Rega Planar 8 Turntable Review

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And you thought ‘mass effect’ was a computer game

by Ed Selley Mar 7, 2019 at 7:07 AM

  • Hi-Fi review

    3

    Best In Class
    Rega Planar 8 Turntable Review
    SRP: £1,699.00

    What is the Rega Planar 8?

    The Rega Planar 8 is an unsuspended, belt drive turntable that replaces the long running and much loved RP8. While the phrases 'unsuspended' and 'belt drive' are classic Rega through and through, even a quick look at the Planar 8 should be enough to confirm that this is not a gentle evolution. While it is possible to recognise elements of the RP8 in the design, this a turntable that doesn't look like anything that has been done by them before.

    At least, it doesn't look like any Rega that us mere mortals have ever seen before. The Planar 8 takes many design aspects from a turntable called the Naiad. This is built to order in very limited quantities for a brisk £30,000 a time. The Planar 8 is essentially a simplified and production friendly Naiad - and that means it has the potential to be very special indeed.

    Of course, potential and reality are not the same thing. Does this striking looking device, with its many distinct ideas translate into real world brilliance or are these ideas something that would have been best left to strictly limited high end production runs? Let’s cue the music and find out.

    Specification and Design

    Rega Planar 8 Specification and Design
    Key to understanding the Planar 8 is understanding the concepts to which it has been designed. These concern mass and its application. While a number of brands have taken the considered approach that ‘might is right’ and built some whopping great designs over the years, this has not been the approach favoured by Rega. Previous models we have looked at like the Planar 3 and Planar 6 have used a ‘stressed beam’ principle where strength and mass is concentrated on axis between the bearing and the tonearm. The rest of the plinth is lightweight and not part of this calculation.

    The Planar 8 builds on this approach. It is effectively just the stressed beam, with the rest of the plinth being stripped back to the skeleton you see before you. The plinth is then made of the same tan cast 8 material that the Planar 6 is made from. This is now dyed to a black colour during production that allows Rega to leave it exposed on the outside and inside edges of the plinth and ensures that the shape you see can be formed.
    Rega Planar 8 Specification and Design
    The bearing housing is borrowed from the Naiad’s design and this is designed to reduce noise and provide a stable basis for it to function. The spindle and sub platter assembly are now in a single piece that ships in place. This is next to a motor that is mounted from the bottom - again an idea borrowed from Naiad. Doing so further reduces the noise and keeps weight centred toward the bearing. The motor acts on the sub platter via a belt made of a special rubber compound that further reduces noise.

    Rega then doubles down on the concentration of mass with the platter. This is a glass type, as seen on a number of other models from them but here it takes the form of a three layer design made from two different types of glass. Rega concentrates the weight at the outer edge, reducing the force on the bearing and lowering noise while still giving the desired flywheel effect. While it looks spectacular without, a felt matt is supplied for use.

    The arm is less visibly radical compared to the plinth but it is still largely new. The RB880 has a new bearing assembly with some very tight tolerances indeed and partners this with a slimline counterweight that makes setting the tracking weight a very painless undertaking. As standard from the factory, the Planar 8 can be supplied with no cartridge (£1,699), with the Ania cartridge (£2,119) or the Apheta 2 cartridge (£2,439). Experience with Rega arms suggests that there are very few relevantly priced cartridges that it won’t accommodate though.

    Rega Planar 8
    The final piece of the Planar 8 is the Neo PSU. This is the same as the one supplied with the Planar 6 and uses some of the quartz locking technology from the flagship RP10. Each PSU is mated to the motor it is shipped with and, like on the Planar 6, it gives a compact and attractive point of control, complete with speed control.

    One side effect of the design change to the Planar 8 is that there is no longer any means of attaching hinges to the back of the plinth and using a lid. Rega’s solution is simple but elegant nevertheless. The Planar 8 is supplied with an acrylic cover (which is rather more appealing than being asked to pay extra for it) and Rega has ensured it fits correctly by fitting a locating ‘spike’ that sits in a hole behind the platter and locates the cover correctly each time. Likewise, the new feet position necessitates a different wall bracket which Rega has made available from launch for £135.
    Rega Planar 8
    In the past, I have waxed lyrical about the proportions of classic Rega turntables. I maintain that the Planar 3 is one of the most affordable pieces of Hi-Fi that warrants the term ‘beautiful’ to be bandied about. The simplicity of the lines and effortless sense of proportion make for a genuinely special device. By rights, the Planar 8 should leave me cold but strangely it doesn’t. Like the Planar 3, there is no embellishment to the Planar 8. Everything on it is there for a reason and the result is a product that looks purposeful and deliberate in a way that is extremely appealing.

    It also looks modern. This is a faintly ridiculous notion for something designed to play a nigh on century old technology but the Planar looks and feels like something from the Aerial Atom school of industrial design. The feel is important too. With so little of it in many places it would have been an easy thing for the Rega to feel lightweight and insubstantial but it really doesn’t. Everything moves with the feel of being hugely carefully assembled and the result is deeply impressive. You can buy bigger and more ornate turntables for the same price but I don’t know of much that feels more solid.

    Rega Planar 8
    The Planar looks and feels like something from the Aerial Atom school of industrial design

    How was the Planar 8 tested?

    The Rega was placed on a Quadraspire Soundbase platform as it was otherwise placed on a simple (and rather elderly) G Plan table and drew power from an IsoTek Evo 3 Aquarius mains conditioner. It has been tested with both the Apheta 2 and Ania cartridges and run into a Cyrus Phono Signature and a Rega Aura Phono Stage. Amplifiers have included a Naim Uniti Star, Naim Supernait 2 and Musical Fidelity M6 500i with Acoustic Energy AE1 Classic, Neat Momentum 4 and Monitor Audio GS100 speakers. Material used has been vinyl.

    Sound Quality

    Rega Planar 8 Sound Quality
    One of the most durable myths that relates to vinyl replay is that, without mass, there isn’t the wherewithal to generate decent bass. If spending some time with the Planar 8 doesn’t finally put this notion to the sword, I don’t know what will. The Rega has a truly fantastic handle on the lower registers. Listening to the massive Monsters Exist, the deep electronic notes of the title track are replayed perfectly. Obviously, there is plenty of low end weight but more than that, there is a level of texture and definition that is something that, regrettably, tends to cost a fair bit to achieve with vinyl.

    This formidable bass underpins a presentation that borders on the cinematic. With large scale music, the Planar 8 is effortlessly open and three dimensional. The sound extends out beyond the speakers but does so without leaving any sense of a hole in the space between them. The demanding rendition of Berlin Sunrise by Fink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra demonstrates this to superb effect. This is a big recording with a full size orchestra being fronted by Fink. The Planar 8 does a wonderful job of ensuring that both are given the focus that they require. Their relationship to one another is entirely self-explanatory - something that sounds easy but isn’t always the case.

    Some of this ability stems from the Planar 8 getting the basics right. It is effortlessly pitch stable - thus far, everything I have tested with the Neo PSU has been almost metronomic in its speed sensitivity - and very, very quiet at idle - you’ll need a very quiet phono stage indeed for it to show up as audible when at idle. With good quality pressings, the Planar 8 has great signal to noise performance - you need to spend a lot more to go significantly quieter than this.
    Rega Planar 8 Sound Quality
    In fact, the entire performance of the Planar 8 is a demonstration of what vinyl can deliver as a format once you meet the required investment. There’s no warmth or bloom to this - it’s as warm as the recording and nothing more. In fact, when partnered with the Apheta 2 cartridge, I think it might be possible to have a little too much of a good thing. Unless you choose your phono stage with a degree of care, the results can be a little ruthless with poorer pressings. Partnered with the truly astonishing Rega Aura phono stage, the results are outstanding (as well they should be given that the Aura on its own is £4,000) but with my resident Cyrus, it comes across as a little ‘in yer face.’ If you know that your record collection has some rough diamonds in there, this might not be a perfect match.

    The performance with the Ania on the other hand is very, very hard to fault. The Ania is slightly less sophisticated than the Apheta 2 - it uses a plastic body rather than a metal one and a nude elliptical stylus rather than the Vital type used on its big brother but here, on the Planar 8, as a sum of the two parts, it is often one that I prefer. The saving would also buy you the rather lovely Fono MC phono stage too which would give you a very effective combination indeed.

    And more than this efficiency, I have found that the Planar 8 has delivered everything I have asked of it with a healthy additional dose of joy. Listening to the underrated eighties gem that is Strange Times by The Chameleons, the way it delivers Soul in Isolation is something that is more than simple reproduction. It engages and delights in a way that I simply don’t always find digital doing. What you are hearing is still unquestionably accurate but there’s a little more to it, an indefinable musicality that has you putting another record on when you probably ought to go to bed. This balance of realism and joy is something that Rega excels at and having spent some time with the Planar 8, nothing about its single minded design and execution has interfered with this.

    Rega Planar 8
    What you are hearing is still unquestionably accurate but there’s a little more to it, an indefinable musicality that has you putting another record on when you probably ought to go to bed

    Conclusion

    9
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Represents the state of the art for vinyl performance at the price
    • Very well made
    • Easy to setup and use

    Cons

    • Not as 'pretty' as some other Regas
    • Won't always flatter poor pressings
    You own this Total 1
    You want this Total 2
    You had this Total 0

    Rega Planar 8 Turntable Review

    Figures over Christmas for record sales suggested that we might (finally) have reached peak vinyl and the number of new arrivals into the medium is going to drop. This means that the future of the format is now about the ‘conversion rate’ from people in the system already. It is not enough to tell people about the ‘magic of vinyl.’ Instead, companies will have to demonstrate why you would want to keep pushing up the ladder.

    Seen in this context, the Planar 8 makes perfect sense. If you have been enjoying your Planar 1 Plus and have reached the fortunate point where you can buy your ‘forever’ turntable (don’t laugh, some people genuinely do step off the upgrade ladder), the Planar 8 will be at once wonderfully familiar and at the same time entirely special. It is capable of performance that it is very hard to challenge for the same money but does it from a compact footprint, with logical assembly and some well thought out accessories. This is a phenomenal turntable and one that makes a justifiable claim to being state of the art at the price point. When all this is taken into account, the Planar 8 has to be seen as the current Best in Class.


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,699.00

    The Rundown

    Sound Quality

    10

    Build Quality

    9

    Connectivity

    8

    Ease of Use

    9

    Features

    8

    Value for Money

    9

    Verdict

    9

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