The RP10 is Rega’s latest and most ambitious turntable aside from the as yet to be finalized Naiad. It features many of the ideas developed for Naiad yet costs considerably less than the £20k expected price of that model. It is a bargain in both technological and sonic terms. The RP10 is built around a skeletal chassis that's made out of a foam core with phenolic skins, this sandwich construction results in massive rigidity combined with very low mass. Being a practical type of company Rega provides a rectangular outer plinth that supports a dust cover, but it doesn’t touch the chassis rather it locates the feet with O rings so that the mass of the plinth proper is not increased.
The main chassis incorporates a high quality but fairly straightforward main bearing for the aluminium subplatter which supports a ceramic platter, a white one that’s not entirely dissimilar to the RP9 that this turntable replaced in the range. As with most of the Rega models there is a brace from the main bearing to the armbase, in this instance a magnesium brace on top and a phenolic one on the bottom, the differing materials having a damping effect on one another.
The tonearm is an all metal design called RB2000 that takes the principals behind the original RB300 and applies the highest engineering standards and the finest tolerances that Rega can achieve. It also has decent quality cabling and terminals albeit no more fancy than those found on the RB808 on the RP8 turntable.
The motor is a 24 volt, low noise type but what makes it special is the power supply, this is housed in a Brio-R type case and uses DSP to produce a “near perfect sinusoidal waveform” to drive the motor. It can be left powered up without the platter spinning and offers the two standard speeds. There is plenty more detail about the construction and theory in our interview with Roy Gandy, as there is on the Rega site. For the most part I used the RP10 with a Rega Apheta moving coil cartridge and my Trilogy 907 phono stage and ended up making rather a lot of notes, this is a very inspiring turntable as my ramblings will hopefully reveal. This is what the RP10/Apheta revealed.
Is A Woman
The precise nature of the ‘noise’ effects on 'Flick' from Lambchop’s greatest album is fully defined for the first time. The full pathos of 'Caterpillar' is crystal clear from the first notes, my Living Voice speakers can’t cope with the bass but they do the emotions in full effect. If you love a record ordinarily it’ll break your heart with the RP10, in this case the hammer blow comes from the lap steel on the extended outro, it’s both ghostly and sublime.
As ever with Rega it’s not about the sound, the imaging or the PRT (pace, rhythm and timing) it’s about the composition, the playing, the exact nature of the instruments and the nuances that the musicians coax from them. Keith Jarrett’s performance is renowned for its clangy piano but this becomes totally irrelevant in the RP10’s hands, what is abundantly clear is the genius of Jarrett’s playing, his ability to channel the very essence of his being through the instrument. The piano is a tool that in the hands of this musician is as eloquent as the finest violin and as broad in range as an orchestra. This is achieved by keeping the character of the turntable, arm and cartridge to a bare minimum, something that is extremely hard to do with vinyl replay. You will always hear about the great sense of timing, the beautiful tone and the earth shattering bass in descriptions of turntables but how often does anyone say that a performance has given up so much more of its character that the piece is clearly enhanced from a musical perspective? There isn’t a turntable that times better, it slaughters sacred cows of all shades yet the price means that it will never get the full respect it deserves. Detail resolution is in another class to the majority as well, it may not sound as smooth or refined as some but that’s because it’s not glossing over the lumps and bumps.
This reveals the skills of Beefheart’s Magic Band and the female backing vocals on 'Nowadays a Woman’s Gotta Hit a Man'. The whole thing hangs together and chugs yet its arrangement and the playing are obvious for all to hear. It’s impossible to sit still with the epic 'Big Eyed Beans from Venus'; “Distant cousins there’s a limited supply and we’re down to the dozens”, what a band, I need a rest!
The piano on John Martyn’s 'Fine Lines' is clearly an afterthought, an overdub, but it still works and is the only other element apart from voice, guitar and bass. John and Danny’s Gaelic tune afterwards is more of a piece because of its likely live nature. You can’t really play good vinyl at background levels with the RP10, it is a complete immersion experience, it's all you need. Recycle the TV it will just lie dormant screwing up the sound and become vestigial in home entertainment terms. Martyn really was on it back then, drugs or no he was at the top of his game. Danny Thompson was key to his sound, few acoustic bass players have worked so well with rockers, the exception, of course, being Herbie Flowers on 'Walk of the Wild Side'.
I put on 'Rhiannon' but am distracted by how much is going on on the following track 'Over My Head'; keyboards, percussion, acoustic and electric guitars, constant cymbals, organ, bass and the glorious voices, it's a superb piece of work. Harmonies on the follow up, 'Crystal' are su-ruddy-perb, it makes for a powerful piece and reminds me why this is better than Rumours. But it’s the picking of Bucks and singing of Nicks on 'Landslide' that puts the lump in your throat.
Led Zeppelin III
Forget 32bit/384kHz and DSD512, vinyl is the only real high resolution audio format. 'That’s the Way' is incredible and the offbeat kick drum of 'Bron Y Aur' is superb, its softness and nimbleness has rarely been reproduced so faithfully.
Shadow Of Your Smile
With a Van den Hul Frog Gold cartridge in place of the Apheta I got a more relaxed presentation but equally spot on timing and compulsive listening. Dexter Gordon’s tone on is to die for. Mingus’ Tijuana Moods opener is immensely vibrant and open, this is a far better live recording than previously thought.
Moving up to a Van den Hul Condor cartridge the bass pedals on 'Can-Utility and the Coastliners' are monstrous and the chunk factor of the bass guitar is pretty substantial with it. It’s obvious that two guitars are used on 'Horizons' and each has too much reverb on it. But who is doubling the vocal on 'Supper’s Ready’s' first verse? A higher but possibly male voice that returns with “Coming closer with our eyes”, it sounds like Peter Gabriel singing higher. This remarkable track really is laid bare by the RP10, everything has harmonics on it not least the jangling acoustic guitar. Pedals really boom on ‘prayer capsule’, but I still can’t count in 9/8, probably not the Rega's’s fault that one!
I’ve never been able to follow the tabla on 'Desert Song' so clearly, nor appreciated the percussion element, both contributed by Milt Holland. The Condor doesn’t make it a more romantic turntable, it just ads low end welly and and a bit of finesse, but welly goes a long way when Clarke is slamming his bass on 'Hot Fun' which has not sounded so funky before nor has his instrument been so obviously thrapped with a thumb of steel.
Songs In The Key Of Life
The voice in the choir that comes in (way too late for my liking) on 'Pastime Paradise' is surely that of a higher being. The RP10 makes the RP8 sound vague because it makes most other turntables sound that way but this is because there is so little colour, which is to say no added romance or euphony. It’s not a midrange thing either, there is no intrinsic charm in the RP10 it just gives you what was pressed into the groove, but with the Condor at least there is a lucidity to lyrics that gives greater power to the likes of Joni Mitchell. Bill Withers’ version of 'Everybody’s Talkin’ has a real analogue warmth, big fat bass sound, smooth strings with only the drums exposing much edge, the voice being the natural focus of the mix.
A good album is virtually impossible to take off this turntable until it reaches the end; Joni Mitchell’s Hejira, Al Green Explores Your Mind; I put this on 'Take Me To The River' but am blown away by the backing vocals on 'God Blessed Our Love'.
Eyes of the Heart
When Paul Motian comes in on side 2 of this Keith Jarrett masterpiece, the drums sound incredible! The liveness and dynamics almost get me talking about sound… Dewey Redman’s sax really soars, making a massive live sound but the drums take the biscuit. John Coltrane on 'So What', OMG! Clear as day, solid as the furniture, the man is here and now – close your eyes and you’re there. I wonder how many takes it took to get Leo Kottke’s 'Driving Of The Year Nail' (6- and 12-String Guitar) that good? This clarity pressing (Classic Records) is ruddy superb.
The notes go on but you have probably got the message by now. It may require a number of visits to audiophiles anonymous to get over this turntable. I have been using it for a few months now and it continues to enthrall with every good record I put on. Hopefully you will have gathered that I consider this to be one of the very best turntables on the market. The fact that it costs so little in the context of high end turntables means that it hasn’t had the attention it deserves. Hopefully this will change over time and the world will realize that you can reach vinyl nirvana without breaking the bank.