Planar 1 Turntable Review
An entry-level turntable from one of the best turntable brands on the planet!
$575 Plus Model with Phono Stage
THE HIGH NOTES
- A Rega from the Ground Up!
- Hand Assembled RB110 Tonearm
- Super Simple to Set Up
Company & Product Overview
Like many audio companies that sprang up in the golden days of audio, Rega has a pretty interesting history. Their founder, Roy Gandy had a deep-seeded love of music along with a passion for tinkering with audio gear to produce better sound.
As a hobby, he enjoyed helping his friends put together budget systems. However, he found that most of his time was spent messing around with and modifying their turntables, in order to make them sound good. When it came to producing quality sound, most people back then thought only about the speakers and not as much about the turntable itself. Roy understood what any true audio enthusiast understands -- that every aspect affects the sound, from the source to the speakers.
By 1973, Roy was building turntables at home in his spare time. In 1975 he produced the Planar 2, followed in 1977 by the Planar 3. Move ahead over 40 years and over 2,000 Rega turntables come off their line every month, thanks to the booming vinyl revival.
Today, their team of engineers is focused on advancing the art of turntables, while sticking to their roots. They are interested in one thing -- making sure the sound is true to the music and lets through the emotional qualities and rhythm and pacing characteristics that good turntables are known for.
Today we will be reviewing Rega’s entry-level Planar 1 turntable. This is a complete overhaul of the Rega RP1 which came before it. Due to its great quality build and sound, as well as it’s sub $500 price, the Planar 1 has quickly become one of the most popular entry-level turntables in the world.
Design & Build Quality
The Planar 1 (which we will refer to interchangeably as the P1 as well throughout this review) is a manual, belt-drive turntable, like many of the best high-performance turntables in the world.
There are several reasons why these types of turntables are so popular.
When it comes to the way the platter is spun, there are three different types of turntables -- idler wheel, direct-drive, and belt-drive. The very first turntables were idler wheel. With this type of a table, a motor with a rubber outer ring contacts the inside of the turntable platter, using friction to spin the platter. This is a very noisy type of design that is not really found much these days, for obvious reasons.
Direct drive is popular due to the fact it starts up instantly and is safe for spinning the platter backwards for DJ type use. However, with direct-drive the platter becomes part of the motor and can pick up motor noise. Direct drive is also constantly correcting the speed, so it’s less pure.
Belt drive gives you the advantage of isolating the platter from the motor as little to no noise passes through the belt. Once the platter gets up to speed, the speed is usually very consistent.
For over 40 years, Rega has opted for belt-drive designs, and the P1 (even at a great beginner price) is no exception. In addition, the motor is suspended on an isolation system that reduces noise even further.
The Planar 1 is also a manual turntable. This means that you have to lower and raise the tonearm manually in order for the stylus (or needle) to make contact with the record.
Doing this manually as opposed to automatically eliminates the need for all of the gears and other mechanisms required to lift the tonearm, again minimizing noise. All of Rega’s turntables are manual turntables for this reason.
We really like the look of the Rega turntables and the Planar 1 is no exception. It’s simple and elegant, available in gloss black or white. It also comes with a dust cover in order to protect it and give it a nice finished look.
Every Rega turntable is manufactured in their UK factory and the build quality is impeccable all the way up and down the line. From a construction quality standpoint, it’s really difficult to tell when you move from the entry-level P1 to a P3 or P6. They’re all just so well-made.
Features & Technology
Let’s start with the plinth -- the main platform of the turntable. Rega likes to use a lightweight plinth to help any external noise filter out through the turntables feet. In the case of the P1, the plinth is a sandwich melamine construction wrapped in a high pressure acrylic laminate. This type of design also cancels noise out by having different thicknesses of materials.
The platter is the large circular disk that the vinyl record sits on. The P1’s platter is made of a heavy phenolic material. It is thicker and heavier around the outer edge, giving it a better flywheel effect, which leads to more consistent speeds. All of the Rega turntables above the Planar 1 use an even heavier glass platter, but this is a great way to get most of the benefits while still keeping the cost of the P1 reasonable.
While many other turntable brands out there just use other manufacturers tonearms, Rega makes their own. Their arms have been winning awards for years. The Rega P1 uses the new RB110 tonearm. It’s specifically designed to work with the Rega Carbon moving magnet phono cartridge, which comes pre-mounted on the P1. It doesn’t offer as many adjustments as some of Rega’s other arms do, but for the money, it’s a great tonearm.
When it comes to the bearings, it’s important that they be tight but provide as little friction as possible. Many turntables we test fail when we get to this part of the evaluation. It’s pretty easy to test by carefully grasping the tonearm at the front and moving it front to back to see if there is any play in the bearing. We call that bearing chatter.
From there, zero balance the arm and see if it moves freely from side to side. You’ll want to be careful of your stylus when you do this, as they’re very delicate and can break or bend easily. Needless to say, the RB110 on the Planar 1 passes the test with flying colors.
The main bearing, which the platter sits on, is another extremely important part of any turntable. If the bearing creates any kind of noise at all, it can be transmitted up the platter and eventually to the stylus. You may have heard this in some less expensive turntables in the form of a background rumble.
The P1 has a bearing that is very similar to the one use in their more expensive Planar 2. The hub that the outer platter sits on is made of a phenolic material with a stainless steel spindle that drops down into a bronze bearing well. You’ll notice that when you first install the inner hub, it will fit in perfectly. Place the outer platter on, give it a spin, and we bet you won’t hear the slightest hint of noise.
All Rega tables also use 24-volt brushless motors that are isolated from the plinth. They’ve perfected this design over the years to the point where the motor provides a solid speed to the pulley.
In 2018 Rega added a new model to the series, a Planar 1 Plus. The Plus is identical to the Planar 1, with the addition of a built in phono preamp. The phono preamp is designed to work great with the Rega Carbon cartridge supplied with the Planar 1. This allows the Planar 1 Plus to be easily connected to a pair of powered speakers or a system lacking a phono preamp. The only thing to consider is the built in phono preamp is always on. Should you ever want to purchase a better phono preamp, it would not work with the Planar 1 Plus.
As you can see, at least in the theory, the tech is all there! Now let’s talk about how it sounds.
The Rega P1 is super simple to set up. You simply unpack it, place the counterweight on the rear of the arm, screw it all the way in, take off the stylus guard, put on the platter and you are up and running. When it comes to turntables, it doesn’t get much simpler.
Throw on a record, start the table up, and have a listen. If you are upgrading from a more basic turntable, the first thing you will notice is a beautiful purity to the music. We feel this is due to the great speed consistency you find in all of Regas tables and the high-quality tonearm which helps the cartridge held steady in the record grooves.
It’s just a fun table to listen to. The rhythm and pacing are fantastic and the bass line is tight and rich while the upper frequencies stay smooth.
When we compare the P1 to more expensive Rega tables, it is clear when you move up that you do get a jump up in sound with each model. However, what is interesting is the P1 does not do anything wrong. If you compare it to say a Rega P3, you will hear more into the music, with deeper lows and more clarity to the top end along with a more effortless spacious sound, but the P1 does nothing (like some tables can do) to annoy your ears.
In other words, you’ll not know that you are missing anything unless you compare. The P1 plays your records with such a musical perspective that you can listen for hours and never tire of your music.
We feel this is a great characteristic. Getting all this great sound with just a $60 phono cartridge is pretty amazing. While it limits flexibility, as we mentioned before, we would much rather see a decent cartridge mounted on a really nice tonearm than a great cartridge on an arm with bearing chatter and friction.
Everything Rega has learned in their past 40+ years of making tables comes together in the P1, providing a level of sound that is simply amazing for the money. And if you want more, there are 5 Rega models above it offering even better sound!
If you are considering taking the plunge into the world of vinyl or wanting to move up from that $100 all-in-one table (that not only sounds bad, but is ruining your records, by the way), the Rega Planar 1 is a great choice. It sets up in about 2 minutes, is easy to use and is musically very rewarding.
The Plus model, with the built in phono preamp, makes this table super easy to add to a set of powered speakers or entry level amplifier.
If this deep dive into the P1 has piqued your curiosity about what else is out there, we invite you to take a look at our comparison of the P1, P2, and P3 as well.
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
A Rega From the Ground Up
Rega’s 40+ years of building great turntables shines through in the P1. From the low friction arm to the lightweight plinth, to the great motor, it all comes together in a very musical table for the money.
Hand Assembled RB110 Tonearm
It is not often that you get a hand assembled made in the UK tonearm on a $475 turntable. This is one reason the P1 sounds so good, the tonearm surpasses the arm on some $1000+ turntables
Super Simple to Set Up
Nothing to balance; simply screw the weight onto the end, anti-skate is automatic, play in seconds.