June 7, 2016
Rega Planar 3
Price: £550 or £625 with Rega Elys2 cartridge
Pros: Combines best pace, rhythm and timing in class with superb build quality and finish.
Cons: Needs decent support for best results.
Verdict: Rega has done a remarkable job with the new Planar 3, by adding finesse to what was already the most engaging turntable at the price they have created a seemingly unbeatable package.
Many products are called iconic but that usually means that they are in vogue at a particular time, the Rega Planar 3 has been in production for 40 years and has evolved over that period to be one of the most highly regarded turntables in the world. That’s iconic. Its name may have changed slightly over the decades but it has returned to the one that got it started, everything else, however, has changed.
The new Planar 3 looks stunning, it has to because the competition has been outdoing it on this front for some time and music lovers are just as inclined to buy with their eyes as their ears. The new black or white gloss plinth changes all that and the placement of the on/off switch underneath helps both the looks and ease of use.
The platter is made of Optiwhite glass with a polished edge that also enhances aesthetics, but it’s the bits that you don’t notice which have had such a dramatic influence on its sound quality. The RB330 tonearm for instance looks very similar to its predecessor but its bearings have tighter tolerances and the armtube has been refined so that it is less excitable. What a record player needs to do is measure the tiny vibrations in a groove surface, the measurement is the music signal and you don’t want vibrations from elsewhere getting into that signal.
The arm base is braced to the new bearing housing with phenolic braces above and below the plinth, the top one having a silver aluminium finish. The sub platter – the bit that takes the drive belt underneath the platter – has been redesigned for greater accuracy. Even the feet and motor control system has been redesigned since the RP3 that came out in 2011.
It’s a comprehensive overhaul of an already remarkable turntable that has seen its sound quality go from extremely entertaining but a little bit coarse to addictively engaging and remarkably refined. That’s the word, refined, now you get the pitch perfect, foot tapping timing alongside oodles of detail. The quiet notes are as well served as the fundamentals, so you hear all the atmosphere of the studio or stage and you can almost smell the sweat on particularly heavy tracks. I love the sound of drums on the Planar 3, the power, impact and immediacy is intoxicating, far better than any other turntable at this price to be honest.
It’s the combination of control, dynamics and timing that makes it so effective. Many turntables can give you the excitement and energy of a song but fall down when it comes to exposing the subtleties and nuances of the performance. This Rega digs deep into the groove and comes up with sounds you didn’t know were there, stuff that combines with the vocals and rhythms to create a bigger and richer sonic picture. It’s a bit like high definition video, but you hear the extra detail rather than see it. Overall the experience has more realism and a greater ability to draw you in, so much so that watching the telly seems like an even greater waste of time.
Rega has done a remarkable job of bringing its most iconic turntable up to date, not only does the Planar 3 look stunning it sounds even better. It’s not cheap but with hi-fi you get what you pay for, which is this case is spectacular value for money and guaranteed long term vinyl addiction.
Type: Manual turntable and arm with lightweight double braced plinth and dust cover
Rotational Speeds: 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM
Tonearm Length: 9 inch
Drive Mechanism: belt drive via 24V motor
Speed change: manual
Platter Type: 12mm Optiwhite glass 12-inch platter
Bearing Type: Precision brass bearing housing
Plinth Configuration: high rigidity plinth on isolating feet
Dimensions (HxWxD): 117 x 447 x 360mm (lid closed)
Finish: gloss white, gloss black
Reviewed by Jason Kennedy, Editor of audiophile magazine The Ear