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 like—they are beautiful—but 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 'tables—the groovy Funk Firm, sexy Spiral Groove, and absolutely gorgeous Shindo Labs Garrard 301 all come to mind—I 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.

So what?

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 used—about 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.

selfdivider's picture

Dude. My favorite post among your other fine posts in your blog. I know exactly what you're talking about.

Austin's picture

I too love these losing my vinyl virginity posts. Kind of like "Emmanuel Goes to Princeton Record Exchange."

tom collins's picture

Put me down as another reader who turns to this blog first thing.I reconnected with vinyl a few years ago when I gave up my 30 year old Sanyo direct drive TT for a Rega P2 with the ultracool glass table. What a piece of art.Enjoy.

Doug Bowker's picture

My first serious 'table was a Rega P2 back in 1988 and aside from all the things you correctly mention, one of the best things is that's so easy to play and care for! The thing just is so no fuss, and makes fantastic music it's just the perfect entry level into high-end analogue. There are many great 'tables out there in the Rega range, true, and just about all owe there evolution to the Rega brand. Keep enjoying!

Jim Tavegia's picture

Now, what if Mr. Gandy came out with the Rega 12, with a Rega RB1200 tone arm. A slick 12" long groove buster. Maybe $10K worth of turntable (like the SME 10) only it would sell for $7,500 and sound like $25K. Another no fuss no muss giant slayer that the only tweek you could do would be to add tonearm spacers...whoops...this one has adjustable VTA on the fly. Oh, My, Gosh. The planets are all lines up! Every person who bought a 12 would get a P1 for free. What no new $3K aircraft aluminum plinth skeletal system to upgrade my table? What, no exotic wood arm boards to drill. No special spiked feet sanwiched around cypress blocks? No, just more cash to buy new and used vinyl to enjoy. Spend all your time fussing over your trouble free Rega by building the K and K step up transformer like AD. Spend all your time doing the math for gain and transformer turns ratios. I wonder what the K and K would sound like into Ariel's Bellari?

-D's picture

I bought a Comet in the early '90s, back when they were only $500, and for me that was a large expense. It's definately good enough that it's NOT the limiting factor in my vinyl playback. I question whether a $1K Comet could competitivly run with a P3 today --- and I seem to recall the equivelent Planar 3 costing more than the Comet back then --- but it'd be interesting to find out.Stephan, enjoy your new 'table, and your new journey.

Marshall's picture

I too love your blog and turn to it more and more often. As you so rightly understand - it isn't the equipment; it's the enthusiasm. Music, comrades, beer and friendly equipment - that's our hobby. The cost and the jewelry quotient - don't really figure. But the smell, the colour and the excitement does. Keep up the good work - you make me want to listen more....

Vic Trola's picture

So true as "newer" does not mean "better". I have my system surrounded by old vacuum tubes on new vacuum tube components, old speakers (AR 11s, quad esl 63) an old tuner (Mac 77) and Ariston and Linn tables (circa 1980). What is great about high end audio is that there are pieces that are just, timeless.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Thanks, everyone, for these very kind and thoughtful comments.Doug: You're absolutely right. I find that many of the more expensive turntables can seem very delicate, complicated, and intimidating. The Rega, on the other hand, just begs to be used (like Bill Withers). There is nothing intimidating about the Rega! It offers, as you said, a perfect entry into high-end analog.

Stephen  Scharf's picture

And, it offer the perfect re-entry into high-end analog! I bought my Rega Planar 3 back in 1981 with an SME Series III (Rega didn't even make arms back then!). I used it up to about 1991; when I got too busy to list to music anymore. After buying an Arcam AVR for my HDTV mid-September, I rediscovered the joy of listening to music and in the process, listening to vinyl. I didn't realize what I had been missing all those years. Fortunately, I never threw any of my vinyl out, and now, I am so taken with having discovered the joy of vinyl again, that I hardly ever watch my HDTV! I spend all my evenings listening to my records on the Rega. I've never for a moment ever thought I needed a better 'table....the Rega just does music right! Congratulations on your discovery!