Audiophile Recruitment Tools

Three Affordable Turntables: U-Turn Orbit Special, Rega Planar 1 Plus, Pro-Ject RPM 5 Carbon

Equipment report
Audiophile Recruitment Tools

Rega Planar 1 Plus ($595)

Next up is the Rega Planar 1 Plus, potentially a step up from the U-Turn Orbit Special, at least in price. My review model was a pretty glossy white with a black platter and black tonearm. It came with a Carbon cartridge factory-mounted on the RB-110 tonearm. Overall, the P1 was relatively lightweight, including the platter. But that’s not really a surprise, considering this is the entry-level and also reflects Rega’s longstanding design philosophy. 

Rega provides everything from cartridge to phonostage. All were tight and stable, and I especially liked that the on/off switch is located on the left underside of the plinth. That’s the sort of little detail that makes Rega such a popular hi-fi company. It plays 33 and 45, and you switch between them by lifting off the bigger main platter and moving the belt up and down the motor pulley. The belt wraps around a smaller subplatter that drives the main platter.

Setting up the P1 Plus was also absurdly simple. It honestly took me five minutes to go from pulling it out of the box to playing a record. Rega seriously took plug-and-play to the absolute extreme with this ’table, arguably more so than the U-Turn deck. Drop on the dustcover, pull out the cardboard bracing the subplatter, screw on the tonearm counterweight to the prescribed position, and you’re ready to go. Bias is factory-set and the phonostage is built right in, so it takes absolutely no work to start spinning records. Vinyl is notoriously fussy, and that can easily turn off newcomers. But the P1 Plus takes all that tinkering out of the equation.

A short aside: When I first got into vinyl, I started with cheap vintage ’tables. Some of them were really cool, like the beautiful BIC deck I had for a bit, but pretty much all of them only partially worked. They always had some kind of issue, either broken plastic parts, noisy motors, cracked headshells, you name it. In retrospect, I really wish I had sprung for something like the Planar 1. I had spent a lot of time fussing, frustrated and annoyed, and ultimately I probably spent about as much money on trying to find that perfect vintage deck as I would have if I’d just bought new to begin with. I’m a big proponent of going vintage, but go with your eyes wide open and lots of patience. I sure learned a ton, and there’s something to be said for skipping the potential headaches.

Anyway, back to the Rega deck. For me, the big potential downside to the Planar 1 is flexibility. The tonearm’s bias is factory-set and the built-in preamp can’t be bypassed, so you’re stuck more or less using this ’table in stock form. This is a nearly $600 ’table, and that’s no small sum. However, flexibility isn’t a selling point for a lot of people, and the Planar 1 is absolutely a step up in stock form without any needed changes. I think Rega decided to make this deck as simple as possible to appeal to more people. Ultimately, I think it’s the right decision, because the ’table sounds really, really good, and the built-in preamp is definitely better than most.

Devo’s new release from Run Out Groove is called Turn Around: B-Sides and More (1978-1984). The opening track, “Social Fools,” is a grinding punk-tinged rocker, totally different from the later electro-dance most Devo people are used to. Those forward guitars sound solid and thick and the ’table had a really good sense of pace and timing. The title track, “Turn Around,” is like the perfect transition track for Devo, right between their punk rock phase and their electro phase. Stabbing guitars and driving synth are guided by a stomping kick. The lower end sounded solid in a really satisfying way, although the highest registers could get a little thin at some points. Again though, the sense of timing and rhythm was spot-on. The Planar 1 Plus did this danceable record justice and then some.

Rega has a great reputation in hi-fi and for good reason. The Planar 1 Plus includes a fantastic phonostage and sounds really good in stock form, a slight step up from the U-Turn Orbit Plus. However, I feel like its upgrade path is a touch limited, so that’s something to keep in mind when going forward.