Price (RRP): $849
Is it a kind of second childhood that has brought me back to vinyl? Or is it wonderful equipment, like this Rega Planar 2 turntable?
Rega is a long-standing British firm of turntable makers. It was in Britain in the 1970s that there was a revolution in the understanding of high fidelity. Rather than it being all about the loudspeakers, the realisation dawned that high quality had to start with the signal extracted from the record.
Rega was one of the companies that took this to heart. Its most famous innovation was the glass turntable platter. To ensure a very even rotation, a plate of glass proved to be ideal. Its high mass provides great stability.
It has kept to this theme over the decades. In the last couple of years, Rega has been systematically renewing and updating its products. The Rega Planar 2 (Website here) is the entry level for these glass platter models. It’s quite the bargain at $849.
The Rega Carbon cartridge
Truly that is a bargain. Compare the Rega Planar 3, which we reviewed last year. (And which I now own.) It has a slightly thicker platter – 12mm rather than 10mm – and various other improvements. But without a cartridge, it sells for $1249. The Planar 2 comes with the Rega Carbon cartridge pre-fitted.
For those just getting into record playing for the first time, the cartridge is the device on the end of the tonearm. It holds the stylus, which is what sits in the record groove and vibrates, side to side and up and down. The cartridge generates the electrical signal. The Rega Carbon cartridge is unusual amongst Rega cartridges in that the stylus is user replaceable. A new stylus costs $40. It’s also relatively low output: 2.5mV compared to around 7mV for Rega’s other models. Good? Bad? Well, it means a touch more susceptibility to noise in the signal lines. But it also means that it’s less likely to overload a phono input.
The Rega Planar 2 is available with a gloss red, gloss black or gloss white plinth. It has a perspex cover. The on/off switch is under the front left corner. It will play both 33s and 45s. You change speed by removing the platter and moving the belt onto the other pulley wheel. A felt mat covers the glass platter.
The signal cables are fixed rather than removable. As seems to be Rega’s practice, there is no separate earth or ground cable.
Setting up the Rega Planar 2
The Rega Planar 2 comes in several parts in the box, but assembly isn’t difficult. The perspex cover slips into slots at the back. A bit too easily, and a bit too easy in slipping back out. I’d be inclined to purchase two neat, small gauge screws, drill holes through the tabs and secure them to the plinth.
The RB220 tonearm is pre-fitted. The counterweight on the tonearm has to be screwed on, then balanced. It doesn’t have markings, but each half turn equates to one gram of pressure. Rega recommends two grams. With a full 360 degrees of rotation, the pressure measured 2.06 grams. You can trust the instructions.
There is no anti-skating adjustment. The arm has an anti-skating bias built in.
Anti-skating? The geometry of tone arms on turntables is such that there ends up being an additional sideways force applied by the stylus towards the centre of the record. That can increase wear on the inner sides of the grooves. Antiskating applies a counter-force to push the arm back out towards the edge of the record. I used a test record to see how well it was balanced. There seemed to be way too much anti-skating force. The stylus was shooting out towards the edge of the record quite rapidly. Even when I wound up the stylus pressure to three grams, there was still too much. (The higher the tracking weight, the more the skating force.)
In practice, it didn’t seem to make any difference to the listening.