Rega Planar 3 with Exact – channel imbalance – solution (and disastrous customer service story)

meszrum

Novice Member
This post is about common issue related to Rega TTs – namely channel imbalance (with usually right channel significantly louder than the left one). I found dozens of posts on different forums regarding this horrible issue and only one solution among these posts which solved my problem. I attached the pictures of what helped me to restore proper balance.
I also have my spiritual need to share with all of how Rega handled the difficult art of customer service. No wonder they hide their e-mail from greedy eyes of hostile customers (like me). In the end, I am fully aware of criticism I may face in the comments - that is ok for me to judge anything I wrote freely.
I just hope to help someone with similar problem, since I know how frustrating it can be.
I posted similar message on three different boards - I am not going to disappear - I will answer any questions in any form.

I am jazz, rock and punk music lover in general. I decided to get TT because I wanted to listen to the all old recordings in the most original form (no CD or hi-res remasters, just the music in the form of how it was meant to sound). I do collect vinyl recordings only if the session was fully analogue (let's name it AAA) so usually until mid 80s. Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Blue Note, Impulse and the ECM is the essence for me. Rock and punk in general.

I am very sensitive to channel imbalance and if it occurs it ruins the soundstage and in effect the whole listening pleasure no matter how well the system performs in other departments.

The device: Rega Planar 3 with Exact catridge (both 2020 models, cartridge fitted by official dealer) bought brand new 08.2020.
The system: Yamaha A-S2100, BW 702 S2, Nordost Red Dawn speaker cables.
The room: room acoustically treated with acoustic panels, diffusers, the speakers set up accurate to 1 mm.
The LPs: mainly brand new, sealed RTI, Optimal, Quality Records pressings and 1st German ECM pressing (usually NM/EXC or simply the best condition I could find).
The problem: channel imbalance of Rega Planar 3 with Exact - right channel louder app. 20-30% than left one (if normal channel balance is 50L/50R then what I experience is app. 35L/65R). The imbalance is noticeable with headphones and speakers. The trebles are significantly less pronounced on the left side (I just felt like half deaf in left ear – believe me it is horrible experience). The vocals on any recording were on the right of course instead of being in the center. of The analog meters on the amplifier show a lower sound level on the left channel also.

The TT has been bought at a hifi shop which sells Rega products on a daily basis. The dealer fitted the Exact cartridge as per my wish. The TT has been set up strictly according to Rega manual:
  • the TT is perfectly level (accurate to 0.0* in all directions);
  • the arm is balanced such that it is floating (with tracking force and anti-skate set to zero);
  • the tracking force is set at 1.75g (and verified with a digital force gauge);
  • the anti-skate is also set at 1.75;
  • the cartridge is aligned with the Rega alignment protractor that came with the turntable.
The channel imbalance is present when listening to all LPs.
All other media play fine (CD, SACD, PCM FLAC, DSD).
So I try the following:
  • swapped TT's RCA cables so the left out was connected to right in - the imbalance moved to the left side what gave my evidence that the problem relates to the TT itself;
  • setting heavier/lighter tracking force - no effect;
  • increasing/reducing anti-skate - no effect.
Finally I found the source of the problem - it is the angle of the stylus (or cantilever). I put paper shims between the headshell and the cartridge on the right side (when looking straight ahead at the cartridge/arm), so the stylus is a little more directed toward the inner groove.
This resolved the problem - the channel balance is near perfect (50/50), the trebles are properly pronounced in the left channel.
Rega headshell, even though is 3bolts mount system, allows to rotate the cartridge a few degrees. When using the shims I had set the alignment slightly different than I normally should using the protractor (or generally when not using shims). Namely I had to rotate the cart all the way to the shims side. Without this correction I had serious distortion on piano and guitar.






My modification works for me now, however it looks awful. I treat it as a temporary solution - I plan to upgrade the TT so ethically I do not see myself selling faulty TT or the TT with paper shims.
So I thought that finding solution (and thus the nature of problem) was a great start to get support from the Rega Company… Yeah, I thought so.

Rega at the moment has no official dealer in my EU country, so basically I do not have any technical support. The previous dealer informed me that it is no longer Rega's dealer in my country so it could not help me. Theoretically I have the TT covered by the warranty, but I have no way to exercise it.
Somehow I managed to get precious Rega e-mail and kindly asked for direct technical/warranty support.
I had got the answer:
Hi K…,
Thank you for your detailed explanation of the issue, also the additional info regarding your attempts to identify the source of the problem.
From what you have described leads us to determine that the cartridge is indeed faulty and will need exchanging under warranty once we have an appointed a dealer/distributor.
Apologies for the delay, Rega is working at pace to provide customer support in [your country] as soon as possible.
Regards,
P[…]

Ok then, I thought It might be truth so I had waited few months and then contacted Rega again (my message):

Dear P…,
From what I see (and hear), establishing a new distributor in [my country] is not going to happen anytime soon.
In that case I kindly ask Rega UK to help me directly and provide warranty actions - I do expect that Rega UK sends me a properly working Exact cartridge.
I am a patient and understanding person (customer) but this is beyond any limits of decency - from the day one I, for over 1.5 year I have been using faulty cartridge and can not find any warranty protection even though the Rega Company proudly states 'lifetime warranty' (marketing) slogans.
Please find attached pictures of how it looks in the eyes of the customer who bought EU made product for over a grand in order to hear anything in the left channel. Please find yourself in my situation.
And please do not dismiss me again.
I do expect you send me a list of documents or photos so I can send to Rega to validate my purchase (I have all the documents including the individual invoice).
I am a serious man - I am a [...] running my own [...] so you can easily identify me as a real person.
Kind regards,
K…

Well, Rega representative responded:

Hi K…,
I appreciate your frustration and can assure you that I am not dismissing you.
Our export sales management team have been to [your country] and met with potential distributors. My understanding is (I am just a humble tech in repairs dept) that a distributor is being ‘set up’ in so much that they will need stock, etc and service in place before being able to trade effectively.
Rega has always dealt with customers via our dealer distributor network. It is unfortunate that these issues have occurred at a time when our original distributor ceased trading.
Again, as I am not of a managerial level I am not able to provide definitive information regarding the progress of installing a new distributor as I am not part of that process.
May I ask you to remain patient for a while longer whilst this process takes place.
Regards,
P…

When I look at the TT that was meant to give me chance to listen to the analogue recorded music in its purest form (analogue to analogue) it now makes me feel like a naive idiot*.
Think twice if you ever find bait reviews that the best TT for money is the RP3 proudly made in UK with lifetime guarantee and idea crosses your mind of getting any Rega product. It is simply not true.
Trash materials, trash quality control - in effect trash product and trash customer service (if any). To be objective – it sounds good with the paper shims – however overall product experience after spending over €1100 is really woeful.
Never again.

*you can call me frustrated if you want to but I feel more than happy if this story helps anyone with similar problem.
 

Timmy C

Distinguished Member
I'm not sure of exact rules but under EU law, is the dealer not responsible for a 2 year period? The fact that they may no longer be an official Rega dealer should be irrelevant. If they have sold you a faulty product then surely they have to put things right.
 

meszrum

Novice Member
It is a vicious circle. Local hi-fi shop can not help me because there is no Rega dealer in my country. Rega do not want to deal directly with hi-fi shop. Hi-fi shop don't have Exact on the shelf. Sure, I may sue small local hihi shop or ask manufacturer for the help...
So I chose contacting the manufacturer.
 

Timmy C

Distinguished Member
The local hifi shop can help you and I'm pretty sure that as the seller, it's their legal responsibility to help you, only it would seem they are choosing not to in order to maximise their own profit on the sale. They could offer a refund/partial refund or a suitable alternative. With that in mind, if they are refusing to help, I would have no hesitation in using some sort of small claims court or whatever similar options are available to you .
 

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