What is the Rega Planar 3?
As such, Rega hasn't rushed into launching the Planar 3. Two years of development has taken place in the background aided by the handy fact that the RP3 that preceded it was still one of the very best models in its class right up until the moment it stopped production - when I reviewed it last year, I was still sufficiently impressed that I gave it a Highly Recommended badge. This does mean that as the RP3 was seriously good, its replacement needs to be even better still, considering that the price has crept up as well.
The timing is significant too. I've gone on record on our podcasts that I feel the current situation with vinyl is a boom - one that will sooner or later collapse or at least subside - and for what little it is worth, some of the team at Rega feel the same. The Planar 3 therefore is the sort of device that arrivals from the boom who decide to stick with this expensive, fragile and at times unforgiving format might choose after dispensing with an entry-level unit. So can the Planar 3 fill the big shoes of its predecessor and make temporary members of the vinyl club permanent ones?
In fact, these differences are so significant that the RP3 and Planar 3 have almost no parts in common with one another, with the motor being the only major component that the two decks share. The Planar 3 manages to be almost completely new without looking like it - and to be clear, there are likely reasons for this we'll cover in a bit. Some of this development is the result of feedback and extended testing on the existing RP3 and some other aspects have trickled down from the RP8 and RP10 models.
The bearing assembly is also new and features a redesigned brass hub that is designed to reduce friction. This leads to benefits in terms of both wear and the amount of noise generated by the assembly that risks being picked up by the record. As with previous models, the belt doesn't act on the platter directly but on a sub platter that sits under the main one. This too has been revised and is now stiffer and built to a higher tolerance than before.
As noted before, the motor is the same unit as before but features a new housing to improve cooling and a new motor control PCB. As standard (and as tested here), the Planar 3 uses a wall wart type power supply which spins the motor at a fixed speed which means that speed changes need a physical movement of the belt. As a handy update though, Rega sells the TT-PSU which improves power delivery and allows for electronic speed control.
The most significant rework involves the arm which has now become the RB330. Once again the RB330 doesn't look very different from the preceding RB303 but given it makes use of a new armtube, bearing housing (and bearings) as well as a new counterweight, it is completely new. Rega has also revised the antiskate adjustment and the quality of the output cabling to further improve the feel of the arm.
What is hard to really convey in either text or pictures is how much nicer the Planar 3 feels in the flesh than the already impressive RP3. The new gloss finish on the plinth and the finish on the platter means that the Planar 3 might have crept up in price to £550 without cartridge and £625 with the Elys 2 fitted but the deck itself feels more like an offering at the £1,000 point. This category has been hotting up over the last few years and this is clearly a very definite statement of intent by Rega- a company that still makes everything in the UK in its own facilities - to see if the competition fancies matching them.
It might seem reasonable to ask why, having gone to the effort of building a completely new turntable, would you then make it look basically the same as the old one. The reasons for this are - as far as I can see - twofold. The first reason is that with a product as indelibly associated with the Rega brand as this one, it would be unwise to do anything too radical. This is their Porsche 911 and like Porsche, it pays not to monkey about with the basic premise too significantly - even if like the 911, there is no part actually in common with the original.
The other reason, more prosaically, is that the Planar 3 looks fantastic. This is a very pretty piece of design where the simplicity of the look itself gives it a beauty and sense of proportion that many fussier rivals can't match. At the moment, the Planar 3 is available in black and white gloss finishes but Rega's use of the phrase 'currently' suggests that this might not be the situation indefinitely.
How was the Planar 3 tested?
Kicking off with Bloc Party's Silent Alarm the Rega captures the rawness and excitement of Like Eating Glass with an effortlessness that is immediately impressive for a turntable that could, with a basically straight face, still be called affordable. What really impresses though is that the Planar 3 also manages to give you everything on the record in a way that lets you know about the imperfections - and while I prefer the vinyl version of this album to the CD, it is still far from perfect - but in a way that doesn't make the issues jarring or unpleasant.
Part of this is down to the Elys 2 cartridge, This is unchanged from its use in the RP3 and while the Planar 3 extracts the highest performance from it that I've personally heard, it does still have some limitations. If the Cyrus is removed from the chain and a Graham Slee Communicator substituted for it, the top end with some poorer recordings can become a little ragged, You can of course buy the Planar 3 without a cartridge but choosing something that really does it justice is likely to be another £200 or so and as the arm height can't be adjusted, you will need to choose that cartridge with one eye on the measurements.
- Truly outstanding sound quality for the asking price
- Well built
- Easy to use
- Slightly more expensive than outgoing model
- No arm VTA
- Cartridge very good rather than great
Rega Planar 3 Turntable Review
The turntable might superficially look a bit like what has gone before but the Planar 3 is not a rehash or facelift. This is the new class in the field in terms of attainable analogue and the combination of performance, build, looks and overall value, is going to require other companies to up their game. We might well be in a bubble for vinyl but if the results of the bubble are decks like this, I'm entirely OK with that.
Ease of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.