so make sure they know what they're doing. If so, I think you'll be hooked.
Further information: Rega Research