Rega P3 Review
by James Leahy
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
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....?
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
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.
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
Audio Research VT200 Mk.I
Line Stage: Audio Research LS26
Audio Research PH5
ScanSpeak & Vifa Custom
Subwoofer: Velodyne HGS-15