Rega Ania & Fono MC

Hardware Review

Rega Ania & Fono MC
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
MC cartridge and phono stage
Jason Kennedy

With a range that’s trebled in recent times Rega have clearly got their MC production line up to speed, Ania is the latest and least expensive moving coil that the company has made but it has a lot in common with its pricier range mates. There are more similarities between Ania and both the Apheta 2 and Aphelion than there are differences, the shape of the body is the same and it contains the same tiny iron cross and coil assembly as those two outstanding cartridges. Where it differs is the material used in the body, whereas the ‘bigger’ models have an aluminium structure Ania is made out of PPS, a ‘highly rigid’ moulded plastic which helps keep the price down to half that asked for the Apheta 2. The other difference is the stylus which is elliptical rather than the Vital nude profile of the other Rega MCs. Elliptical styli are less expensive than line contact nude types and ironically, easier to align.

Ania, which apparently means grace in Polish, retains Rega’s preferred three point fixing, a system that not only confers a considerably stronger attachment to the headshell but also provides automatic alignment on Rega turntables. The fixings are threaded stainless steel inserts that seem to be up to the 0.4nM torque recommended for Rega’s metal body cartridges. It has a clear cover to protect the fine wires that connect the coil to the output pins and those pins are clearly colour coded to go with the four connections at the end of a tonearm.

 

 

Nominal output is a fairly average 350μV so it needs a proper MC phono stage or a step-up and MM stage to get adequate level out. Which is where the Fono MC comes in, this has been introduced primarily to go with the Ania because the next phono stage up in Rega’s range is the Aria at £798. This is a very nice stage but a little costly for those taking their first steps with an MC.

The Fono MC inhabits a new line of casework that started with the Brio earlier in the year and now includes the Apollo CD player, the TT-PSU power supply and a Fono MM. The Fono MC uses a low noise FET input stage that has been chosen for its high input impedance, which in layman’s terms means that any cartridge can drive it without difficulty. You can adjust the impedance that the cartridge sees with dip switches on the box, likewise gain can be adjusted to suit different cartridges. While it’s tempting to go for maximum gain all the time you need to retain enough headroom for a cartridge to work optimally. Wind the gain up and a high output type will run out of dynamic range pretty quick, and that is easy to hear, but not in a good way. Try and find a gain setting that gives you power but not to the point of compression, you want an open dynamic presentation. There are four levels of input loading available ranging from 70 to 400 Ohms, two gain settings and two capacitance options. Which for a stage at this price is very generous, many have fixed gain and impedance.

 

 

With the Ania fitted to a Rega RP8 turntable and connected to the Fono MC it delivered a very similar character to the Apheta 2 that usually inhabits that space. It has plenty of dynamic impact, good speed and the intrinsic musicality that Rega products consistently achieve. It’s not as fast as the Apheta 2 nor quite as detailed but neither is it lazy, in fact its bass lines are full of texture and shape, the double bass on Patricia Barber’s ‘Company’ sounding particularly elastic yet precisely in time. Grooves are propulsive but not in an urgent way and the tonal balance accurately reflects the nature of each piece of vinyl you spin, so my recent repress of Astral Weeks sounded as dead as usual!

I contrasted Ania with a Dynavector DV20X2L (£729) on a Planar 6, the Rega MC showing tighter bass, more precise tempo and better resolution of instruments like hi-hat and snare drum. Instrumental interplay is also very nicely resolved, the way that two musicians work together to intertwine the notes they produce is particularly strong. Which comes back to the musicality mentioned earlier, the emphasis is on the performance not the sound. The Ania had the advantage here of being on an arm and turntable that it was designed to suit but nonetheless it's a surprising result, the Dynavector is a pretty decent MC.

 

 

I don’t have an alternative £250 phono stage so put the Fono MC up against another Dynavector product, the P75 Mk3 (£649). This proved that a more than doubling of price gets you a better piece of electronics, who’d have guessed! It has more gain and beats the Rega in terms of pace and immediacy but was not obviously better when it came to imaging, presumably this is where a Dynavector cartridge would fill the gap.

Back with the Ania and Fono MC things were warming up, or so I thought, then I wondered about the capacitance adjustment option, something I’d left as it was set on arrival. The cartridge spec doesn’t mention what this should be either so does it really matter? In music reproduction everything matters, and this is no exception. Moving from the 1000pF to the 4300pF setting improved timing to quite an acute degree, rhythm sections started to make real sense and Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark turned from an intellectual experience into an emotional one. It made me think that something else had changed, the only possibility was warm up but going back to the 1000pF setting undermined up the timing in quite a clear way. Rega engineer Terry Bateman  thinks this might be caused by a peak in the response, a skewing of the tonal balance that emphasises leading edges, but whatever the reason. As ever with cartridges it pays to experiment with loading and downforce, the latter ended up at the top end of the recommended 1.75 – 2g range when I set up the Ania. Two grams giving the best tonal balance and solidity of image.

The Rega Ania and Fono MC are a pretty sweet package, you need a decent turntable and arm to make the most of them, an RP6 at least, but given that, the result is pretty damn close to the music power available with much pricier combos. In fact I can’t think of a more inspiring record player than RP8/Ania/Fono MC for £2,500. But be careful, it could give you a chronic case of vinyl addiction.

Specifications: 

Ania
Tracking Pressure 1.75 - 2.00g

Input load impedance 100 ohms

Output impedance 10 ohms

Nominal output voltage 350μV

Channel Balance : ≥ 20μV

Separation : ≥ -29dB
Mass: 6gm

Fono MC
Type: Solid-state MC phono stage
Phono inputs: Single-ended on RCA sockets
Analogue outputs: Single-ended on RCA sockets
Input Sensitivity: 67, 133μV
Input impedance: 70, 100, 150, 400 Ohm
Input capacitance: 1000, 4300pF
Output impedance: 200 Ohms
Output level: 200mV
RIAA accuracy: (50KΩ output load) = better than +/-0.2dB 100Hz to 100KHz
Dimensions (HxWxD): 45 x 178 x 150mm
Weight: 640g
 

Price: 
Rega Ania: £498
Re-tipping: £249
Rega Fono MC: £248
Manufacturer Details: 

Rega Research
T 01702 333071
www.rega.co.uk