Getting right to the point, the RP8 delivered on the high level of performance I was expecting after my time with the RP3 and RP6.
In my experience, the success that contemporary audio designers have had in reducing electro-mechanical noise has brought new levels of excellence to every component category. And that certainly applies to the delicate interaction of stylus to record groove, where we’re talking about tracking information at levels down to hundredths of an inch.
Returning to the Gerhard LP referenced earlier, the RP8 combo brought out the most from this remarkable recording, beginning with the explosive piano attack that opens the piece, introducing an impressively convincing and airy stage in which the various players in the chamber orchestra are arrayed. The violin, piano, guitar, and multiple percussion instruments emerge like individual stars within a seemingly endless sky, so that tiny differences of placement between them, a few feet laterally or in depth, are easily discerned. And because the composition is sparse and slow to unfold, an instrument’s initial attack, sustain, and fade, its overtones, are notably alive. And not surprisingly, given that Rega’s have always been known for their musical nimbleness, the RP8 and friends did a marvelous job recreating the split-second timing required to make this music move forward and draw us in.
You’ll hear these qualities, too, on a fine soft rock recording such as James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James [Warner]. The RP8 brought forth an extra sense of transparency to the recording, with a near-perfect balance between Taylor’s, well, sweet tenor delivery and the acoustic guitars, piano, bass, and drums—all finely integrated into a cohesive whole with the most subtle turns of phrase and interplay that made the recording sound as easy and natural as breathing.
Listening to Monk’s Music [Analogue Productions 45rpm], team Rega brought a lovely richness to the opening brass-only chorus of “Abide With Me,” while “Well You Needn’t” again illustrated the transparency and drive of this/these designs. I felt as if transported to the recording session, so alive, involving, present, and thrilling was the music-making. The tune dives in and never lets up, and I all but jumped from my seat when Monk, rousing his reportedly drowsy tenor man, shouts, “Coltrane! Coltrane!”
Rega critics often point out that these ’tables don’t delve into subterranean bass regions the way other designs do. And I won’t dispute their point. But the RP series has raised (or lowered, if you will), what Rega’s can do with bottom-end notes. The RP8 still won’t hit you with the force of a cannon shot, but when John Bonham unleashes his power in led Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna leave You” [Led Zeppelin, Classic reissue] the RP8 delivers plenty of pulse, power, and detail. Tradeoffs are part of life. As with my reference Magnepan 1.7s, which I prefer without a subwoofer, that kind of visceral bass is something I can live without, and will happily trade off for tone, texture, and speed of attack.
Interestingly, one could say the same about my final musical example, Karajan’s rendition of Wagner’s Die Walküre [DG “Tulip” label]. Though it doesn’t possess the justly praised sonic greatness of Decca’s Solti Ring, or its all-star cast of Bayreuth veterans, I prefer Karajan’s decision to bring out the music’s lighter, more poetic side, as well as his cast of younger singers, especially Jon Vickers’ Siegmund and Gundula Janowitz’s Sieglinde. Then you have the incomparable Berlin Philharmonic, which, and yes, I know it’s a DG, was captured with a fine clarity and overall balance. Here is Wagner for the Burgundy lover—nuance over power.
Again the RP8/RB808/Apheta seemed to delve deep into the grooves to extract the most from this music. Strings were both silky and resinous, brass instruments rich and throaty, and percussion explosive and precise. The voices were even more impressive. Vickers bold ringing tones had great solidity, clarity and purity of top notes, with no sense of strain or added hardness. As did Janowitz’s enchanting Sieglinde, all of which leads me to conclude that Rega’s philosophy for all aspects of these designs has paid off in huge musical dividends, the kind that lead us into the music, and away from an obsession with the gear that plays it.
As stated above, this design vaults Rega into the big leagues. Meaning that, while yes, the RP8 as reviewed is another fine value from a company known for value, in this case one needn’t add the qualifier “for the money.” It’s simply among the best mid-level designs on the market.
Type: Belt drive, unsuspended turntable
Speeds: 33.3, 45
Dimensions: 17.5" x 14.5" x 5.5" (with dustcover)
Cartridge output level: 0.5mV
Weight: 26 lbs.
Price: $3995 with Apheta moving-coil cartridge
THE SOUND ORGANISATION
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