Rega Planar 1 Plus Turntable Review
Like the idea of vinyl but don’t fancy the hassle? This might be what you’re looking for.
What is the Planar 1 Plus?The Rega Planar 1 Plus is a belt driven unsuspended turntable. Given this is what Rega is known for, this should not be terribly surprising. The design itself - as the name suggests - is also closely related to the Planar 1 which has been on the market for a little while and represents the entry point to Rega turntable ownership. As such, this is standard design practise from the company and closely related to an existing model. Why then, are we devoting a review to it?
The reason is that behind the notionally traditional exterior, the Planar 1 Plus is a first for Rega and representative of a new way of building and selling turntables. Traditionally, one of the defining aspects of a record player was that even cost effective models offered flexibility in terms of what they comprised. You could buy the basic turntable and proceed to choose your cartridge and phono stage. I make no secret of loving this process - like a Jedi building their lightsabre I said at one point, possibly after a little too much coffee.
Many people however don’t. They want to buy a product where everything is in the box to set it up and connect it to a line level input on an amplifier. There has therefore, been a move towards building turntables that meet these requirements - indeed we’ve looked at devices like the Audio Technica LP5 that do a fine job of it. The P1 Plus is Rega’s first attempt at this corner of the market though. Can a manufacturer who is a watchword for aftermarket flexibility deliver on the convenience angle too?
Specification and DesignAs already noted, the Rega is an unsuspended, belt driven turntable. The manner by which it operates is pretty much identical to the Planar 3 and Planar 6 that we have looked at in recent years. Rega’s design philosophy has been largely unchanged in the last forty years so this should not be too much of a surprise. Where the Planar 1 Plus differs from the more expensive models is in the materials used to construct it. The plinth isn’t made from space age foam and neither does it use the visually distinctive bracing process that is present on the more expensive models.
The biggest visual change though is the platter. Instead of the distinctive (and very pretty) glass platter in use on the Planar 2 and upward, the Planar 1 and Plus use one made of phenolic resin. One aspect that is retained from the rest of the Planar range is the manner by which the belt acts on the platter. Instead of looping around the outer edge of the main plater, it does instead act on a sub platter under the main one. This has some positive implications for setup as we shall cover.
The tonearm in use here is the RB110. This is built around visibly similar principles to the more expensive and elaborate RB330 used on the Planer 3 and 6 but- like the rest of the turntable has been simplified. This has some positive effects in terms of meeting the brief of being fit and forget though. The RB110 has no user set anti skate mechanism and instead works on a principle of automatic adjustment based on a narrower range than is the case on the more ornate arms. This technically means that the Planar 1 Plus will work with a smaller range of cartridges than the more expensive models, but Rega has clearly done some number crunching on the number of turntables at this price point that are likely to get a different cartridge in their lives and feel the numbers stack up.
The cartridge that the arm is mated with (and therefore to an extent, built for) is the Carbon Cartridge. This is the entry level for Rega cartridges and differs from the rest of the company’s moving magnet offerings in that it isn’t entirely their own work - it is derived from an Audio Technica design - and that it also has a removable stylus. This second feature is a very handy one as it means that the correctly aligned body as set from the factory can be left in place and the stylus changed when required. The cartridge itself is a moving magnet design with an output of 2.5mv.
What makes the Plus a Plus is that unlike the basic Planar 1, the output from this cartridge is sent to a phono stage built into the underside of the plinth and output as a line level signal. The phono stage that Rega has used is an interesting adaptation of their existing hardware. The basic circuit is taken from the Fono Mini A2D which, as the name suggests, is one of the many phono stages that have cropped up able to digitise vinyl. Rega has removed the USB section for the Planar 1 Plus and beefed up the quality of the components in the main circuit. From a personal perspective, this makes total sense. Digitising vinyl is an utterly thankless task that requires time, patience, fanatical attention to detail and no small amount of luck. Even people who think they want it as a feature generally lose interest after one try. The phono stage cannot be switched out of the circuit but this is presumably based on Rega realising that anyone interested in tinkering with such a thing, will simply buy a Planar 1.
The addition of the phono stage which takes a turntable that was already simplicity itself to setup is a clever one. Whilst not an experiment I have been in a position to carry out, I suspect it would be possible for anyone over the age of ten, prepared to take a moment to think about what they were doing, to take a boxed Planar 1 Plus and have a working turntable in five minutes. Certain features mean that Rega is off to a flying start. The belt acting on the sub platter is pre fitted (and even if it comes off, putting it on again is a joy compared to out edge belts). The counterweight stub has a band on it that marks where to slide the weight to in order to set the tracking correctly. It isn’t as accurate as a dedicated set of scales but crucially, it’s good enough.
This ease of setup is well balanced against a turntable that manages to feel like it has been carefully assembled and at the same time, like it is a bespoke piece of equipment. While items like the thicker Phenolic platter lack the visual elegance of the more expensive models, this is still a well proportioned and attractive looking turntable. It has some welcome additional features too. The output from the phono stage is via a standard RCA output and the Rega has no need for an external ground making for a simple connection. It also has a lid which is very welcome indeed.
The addition of the phono stage takes a turntable that was already simplicity itself to setup is a clever one
How was the Planar 1 Plus tested?The Rega was placed on a Quadraspire Sound Base and connected directly to a Naim Uniti Star via RCA cable. Both units were connected to an IsoTek Evo 3 Aquarius mains conditioner. Speakers used have been the Spendor A1, Acoustic Energy AE1 Classic and Monitor Audio Monitor 50. Test material has been vinyl.
Sound qualityBefore any noise comes out of the Planar 1 Plus, just as importantly, no noise comes out. Connected to the Star, you need to wind the volume levels up to very high settings indeed to hear any background noise. Just as importantly, Rega hasn’t achieved this by limiting the gain on offer. In all but the most underpowered of systems, the Planar 1 Plus should allow you to hit the listening level of your choice and enjoy it free of unwanted noise or hum.
And to be clear, you’ll enjoy it. The Planar 1 Plus is slightly different in configuration to other Rega turntables but its DNA is pure Rega and it shows the moment that it gets to grips with any time signature. The truly awesome Heaven/Hell by Chvrches - seemingly written for a film montage to mind blowing to exist yet - lets the Planar 1 Plus show why, even at this relatively sane level, there’s a certain something to vinyl replay that gets to you. You can listen to the same album on Tidal via the Star’s own (formidable) internal decoding and it is brilliant but there’s a vibrancy and rhythmic energy to the Rega that gets under the skin after a while. It’s not better in any technical sense but it’s utterly compelling on an emotional level.
Being more pragmatic for a second, the Rega is impressively capable for the asking price. It delivers a very even performance from top to bottom that avoids the classic issue of over emphasising the midrange which can be initially pleasing but ultimately a little unfulfilling. It isn’t perfect - there are some rivals at similar money (albeit less the phono stage) that have cartridges that allow for a smoother and more controlled top end than the Rega Carbon, but there is a pleasing sense of energy to it that gives livelier music a real sense of involvement. For the price you can buy one for, it’s a very compelling cartridge indeed.
Just as importantly, it complements the rest of the Rega brilliantly. Picking apart what on the Planar 1 Plus is doing what isn’t easy and to an extent it doesn’t really matter. What is more significant is that they gel together in a way that makes for a compelling argument for a one make turntable. Like the rather more expensive Planar 6, the way that the parts of the Planar 1 Plus work together is greater than their material worth. I’m not sure I have heard much in the way of equipment under £400 that is quite as compelling as this can be.
The catch is that while the Planar 6 can be coaxed into delivering even more performance - both via Rega upgrade parts and the vast array of aftermarket ones - the options for the Planar 1 Plus are a little more limited. The phono stage will work happily with a selection of moving magnet cartridges but the fixed anti skate system will limit your options a little. Given that the rest of the Rega range is more flexible, this can’t be seen as a true criticism of the Planar 1 Plus, more that you need to be sure that this is the path you wish to take with your turntable. If you still want plug and play but with more scope to push the turntable further, the Audio Technica LP5 has far more stretch in the basic design, but out of the box it needs to take second fiddle to the performance of the Rega out of the box.
The Planar 1 Plus is slightly different in configuration to other Rega turntables but its DNA is pure Rega and it shows the moment that it gets to grips with any time signature
- Lively and involving sound
- Seriously easy to set up
- Very well made
- Limited upgrade options
- Only in black or white
Rega Planar 1 Plus Turntable ReviewMixing convenience with quality is something that we’ve seen across many categories. It’s hard but not impossible and items as diverse as LG’s WebOS to ATC’s formidable HTS speakers are fine examples of equipment that is easy to live with but makes no significant demands of their owner. The Rega Planar 1 Plus has to be added to this happy group of products. Put simply, setting up a record player does not get more straightforward or hassle free than this. Everything that Rega knows about the business of straightforward vinyl replay is in this turntable.
Once you’ve done so, you get to enjoy an outstanding piece of affordable analogue. The Rega is undoubtedly fairly technically accomplished for a player at this price but more (much more) than this, it makes you want to spend hours listening to it. It might lack a little upgrade stretch (although, this being the case, choose another Rega option) but for the combination of simplicity, build and sonic quality, the Rega is an unquestionable Best Buy.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £329.00
Ease of Use10
Value for Money9
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.