Rega P3-24/Elys 2
I’ve had more years of experience with Rega turntables than I’d like to admit. In fact, my first ever “real” turntable was a Rega P(lanar) 3, and, tonearm aside, it looks pretty near identical to the P3-24 I received for this article.
But as the man said, looks can be deceiving, and there is plenty of new thought in this tried-and-true classic.
Start with the plinth, which used to be made of MDF. While it’s still a slender slab, Rega is now fashioning it out of much more rigid laminates. The motor, too, has been upgraded, and is identical to that used in more costly Rega models, the P5 and P9. According to Rega, this motor’s coils are adjustable for phase angle, which yields far lower levels of vibration. The main bearing, inner hub, and glass platter remain unchanged. But the classic RB300 arm includes a new vertical bearing that is said to bring greater strength to the arm’s mounting and reduce stress on the main arm-bearings, while the improved arm cable is derived from the RB700 arm. The anti-skate adjustment is also improved and easier to access than the older one (though they work the same way).
Retail for the P3-24 is $895, and for $200 more Rega offers it with the Elys 2, which by itself retails for $295.
Regas, too, are known for their rhythmic drive, that quality Linn’s Ivor Tiefenbrun describes as “tapping your foot to the music.” But there’s a wider dynamic range to this new P3-24 than I’m used to from a P3, as well as a more convincing sense of air and space.
These improvements were in evidence on Nono’s A Carlo Scarpia, where the Rega’s silent backgrounds helped create a convincing recreation of the recorded acoustic. And during transitional passages, notes seemed to hang and then recede like a fine mist. The P3-24/Elys 2 combination was equally satisfying with Hank Mobley’s Soul Station [Music Matters/Blue Note], displaying a rich, almost buttery tone with Mobley’s tenor sax, and a solid bass foundation with nice tonal detail on Art Blakey’s drums and Paul Chambers’ bass.
Each of Rega’s upgrades to the ’table makes an impact— and a significant one. But none to my ears as much as the P3- 24’s optional TTPSU power supply. While it adds a relatively substantial $375 to the sticker price, and can be purchased at some later date, I can’t imagine anyone hearing the TTPSU and not buying one. The improvement is that substantial. (It also allows you to change speeds at the push of a button, rather than manually.) A slight midrange haze heard minus the TTPSU— imagine a fuzzy halo—was wiped clean. The overall presentation opened up. The bottom end became more taut, lively, and seemingly extended. The top-end, too, sounded more extended, and dynamic range became both wider and more nuanced.
On “Gallows Pole,” from Led Zeppelin III [Classic/Atlantic], this translated into much greater clarity and focus on Robert Plant’s vocal, greater texture and articulation on the guitars, banjo, and bass, and a lot more impact as well as artistry on John Bonham’s heavy drumming.
At first, the Elys 2 seemed a bit dry and grainy, if well balanced and essentially neutral. But when I switched from Simaudio’s Moon LP3 phonostage to the LP5.3 (see review elsewhere in this issue), that changed to a warmer, sweeter, much more refined sound.
SOTA Comet /Dynavector 10x5
I hadn’t heard a SOTA turntable in many a year, and this one proved to be the surprise of this mini-survey. Priced at $1150, plus an additional $350 for Dynavector’s high-output 10x5 moving-coil, the SOTA presented yet a different take on the music; one that’s very easy and relaxed—but not rhythmically slack—with an alluring warmth and richness.
Larger and heavier than the Rega and Pro-Ject, the Comet’s plinth uses significant internal damping to isolate the turntable from vibration and noise. This, combined with what SOTA describes as “energy-absorbing leveling feet,” is SOTA’s way around the costly sprung suspensions found in its more expensive models.
SOTA boasts about its spindle and bearing assembly. The bearing cup is made from a compound called Turcite, which “is a Teflon-impregnated self-lubricating polymer designed specifically for ultra-precise bearing applications, and is ideally suited to the turntable spindle/bearing function.” SOTA believes this makes for a much quieter bearing than metal-tometal designs.
The platter assembly consists of a precision-machined highdensity polymer main platter, which SOTA calls “virtually inert,” sitting atop a polymer-based sub-platter. These are driven by a 24-pole AC synchronous motor “designed for ultra-precise computer use.”