A Good Turntable
Some people might wonder what it is about me and the Rega P3. Why would I simply settle on the old Rega when there are so many other similarly priced turntables out there?
A new Rega P3-24 turntable with RB301 tonearm and Elys 2 cartridge costs $1095. An audiophile looking to spend about a thousand bucks on a new turntable might also consider the Clearaudio Emotion ($1200); Funk Firm Funk ($1159); Music Hall MMF-7.1 ($1299); Nottingham Horizon ($1100); Pro-Ject Experience ($1000); or Sota Comet ($1050). There are, of course, many others. All are special in their own ways, and would probably be considered by most to be more physically attractive than the decidedly austere Rega.
So: Why not consider some other 'table before jumping into a long-term commitment?
Well, first of all, I suppose that that's just the kind of guy I am. When it comes to hi-fi, I'm the marrying type. I fall in love and stay in love. For some, it's an entirely different story, one full of twists and turns and one-night stands, secret meetings and stolen glances, desperate kisses in the pouring rain, promises and cries, promises and cries, more and more promises and cries, flurries of lusty e-mails sent ringing in the naked night, a pile of reference disks and endless, disappointing demonstrations. You know how it goes. You've been there, too.
We are possessed and devoured by what ifs and if onlies, never quite satisfied with what we already know, forever wondering and wandering, wondering and wandering. At shows and at dealers, I have seen and I have heard the Clearaudios, the Funks, the Music Halls, the Nottinghams, the Pro-Jects, and the Sotas, too. I have seen and heard the mighty Continuum and I have smiled and danced. I know what these turntables look likethey are beautifulbut I know nothing of their sound. How could I know if I haven't heard them in my own home, with my own gear? In my own home, with my own gear, is exactly how I got to know the Rega. I was fortunate. My friends, Michael Lavorgna and John DeVore, introduced me to it. And there is a personal story there, more valuable than any review or forum buzz. And every time I raise the Rega's dust cover to play a record, I am taken back to that very first time. John snapped a photo and Michael stood smiling in the doorway and we listened together to Betty Davis' They Say I'm Different and it was awesome. So this explanation is sentimental. And I am fine with that.
I only know the sound of the Rega P3, and I am happy with it. In some future, I will listen to others, but, for now, I want to call the Rega my own. I want to form a foundation upon which all others can someday be judged.
And the Rega makes a fine foundation. It has history. You'd have to go back to 1984 to find its first Stereophile review. I was seven years old. Michael Jackson's scalp caught fire during the filming of a Pepsi-Cola commercial; we sang songs about it in elementary school. Under manager Davey Johnson, the New York Mets finished second in the National League East with a record of 90 wins and 72 losses. The first MTV Video Music Awards were held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Ronald Reagan was president. The world would have to wait another three years before Ariel Bitran would cry his first notes. Back then, the 'table was known as the Planar 3 and it came equipped with the RB300 tonearm, a classic in its own right. In 2002, John Atkinson ranked the P3 at No.30 among our Hot 100 list of all-time most important products. Of that early model, Art Dudley declared: "If this level of design and manufacturing ingenuity were ever applied to the rest of a system, it would be dangerous." And Sam Tellig questioned: "Was ever so much produced for so little?"
I am very attracted to such history. It appeals to me much more than any extravagant fashioning or shiny finish. While I do appreciate the styling found in some of the more exotic 'tablesthe groovy Funk Firm, sexy Spiral Groove, and absolutely gorgeous Shindo Labs Garrard 301 all come to mindI actually like that the Rega P3 is so simply bared boned. It's got a sort of punk rock, anti-stylized thing going on. Like a plain white t-shirt, some faded blue jeans, and a pair of Chuck Taylor's, the Rega is just cool. Again, my explanation is irrational. But I'm fine with that.
I'm fond of my personal story with the Rega; I'm attracted to its unique history; I love the way it looks and I love the way it sounds. Are there other turntables in this world? Of course.
The most important consideration to weigh when selecting any piece of equipment is your own character. If you know yourself, selecting a piece of gear should be relatively easy. And another thing: A component's number one priority is to make music. It should make you want to discover new and wonderful sounds. If a component doesn't make you want to listen to music, it sucks. No matter how much it costs, no matter what it looks like, no matter what. If it doesn't make you want to listen to music, it fucking sucks. The Rega P3 makes me want to listen to music. My vinyl collection has almost doubled in the short time I've had it. In those three months, I've purchased something close to 90 LPs, new and usedabout a record a day. I've had to clear off shelves and rearrange my closet to accommodate all the new vinyl. (During that same period of time, not a single new compact disc has entered my home.)
The Rega P3 makes me want to rob banks and max out my credit cards and travel to Africa in search of new and wonderful sounds. It's a good turntable.