Rega P5 New $1299
Rega P5 Turntable taken in trade. New Retail $1299. Uses the Rega RB 700 tonearm which retailed for $700 separately and was one step down from Rega’s top RB1000. Typical Rega reliability and performance.
From the Stereophile review by Art Dudley who listens primarily to vinyl and knows more than most of the wonders of vinyl playback and is among the very best writers in the world of audio journalism:
The new RB700 uses the same aluminum-alloy armtube as its forebears, although this one is painted silver instead of black. Other details have been refined, as well: The lateral bearing carrier has been redesigned, allowing more precise bearing adjustment and a surer, more rigid connection between the bearings and the rest of the arm. Also, an even-higher-spec bearing is used in the RB700. The three-point stainless-steel mount is carried over from the top-of-the-line RB1000 arm, for a more reliably tight connection to the plinth. And the bias mechanism, in which a small magnet tugs at a metal tang extended from the lateral bearing race, has been refined for a more consistent and precise antiskating force. The only difference between the arms supplied with the two new Rega record players is that the more expensive P7 gets an RB700 with the above-mentioned tungsten counterweight, while the humbler P5 gets an arm with the less exotic stainless-steel type.
The Rega P5 is built around the same style of plinth developed for the P9: a low-mass “skeleton” CNC-machined from a fibrous wood composite, then sandwiched under high compression between thin sheets of satin-black phenolic. A threaded brass bearing well, nicely machined on the inside and fitted with a steel ball bearing, bolts to the plinth with a single nut. The 0.3″ steel bearing axle, ground flat at one end to mate with the ball bearing, is pressed into a 4″-diameter molded hub‚Äîa part that will look familiar to anyone who’s owned a Planar 2 or 3 of any vintage, as will the 11.6″-diameter glass platter.
I began my own musical relaxation with the stock P5, and found it did a fine job of sorting out notes and beats and presenting them as a realistic continuum. Rock music virtually always sounds good on a Rega‚Äîbut it’s worth noting how well the P5 played classical, too. Bruno Walter’s thoughtful performance of Brahms’ Symphony 4 (a Classic Records reissue of Columbia MS 6113) held my attention throughout, with good note definition and believable flow. My fully tricked-out Linn LP12 was more dramatic, and imbued such things as the plucked basses in theAndantewith greater color and texture, but the Rega wasn’t so terribly far behind‚Äîand was, in fact, shockingly good for roughly a third of the price.
The P5 also did well with Zubin Mehta’s Bruckner Ninth (Decca Jubilee JB 108), an unusual record that combines a subtle performance with a recorded sound that’s unambiguouslybig. Again, the best thing I can say is that the Rega allowed the music to hold my attention from start to finish‚Äîa talent that escapes so much “high-end” gear I could cry.
A very different sort of Bruckner performance‚ÄîClaudio Abbado’s brisk and well-controlled First, in a superb-sounding Decca/London release (CS 6706)‚Äîalso found a good home on the P5’s platter, where it was both pacey and timbrally very rich, all delivered with a huge sense of drama and no strain whatsoever.
The P5 also remained unfazed by surface noise. One rainy afternoon I dug out my worn copy of the odd samplerThe Reiner Sound, by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony (RCA LSC-2183), and noted with appreciation that the Rega rivaled my Linn’s ability to sail through Ravel’sPavane pour une infante d√©funte‚Äîwhich is, counterintuitively, a perversely mediocre recording of a good, emotional performance‚Äîwithout exaggerating the disc’s many ticks and pops.
But given a clean and superior-sounding record, such as Miles Davis’Young Man with a Horn(a Japanese reissue of Blue Note LP 5013), the Rega P5 rose to the occasion with a satisfying mix of everything that’s important in music replay: the sort of emotional and intellectual involvement that comes only when a hi-fi component gets the musical essentials down right, plus such niceties as realistic impact from Kenny Clarke’s drums, and good texture and color throughout‚Äîespecially Gil Coggins’ piano, which was commendably resonant and clear (try the opening bars of “How Deep Is the Ocean”).
It didn’t take many LP sides to convince me of the P5’s musical competence, and a brief comparison with my own P3 revealed the former to be more explicitly detailed and‚Äîsurprise!‚Äîsignificantly better at putting across soundfield depth and image placement (on stereo records, that is: lateral imaging on monophonic records remains the province of the Thomas De Quinceys of the audio press). Still, the introduction of the optional TT PSU power supply was a remarkable thing, in more ways than one: It very obviously helped the Rega decode the subtle timbral shifts throughout guitarist Tony Rice’s introduction to “Home from the Forest” (Manzanita, Rounder 0092). And it gave all music a bit more momentum, and took the stereo depth and image placement further still. Music playback was, overall, more convincing with the TT PSU in place‚Äîa real no-brainer for the extra $345.
I noticed, however, that if I left the TT PSU set for 45rpm andthenswitched on the P5, the platter had a hard time coming up to speed‚Äîand usually needed some digital coaxing (digitalas inmy fingertip). Apparently, the small belt and subplatter prefer to have motor torque sneak up on them rather than rush them all at once. It was a shortcoming to which I simply resigned myself‚Äîaided by the pleasure of easy access to my collection of XTC’s brilliant 12″ singles without the unspeakable torment of having to get on my knees and pull off the platter.
By now it was clear: The P5 is an unambiguously fine, musical LP player, considered on its own and in comparison with its less expensive sibling‚Äîand it does nothing but add luster to Rega’s already well-deserved reputation for value.