Rega RP10 Turntable and Apheta Moving-Coil Cartridge

One Hell of a Record Player

Equipment report
Categories:
Turntables,
Cartridges,
Tonearms
|
Products:
Rega RP10
Rega RP10 Turntable and Apheta Moving-Coil Cartridge

The new power supply, by the way, is outfitted with a “DSP generator built upon a high-quality, high-stability crystal.” The result, according to Rega, is to “generate a nearly perfect sinusoidal waveform to power the motor.” Speed and vibration adjustments are factory-set and should not be tampered with by users.

The platter is crafted from compressed ceramic-oxide powder and diamond-cut for accuracy of shape, weight, and surface flatness. Like the float-glass platter found on the RP8, the 10’s white ceramic platter is thicker at the outer rim, creating a natural flywheel effect. The platter mat—made of white, pure wool felt—is designed to be as neutral sounding as possible.

The new, and damned good-looking, RB2000 tonearm reaches new heights for a Rega ’arm. Hand-built by the best techs at the Rega factory, this hand-polished, tapered, aluminum-tubed beauty boasts an aluminum-alloy bearing housing (as opposed to the plastic ones found in other Rega ’arms), and has been engineered to have as few mechanical joints as possible, with a shape designed to redistribute mass and reduce resonance. The ’arm’s bearings are singled out as the finest from their batch, but are also paired to the actual spindle they support. Rather than steel, the counterweight is made of machined tungsten, reducing its size. All in all, a terrific effort and, as we shall see, sonic result.

And yet...I must again complain about the chintzy cartridge clips Rega and Co. insist on using, even on their top ’arm, which otherwise has been carefully, perhaps even lovingly crafted. I squawked about this in my RP8 review and I’ll repeat my gripe here. Surely an ’arm at this level deserves, as do we, something beyond the flimsy copper connectors found on every Rega ’arm since as far back as memory allows. As I’ve written before, I’ve never liked these things because they do not easily fit the varying pin sizes found on the vast array of cartridges out there. And frankly, they bend (and ultimately break) if you try to force them onto a fat cartridge pin. If you never or rarely change cartridges this is less of an issue. But if you enjoy trying different cartridges or are in the reviewer’s chair, this is a frustration. Guys, please.

As to the cartridge, the RP10 (as does the RP8) comes fitted (or not, it’s optional) with Rega’s top model and only moving-coil, the Apheta ($1795 sold separately, with a $795 savings when purchased with the RP10). It’s designed not to be warm or euphonically pleasant, but rather to be accurate. In that regard, while there are sexier-sounding cartridges on the market (more on this later), my albeit limited experience leads me to believe that the Apheta is the perfect mate to the RP10, as, after all, they were designed to play together in unison.

Finally, like the RP8, the 10 does come equipped with a removable outer plinth into which the skeletal inner part can rest inside a trio of sub-feet that are outfitted with a triangular elastic webbing to minimize contact between the two pieces. In theory users get the sonic benefits of the skeletal plinth plus the ability to use the dustcover. In practice, both the RP8 and RP10 sound livelier, with greater dynamic snap, detail, and air, as well as a greater sense of musical magic, when the outer plinth section is removed. If you decide to use the outer plinth and dustcover I recommend either leaving the cover up or temporarily removing it during play, because at its best the RP10 is one hell of a record player.

There’s a feeling of immediacy here that goes far beyond the already impressive results Rega has achieved with the other members of the RP family. As we hear with all the finest components as we step up the ladder, there’s simply a sensation of fewer layers of electro-mechanical “stuff” between the music and us. The stylus and groove seem to be so beautifully in-sync that those analog waveforms emerge from our speakers as in-step as Fred and Ginger’s most perfect dance moves. And it’s thrilling to hear.

Like many of you, I’ve been knocked out by the recent all-analog, mono Beatles box-set. As I don’t own any originals, the sound of these LPs makes the various 80s-era U.K. stereo pressings I do have sound sick by comparison. I’ll also confess that, until now I’ve loved the post-Hard Days Night Beatles but, a few songs aside, never been crazy about the group’s first LPs. Wow, was I missing something.

After listening to all of the LPs from that title on, I finally got around to Please Please Me. And my, oh my. As my wife could tell you, from the first seconds of “I Saw Her Standing There” every few moments elicited here unprintable reactions that invariably began with “Holy!” this, or “Oh, my God!”—so riveting was the sense of immediacy and verve, of “being there,” at the session. This is also probably the Beatles’ simplest recording, and there’s something to be said for the uncluttered, if relatively primitive feeling of presence that resulted. The nimbleness of Paul’s great bass playing, the band’s famous vocal harmonies, the energy and pizazz and originality they brought to their music, as well as covers, Ringo’s underappreciated excellence, and the twang of those guitars—whew!

This is a good place to mention that I also outfitted this rig with Sumiko’s excellent Palos Santos Presentation cartridge. While, yes, it is without doubt a richer, warmer, more texturally complex design, that does seduce in its own way, and that was a brilliant match with the Pro-Ject Xtension 10 I recently reviewed it with, here it showed how synergistically these Rega designs are with each other, and how that creates a greater sense of musical bliss. (Also, of course, like all Rega arms the 2000 does not allow for VTA adjustment, so, proper alignment and tracking force aside, you get what you get.) As sexy as the Sumiko design is, the sense of the band’s interplay, energy, completeness, and life, as well as the sheer emotional buzz generated from this and the other LPs cited herein, was simply not the same as with the all-Rega package.