For a company that only made moving magnet cartridges in the first three decades of its existence Rega has thrown itself into moving coils with gusto. It started with the original Apheta in 2005 which became the Apheta 2 nine years later and was joined by the Aphelion a year after that, then in 2017 the floodgates started to open with the Ania entry level MC followed by Apheta 3 early last year and Ania Pro at the end of the year. All are based around the same fairly radical design which eschews a tie wire to attach the cantilever to the body, as found on the majority of cartridges. Instead all that holds the cantilever in place is a synthetic rubber grommet (or rhomboid pivot as they call it) in the faceplate, if you look at the Rega MCs (the ones with clear covers make it easier) it’s fairly easy to see that only the fine coil wires are attached to the end of the cantilever inside the housing. This brings down the mass of the ‘generator’ as the combination of stylus, cantilever and coils is known to a minimum, which means that it has higher freedom of movement than conventional designs.
The Ania Pro as the name suggests is a close relation to the Ania inasmuch as it has the same PPS body, aluminium cantilever and magnet system, the main difference is that the Pro has a Vital profile on the nude diamond stylus, the Ania has an elliptical stylus. The latter are relatively easy to set up but aren’t renowned for their detail retrieving powers, the Vital profile is a variation on the line contact type which sits lower in the groove in an attempt to ‘read’ more of the information.
As with all Rega MCs and the better MMs the Ania Pro has three fixing points which means a very strong mechanical bond to headshells that have the relevant holes. There is no need for an alignment protractor when setting this cartridge up on a Rega arm because the front fixing sets overhang – the correct distance from bearing to stylus. Ania Pro comes with three short stainless bolts with which to make this fixing and these help to keep the mass of cartridge and hardware very low, the cartridge itself weighs only 6g. The benefit of this is that you can use a lighter counterweight and that having less weight at either end of the arm means that there is less inertia and it can stop and start more easily. Tracing the groove in a vinyl record pushes the stylus from side to side at a high frequency so the less mass there is to move the quicker it can recover to a central position. The opposite approach is to have a heavy cartridge with a very soft suspension, so called high compliance, but that’s an approach that has all but disappeared from MC design.
As I suspect will be the case with many Ania Pro users I listened to this cartridge on a Rega turntable, several Rega turntables in fact. First up was the Planar 3 which at £550 seems a little on the affordable side for a £750 cartridge, but Rega recommends this combination and when you put the Ania Pro on after the stock Elys2 it’s not hard to hear why. The jump in refinement is of the several leagues variety, the mids and highs are instantly more open and detailed, with low level detail coming through that was not even suggested by the MM. The sheer quantity of information makes everything sound more real and explicit, even the timing improves markedly, presumably because the leading edge definition increases so much. Treble information is the key element when it comes to defining attack which gives the sense of immediacy to music and makes it sound more visceral and real, and while the Ania Pro is not bright it is very strong in this department.
This MC brings out the sense of life and vibrancy in music very well indeed, revealing the tension in Sarathay Korwar’s More Arriving with impressive power and clean, extended bass which helps to propel the groove on this album’s more upbeat numbers. It’s worth noting that you need a decent phono stage to get good results with this as with any other cartridge, I used the Rega Aria because it lets me compare MM and MC types but there are dedicated MC stages that are less pricey. I tried the Ania Pro on my Planar 10 for perhaps the opposite comparison to the Planar 3; a turntable that’s in a rather higher price and performance league. Here it sounded solid, vibrant, deep of soundstage and vital. Not as revealing as Rega’s metal bodied MCs but with a lot of the coherence and precision that they deliver. The voice pops out of the soundstage on Lou Reed’s New York and the guitars are suitably angular, ‘Coney Island Baby’ sounds a lot sweeter though, with body as well as edge to the steel strings.
Finally I gave the Ania Pro a run on a Planar 6, one of the most appropriate turntables in terms of capability and price that Rega makes, here it followed a regular Ania and revealed the benefits of the Vital stylus. Which makes for greater definition and extension in the treble, the result being stronger solidity of image and realism, and bass that’s more substantial and powerful which does great things for almost any type of music. On the jazz blues track ‘Foolology’ by Conjure it meant that the bass, drums, percussion and voice had lots of character and the groove was as tight as you like. On Joni Mitchell’s Miles of Aisles the bass sounds a little fuzzy but has good extension while the voice is superb and the musicianship in the highest league.
The final contrast was with a Dynavector DV20XL on the Planar 6, an MC at the same price as the Ania Pro but without the advantage of being on a turntable it was virtually made for. The Dynavector nonetheless produced an expressive and detailed result with good timing that made a good case for the brand. The Ania Pro has a bit more dynamic power and clearly greater immediacy which gives it the edge in timing terms. I carried on using it on this turntable and enjoyed a lot of great tunes thanks to its ability to retrieve fine detail and energy and present the music in highly coherent form. Particularly good was Tord Gustavsen’s The Other Side which revealed the Ania Pro to be a little smoother and rounder sounding than the Aphelion I generally use but that doesn’t stop it delivering a highly engaging, three dimensional result that more than reveals the brilliance of this album.
With the Ania Pro Rega have delivered a moving coil with many clear strengths and no obvious shortcomings when used on Rega turntables at least, it’s relatively low mass means it should work on a good variety of arms but Rega’s have the advantage of the third fixing. It brings many of the qualities found in their Apheta 3 and offers a clear upgrade on the Ania, so much so that I think that Rega should be offering it as a discounted package deal with several of its turntables like they do with the Ania.