By Lam Seng Fatt
Just before the Movement Control Order started on March 18, I managed to get hold of a Rega Planar 8 with Ania MC cartridge, Neo PSU and Rega Fono phono preamp from Asia Sound Equipment in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, for review.
So while lazing around at home, I took out a pile of LPs that I had not listened to for a long time including Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes and Blonde On Blonde, The Band’s Greatest Hits and LPs by CSNY, Janis Ian, Joan Baez and others. I played Bob Dylan’s Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands numerous times.
From the outset, I must state that the Rega Planar 8 does not spin faster than normal. Many Rega owners have noted that the lower-end Rega turntables with the plastic sub-platter tend to spin a bit faster. In fact, I have tweaked my old Rega Planar 3 to spin at the right speed (see http://av2day.com/2014/12/tweaking-the-rega-to-spin-at-the-right-speed/).
Before I placed an LP on the Planar 8, I took out a strobe disk and confirmed that the speed was spot on.
The Planar 8 has an even smaller and lighter skeletal plinth than its predecessor, the RP8, and its cover is just one sheet of acrylic. The construction foam used to make the plinth is now coloured black. Asia Sound Equipment, the Malaysian distributor for Rega, did not give me the cover as there were concerns that it could be scratched.
The platter is made of three layers of glass and is quite heavy. So it is advisable to give the platter a push when the power is switched on.
The first impression you will get when listening to the Planar 8 is that the soundstage is wide and deep. The second point you will note is that the images are quite well defined and very stable. The third point is that the sonic signature is quite neutral and balanced. The Planar 8 does not add any coloration to the music.
In other words, this turntable does what it is supposed to do in exemplary fashion. Read the groove of the LP and reproduce the recorded music without distortion or coloration. Well-pressed and audiophile LPs sound fantastic while badly-recorded ones sound bad.
It is also quite a pacey turntable with a good grip on the rhythmic aspect of music.
I tried replacing the felt mat with a leather mat and found that the latter made the music sound quite dark and I used the felt mat for the rest of the listening period.
The only limiting factor in this system is the cartridge. The Ania is the entry-level product to Rega’s line of moving-coil cartridges.
I compared it with the resident Benz Glider mounted on an RB250 tonearm on a heavily-tweaked Rega Planar 3 connected to the Fono phono preamp and found that the Benz offered better timbral accuracy and more defined images in a well-spread out soundstage.
If money is not an issue, you can opt for the higher-level Rega MC cartridges such as the Apheta 2 (or 3, the latest version) and the Aphelion 2.
According to Rega’s website, “The Planar 8 was inspired by the ultimate Rega turntable, the ‘Naiad’. We decided early on that instead of an evolution of the previous RP8, the new Planar 8 was to be developed and engineered to encapsulate the essence of ‘Naiad’ at an affordable price. Our aim was to deliver a level of performance far beyond what has been achieved at this price point before.
“Every aspect of the Planar 8 is engineered to extract as much detail from the vinyl surface as possible. We have used the most advanced materials and engineering solutions built around a supremely lightweight plinth to ensure the greatest level of performance.The Planar 8 is supplied with the new RB880 tonearm and Neo PSU as standard which 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 outer frame of the previous model has now been removed and a new stylish, removable, single piece dustcover has been introduced further reducing the overall mass of the turntable.”
I have always been a fan of Rega and while certain things like the tonearm has remained more or less the same in terms of design, Rega has been really innovative and brave in its design of the skeletal plinth based on the ‘less mass is more’ philosophy.
In its price range, I can safely say that the Planar 8 is probably the best and can compete with turntables costing more.
The Rega Planar 8 with power supply costs RM12,229 with the Ania MC cartridge. With the Apheta 2 cartridge, it costs RM14,000. Without any cartridge, it costs RM9,800. The Rega Fono MC phono preamp costs RM1,379.
Contact Vincent Wan of Asia Sound at 018-225 5160 for more details.