The Planar 1 is the cheapest entry into the world of Rega. The legendary British turntable manufacturer has, in recent years, also revamped the Planar 3 and Planar 2 to great success, and this model is another ground-up rebuild, replacing the RP1.
This is as good a start as you’ll take on the road to vinyl-spinning nirvana, and the very least that your record collection deserves.
Rega has also partnered with Ruark, from the same town of Southend-on-Sea, to offer the Planar 1 in a £659 package with the Rega Fono Mini A2D phono stage and the fantastic Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2 speakers. A very neat hi-fi bundle for both analogue and digital playback.
The Planar 1 looks unmistakably like a Rega, and visually differs very little from the RP1 it replaces. The most obvious change is that the power switch is no longer on top of the plinth but now sits on the front-left underside.
However, look more than skin deep and nearly everything has changed. For a start there’s a brand-new thermoset laminated plinth, available in gloss black or gloss white. I had the latter for review.
Also new is the higher-mass phenolic platter that promises improved flywheel effect for better speed stability, and a redesigned brass main bearing for a tighter fit.
This has the distinction of being the first entry-level Rega with a 24v synchronous AC motor, and has some other new electronics and an aluminium pulley to match.
More obvious is the new RB110 tonearm, pre-fitted with a Rega Carbon moving-magnet cartridge – a modified version of Audio-Technica’s venerable AT91. Anti-skating is non-adjustable but has been preset for that cartridge.
This isn’t a fully plug-and-play turntable, since it doesn’t have a built-in phono stage. You’ll need to add one between the Planar 1 and your hi-fi system if your amp doesn’t already have a phono input.
Around the back is a captive stereo cable terminated in a pair of RCA phono plugs, and a mains socket for the supplied power adapter.
Extras are fairly minimal – you get one of Rega’s usual dust covers, but no 45rpm adapter.
Rega Planar 1 – Sound quality
Setting up the Planar 1 couldn’t really be much more simple, since the cartridge is pre-fitted and aligned, and the tonearm’s counterweight just needs to be pushed onto the arm stub until it hits the stopper ring. This ring does mean, of course, that you might have trouble if you decide to upgrade cartridges, but any pick-up heavier, of similar height and requiring similar tracking force (around 2g) should be OK.
The only other step is to check the belt is connected to the correct pulley for 33 or 45rpm, and then to place the platter and wool mat over the spindle.
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Since the Planar 1 doesn’t have a built-in phono stage, you’ll also need to plug its phono cable into an offboard phono stage if your amplifier doesn’t already have a phono input for MM cartridges. Phono stages start from around £60, although I used the phenomenal Leema Acoustics Elements Ultra for testing.
The Planar 1 is very typical of the Rega sound. It’s dynamic, detailed and with impeccable timing. Treble has real snap compared to many other budget turntables built around an AT95 cartridge, and the excellent RB110 tonearm helps to dig out a little extra bass depth, too.
Listening to something like ‘Angel’ by Massive Attack really showcases the step up to true hi-fi quality from the AT91-equipped Audio-Technica LP3, for instance, to the Planar 1. The Rega has searing treble energy, a cutting edge, to keep everything ticking along with the bassline, where the cheaper LP3 just feels a little more passive and subdued.
If you’re looking for a dollop of that mid-range warmth that many people associate with vinyl, however, you’re barking up the wrong tree. This is about toe-tapping musicality and transparency rather than sipping whisky at midnight and remembering the good old days.
Should I buy the Rega Planar 1?
The Planar 1 is a sonically outstanding turntable for the money. It sounds dynamic and detailed, with great timing and toe-tapping rhythm. It looks and feels fairly classy, too.
You can get close to the performance with the cheaper, more visually interesting Pro-Ject Elemental, but without the dust cover or impeccable sonic timing and treble energy.
However, if you listen to a mix of 33s and 45s, you’ll get a little annoyed by having to remove the Rega’s platter for speed changes, and there’s no upgrade path for rectifying that situation, like there is with the Planar 3. If you can live with that, this should be first on your list as a first, or occasional-use, record player.