Rega, a British hi-fi manufacturer dating back to the 1970s, is undoubtedly one of the most recognised turntable manufacturers. Their budget offerings dominate the budget turntable market, while their higher end turntables stand proudly at the heart of many high end hi-fi systems. And, thanks to the resurgence of vinyl, there’s never been a better time to buy a turntable.
In fact, Rega’s RP6 (the subject of this review) is by no means a brand new design – having been available since 2012. However, Rega’s lengthy product release cycle is one which I appreciate – allowing you to enjoy your latest purchase for an appreciable amount of time, before a new model is released.
Physically, and indeed in terms of some of its components, the RP6 is not dissimilar to the previously reviewed RP3. The 2 models share the same RB303 tonearm, though Rega take the best arms from the production line for use in the RP6. Other notable differences include a range of high gloss finishes, and an aluminium top brace replacing the phenolic resin brace found on the RP3 adjoins the tonearm base and main bearing, forming what Rega refers to as a ‘stressed beam assembly’ and resulting in increased rigidity at these key points.
The RP6 features a 16MM glass flywheel platter. Constructed from float glass, this 2-piece platter consists of an outer glass ring bonded to the underside of the thinner main platter under UV light. This adds weight at the platter’s outer circumference, increasing its natural flywheel effect and aiding in speed stability.
Rega have also optimised the subplatter assembly. The RP6 features the same phenolic resin subplatter as found on its RP3 and RP1 counterparts, but with a machined aluminium hub – or, for want of a better description, a ‘top hat’. This aluminium hub sits atop the phenolic subplatter, and features 6 tiny raised contact points which contact the underside of the platter, keeping it stable and presenting the vinyl as flat as possible to the stylus.
The RP6 is supplied with Rega’s outboard TTPSU upgrade. The TTPSU provides the 24V, twin-phase AC synchronous motor with a more stable supply of power with decreased distortion, while also allowing the user to switch between 33 and 45RPM speeds at the press of a button rather than necessitating removal of the platter.
A range of high-gloss colour options are available, including black, red, green and white. You can also order the RP6 with Rega’s Exact moving magnet cartridge fitted, which is an option I’d recommend. And as with all Rega turntables, the RP6 is supplied with a hinged plastic dust cover.
As you would expect, the RP6 is extremely well packaged for shipment. Considerable effort has gone into keeping the packaging simple (no doubt to keep costs low), but also to keep the vital parts of the turntable protected.
In the box, you’ll find the turntable itself, along with the platter, a felt platter mat, the dust cover and some documentation (including a cardboard cartridge alignment protractor). In a separate box, you’ll find the TTPSU, a connection cable and its power supply. If you ordered the RP6 with the exact cartridge fitted, you’ll find the exact, complete with a protective stylus cover, mounted to the end of the RB303 tonearm.
It’s important to thoroughly examine the packaging carefully. The RP6, as with most turntables, requires some assembly before use – including fitting the stainless steel counter weight to the rear of the RB303 tonearm. Said counterweight is located in a slot in the polystyrene keeping the main subplatter assembly in place, and is easy to miss.
The RP6 comes pre-fitted with a standard belt. A white belt upgrade is available, which, given its low cost, I would’ve liked to have sen included as standard. The RCA cables are also pre-attached, and are held in place by a retainer beneath the turntable.
Interestingly, these cables appear to be of a new design – the RP6 I purchased is a 2015 model, where as my previous RP3 (and the other RP6 models I’ve had experience with) were manufactured in 2014. The previous models used a thick, heavy cable, with the cables for each channel adjoined in the middle. The new design appears to use a more flexible cable, not dissimilar to that used in Rega’s Couple2 interconnect, and are separated. I rather like the new cable design, however, and the plugs are of high quality also – sliding easily onto the connectors of the phono stage.
The RB303 arm is, as you would expect, a very solid item. I couldn’t discern any notable difference between the quality of this arm and those I’ve used before – though admittedly I don’t have those turntables to hand to perform a side-by-side comparison. The anti-skate, or ‘bias’ slider feels a little loose on my example, though the mechanism works as expected so it doesn’t give me cause for concern.
On my particular unit, the arm lift height did require some adjustment as, from the factory, it didn’t raise the stylus high enough to clear a 180G vinyl pressing. The lift height is adjustable via a small screw at the front of the lift bar, requiring a 1.6MM hex key. Such a tool is not provided with the turntable – indeed, nowhere in the documentation, or on Rega’s website, could I find instructions pertaining to adjustment of the arm lifter. It would be good to see the appropriate tool and instructions provided as standard.
The main bearing is as solid as you would expect. While I would’ve liked to have seen an all-metal subplatter assembly at this price, I didn’t notice any excessive movement or play, no matter how much I wiggled or prodded the bearing. However, on first listen, I did hear some noise coming from the bearing – a sort of rubbing noise, suggesting the bearing was lacking lubrication. I can only assume the oil leaked during shipment (though I cannot see how this would’ve been the case). With a few drops of fresh new oil applied, the bearing ran silently as expected.
Let’s talk for a moment about the dust cover. Rega uses the same dust cover on every model of turntable. It’s a sturdy, square cover with a set of plastic hinges mounted at the rear. The hinge action is solid enough, though I do wish it offered some kind of soft-close mechanism to avoid jumping the record (or damaging the plinth) if it should be accidentally dropped.
That said, many audiophile turntables now lack a dust cover completely – and when one is offered as an option, it’s often ludicrously priced when essentially it’s nothing more than a turntable-sized plastic box. Therefore I applaud Rega for continuing to include dust covers with its turntables – and also for keeping the price of replacement dust cover under £100.
Setup couldn’t be simpler. Once all packaging is removed and the turntable is located on a suitable surface (such as a suitable turntable wall shelf or a sturdy, low-resonance hi-fi rack), all that remains is to place the platter atop the pre-installed subplatter, place the mat on top of that, and locate and connect up the TTPSU to the socket on the rear of the turntable.
The RB303s connection leads can then be connected to your amplifier – note the absence of a separate ground lead, which is unnecessary on Rega arms as the ground is permanently connected to the right-channel negative.
If you didn’t order the RP6 with the exact, now is the time to setup your cartridge. Once complete, you’re ready to setup the RB303. This involves installing the counterweight onto the shaft at the rear of the arm, and adjusting it (with the stylus cover removed) so that the arm float horizontally in the air, or so that the top of the stylus floats roughly 1MM above the surface of a record. Once complete, set the tracking force by rotating the dial on the side of the arm, and set your anti-skate by pushing the bias slider to equal the tracking force you just set. In the case of the Rega exact, both should be set to a value of 1.75G.
It’s worth obtaining a digital stylus force tracking gauge to attain the correct tracking force. Rega arms have no provision for VTA (vertical tracking angle) adjustment, so if your’e using a tall cartridge you’ll need to re-mount the arm using spacers – a process that can sometimes become all the more frustrating due to the fact that raising the arm height can cause the counterweight to interfere with the closing of the dust cover. Low-profile counterweight are available to avoid this issue – or you could simply buy a Rega cartridge and avoid the problem from the get-go.
Let’s talk for a moment about the cartridge. The Rega exact sits at the top of Rega’s moving magnet cartridge range, a step above the Elys2 cartridge available as an option with the RP3. The exact, a yellow-bodied cartridge hand-made by Rega in Essex, features a vital profile diamond stylus and a stereo generator comprised of parallel-wound coil assembled on Rega’s custom jigs with a 0 channel balance tolerance. Each cartridge in the range is then tested for a period of 2 days to ensure the strict manufacturing tolerances are met, at which point they are packaged in simple cartridge containers or installed on a Rega turntable.
Like all of Rega’s cartridges, with the exception of the cheaper Carbon and Bias2, the Exact features a 3-point mounting system, utilising a 3rd fixing screw at the front of the headshell to illuminate lateral movement and make cartridge alignment a snap. These cartridge can of course be installed in standard tonearms should you wish to do so.
The cartridges feature a simple plastic stylus cover which presses over the cartridge body from underneath. While this is certainly preferable to some covers, such as those supplied with Ortofon’s 2M series, it can at times be a little tricky to install. An oversized cover that simply slides over the cartridge body from the front would be a welcome improvement for those of us who like to install the cover to prevent damage when the turntable isn’t in use.
Being a Rega turntable, one can expect that, above all else, the RP6 to be musically involving. And indeed it is; where as many ‘audiophile’ designs offer up a more CD-like sound, at the same time sapping the life and fun from the music, listening to the RP6 leaves you no doubt that you’re listening to vinyl in all its glory. In fact, the RP6/Exact combo goes beyond that – it’s fun, lively and simply entertaining – it’s the kind of product that lures you out of your chair, drags you towards the volume control and soon results in extreme speaker driver torture while you rock out with a stupidly huge smile on your face.
Of course, i’ve got to keep the audiophile happy – so I’ll throw in a few audiophile turns. Surface noise, or “rumble’ is impressively low – while it’s not silent, it’s certainly lower than that of the similarly priced Clearaudio Concept – and sibilance (the high-frequency splattering, usually the result of the stylus tip not being perfectly aligned to the spiralling record groove in that particular area of the disk) is also kept to a minimum. In fact, my copy of Hailstorm’s ‘The Strange Case Of…’, a record which suffers from an incurable case of excessive ‘splattering’ no matter which one it’s placed on, sounded clean and crisp on the RP6.
The RP6/Exact also copes well with worn, noisy records. My copy of Neil Sedaka’s ‘Laughter and Tears’, which just happens to be playing in the background as I right, is sounding as sweet as ever – sure, there’s a bit of background crackle. But rather than sounding out of place, it’s more akin to the background crackle of a traditional log fire. It’s beautiful.
I don’t think I need to summarise this review. There’s nothing left to say. The Rega RP6 is a lovely turntable. It’s musically involving, simple to setup, and understatedly stylish. If you simply want to play records, it’s perfect. And if, like me, you want something you can tweak to perfection, the upgrade possibilities are endless.
It’s a worthwhile step up over the RP3 – in fact, though the 2 turntables may be similar in appearance (minus the RP3s absence of gloss), they couldn’t be more different. If your’e looking for a turntable in the £1000 price bracket, grab yourself an RP6. Highly recommended.