Saturday, October 27, 2012
The New Rega RP8: Rega Hootenanny at Whetstone Audio
All I had to do was mention that I was about to hear the new Rega RP8 turntable from Rega at the latest Whetstone Audio Hootenanny and my mail box was suddenly flooded with e-mails. "Let me know what you think!" "I've been waiting to hear this turntable forever and I can't wait for your impressions!" This morning there was even a "Dude, what gives? Let us know what you think already!" Dude, I just woke up. Chillax. It's just a turntable.
Evidently the RP8's appearance at Whetstone was a big deal--we were informed that this was only one of three or four out in the world as of yesterday. Rega UK rep Paul Darwin and US distributor Steve Daniels of Sound Organisation were there to explain the finer design points and then play plenty of music for the sizable crowd. It was probably Brian Di Frank's largest hootenanny to date.
In yesterday's blog, I mentioned that I had some questions about the unique RP8. Here's a quick summary of the answers:
1. The new RP8 will retail for $2995. It will be sold as a package with Rega's Apheta cartridge for $3995--a savings of about $800.
2. The removable outer plinth, which reveals the inner "skeletal" 'table, is designed to support the dust cover. When in place, the outer plinth is completely decoupled from the inner 'table. Paul Darwin reported that "the jury was still out" as to whether there was a sonic difference between the two configurations. He did pass the outer plinth around to the group, and it was exceptionally light. The new material for the plinth weighs slightly more than styrofoam, but it's several times more rigid than the plinths in the current line. It's amazing stuff.
3. The platter is similar to the two-piece glass one found on the current RP6, except that it's made from three concentric pieces. This increases the flywheel effect, which reduced strain on the motor and increases speed stability.
3. While the RP8 replaces the old P7, the venerable P9 has also been removed from the product line. That's because an RP10 is on the way next year. In fact, Paul mentioned that there's a cost-no-object 'table that Rega built solely for research these new designs, and that may or may not make it to the marketplace. There have been rumors of a Rega supertable for some time now, and it was fun to hear Paul confirm this.
4. Someone in the crowd asked how the new RP8 compares to the P9 sonically, and Paul said he didn't want to come out and say that the significantly more affordable RP8 kicks the former flagship "into the weeds." Instead, he urged P9 owners to compare the two 'tables and come to their own conclusions. He also added that despite the fact that the RP8 is the current top-of-the-line, it will eventually be positioned as the entry level model of a premium line of turntables that are very different, in both design and performance, than the traditional RP1, RP3 and RP6. In other words, the difference between the two lines is very distinctive.
So how did it sound already? Well, it's pretty difficult to get a precise feeling for the RP8's performance in a big room full of people. My initial impressions were strong enough for me to say that I want one--or at least I want to spend more time with one in a familiar system. I've owned four Rega turntables in my life, including the P3-24 I currently use as a second 'table, so there's no question I enjoy their products (I have been called a "Rega Fanboy" more than once, most notably from the 1200 Army.) But from my limited time with the RP8, I do suspect this is a major leap forward for Rega designs, and that RP8s will start flying out the doors once dealers get them in (Brian already ordered a few).
The RP8's presentation was clear, strong and forward, with no sense of the leanness you might expect from a 'table with such a lightweight plinth. I suspect it will probably outsell every other Rega 'table model ever made except for the Planar 3 and its variants. You'll be hearing a lot about this turntable in the near future.