The vinyl resurgence has music lovers everywhere clamoring for that magical analog sound. Needless to say, though, that sound starts at the source. The better the source, the better the sound. And while it’s possible these days to spend six figures on a turntable, or conversely find a beater at your local yard sale, the Rega Planar 1 is a turntable that sits in that nice sweet spot—not too expensive, but neither so cheap that you’ll run the risk of wrecking your records. The Planar 1 leverages nearly a half century of Rega’s experience in the manufacturing of fine audio products, but it does so at something like one-tenth the price of the company’s flagship Rega Planar 10 ($6,345).
What Makes the Rega Planar 1 So Special?
- The Planar 1 is equipped with Rega’s RB110 tonearm, which contains house-designed, patent-pending ultra-low friction bearings. The geometry of the tonearm, its position relative to the spinning plastic, and how it tracks along that plastic are all keystones in the performance of a turntable.
- A 24 Volt, synchronous AC motor with a lightweight aluminum pully spins the high mass phenolic (highly stable, dense epoxy) platter. Synchronous motors are nerdy-cool in many ways. They are more efficient than a traditional induction motor. This means less power to make the same pound-for-pound force. Less power means less heat and noise, things you don’t want in a phono setup. The speed is easier to control/regulate in a synchronous motor, which translates to less variation, known as wow and flutter, in the presentation of the music.
- The Planar 1 includes Rega’s Carbon Cartridge, named after the carbon cantilever that holds the needle, is easy to set up and has a removable stylus (needle assembly) for easy replacement as it wears. Yes, turntables are mechanical, and the stylus may require replacement every couple of years if you listen daily. Replacing the stylus at regular intervals is a suffrage of all turntables regardless of make.
- Rega’s proprietary EBLT drive belt is equipped to reduce speed variation, and the load on the 24 Volt synchronous motor is further stabilized by Rega’s brass main bearing.
Why Should You Care About the Rega Planar 1?
The Planar 1 provides simple, hassle-free setup. There is no need to invest in fancy setup tools or learn the ways of the ancients to get it running. It’s also affordable enough to make it attractive as asecondary source even if you grew up in the digital age, have a bloated digital catalog, but also want to experience vinyl if for no other reason than the experience of it all.
Rega did a good job on the attractive look of the Planar 1. Understated and modern, with a tilting dust cover, it comes in your choice of three finishes, including a simulated walnut that is new for 2022. The lifetime manufacturer’s defect warranty shows the faith Rega has that its products, even in their entry-level, will provide years of enjoyment. With a footprint of 17.59 inches by 14.17 inches assures the Planar 1 will fit on top of any standard audio rack. Rega’s smart engineering has truly produced an entry -level turntable that deserves to be considered by all, especially anyone looking for a higher performance-to-price ratio.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Rega Planar 1
- The permanently attached, rip-cord RCA cables are a head-scratcher. This does not seem to warrant any further explanation but here goes: If you have cables you like, want shorter than a six-foot length, or need longer than a six-foot length, you are out of luck with this turntable. They also look and feel like they came as a bundled cable package along with those “white-van” speakers that were supposed to go into a night club.
- Do you enjoy 45 RPM records now and again? Get ready to perform surgery every time you want to change speed. To change from 33-1/3 to 45 RPM records, you must remove the platter. When doing so, it’s easy for the felt pad to fall off the platter, the belt to get stretched, the stylus and arm to get hit, and all other forms of complete chaos to break from the gates of the underworld. The previous statement may or may not have been from personal experience.
- The Planar 1 is not very upgradable. There is no way to add a speed control, no motor upgrades, and no real way to easily take the Planar 1’s performance to the next level.
- When compared to top-tier high-value turntables, the Planar 1 can lack a bit of sonic sophistication. This is to be expected from an entry level turntable, mind you, as there really are no giant killers punching above their weight classes in this category. There is only well-engineered products that make the most of their price point, a category in which the Rega Planar 1 sits comfortably.
Listening to the Rega Planar 1 Turntable…
English Folk singer/songwriter Martin Simpson has an incredible way of storytelling through his complex, meaningful guitar. Sad or High Kicking sits at number four within his discography that began in 1976. Martin’s take on “Let It Be Me,” originally a French ballad then popularized in 1960 by The Everly Brothers, is a skillful take on a straightforward theme. The Rega Planar 1 resolves Martin’s dexterous inflections and tempo changes without missing a beat. The fretless bass guitar also maintains its voice throughout the recording, with Martin’s wanting vocals preserved with clarity that leaves little on the table. Tonal balance is remarkably neutral, which helps preserve the authenticity of the performance. Certainly, a refreshing trait when most entry-level pieces try to hide flaws behind a veil of bloated warmth.
Contemporary “Clapton-esque” guitarist/songwriter John Mayer toes the line between blues and pop. Continuum is a soulful and reflective album circa 2006 in which John made his connection with the mainstream. There is a hidden gem on this album called “Stop This Train” that is often overlooked in favor of the tracks that made the radio. As a late Gen-Xer, this track strikes home for me and the Rega Planar 1 portrays it in a manner than can drive a man to tears. The drums, which simulate a train engine through the whole song, have weight. John’s subtle but complex picking sits upon the rhythm like an esteemed, first-class passenger. The bass is never out of line, and John’s wispy vocals come through with purpose. I know there is more in the plastic grooves of this album, however I never felt like I needed more than the experience provided by the Rega Planar one.
Is the Rega Planar 1 Have Good Resale Value?
The Rega Planar 1 is a good turntable. If a listener matures past the Planar 1, and wishes to sell it, the best road may be to the next local music lover who is looking to get into vinyl. The Rega Planar 1 is a strong value at $595.00 retail new. Many will simply buy a newer, fancier turntable and then migrate the to a secondary system. If it must be sold, in lightly used/good condition it should hold a good bit of its value.
Who Is the Competition for the Rega Planar 1 Turntable?
At $329.00, one can have a u-turn Orbit Plus, which has a good track record, and is simple to set up like the Planar 1. It also has RCA jacks instead of permanently tethered interconnects. The platter does not have to be removed to change speed, either. An optional phono preamp is available, but that will cost more.
The $599.99 Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo is an extremely tight competitor for the Planar 1. The Carbin Evo offers RCA outputs with separate grounding (the Planar 1 utilizes a ground through the left channel cable), a heavy steel platter, and built-in electronic speed control (no more changing pulleys when switching from 33-1/3 to 45). It does lack some of the proprietary technologies and upgraded materials built into the Rega Planar 1, though.
Final Thoughts on the Rega Planar 1 Turntable…
The Rega Planar 1 is a great turntable that can get a music lover into high-fidelity vinyl enjoyment in an affordable manner. There are a few nits to be picked; however, at $595.00 it’s unrealistic to expect a turntable to do it all.
In terms of musical performance, the Planar 1 excels.
The Planar 1 made its way into my system with the understanding that one day it will be replaced by something with a little more sophistication. However, this upgrade desire has not struck me in three years of ownership.