Rega Planar 2 turntable Page 2

The result is that the Planar 2 sounds a lot more expensive than it really is. Recorded in the year that the first Rega Planar 2 came out, Supertramp's 'Take The Long Way Home' [from Breakfast In America; A&M Records SP-3708] is a classic '70s rock track mixed for the US FM radio of the period. It can sound rather bright, yet this turntable turned in a polished performance, offering a clean sound with tight bass, an open and spacious midband and smooth, extended treble. Indeed, when I was just a few bars into the track, it was hard to remember that I was listening to something that costs only £375. There's commendably little surface noise, virtually no detectable rumble or hum, and excellent speed stability at the price. True, this is no quartz-locked, direct driven Technics SL-1200G, or GR [HFN Nov '17], but still it never appears vague or wobbly due to pitch issues. This is interesting, because earlier generations of the Planar 2 were rumoured to be less good in this respect.

Grooving Along
All this means that the deck won't distract you from the music. For example, the opening harmonica solo on the Supertramp track glistened with harmonics, as did the first piano cadence. Roger Hodgson's lead vocals were delivered unsullied and intact. One could really hear the emotional expression in his singing, as well as the distinctive grain of his voice.

There are plenty of speed-stable turntables that can still manage to sound as dull as ditchwater, so this is no guarantee of a good sound. The Planar 2, however, seems to do more than just rotate at the right speed for, musically, it really satisfies. Spinning up Suzanne Vega's 'Cracking' [from Suzanne Vega; A&M C28Y3042] showed how good it was at imparting the music's natural rhythmic flow. The song's slow pace and sparse arrangement can make it seem rather meandering, but the Planar 2 got right into the groove. Its crisp, immediate nature meant it was able to convey the subtle rhythmic inflections in Vega's phrasing as clearly as the dynamic contrasts.

So although the Planar 2 might not deliver the sort of fireworks that an expensive deck can provide, it still did enough to pull this listener right into the musical performance. Switching to the denser and more uptempo electronica of Nu Era's 'Lines Between Us' [from Geometricks EP; Omniverse OMNI1201] showed me that little has changed in terms of the Planar 2's overall balance. The latest deck to carry the name remains smooth but a little dry – it certainly doesn't offer any extra coloration to sweeten the musical pill, and this might disappoint some analogue addicts. Bass is a little light in absolute terms, too, although certainly no worse than price rivals.

Yet what there is remains taut and tuneful, and properly integrated with the midband and treble. The result is that you get a purposeful, enjoyable sound with a fair low-end punch delivered in a fast and fluid manner. The treble is sweet and civilised too, even with the budget Rega Carbon cartridge – although of course this can be upgraded for better sound at a later date.

Open And Enjoyable
Spinning my cherished pressing of Beethoven's 'Pastoral' Symphony [BPO/Karajan; DG 2531106], I found myself engrossed in the pleasing spread of sound that the little Rega served up. It was detailed and engaging, and well able to communicate the physical presence of the orchestra's massed strings within the venue. Earlier generations of the Planar 2 were more opaque and rhythmically ponderous, without the greater insight offered by this newer model.

That's not to say this current deck is beyond reproach, however, for you can easily hear its limitations against a good £1000 turntable. In absolute terms it is a little dynamically compressed, spatially constrained and deserves a stronger and more tangible bass, along with more insight up top. Nevertheless, the fundamentals are pretty close to being right. Spatially, it's a decent performer too. Playing Herbie Hancock's 'I Have A Dream' [from The Prisoner; Blue Note BST 84321] – a classic slice of late 1960s 'progressive' modern jazz – the deck delivered a pleasingly wide soundstage, inside which instruments were accurately located. This is one of the real strengths of vinyl and I find it hard to imagine an equivalently priced CD player and/or streamer doing anywhere near as well.

The bundled Carbon MM isn't the world's most expansive-sounding cartridge but it was still well able to give the sense of a group of superb musicians playing together brilliantly within a wide recorded acoustic. Depth perspective was also good, compared to rivals at the price, so everything sounded open and enjoyable. With this new Planar 2 it's all too easy to forget that you're listening to a humble budget product that costs less than an armful of audiophile LPs. Therein lies its strength, for the Planar 2 is simply better than it has any right to be at this price.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Historically, Rega has proved highly adept at making affordable high performance vinyl spinners, and the latest Planar 2 shows why. It feels much less built-down-to-a-price than its rivals, and is more solid, better finished and smarter looking too. Then there's the sound, which is far more musically enjoyable than you have any right to expect for just £375. Its painless, straight out of the box set-up is a real bonus too!

Rega Research Ltd
Supplied by: Rega Research Ltd
01702 333071