In a year in which we've all gotten more acquainted with our home stereo system, Rega introduced us to their newest integrated amplifier, the io. The diminutive size of the the io belies is tremendous power and accurate performance, as many reviewers and owners will attest. One such reviewer was Ed Selley, who reviewed the Rega io for AV Forums.
The Rega io was announced very early in 2020 at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show. Rega Research developed the new integrated amplifier as a component of the System One: the Rega Planar 1 turntable, the Rega io amplifier, and a pair of the forthcoming Rega Kyte speakers. The io was a intended as more than just an "entry level" or "budget" amplifier, rather it was an audiophile-quality integrated geared towards smaller systems or smaller rooms. For those who don't need massive power to drive huge tower speakers that fill the room, the Rega io makes a perfect addition to many systems with its 30 watts into 8 ohms power and integrated phono stage.
In his review for AV Forums, Ed Selley begins by discussing Rega's intention to provide a "first rung" of hi-fi equipment, that gives budding audio fans a starting place before moving up the line to more powerful options like the Brio, Elex, or new Aethos. Of course, by offering something at a small size and a small $595 price point, Rega has a challenge to ensure the product maintains the quality that Rega is known for and keep with the design (both visually and electronically) of other Rega amplifiers. That's when Ed transitions to detailing the specifications and designs of Rega's newest amp. Ed praises the io's sturdy aluminum case and sufficient power rating, but notes the lack of digital inputs and a subwoofer out. On the other hand, the io has some advanced features like the front-mounted 3.5mm headphone socket and remote control; features that aren't always included in amplifiers much more expensive than the io.
In his testing, Selley used inputs from a combination of the Chord Mojo and Poly and the iFi Zen DAC both running a streaming feed from a Roon Nucleus. To test vinyl playback, he used a high-end Planar 10 fitted with an Audio Technical AT VM95SH. The io fed into two different sets of speakers: a pair of Triangle Borea BR03 and a pair of Spendor A1 speakers. During his initial listen, Selley says that there's no caveats that the io is good for a smaller amp; rather, its a good amplifier in its own right - regardless of size.
While it performs dutifully with the digital sources by offering tonal balance and immediacy, where the io really shines is when paired with a turntable. Of course, Ed didn't use a turntable that would normally be found attached to the io, but the Planar 10 was certainly a trial by fire for the little amp.
Of course, the way that Rega really wants you to perceive the io is via the phono stage. Now, I confess it felt a bit ridiculous connecting the Planar 10 to an amp that is physically smaller than the power supply of the turntable and, even shorn of its Apheta 3 cartridge, a turntable that is nearly ten times the price of the io… but the io holds its own. All the basics are handled correctly; noise floor is low, there’s plenty of gain and no discernible trace of interference of hum or other nasties.
More than that, this is a great partner for a turntable. Provided that you’ve chosen your speakers with any degree of care, I’m going to state that the io doesn’t give away much to the Brio when used with a turntable - and that comes with the friendly reminder that there’s not much I’d rate above the Brio at £600.
After some more testing, Mr. Selley gives the Rega io some impressive scores with no category scoring less than an 8/10, and a perfect ten in Value for the Money. With such a stellar score, the io achieves the AV Forums Best Buy award.