Originally Published May 26, 2016
HiFi Choice takes an in-depth listen to the Rega Planar 3 turntable, awards 5 Stars across the board and prestigious Editor's Choice recommendation.
An ambitious two-year venture, the complete redesign of the legendary Rega Planar 3 turntable has netted some of the most substantial improvements to sound quality and aesthetic ever produced at its price. This new turntable is set to carry the torch of best-in-class performance that every generation of "3" series Rega turntables before it are known for. A truly remarkable value, this new Rega Planar 3 turntable makes the very best of your vinyl, with little exception. Available in gloss black or white. $1145 with matching Elys cartridge (a $100 savings), $945 without. Keep reading for excerpts from the review, and a link to download.
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Excerpts from the HiFi Choice Rega Planar 3
Key to the way that the Planar functions is a new bracing system that links the arm mount and bearing together. This comprises a 3mm plastic bottom bracket and a visible top bracket with a metallized skin. This makes the Planar 3 a great deal more rigid and controls the movement between the two. Rega calls this arrangement a ‘stressed beam' and claims that coupled with the stiffer plinth, the Planar 3 is considerably more inert than any previous version, which should audibly reduce distortion.
The new RB330 is visibly similar to the old RB300, but given it includes a new bearing housing, arm tube and counterweight, it can realistically be thought of as all new. As well as performance improvements, Rega has also worked to improve the day-to-day usability and to this end there are some adjustments to the anti-skate settings and cable plugs that are very welcome.
Finishing off these substantial revisions is a series of detail improvements. Most noticeable among these is the platter. It's still made of glass, but is now 12mm thick, finished to a high tolerance and has ‘Optiwhite' polishing around the edge. It looks extremely smart in the flesh and the whole deck rests on revised feet designed to improve isolation.
As supplied, the Planar 3 comes with a wall-wart power supply, but Rega has ensured that you can upgrade the deck at a later date to use the TT-PSU, which gives improved performance and the bonus of electronic speed control. Without it, speed adjustment is carried out by changing the belt on the pulley, which is simple enough to do. The biggest change, though, is in the aforementioned tonearm. It might look similar to what has gone before, but the smoothness of the movement and the general feel it offers is much more impressive.
While the looks are similar to previous incarnations, it feels different to its predecessors once extracted from the packaging. The improved finish on the plinth, the wonderful edge to the platter and the overall levels of build help it to feel more expensive than the moderate price rise over the RP3 might otherwise suggest.
In many ways the sonic performance of the Planar 3 echoes the aesthetic improvements that have been made...it manages to sound very much like a Rega deck should, yet simultaneously more capable and infectiously lively.
It opens up the material, never making it sound disjointed or confused, but instead managing to create a sense of space and soundstage where many similarly priced rivals might struggle. There is a three dimensionality to the Planar 3 which allows it to sound believable and consistently enjoyable.
The beautiful All I Need is delivered with an almost liquid quality with Beth Hirsch's vocals layered effortlessly across a soundstage that is simply exceptional.
Something that helps across a wide variety of music is the fact that the Planar 3 has gained a bass response that is deeply impressive for a turntable built from these materials at this price point. It manages to produce powerful and impressively deep bass that never loses the texture and detail needed to be a convincing part of the performance rather than big uncontrolled slabs of low end.
There is a substance to the sound that shines through almost regardless of the partnering equipment.
...the Planar 3 is consistently entertaining. It is unfazed by any genre of music that is thrown at it and the basic attributes it possesses are consistent regardless of whether you're listening to something small scale and elegant or a massive piece of live rock.
Rega's new Planar 3 is something of a star and is an ideal starter turntable for those looking to discover just what vinyl is capable of. Rega has taken its iconic simplistic philosophy and run with it, and by throwing the Elys 2 cartridge into the bundle it represents the driving force for affordable vinyl playback.