Rega Brio Continues to Please The Ear

Journeyman reviewer Jason Kennedy pops a 2017 Rega Brio into his system with supreme satisfaction.

Out for just a couple short months, the new Rega Brio amplifier is cementing in reputation as the leading integrated amplifier at its price point. Seeing that Rega has applied its usual effort in the redesign, possibly we shouldn't be surprised. But we are certainly happy! With revisited and substantially improved power supplies, it 50 watts in a small chassis sounds more robust than ever. With rocking good headphone output and accomplished built-in phono pre-amp, this amp will find a long-term home in your HiFi system.

Keep reading for a few snippets from the review, or find a Rega dealer near you.

...this delivered highly coherent tabla playing, lots of low level detail and inspired some ‘air bass’ playing when that instrument joined the mix, always a good sign in my book. With this speaker you get bass weight and excellent timing, it isn’t fat bass it’s tuneful melodic bass that makes the music swing. Detail levels are good for the price, you can hear plenty of what’s going on but not down to the sort of levels you get with a doubling of budget, something has to give. But in all honesty the things that count are very well sorted on the Brio, in my book that’s timing and musical engagement.
Trentmoller’s sophisticated beats also work well, with plenty of punch thanks to the Brio’s remarkable grip for its size, it’s also adept at revealing dynamics for the same reason. Talking Heads’ ‘Crosseyed and Painless’ sounding tense and rhythmically taut, a reminder of just how good that band was at its peak. The Brio is pretty transparent to source... adding nuance to Tom Waits’ instrumental classic ‘In Shades’, another track that proved hard to turn off. This is a characteristic of Rega products and the current range of relatively affordable integrateds, Brio, Elex-R and Elicit-R, they are so musically enjoyable that you just want to keep listening. Alternatives can often sound more sophisticated and refined on demonstration but they don’t make the music so compelling in the long run. Rega amps focus all their energies on making the music as convincing as possible, they are less concerned about the aesthetics of the experience than the emotional communication, and that is what musical enjoyment is ultimately all about.
As I still have a Brio-R I made a few comparisons between the two and found that the older amp sounds thinner, less relaxed and lacking in scale. Moving to the new Brio brings in real body to instruments and voices, fine detail and, surprisingly, better timing. You can also play louder without discomfort and there’s more power in the bass, hence the observation about perceived power increase. This was also the case with the phono input, the new amp delivering much better bass control, more drive and tighter groove than its predecessor.
The Rega Brio remains the budget amp to beat at its price point, it may not win the features war but it is hands down the most musically rewarding amplifier in its class. Combine that with its improved aesthetics and a remote control that is big enough not to lose in the couch and you have a piece of kit that offers fantastic value and top light entertainment in a compact container.