I recently purchased (and reviewed) a Rega RP6 turntable with an Exact moving magnet cartridge. The turntable was reviewed in its stock form (prior to any modification); the review is Here if you missed it.
This turntable was purchased as a ‘slight second’ unit; rejected by Rega’s quality control due to a supposed visual blemish or 2 (which I have yet to find). At the time of this writing, RP6 slight seconds are available for £649 – which, despite the lack of an included cartridge (unsurprising given the price) is one of the best hi-fi bargains currently going. It is my intention to use this particular RP6 as the basis for a custom-designed turntable, utilising the phenolic resin plinth and RB303 arm (which are both excellent) and upgrading the remainder of the table using either off-the-shelf or custom-designed components.
A series covering these modifications in detail will, of course, be published here. However, I realise that not everybody has the time, resources, or the motivation to embark on such a project; so in the first instalment of this series, we’re going to explore a selection of cheap (sub £20) aftermarket modifications that anybody regardless of skill level can easily carry out to improve the already exceptional sound of this deck. Indeed, many if not all of the modifications which follow can be installed of most, if not all past and current Rega turntables as well as turntables based on Rega designs from brands such as NAD and Moth among others.
Before we get started, I’d like to thank SRM/Tech for providing several of the following products for review. I’ve purchased from SRM/Tech on several occasions and have found their service to be exceptionally proficient and their products to be of excellent quality and great value. They offer a wide range of vinyl essentials (including the excellent Moth record cleaning machines), turntable upgrades, accessories and a range of turntables of their own design. You can check out their website and purchase their products Here.
On with the upgrades; first up, the SRM/Tech main bearing dampening ring (BDR). Priced at £9.99, this product is designed to fit tightly around the Rega bearing housing beneath the turntable, just below the locking nut. Fashioned from a grade of synthetic polymer chosen after extensive listening tests, it effectively absorbs resonance generated within the bearing housing, making it quieter and helping to prevent unwanted bearing noise from being transferred to the platter.
The BDR does what it says on the tin. It lowered the noise floor; fractionally but noticeably; and the leading edges of bass notes, particularly sustained notes, sounded a little tighter.
Next up is the SRM/Tech ultimate turntable main bearing oil. Known as ‘Black oil’ and containing Molybdenum Disulfide and Graphite, it makes the bearing quieter, reducing the noise floor and drastically reducing wear. It’s suitable for all belt and idler-drive turntables, and priced at £8 for a 10ML bottle (enough for a minimum of 10 oil changes). Once both the spindle and bearing housing have been separated and the original oil has been removed, a few drops of the ultimate bearing oil should be applied to the bearing housing and a line applied to the spindle, at which point the spindle can be set back into the bearing housing and the weight of the platter used to apply pressure and set it down into place.
I recommend obtaining some denatured or Isopropyl alcohol which, when used in conjunction with some cotton buds will allow you to remove all traces of the original oil from your bearing and spindle. You’ll also want to obtain a pipet to apply the oil to your bearing, as one is not supplied. I purchase these in packs of 100 via Amazon.
In use, the SRM oil is thicker than that originally used by Rega. As I’d expected, it reduced the surface noise by a far greater margin that the BDR (though even with the oil in place the BDR certainly gave noticeable improvement). Perhaps the biggest affect of the bearing oil however, and one that is not immediately obvious, is the drastically reduced wear to the bearing – something which if you intend to pass your turntable down through the generations is of vital importance.
Third up is Rega’s own white belt. Though being priced at £21 this is not strictly a sub £20 accessory, the white belt is the first upgrade Rega owners typically perform. It’s standard on Rega’s top-tier turntables (the RP8 and RP10), it’s included in the Performance Pack upgrade for the Rega RP1, and is an aftermarket option for all other models in the Rega range. The belt is made from a unique polychloroprene formula, which maintains flexibility over a wide temperature range. It’s designed to improve drive torque, speed stability and startup speeds.
In practice, the upgraded belt offers better grip and greater speed stability than the standard factory-fitted belt, as well as reducing the startup time by seconds. I also found the white belt significantly improved the platter torque when using a carbon fibre brush to remove surface dust from the record before playback. The belt can be purchased from any Rega dealer or via Amazon.
Last up, we have the SRM/Tech Counterweight Resonance Controller (CRC). Priced at £9.99, this modification comprises a synthetic polymer ring which fits tightly (very tightly, in fact) around the Rega counterweight to absorb counterweight resonance. The polymer material is the same as that used in the manufacture of the bearing dampener, and the kit (which comes as standard with SRM’s own EL-1 tonearm) can be used with any Rega arm and any Rega arm clone which uses a standard stainless steel or tungsten counterweight.
2 Sizes are supplied – the smaller of which was used with the stainless steel counterweight which comes as standard with the RP6. It’s worth noting that with the CRC fitted, you will no-longer be able to use the Rega dust cover as the cover is too slim internally to clear the counterweight with the added thickness of the ring. I personally found the CRC to be the least effective of the above modifications, though it certainly did yield some improvement; further tightening up the bass and reducing a slight graininess that was previously present at the other end of the frequency spectrum.
The above modifications, when combined, offer a distinct improvement over the sound of the stock RP6 (or any other Rega or Rega-manufactured turntable for that matter) and all for a total outlay of £48.98; a worthwhile spend if you ask me.