Michael Fremer Goes In-Depth on Rega Naia and Aphelion 2

Posted by The Sound Organisation on Mar 19th 2024

Rega released the  Naia last year and it has been gradually getting into the hands, ears, and stereo systems of a lot of happy listeners. But, some in the audio literati have balked at the price tag or the technological advancements Rega has packed into the Naia turntable. Is it truly worth the $12,995 it'll set you back? Michael Fremer recently put it to the test to see if the new Naia is truly worth the investment or just another high-end turntable that fails to meet the high-end expectations.

Writing for  Tracking Angle, Michael Fremer begins his review expounding and explaining Rega's engineering ethos of "Low Mass, High Rigidity". (You can read more about this in the book, A Vibration Measuring Machine.) Taking it's cues from the legendary Naiad turntable, the Naia exemplifies this ultra-low-mass, super-rigid design at a more attainable level. "Properly executed, super low mass, rigid designs evaporate unwanted energy like water droplets hitting hot pavement," Fremer states, "Rega has been averring and proving that for many years." To achieve the low mass while retaining stiffness, Rega utilizes a graphene-impregnated carbon fiber skeltal plinth with their proprietary Tancast 8 foam core. To further strengthen and harden the frame, Rega uses two ceramic aluminum oxide braces that add a considerable amount of rigidity without added unwanted weight.

Other improvements come closer to where the vinyl meets the road, so to speak. Rega's new RB Titanium Tonearm is more than just a pretty facelift, but rather a sonic improvement that Fremer can attest to, having experimented with titanium bodies vs. aluminum bodies previously. The platter that the album sits on has also been upgraded, using a ceramic oxide material combined with an aluminum sub-platter. The spindle and central bearing are forged out of a ultra-hardened ZTA metal that is abrasion resistant and hand-matched for a perfect fit. 

Possibly one of the most pivotal parts is the  Aphelion 2 Moving Coil Cartridge. Here's what Fremer had to say after putting the Aphelion 2 to the test:

Happily, the Aphelion 2’s cantilever/ 'fine line' stylus assembly (which appears to be Ogura source, but I'm not sure) was manufactured perfectly and produced 92 to 93 degree stylus rake angle, with VTA usefully low at approximately 23 degrees. Channel separation and balance met published specs. That is how a cartridge should measure when supplied by a company whose arms don’t allow those parameters to be adjusted!

Using the Hi-Fi News test record, the horizontal resonant frequency was ideal at 9Hz, and vertical was around 7Hz (between 8Hz and 12Hz is where you want them to fall). What’s more, on the Ortofon test record’s trackability bands, while every other MC cartridge I’ve tested slid off the 100µm peak band, the Aphelion 2 tracked it! A bit of buzzing but it tracked it. That’s a first!

Now on to the most important part, How did it sound? "The NAIA is the turntable Rega has, for decades, been aiming for, which is not to say the ones below are not successful designs," Fremer relates, "The NAIA epitomizes and its sonic performance confirms the design philosophies so fully explored in the book referenced at the beginning of this review." Testing it alongside two $200k+ turntables he had on hand, Fremer was amazed at how the Naia competed with turntables that cost 20x the price of the Naia. Yes, the pricier turntables have their advantages, but for something that costs a fraction of the price for those higher-end turntables, the Naia "produced equally stable, well defined and fully satisfying images and soundstaging." Of course, the case could be made that the Naia is less a downgraded Naia and more of an upgraded Planar 10. Does the Naia's performance outpace the increase in price from the Planar 10? Here, Fremer is adamant that it does: "I can’t say the NAIA is twice as good as the Planar 10 but I can say with complete confidence that it’s much better in every way and the measured performance demonstrates that the NAIA is a step above the Planar 10 and above much of the competition at any price. It's that good."

When it comes down to it, the Naia offers more than just amazing sonic qualities, but it presents enormous value for the listener. While you can spend six figures on a bespoke turntable that will sound absolutely amazing, you could also spend a small fraction of that to get a turntable that performs nearly as well and is much easier to set-up and use. Here's Fremer's final words on the Naia: 

Put it all together and you have a remarkably compact, lightweight, high performance package that at $16,999 is costly but not impossibly so and that can be taken out of the box, perfectly set up and playing records within ten minutes. If there's another turntable that combines all of these attributes at the NAIA's price I haven't seen or heard it—and I've seen and heard plenty!

Read the full review over at TrackingAngle.com

Or, learn more about the Rega Naia and find a retailer near you!

UPDATE: Tracking Angle and Michael Fremer goes in-depth again in a video review. Check it out below: