Rega Research RP8 Turntable Aims For Mass Extinction Page 2

Fast Times at Rega Research

Job one is to spin the platter at the correct speed so I’m always amazed by how many turntable reviews don’t bother to check and report speed accuracy on non-speed adjustable ‘tables.

Every Rega turntable I’ve reviewed has run slightly fast. Mr. Freeman told me that Rega specs their ‘tables to run within a quarter of a percent (0.0025) of exact speed, preferring any error to be on the fast side of exact, which makes sense. Our brains better tolerate slightly fast than slightly slow.

First I used the Clearaudio 300Hz strobe disc and light and clearly the RP8 was running fast at both 33 1/3 and 45rpm. But how fast? I used the Feickert Platterspeed iPhone app in conjunction with their 7” Adjust + test record’s 3150Hz tone and then double checked using the 3150Hz tone on Analogue Productions’ “The Ultimate Analogue Test LP”.

The iPhone app confirmed two things: firstly that the ‘table’s speed consistency was excellent. Low pass filtered (to remove record eccentricity contributions) it was a perfectly symmetrical ± 0.02%.

The graph looked as good as the numbers, but the mean frequency was 3175Hz for the 3150Hz test signal and while recording the tone, the meter never crossed into the program’s correct speed (±.2%) green zone. 3175 Hz is eight tenths of a percent fast (0.008). At .0025 the 3150Hz tone would have been approximately 3158Hz.

So yes, this RP8 sample ran faster than factory spec, at least proving I wasn’t sent a “gone over” reviewer sample. I asked Freeman if there was a way to adjust the speed. He said I could loosen the screws holding the motor to the plinth and adjust the O-ring tension.

Lessening the tension did lower the speed somewhat but the speed consistency went completely to hell so my suggestion would be to not mess with this if you buy an RP8 and it runs faster than spec. My suggestion would be to return it or perhaps to first request a new set of O-rings to see if that solves the problem.

A turntable, particularly one costing $3000, should run at the correct speed ± a reasonable deviation of, as Phil Freeman suggests, ±0025!

Two other observations: the plinth is lively as one might expect from a lightweight, rigid frame. Tap on it while a record plays and the impulse is transmitted seemingly unimpeded through to the speakers but tap on the shelf holding the ‘table (in this case a Harmonic Resolution Systems base) and there’s nearly full attenuation. Do place the RP8 on a well-engineered shelf!

A stethoscope on the plinth with the motor running revealed a significant high frequency motor hum. Put the stethoscope on the “stress beam”’s Magnesium top plate and again, nearly complete motor noise attenuation.

One last observation before the sonic assessment: leave the dust attracting, static electricity producing and discharging, clingy felt mat in the box! If you don’t, be sure to always mute your preamp before attempting to remove records from the platter, or your system will be rocked by seismic static electricity sonic discharges that can cause serious damage—I experienced this in the usually low static summertime. Dry winter can only be worse.

If you use insist on using the mat and leave the platter spinning during your listening session as Rega suggests, you risk losing your cantilever to the clingy mat as it can (and will) partially cling to the record and as you lift it from the rotating platter, spin its way towards the stylus. You’ve been warned.

Best Sounding Rega Turntable Ever?

Leaving aside one review sample’s speed issue (that I trust does not afflict them all) and the felt mat (I substituted the thinner Boston Audio graphite mat), the RP8 more than lived up to high expectations, with or without the dust cover holding outer frame (I ran the RP8 almost exclusively without it).

This ‘table sounded as if it didn’t store or waste any of the considerable energy produced at the stylus/groove interface, dumped into the soon to be reviewed $21,000 Thrax phono preamp, which has prodigious bass reproducing abilities. Had low frequency slop entered, it would have pour forth alarmingly.

The bass this ‘table transmitted was taut, exceedingly clean, very well-extended, powerful and masterfully articulated. Try the recent double 45rpm reissue of Ray Brown’s “Soular Energy” for instance, recently reissued by Analogue Productions as a double 45rpm 200g set (AAPJ 268).

This is record reissue perfection—emphasis on “energy”—the trio arrangements are all about it. Brown’s bass is prodigious, Gene Harris’s closely-miked piano explosive, and Gerryck King’s drums sparkle, pop and shimmer.

When Brown digs for the deepest notes, you don’t get the woody fullness my big rig delivers, but the pluck’s power and sensational articulation make a case for the RP8’s rendering. The same was true of Harris’s piano. Less woody sounding board but the transient clarity more than makes up for that and there was sufficient harmonic and textural follow through to produce a sufficiently rich, full piano sound that never sounded metallic, “tinkly” or incomplete.

The trio emerged from absolute blackness, thanks to both the stunningly quiet pressing and the RP8’s ability to suppress what little residual groove noise there was and its ability to unleash fierce amounts of fully gripped perfectly timed, pulsating energy.

Omnivore’s superb reissue of Jellyfish’s 1993 classic “Spilt Milk” (OVLP-6) mastered by John Golden from the original analog master tape contains very busy, densely packed musical and vocal arrangements and while here the big rig better sorted it all out, the RP8 never sounded strained or confused.

The album is a witty brew of Brian Wilson, Beach Boys harmonies, Andy Partridge and XTC’s exuberance; throw in some Queen-style harmonic exclamations and maybe melodic twists courtesy Difford-Tillbrook.

Rhino’s superb reissue of Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark” expertly remastered by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering can sound a bit bright and metallic on lesser turntables fitted with middling cartridges, but the RP8 running either the recently updated Transfiguration Phoenix or a now “vintage” Lyra Helikon SL avoided vocal smear, grit and/or sibilant imprecision. Image solidity and three-dimensionality were the best I’ve heard from a Rega other than from the P9.

Dynamics both micro and macro were well expressed, particularly for a turntable/arm combo at this price point. The background pitch-blackness was also well beyond what one expects at this price point. The big Wilson XLFs were fully engaged.

Every play of every familiar LP emphasized the ‘table’s remarkable rhythm’n’pacing, its expressive dynamic abilities and its precise instrumental attack against a dead black backdrop. This turntable’s overall detail resolution, but particularly of the low level, reverberant variety and its handling of instrumental decay was exceptional regardless of price.

Most significant was the consistent integration of all of the elements that join forces to produce a great vinyl playback experience. The RP8 speaks with but one voice and that proved true using a variety of cartridges (read Art Dudley’s Apheta review here).

Still, for those who like “thick and rich”—and there are those— they may find the RP8 somewhat harmonically (forgive me) skeletal. For those folks, a warm cartridge might do the trick, but in my opinion that’s like removing the low profile Pirelli P Zero Neros from your Porsche and substituting some all-season “soft rides”.

If you are a Metallica fan, you have to hear the 45rpm edition of “Metallica” on this ‘table! Not that there was anything wrong with how it decoded a recent IMPEX reissue of an old RCA mono Heifetz album of Beethoven violin Sonatas Nos. 8 and 10 (LM-1914). The RP8 floated a solid, stable, supple and pleasingly silky image between the speakers, reproducing a fine rendering of the recording space as well as of Emanuel Bay’s piano, well in the background, microdynamics and harmonics intact.

Despite a few speed bumps along the way, and despite the arm’s lack of azimuth and VTA/SRA adjustability, Rega’s new $2995 RP8 turntable/RB808 arm combo is the most exciting and truly revolutionary turntable to be introduced in quite some time. It’s one I know I will strongly recommend to those looking for a high quality vinyl introduction, particularly as a “plug and play” for $3995 fitted with the Apheta MC cartridge. It will blow their digital minds.

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COMMENTS
Ortofan's picture

So, for $2995 they can't afford to include a stroboscope and some means of speed/pitch adjustment?

Michael Fremer's picture

They lock it in at the factory and that's their policy. It's an issue if you get one that's drifted as this one had. The RP10 (new more expensive) can be user-adjusted.

Ortofan's picture

That's a steep upcharge just to get the model with speed adjustment.

Before spending $3K for an RP8, I'd want to try a SOTA Jewel (with an SME M2 tonearm) for comparison.

allhifi's picture

Good review. A couple serious "but if's", however.

In the RP-8 review it was stated something like "assuming it's just this one" !

Give me a break. Rega (since the 1980's) are known for this indifference (to speed variation/inconsistency).

As a reviewer, you should always assume that what you have is a "representative" sample, not some worn-out reviewer model, unless proven otherwise.

Furthermore, Rega's early tonearms were "shite" --plain & simple. That they continue to pretend to know what their doing is laughable. (Rigidity Above All Else is far too long-in-tooth, simplistic and plain wrong. No VTA, Azimuth etc.).

Mercifully, we have actual engineers and creative folk out there that offer up alternatives to the self-professed wisdom of Rega's founder (and/or its engineering principles).

Yet, many thousands (of unsuspecting?) consumers lead the way -- assuming Rega sales are brisk?

As noted, at such a price point (as the RP-8), speed accuracy and consistency should be (should be demanded to be) precise and unwavering. If not, look elsewhere. Lots of serious-minded manufacturers exist in today's marketplace. You can thank me later.

peter jasz

Brother John's picture

You forgot to mention the RP808 tonearm uses the same cheap cartridge wire connections as the RP303 which at $3.000.00 is a crime. Roy Gandy is a cheapskate.

Bigrasshopper's picture

I haven't heard the table, but I like the sound of your adjectives.  One object layered on another, in a brief  rippling rhythm, riding on the slippery "Ss" and coming to rest on a final welcoming subjective impression.  "The RP8 floated a solid, stable, supple and pleasingly silky image between the speakers-" You have a gift for evocative economy without a bit of scarcity.  It's really no wonder that you weren't  using pussycat protection.

jazz and cocktails's picture

that the RP10 looks like an RP8 with the holes filled in, and a wider plinth.

howardk's picture

Hi Mike,

It seems like the RP6 is the "sweet spot" in the Rega lineup.  However, both Stereophile and Analog Planet appear to have skipped over it, instead covering the RP3 and RP8.  Where does the RP6 fit into the price/performance equation of the Rega offerings?

 

 

 

popluhv's picture

I know the P series runs fast (possibly by intention?). Were any of the other RP series previously tested by Stereophile speed checked? 

daniel badman's picture

my rp6 run a bit fast too with the rega drive belts but when i put on the edwards audio little belter drive belt it was spot on don't know if that would make this turntable run on speed or not 

volvic's picture

Don't they purposely run their tables a little faster to compensate for stylus drag? 

coaster92's picture

Is this essentially an internet version of the Stereophile review of the RP8 based on your experinece with that review sample? It's true when you buy a Rega some of that goes to UK labor Brother John and parts costs are curtailed, yea it seems cheap, you are'nt buying Chinese here, when I buy a Rega I am partly helpng a working man to earn a living in the companys home country. At the upper price level of the 8 it does seem a few audiophile spec parts could have been added. But I'd gurantee you Gandy thinks cartridge clips are inaudible. The platter on a P3 used to be more robust and the arm used to have the tungsten weight as standard, and where there was metal is now plastic. Are the changes audible? Has Rega moved things foward in spite of this? you'd have to take out an old 3 and compare to the current version. I have an RP8 slightly fast out of box and I did a reoil with 90w gear oil, now I have never had a Rega more speed true than this. Neither have I ever had a table that sounds this good.  Re Plinth maybe tapping it transmits easily, rather than tap the plinth- put on a record fairly loud and feel the plinth as the music is playing- music vibrations are rejected better than the older plinths. I am convinced Rega factory adjusts their tables to run slightly fast on purpose but will never admit it. Mr. Fremer is correct about Regas being generally fast since his review experience meshes with my user experience even with accounting for stylus drag (and he is to be commended for writing the only recent Rega review I know of to point this out and give criticism where its due, though I do remember a long ago Hi fi choice review of a Rega indicating similar results). I hope they send him an RP10 to take for a spin. Btw Where does Rega say the RP10 has speed control? that would be very un-Rega like. Here is what they say on their site: "Factory set vibration and speed adjustments are then made to the power supply to tune the motor for optimal performance."

Michael Fremer's picture

Yes. Most of my reviews in Analog Corner are not online. Stereophile posts some of the reviews and those will be duplicated here as well. When I spoke with Rega's Phil Freeman at a recent show (they all blur into one and I can't remember which it was) he specifically told me the 10 would have user adjustable speed control. I hope to get a 10 very soon.

tnargs's picture

"low mass, unsuspended turntables.... compared to their lumbering brethren.... its design philosophy of low mass, high rigidity, unsuspended, motor-onboard construction, .... rigid, low mass plinths and modest mass platters....  the company’s latest series of turntables has taken that concept to high tech extremes .... If you thought Rega ‘tables were low mass before, have a look at the new skeletal RP8.... It is the company’s most rigid, lowest mass design yet. .... both ultra-rigid and ultra-low mass.... a plinth that is seven times lighter than that of the original Rega 3"

Having placed so much emphasis on the plinth's low mass, do you happen to know what it weighs, please?

Michael Fremer's picture

Rega says "7 times lighter than the original Planar 3 plinth" but I don't know how heavy that was!

Brother John's picture

clips coaster92 although your thesis about British labor and Mr. Gandy's assessment make perfect sense.

As an owner of an old Rega P25 Turntable I have unfortunate past experience with that companies cheap cartridge clips breaking off while changing cartridges as well as their connectors being too small to fit properly onto the pins of a few non-Rega brands. A more robust clip like the one VPI uses even on their cheapest tonearm doesn't stand the chance of breaking off while mounting new cartridges.
I will not ever purchase another Rega TT because of this Issue.
My next upgrade will most likely be one of the VPI classic models.
VPI products are not manufactured in China either but New Jersey all while avoiding the use of cheap tonearm connections on their $3K turntable/Tonearm and paying their employees a real wage.

FatElvis's picture

I have an RP8 and can confirm that it runs fast. 33.56rpm and 45.53 per Turntabulator app on iPhone. Same app gave me 33.33 on my expertly setup Linn LP12 outfitted with Hercules power supply.

Funny how the Rega tables always seem to run a little fast but never a little slow.

Also can confirm that it sounds fantastic. Would prefer accurate speed.

Jimcorbet's picture

Hi,
As you have a Rega RP8. Can you please share your experience regarding tonearm vibrations at 45 rpm.
Cheers,
Jim

tangoman's picture

I have Rega RP 6 with a few mods like a Groovetracer® reference subplatter and Tangospinner Golden - Brass Pulleys set Triple pulley and the ACRYLIC PLATTER UPGRADE for Rega RP6 turntable 30mm so now I ready to buy the Ortofon MC Cadenza Black Cartridge (Moving Coil and the that sells in Australia for $3000 so just asking everyone out there is this a over kill for the Rega PR 6 ? thanks

Jimcorbet's picture

So I have the Rega RP8 and in my opinion it has a design flaw. Every time I increase the speed of the deck to 45rpm I can feel the vibrations of the motor coming through the tonearm. Yes on a turntable that costs in UK around £2500 the tonearm vibrates. In order to cure the situation I have tried everything from changing the feet to aluminium ones, buying a heavy wooden block, and finally putting a layer of sorbothane underneath the table. But nothing has helped. Reading this article I see that Michael also mentioned that the motor suffers from hum and the plinth is very live, this can only translate into a motor vibration problem. I am not sure why did issue has not been reported widely.

Leyland1671's picture

During all the years REGA has been active in turntable manufacturing, there are still unbelievable statements that come with their products. And those that are essential are still simply ignored. Such as useable technical specifications. Why are the potential customers left in the dark? Is it perhaps the e.g. wow & flutter figures are not so good? Why are those rediculous statements by Gandy as for leaving dust on the records as "the stylus will push that aside" still in their documentations that come with their products? Or that we should not believe other manufacturers' recommendations? These facts alone keep me away from REGA. No matter how the products sound, no matter how popular they might be. Simply not for me. Because I know Gandy did not invent the medium, others did that. And others perfected the medium, not Gandy. In fact during the foundation of REGA there were already pretty good sounding products on the market that still outperform so many modern day turntables, e.g. the DUAL 701. So no, Mr. Gandy. You may be stubbornly continue to influence the newbees, once they heard what good vintage equipment is capable of they will doubt your rediculous statements.

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