Rega RP1: A cut above

The Rega RP1 (left) and the P1.

The Rega RP1 definitely sounds better than the P1 that it replaces. But I cannot confirm whether it sounds better than the P2 simply because the P2 was not available for comparison when I visited Asia Sound in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, yesterday.

With Eddie Tan of Asia Sound plugging and unplugging the P1 and RP1, both equipped with the Ortofon OM5e mm cartridge, to the Thorens phono preamp connected to a Rega integrated amp and Rega speakers, it was quickly discerned that the RP1 was certainly a cut above the older model.

The easily discernible differences were less surface noise, cleaner sound, higher definition and better image etching with the RP1.

Priced at RM1,100 with an Ortofon OM5e mm cartridge included, it certainly seems like one of the best deals at this price level and an excellent way to enter (for some older audiophiles it would be a case of re-entering) the world of vinyl.

In terms of design, the differences between the RP1 and P1 are the platter and the tonearm.

Unlike P1's high-density fibreboard platter, RP1's platter is made of phenolic resin, a kind of phenol formaldehyde-based plastic that is also used to make circuit boards, countertops, costume jewellery and billiard balls. Its tradename is Bakelite and was popular in the 1930s and 1940s.

Its top surface is textured, possibly to reduce slippage between the platter and the felt mat. 

It's the underside of the thin platter that is interesting - it's difficult to describe the design and the photograph of it below is worth a thousand words.

The Rega RP1's phenolic resin platter (without felt mat).

The underside of the RP1's platter.

The new arm is also interesting as it has no end stub and the tube behind the bearing housing is effectively an extension of the arm tube. The counterweight is slid along it to balance the tonearm and apply tracking force. The headshell is also a new design.

Other than that, everything else is the same from the plinth to the rubber feet.

The tonearm of the P1. Note the
endstub and bearing housing.

The tonearm of the RP1. Note the new
 bearing housing and absence of endstub.
The headshell of the P1's tonearm.
The headshell of the RP1's tonearm.
When the P1 was introduced, it set the standard for budget good-sounding turntables. With the RP1, Rega has set another standard which its competitors will find hard to match.

And my feeling is that the phenolic resin platter works so well that with improvements to its design and formulation of plastic, the glass platters of the P3 and P5 may one day be replaced.


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