Rega adds more functionality than we’re used to, but doesn’t alter the sonic characteristics we’ve always admired.
- Direct, informative and robust sound
- Impressive phono stage
- Hi-res DAC
- Could do with more digital inputs
- Not tolerant of inadequate partnering equipment
- Not what you’d call “a looker”
- ConnectionsFive line-level inputs
- Power105 watts per channel
Rega isn’t a company to rush into anything. Look at this latest version of its Elicit integrated stereo amplifier, for example, and you’ll see that it’s taken until this fifth generation for the company to decide that perhaps a digital input or two might be an idea.
Nevertheless, Rega can be relied upon to deliver the goods when it comes to sound quality. From the entry-level io (£420) to its flagship Osiris (£7500), its range of integrated stereo amps is fully competitive at every stage. So it seems unlikely in the extreme that the Elicit MK5 will spoil that record.
The Rega Elicit MK5 integrated stereo amplifier is on sale now, and in its home market of the UK it’s priced at £2000. American customers are looking at around $3350, while in Australia it will set you back AU$4300.
You don’t need me to tell you this is serious money for an integrated amplifier – especially since Rega isn’t in the habit of discounting its products – at all, ever. Mind you, that doesn’t mean brands both big and small aren’t lining up to sell you an alternative at very similar money – the likes of Audiolab, Naim, Rotel and Yamaha (just off the top of my head) all have a dog in this particular fight.
- Substantial, sturdy casework
- Control feel is nicely judged
Robust is usually as good a way to describe the design of Rega amplifiers as any. Certainly, it’s more appropriate than, say, fancy. And the Elicit MK5 is no different – there are no superfluous design flourishes here; just a serious and business-like aesthetic allied to some bomb-proof casework. An all-in weight of 12.5kg tells its own story.
Still, heft of this kind quite often indicates a product that operates with assurance, and that’s the case with the Elicit MK5. The big volume control on the right of the fascia is nicely damped, the power and input selection buttons are positive in their action.
So while it’s unlikely to make the shortlist of any integrated stereo amplifier beauty contests, this Rega is nevertheless on the right side of “functional’”
- 105W of power per channel
- Digital inputs for 24bit/192kHz Wolfson DAC
- Moving magnet phono stage
In some ways, the Elicit MK5 marks a bold departure from the norm for Rega where its integrated stereo amps are concerned. But having decided to take the plunge, I can’t help but wish the company had then swum all the way into the deep end.
However, it isn’t mostly business as usual, to be fair. The Elicit MK5 features five line-level inputs alongside a moving-magnet phono stage for use with a turntable, and all six inputs ultimately lead to analogue amplification circuitry that borrows quite heavily from the £3300 Aethos integrated amp that Rega launched this time last year.
As far as outputs go, there’s a 6.3mm headphone socket on the fascia, and a few stereo RCA equivalents on the rear for use with a pre-amp and/or recording devices. There are also binding posts for a single pair of speakers.
The big news (from a Rega point of view, at least) is the appearance of digital optical and digital coaxial inputs on the rear panel – there’s one of each. This is something of a departure for the Essex-based manufacturer, even if it’s something the company’s most notable rivals have been into for a while now. Both inputs lead to a Wolfson DAC with a maximum resolution of 24bit/192kHz.
I can’t help but wish that, having steeled itself for a big step into a brave new world, Rega had further bitten the bullet and fitted a USB input and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, too. After all, digital is digital, right? If it’s “convenience” you’re aiming for, why not go the whole hog? Still, let’s not ask for the moon when Rega has finally decided to provide the stars…
Power is quoted as 105 watts per channel at 8 ohms, and 162 watts per channel at 4 ohms. Given how deep-breathing Rega amplifiers tend to be, it’s difficult to come up with a pair of speakers that may be too truculent for the Elicit MK5 to drive – not that are price-appropriate, anyway.
Control is via Rega’s Solaris system remote handset. It isn’t bad by prevailing standards, inasmuch as its buttons are all of a decent size and its labelling is pretty clear. Some backlighting would be nice, of course, but then again, see the remark above about asking for the moon…
- Detail and resolution to spare
- Hits hard, but with control
- Not the most laid-back amp you’ve ever heard
Where do you stand on the phrase “laid-back”? Does that sound like a positive to you? If so, the Rega Elicit MK5 may not be the perfect choice for your next integrated stereo amplifier. But if you find words such as “positive”, “clean”, “detailed” or “punchy” a bit more to your liking, then read on – the Elicit MK5 is all of those things, and then some.
Slip on a vinyl copy of Étienne de Crécy’s Super Discount via the Rega’s admirable moving magnet phono stage and it all becomes clear. Really very clear indeed, in fact; this Rega amp is the aural equivalent of a freshly cleaned window that looks out onto a lovely view.
Throughout the frequency range, the Rega is a model of clarity and detail retrieval. The amount of information it can extract and retain is little short of startling, and it delivers it without any sort of fanfare. Instead, it’s simply a part of an extraordinarily information-rich whole.
At the bottom end, the Elicit MK5 punches determinedly and with no little weight. Bass sounds are properly controlled, though, so although they’re substantial, they’re never unruly. As a consequence, this rhythm-dependent recording moves along at a clip rather than sounding musclebound. The grip and manoeuvrability that the Rega demonstrates makes it an ideal dance-floor partner.
The top of the frequency range is similarly assertive, similarly detailed and similarly energising. Partnered unsympathetically (and the Rega is quite intolerant of less accomplished electronics) treble sounds can glint as dangerously as broken glass on the lawn; but get your system-matching right and it’s all about an upfront, substantial and spacious presentation.
Switching to something a little more, well, human (such as a CD of Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon) allows the Rega to showcase its mid-range fidelity – and it’s significant. It invests the singer’s purity of tone with an absolute stack of character and emotion, revealing the finest details with the sort of casual efficiency and lack of overstatement that’s the hallmark of a thoroughly sorted amplifier.
Joni Mitchell is an affecting singer, even in less-than-ideal circumstances – and when circumstances are ideal, as they are here, she’s effortlessly and consistently moving.
Elsewhere, the Rega is similarly accomplished. It’s powerful enough to make the most of big dynamic variations; it’s attentive enough to express the most minor harmonic differences with absolute positivity; it’s expansive enough to describe a big soundstage with complete certainty.
And all of these admirable traits are consistent across the board. Whether you’re listening to an analogue source, a digital equivalent, or have plugged in a pair of (necessarily capable) headphones – the Rega doesn’t alter its sonic stance at all.
Should you buy it?
You are partial to the vinyl format The Rega’s moving magnet phono stage is impressive.
You have expectations of the term “digital” Some wireless connectivity would have been welcome.
Even if it was purely an analogue integrated amplifier, I’d like the Elicit MK5 a great deal. So I suppose it’s just a matter of “want, want, want” that Rega fitting a great DAC and a couple of digital inputs simply makes me want more. Just take the Elicit MK5 on its own terms, Simon – it’s a great-sounding amplifier and a front-runner at the price.
How we test
We test every amplifier we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.
Tested with real world use
Tested for more than a week
You might like…
There is no support for the Bluetooth standard on this Rega amplifier.
Hi-Res audio is referred to as a standard as well as a marketing term that describes digital audio files of better-than-CD quality (16-bit/44.1kHz).