When you see the new Rega Planar 3, take a close look. It’s changed. The journey has become a destination. Nearly 40 years of constant refinement make the Planar 3 the best in its class; no one does it better. Whether you’ve been a fan for years or this is your first go, this table defines elegant simplicity at an approachable price.
Like many reputable audio companies, Rega was born out of a garage from a couple of guys seeking to create a better product than what they could find on the market.
In the case of Rega, this was in the UK in the early 70s.
The subject of today’s review, the Rega Planar 3 hails from the original Rega Planar 3 introduced in 1976 receiving rave reviews from the British press launching the company on a long history of great value products.
The original Planar 3 was eventually replaced by the RP3, which received multiple awards including winning Product of the Year 5 times! But even after 40 years, the team at Rega wanted more.
They came up with so many improvements to the RP3 they decided to return the iconic name of the Planar 3.
Rega Planar 3 – Design and Features
The Planar 3 is really rather attractive in the flesh.
The glossy plinth, which is available in black or white, is impeccably finished and set off nicely by the metallic upper brace that runs diagonally from the main bearing to the arm mount.
This is a belt-driven turntable that uses a sub-platter, upon which the 12mm-thick glass platter sits, topped by a simple felt mat.
The drive belt connects the sub-platter to the motor pulley, which is stepped for 33rpm and 45rpm.
Since the pulley is under the platter, you have to wholly remove the platter to change speeds, which could be a little annoying if you swap between 33s and 45s an awful lot.
You can easily rectify that problem by adding the optional TT-PSU power supply, which enables speed changes at the touch of a button.
The new 9-inch RB330 tonearm is unmistakably Rega and looks very similar to the previous RB303. The most obvious differences are a new design of arm clip and anti-skate dial.
There are plenty of changes you probably won’t notice as well, such as all-new bearings, a new counterweight and stiffer bearing housing. The arm cable has also been upgraded.
It has an integrated headshell, with a nice long finger lift, and the lift arm at the base of the arm feels reassuringly solid.
Many turntables feel like they need to be treated with kid gloves, but this Rega certainly isn’t one of them.
The Planar 3 comes pre-fitted with Rega’s own Elys 2 moving-magnet cartridge, worth around £120, although you can buy it without the cartridge for £550.
There’s no record clamp provided, but Michell Engineering makes a rather nice one that’s specifically designed for Rega turntables for just £35.
Neither is there a spider supplied for playing de-centred 45s. But one accessory you do get is a lid, which is uncommon beyond the entry-level models.
If you can’t stand dusting or you have small children, this is a godsend. Its use is optional, though, since it simply slots in and out at the back of the plinth, and the Planar 3 looks just fine without it.
Another change that Rega has made from the RP3 is the placement of the on/off switch. It no longer sits incongruously on top of the plinth, but is now neatly hidden under the front left.
You might have to hunt for it at first, but it soon becomes second nature to reach under and get your finger to it first time.
Features of the Rega Planar 3
Despite the scale of the upgrade, the 2016 Planar 3 remains what it has always been: a simple, well-engineered deck that puts performance first.
This new one may look a little smarter, but the priorities haven’t shifted that much.
Aside from the rubber feet there’s no real attempt at isolation here, so you’ll need to use a rigid, level support. Ideally, it’ll be positioned well away from the speakers too.
All turntables, even those with elaborate suspension systems, benefit from such an environment.
Rega will supply the Planar 3 without a cartridge for £550, but our sample had the company’s long-running (and rather good) Elys 2 moving magnet fitted.
The cartridge works so well as part of the package that we would advise anyone to spend the extra.
The Elys 2 mounts onto the RB330 with a three-bolt arrangement that ensures alignment is spot-on. Beyond finding a good support, setting tracking weight (1.75g) and bias, there’s not much more to do.
You still play 45s? It’s a manual speed change on this deck, which involves moving the rubber drive belt from one step of the motor pulley to the next.
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Performance of the Rega Planar 3
Have you ever experienced a live band in a small club environment where their perfect timing and rhythm were almost drug-like in the sense of euphoria it stirred within you?
We feel this is the best way to sum up the sound of the Planar 3. It delivers an intensely accurate sense of stellar live music because the timing of the music is just spot on.
Bass is extremely clean and detailed with no measure of bloating.
The RB-330 tonearm will shine with the Rega Elys cartridge or consider stepping up to the Ortofon Bronze or Black for even more 3 dimensional sound from your records.
In summation, the Planar 3 just sounds right.
It does not add any coloration and is extremely true to the music.
The sound quality is absolutely astonishing for this price. The RB330 and Elys 2 combination is capable of superb resolution, timing, and attack, without neglecting the bottom-end.
The arm is easily capable of taking on a more expensive moving-coil (MC) cartridge for digging a little more detail out of those vinyl grooves, but the Elys 2 does a cracking job without breaking the bank.
Percussion sounds crisp, vocals are clear and realistic, and there’s plenty of tight bass.
The Planar 3 was as happy with Nick Drake and Stephen Fretwell as it was with some early Prodigy and Soul II Soul. It’s such a musical package.
A real highlight was listening to Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine”, with the Planar 3 applying such tight control and great timing to the searing, immersive stereo effects that it felt almost as if a laser circular saw might come spinning into my head at any moment.
Frequently Asked Questions
QUES: What cartridge, if any, is included?
ANS: Includes the Rega Elys 2 cartridge. A very good cartridge
QUES: Does this turntable have a build in amp?
ANS: No. You either have to have an outboard amp or an amplifier with a phono input.
QUES: Does this have RCA connect plugins for output or is it hardwired ?
ANS: RCA and AC plug are Connect not Hardwired.
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