The aluminium sub-platter is driven via twin, round section belts by the aforementioned AC motor, which sits very close by. It gets its power from a TTPSU with electronic speed change. As with all but the least expensive Rega, there are braces between platter bearing and arm mounting on either side of the plinth, to provide maximum rigidity between those two points. The arm itself is called RB808; it uses the same casting as the RB303 (found on the RP3 and RP6) but with improved and higher toleranced bearings. It also has a new low capacitance cable in a fetching shade of off white, and apparently Rega had to change cable suppliers to find one that was able to build this particular topology. It’s terminated in phono plugs that have a twist clamp action not dissimilar to a certain high-end brand. But these are not made by that brand. As ever with Rega, there is no separate earth lead, a convenience that I wish more arm manufacturers would emulate. Downforce is dynamic via a spring mechanism and anti-skate/bias achieved magnetically; both are familiar from previous Rega arms and they work well and make set-up easy.
This RP8 was supplied as a complete package, with Rega’s Apheta moving coil already install and aligned at the factory. You just have to dial in 1.65 grams of downforce once the counterweight is in place. Rega also supplied an Aria phono stage, which is an excellent partner for the Apheta.
Unlike the RP6 that I reviewed last year this this turntable imposes little if any sonic character of its own and much less than the great majority of turntables I’ve heard. This means you hear more of what’s on the record – quite an astonishing amount more in truth. It competes with the best digital can do in terms of detail, which is high praise in my book. Vinyl usually has the upper hand in terms of vitality, tonal shading, and timing, but when it comes to sheer detail a good streamer or well sorted computer is hard to beat. This has such low colouration and so little masking or time smear that you can hear seemingly everything. The denser the music the more obvious it becomes, I didn’t start out dense, however; I went with Joni Mitchell’s Mingus [Asylum], ‘God Must Be A Boogie Man’ to be precise. This piece has Jaco and Joni spanking their respective planks with some relish and delivering a degree of attack that brings the performance alive. The RP8 exhibits no apparent overhang. Notes start and stop precisely as they should, which means that there is more space and air, more light and shade to enjoy. The next piece was a bit thicker – Stevie Wonder’s ‘He’s Misstra Know It All’ – a song that is dense with layers of percussion and, it turns out, vocal parts. It’s not the greatest of recordings, but it is the greatest of music and to hear what’s going on throughout the piece is a revelation. The track doesn’t have quite the emotional impact that it should through the RP8, however; I couldn’t pinpoint what was missing as there is so much coming through but this did lead me to experiment. Before that happened though, the record had to be allowed to finish. This is a hard turntable to turn off because you hear stuff that has been buried for so long. The Rega worked wonders with the song’s extended fade out, remaining engaging to the very end.
This turntable is significantly more sophisticated than anything Rega has made before, and more sophisticated than many competitors, too. What it does better than the majority is let you know exactly what’s going on in the music. It focuses your attention away from sound quality per se and toward the way that the musicians are playing and the precise nature of the composition. The quality of recording is part of this; Burnt Friedman and Jaki Leibzeit’s Secret Rhythms [Nonplace] is a German dub album with simply monstrous bass that overpowers most turntables; they can’t cope with all the low frequency energy. Here, it has rhythmic coherence, serious extension, and room-filling phase effects that immerse the listener in a full surround experience from just two speakers. This was the but one example of the RP8s freedom from smear, but it’s a quality that appears on everything you play. The Rega’s nimbleness means that phrasing, sustain, and harmonies are presented without embellishment or distortion.