Rega Planar 25 turntable Page 2

The Planar 25 and Planar 9 share the same thin, light, but very rigid plinth of chipboard and phenolic laminate, and the same attractive wooden frame (available in various finishes), which attaches via three standoffs. The 25 sports the same three hollow-rubber feet (tuned to slightly different frequencies) used on all Rega turntables.

The 9 uses a drive hub of extremely hard, exquisitely machined and polished vanadium with dual O-rings, and a high-density, ultrarigid ceramic-oxide platter that takes three weeks to make. The 25 is fitted with the 3's plastic drive hub, single O-ring, and glass platter. All Rega 'tables are topped by a felt mat.

Analog's Shifting Sands
Back when I reviewed the Planar 9, I was skeptical about its hard, ringy platter and thin, low-mass plinth. I was convinced that damping, and lots of it, was the key to low coloration and the accurate retrieval of information. I couldn't understand why Roy Gandy would go to all that trouble to produce an ultrahard ceramic platter that rang when tapped.

Well, the 9's dynamic, rhythmically lithe performance turned my head. The Simon Yorke's snapped it off. The Yorke's platter—24 lbs of (mostly) nonmagnetic austenitic stainless steel—also rings when struck. And the armboard, made of a light, rigid wood laminate, also seems to be the opposite of what's needed.

But hearing is believing. Both products produce a fast, clean, harmonically convincing, exceedingly well-organized sound. Instead of damping resonances, these turntables (and other products, such as Black Diamond Racing cones and shelves) use stiffness to raise their resonant frequency. The higher that frequency, the more quickly the energy can dissipate. Both damping and quick dissipation can work effectively; many great examples of both can be found throughout high-end audio.

The Planar 25 steps out in style
Setup of the Planar 25 is the same as with other Rega 'tables: fast and easy. Since you can't adjust azimuth or VTA, once you've set overhang and antiskating you're ready to play records. A few days after the Planar 25 arrived, a small box bearing Grado's new Statement phono cartridge arrived. This $2600 wooden-bodied cartridge has the lowest output of any Grado in recent memory, if not ever: 700µV. I installed it in the Planar 25 and attached the Neutrik connectors to the Lehmann Black Cube set for MC (61dB) gain, loaded at 47k ohms.

The height of the new Grado, like that of the others in the wooden-body line, puts the arm below parallel to the record surface, but not severely so. As Roy Gandy loves to point out (or rub in, depending on your perspective), you have to dramatically alter the pivot height to make small changes in VTA. Though the arm is clearly not parallel to the record surface when you look at the cartridge body alone, you might think that it is.

I put the Planar 25 on the top shelf of a Zoethecus stand fitted with a constrained-layer-damped Z-Slab and thought about what records to spin. What a painful job! Staring me in the face was a new MoFi gold CD of Squeeze's great East Side Story. I sat down and played it on Naim's CDX HDCD player fitted with the optional outboard power supply (currently under review).

MoFi's transfer, using its new Gain 2 mastering chain, is really outstanding: immediate, dynamic, three-dimensional, and highly resolved on top. In other words, very "analog-like." The recording, by Roger Bechirian, Elvis Costello co-producing, is especially honest for a rock recording, and does justice to the great octave singing duo of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, who also wrote most of the tunes.

The gold CD has tremendous bass clarity and authority—especially the kick drum—and the cymbals ring, shimmer, and decay impressively. Since there's not a bad tune on the disc, I listened straight through.

Then I switched to the LP. Granted, I have an original British A&M pressing—a "Porky Prime Cut." This means it was mastered by George Peckham, one of the greatest rock mastering engineers of the analog era. (Look for "Another Porky Prime Cut" or "Pecko Duck" in the leadout-groove area.) It sounds much better than the American A&M version, but the difference, good as the MoFi gold CD is, was remarkable. The LP on the new Rega resolves much more detail, and while the CD was impressive on top, the shimmer and ring of the cymbals were far more real on the LP.