The Entry Level #4 Page 3

But wait . . . Neeno is the name of Natalie's dog. I was definitely getting hungry. I checked the time: 45 minutes till dinner. I sent Natalie a text.

ME: I'm sitting here attempting to hear differences between two very similar turntables. Frustrating. Listening to a song called "Nero's Expedition," but I keep hearing "Neeno's Expedition."

NAT: Ha! You've got Neeno on your mind.

ME: It's true, but can you blame me?

NAT: Nope, he's always on my mind.

Goddammit, I thought, that Neeno is a lucky guy.

It was time to focus, and to do that, I would have to rely on more familiar demo material. I selected Four Tet's There Is Love in You (LP, Domino WIGLP 254) and cued up "Circling," which builds layer on layer of tone and melody on the foundation of a simple, steady beat—a great demo track. At first, differences between the RP-1 and P1 were difficult to hear, but after a few plays, certain things became clear: Through the RP-1, images were more precisely placed on a cleaner, tidier soundstage. The RP-1 matched better overall rhythmic control with deeper silences, allowing the song's many layers to explode into and vanish from my room with greater force. Toward the end of "Circling," Kieran Hebden fashions some dazzling little melodies out of nothing more than seemingly discrete electronic pulses and chimes. These melodies never fully emerged through the P1—the sounds were pretty but remained disconnected—while through the RP-1 they were given meaning and life. Indeed, the RP-1 delivered more drive, better focus, and was the more confident, purposeful, authoritative player. The RP-1 attacked the grooves; the P1 remained tentative.

These differences were enhanced when I installed the RP-1's Performance Pack upgrade ($195), which includes Rega's improved drive belt (reviewed in a Follow-Up on Rega's P3-24 in November 2010), a platter mat of slightly thicker wool, and Rega's Bias 2 cartridge. Installing the new belt was effortless: Lift the platter from the spindle, remove the old black belt, insert the new white belt. When, in November, I noted that the white belt seemed very slightly greater in circumference than the stock belt, I'd wondered if my old belt had simply stretched with use. Does a smaller belt create a tighter fit around the pulley and platter motor? Absolutely—just as a smaller belt would create a tighter fit around Sam Tellig. And does a tighter fit produce faster revolutions? I would think so, though JA says not. After just a week of use, however, the new white belt had stretched to a point where the circumference matched that of the old black belt, putting an end to the matter and setting my mind at rest.

Even simpler than installing the new drive belt was replacing the old platter mat: Off with the old, on with the new. Replacing the cartridge took a bit more time. Everything required to properly perform the task—a miniature Allen key, small screws, a wiring diagram—is included, but it took a few tries to get it done right. When installing the Bias 2, you'll want to make sure the front edge of the cartridge body is flush with the front edge of the tonearm's headshell. The cartridge screws should be positioned as far forward in the headshell slots as possible. Tighten the screws, ensuring that the cartridge is squarely fitted in the shell. The entire process is more fiddly than difficult. Also included is a 14mm O-ring spacer, which negates the need for a tracking-force gauge or any other tools, measurements, or adjustments. Just fit the O-ring on the balance-weight shaft at the far end of the armtube, ahead of the balance weight, and move both as far forward onto the shaft as possible. The bias is already set to 1.75gm, which is the Bias 2's recommended tracking force. Brilliant.

Including the drive-belt upgrade, thicker wool mat, and Bias 2 cartridge, the RP-1 becomes a $640 record player, and I was in a whole new world of fun, exciting analog playback. Along with a wider, deeper, taller soundstage, there was now greater resolution of low-level detail—I could clearly hear that faint sax melody in the opening of "Deluge"—and greater contrast between silences and musical passages. The overall result was an intoxicating, addictive sound.

Still curious about those final lines of "Deluge," I quickly cued up the track and listened all the way through again. This time the words surrendered willingly, without hesitation:

Don't disturb me while I'm dreaming
Walk softly on my peace of mind
Though you know I'm close to waking
Leave me while the morning's breaking

But what did they mean? And where had I heard them before? I checked the clock. Ten minutes till dinnertime—just enough time to return my records to their sleeves and walk over to Natalie and Nicole's place. The audiophile in me wondered if I should postpone dinner and perform a few more listening tests: More serious listening, or dinner with a couple of sweet friends? I rose from the orange couch, walked over to the window, and looked at the sky. A moment later, my question had evaporated into the white light of that strange, enormous moon. The answer was as clear as the night.

Share your stories.


zachisawesome's picture

Do you know where they sell wharfedale speakers online in the US? I'm really interested in a pair of the 10.1s after reading this because the nearest dealer to me is outside Philadelphia which is about 3 hours away. I couldn't find anything online in my searches.

I was also wondering if you had any plans to switch out the Cambridge Audio Azur 340A, for a different integrated like the Marantz pm5004? As a fairly poor recent college grad I really dig these "Entry Level" articles, because they cover products within my price range, some of which I own, like the RP1.

Stephen Mejias's picture
Hey Zach.
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're enjoying the column.

Music Direct is selling the Wharfedales for $299/pair. In the July issue, I'll be discussing the NAD C316BEE and Jolida FX 10 integrated amplifiers.

zachisawesome's picture

Thanks, I don't know why music direct didn't come up in any of my searches.

I'm excited I'm really interested in the Jolida, are you going to be pairing it with the wharfedales?

Stephen Mejias's picture
No, I no longer have the Wharfedales on hand -- Bob Reina is using them and will provide a complete equipment report in an upcoming issue. I'll pair the Jolida with the Klipsch Synergy B-20 and PSB Alpha B1 loudspeakers.
zachisawesome's picture

I was really curious to see if the jolida could drive the wharfedales since they don't seem to be particularly efficient speakers. Did the Azur have enough power to get a decent volume level?

Stephen Mejias's picture
Did the Azur have enough power to get a decent volume level?

Yes, it did. The system played very loud with no sense of strain in my small (13 x 11 x 8) room.

maxmelvin19's picture

Hi Stephen,

In a comment I left under one of Michael Lavorgna's articles over on audiostream, he suggested both your Entry Level column and contacting you with respect to my question. I know your time is limited, so I don't want to waste it, but I have done my best to find the answer to this question from respected online sources but I'm not getting a very clear picture at all. Here goes:

In the budget hifi arena (say sub $400 for a speaker/amp system in your money) does one get better sound from an active/powered desktop speaker or the traditional bookshelf passive and separate amp? (That is, keeping the variables to a minimum.) I'm making my first foray into high fidelity and I my research gives me the following options:

1) Audioengine A5+

2) Tannoy Mercury V1/Q Acoustics 2010i & Marantz/NAD/Yamaha lowest end amp

Lots of erm...impassioned forum members have been pushing low end professional studio monitors but I'm after smooth, tone-centric, detailed and *forgiving of track/mix quality* speakers so I assume home audio audiophile products are the way to go?

Btw, I won't be listening nearfield but in a small attic (loft) flat (apartment) with the speakers on the edge of a counter top or on a bookshelf with some space behind it (because of the slanted roof) and my gf and I will sit 6-8 feet from the speakers. My sources are just a laptop and maybe the TV and I hope to get a DAC lile the HRT microstreamer in about 6 months time.

Any advice/direction would be very much apprecieted. I care about listening to music and money's very tight (I have a useless masters degree to thank for that!) so I want to make the right descision.



SNorene's picture

I have a 7.1 system using the PSB Alpha 1's - T1 x2, B1 x2, C1 x1, LCR x1 and an i5 PSB Sub. Absolutely amazing quality and sound for the money. I listened to a lot of speakers, and was very tempted to buy Definitive Tech's, but was twice the money for not much of a difference. I do wish to audition the new Golden Ear surround setup...but would keep the PSB's just move them into the bedroom.

LOVE PSB's !!!!

ack's picture

Very excited to see a review of the Jolida FX 10 and looked at buying the NAD C316BEE before someone gifted me a Marantz receiver.

Any plans on reviewing any of the entry-level universal disc players?

This might make sense for someone in a smaller space who uses a 2 channel system for playing music and enhancing their experience watching movies.

I am seeing people in the forums doing this more and more out there in that real world space.

Stephen Mejias's picture
Any plans on reviewing any of the entry-level universal disc players?

I really haven't thought much about the smaller variety of discs at all, so I have no immediate plans to cover any universal disc players, but, in the future, I'm sure I'll get around to it.

ack's picture

Then I should point you to for their new Pro-Ject Essential for $299 which Pro-Ject to my knowledge never sold in the USofA before. Entry-level phonographic goodness.

TNtransplant's picture

If you're exploring the music of Robert Wyatt, presumably you've already come across his excellent first post-accident album "Rock Bottom" and even ventured further to discover his shortlived post-Softs group, Matching Mole (the first album was excellent ... I'm less inclined to recommend the second). If you want to check out some off-the-beaten track releases, a 2009 CD from France's Orchestre National de Jazz called "Around Robert Wyatt" is a fascinating collection, including the participation of Wyatt and a few other notables. Wyatt's also prominently featured on several Carla Bley and Michael Mantler albums and (Pink Floyd drummer) Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports album, which was really a Carla Bley set under the PF's drummer's name.

BlueSteelAudio's picture

If you're aching to replace those speaker cables, I have heard good things about Paul Speltz's "Anti-Cables." A six-foot spade-terminated stereo set costs just $60, so I assume they're fair game for review in The Entry Level. I am also very curious about the Anti-Interconnect (with Eichmann Bullet Plugs), but I don't know anyone who has them. Any chance you'll check them out?

MrWatermelonMan's picture

Hi Stephan,

I enjoyed your review. I'm interested how you thought the RP1 stacks up against the P3? I'm currently thinking of purchasing the RP1, but I'm also considering buying a clearance P3-24 that I've seen for GB£75 more (without a cartridge) but not sure if I can justify the extra expense (especially to the Mrs). I'm also aware of a second hand P3-2000 (I think) being sold privately that I might go check out. Any thoughts?