Rega P3 Review

 by James Leahy

  

                                                                    Introduction

 

What can one say about a living legend. Or you know what I mean, living to some. The entry level and baby of the Rega 'P' range, the irrepressible Rega P3 has been around longer than dirt and is just about as durable too. It comes standard today with the industry leading Rega RB300 tonearm that is now used by over 15 independent turntable manufacturers from around the world as their tonearm of choice for their own tables. This in itself is a glowing endorsement of the quality of the RB300 if ever there was one. The table's platter is made of 12mm polished glass and is beautifully machined to Rega's own exacting specifications. The low mass plinth core is sandwiched between highly rigid phenolic.

 

 

For it's market price there is nothing that compares with the Rega P3. There, I've said it. The tonearm is enough for many to find enough reason to lay down $1,099.00 right there and then. The RB300 tonearm is so highly regarded it is used by many independent third part turntable manufacturers on their own tables. Such is the remarkable quality of this tonearm and is available at such a reasonable cost. The RB300 is available for a very attractive price separately of $575.00 for those who already have a table and wish to add a quality arm with a great heritage without blowing the budget.

The Rega P3 as with all of the Rega turntables are sold with an acrylic hinged dust cover. Only in the case of the Black P3 is the cover of tinted smoked appearance. This is probably designed to display the eye catching colored top plinth of the other P3's and on the higher end models to display the beautiful construction of these rigs.

Maybe it is the innate simplicity of the P3 that has keep it going at the forefront of the budget turntable market. This description is not to degrade it's performance in any way but merely to highlight it's much talked about low price in comparison to it's giant killer performance potential. The P3 is available in a multitude of colours for an additional $100.00 for those who prefer a lighter wallet or have an old lady to please. Surprising how many women will accept a brightly colored P3 where they would not go for a plain P3 in  standard flat black. This can make the purchase of a new rig just that little bit easer guys. You can thank me latter for that tip.

This machine is designed to play both 33rpm & 45rpm records and the changing between the two speeds is a fully manual operation. Not difficult to do with only the glass platter having to be lifted up and the drive belt placed on the smaller position on the motor drive spindle. This is preferable to any automated switching mechanism as it would no doubt reduce the rigidity of the table.  

The packaging with Rega is very simple even with their top P7 and P9 models and I am here to say that the P3 is no exception. Rega chooses to pass more value onto their customers in the form of worthwhile performance improvements rather than invest in fancy sales grabbing smoke and mirrors. After all, if you have not heard of the legendary P3 in the last 25 years you must be either dead or living in a cosmic sized black hole. Therefore Rega's products already speaks for themselves and do not need any gimmicks or paid for comment reviews by any of the many supposedly independent Hi-Fi magazine fraternity. That is why you will be hard pressed to find any reviews on Rega products in the common Hi-Fi glad rags or even online. Why waste time writing about something that you do not get paid for right....?

 

Sonic Evaluations

The first job after unpacking the P3 was to install the cartridge. I chose on this occasion to go for an Ortofon OM10 and proceeded to set the cartridge alignment and check the VTA. The VTA was correct by a shear fluke of nature but in cases where it is not you can purchase Rega's 2mm spacers for only $10.00. The table took me all of about 20 minutes to get ready for some serious testing and of course fun. Rega's tables are notoriously easy to set-up and a basic knowledge is all that is needed. The instructions that come with all of Rega's tables are in my view insufficient and could benefit from a more detailed owners manual.

 

The first album for this brand spanking P3 was to be Eric Clapton's (God to some) - 'Just One Night' (PolyGram, 1980). This brought back some sweet memories, my word. The opening track 'Tulsa Time' cut trough my listening room, like a beacon through the dark night and instantly was there that classic Rega rhythm and pace. The P3 was mounted on the top of my equipment rack with nothing more exotic then it's three factory vibration absorbing feet. Never was the vibration of my Velodyne HGS-15 subwoofer a problem. It took everything I could dish out and then asked for more.

This so called 'budget' turntable absolutely shocked me with it's level of performance that was obviously so far above what's it's modest price tag would otherwise suggest. Not very often does the tight fisted audiophile get it so good. But with this turntable I feel I could live with it in my system if I had to, knowing I did not need to spend any more for the performance I needed. Of course it depends on the level of the rest of your components but for a lot of systems the Rega P3 will be more then enough.

I feel that this table could indeed benefit from a much more substantial cartridge than most owner's would consider buying to use with the P3,  such is the tracking ability of the RB300 and the sonic attributes of the table as a whole. The most common mistake owners of the P3 make is fitting an under performing cartridge to the rig as they believe because of it's relatively low price tag it does not 'deserve' any better. Well in reality nothing could be further from the truth.

The RB300 should not be underestimated as a fantastic tonearm at a very low price. I would seriously recommend a minimum of an Ortofon Turbo 3 cartridge and it could quite easily handle an Ortofon 'KONTRAPUNKT A' without any trouble what-so-ever. This table is too good to waste behind a budget cartridge.

 

 

Associated review Equipment

  • Amplifier:           Audio Research VT200 Mk.I

  • Line Stage:         Audio Research LS26

  • Phono Stage:      Audio Research PH5

  • Speakers:           ScanSpeak & Vifa Custom

  • Cartridge:           Ortofon OM10

  • Cables:              Neotech

  • Subwoofer:         Velodyne HGS-15