Analog Corner #17

The Rega Planar 2

(Originally published in Stereophile, December 12th, 1996)

The last thing I did before sitting down to write this column was run an $1895 Lyra Clavis D.C. phono cartridge on a $650 Rega Planar 3 turntable. I played a British Polydor pressing of Roxy Music's song "Avalon," then played it again on the $9000 TNT Mk.3/Immedia RPM combo using a $3800 Transfiguration Temper cartridge. That's $2545 vs about $13,000.

Were there differences? Of course. Were they big differences? Not nearly as immense as I thought they'd be. When I started my comparison of four reasonably priced arm/'table combos a few weeks ago, the last thing I thought I'd be doing during the process was playing with expensive cartridges. I was figuratively wrong and literally correct.

Let me backtrack: It's fun playing with $3000 cartridges, $2500 arms, and $6000 turntables, and I hope that, even if you can't afford such exotica, you at least enjoy reading about it. I like reading about Porsche Carrera 4s, and I thumb through the Victoria's Secret catalog, but...

Back in the real world, there are car payments and mortgages. For most of us, dropping a thousand dollars on an analog front-end is the limit. An analog revival for the well-heeled few is no analog revival at all. Besides, if you blow your wad on the hardware you'll have no money left for the great end-of-the-century vinyl glut.

But if reasonably priced analog doesn't sound better than the equivalent digital, what's the point? So at last spring's HI-FI '96 I did some reviewer shopping, procuring the Rega Planar 2 ($450), the Rega Planar 3 ($650), the Moth Kanoot ($699), and, just for good measure, a Thorens TD 320 Mk.III ($1080). The Regas came fitted with Rega cartridges: the 2 with the $175 Super Bias, the 3 with the Elys ($225).

I collared Musical Surroundings' Garth Leerer and received a Benz MC Gold ($350). Ortofon's Frank W. Konopasek introduced himself at The Tracking Angle booth and offered a cartridge sampler: I chose the $225 MC-15 Super Mk.II and the $125 X1-MC, though Ortofon's line is so extensive it invites buyer paralysis. While I have Shure's new V-15xMR ($250) on hand, I consider Shure's re-entry into the "high-end" cartridge race an event worth covering separately.

So this is not a comprehensive survey: I didn't have the Sumiko Project 6 on hand, or any budget SOTA 'tables (the company's future is still up in the air), or the upgradeable VPI HW19 Jr. Nor did I have the latest improved Blue Point and Blue Point Special cartridges from Sumiko—both very popular and highly regarded. I've been told by quite a few aficionados that both work extremely well on Rega 'tables. I know the original Blue Point mates well with the Rotel's OEM Rega arm.

Incidentally, if you have an original Blue Point in good shape and plan on keeping it for a while, do yourself a favor and get Lyle Cartridges'—(800) 221-0906—Blue Point Modification kit, which replaces the shaky clear plastic cartridge holder with a far more substantial aluminum one. It helps clear up the "woolly" bass.

I could have spent the rest of the year comparing everything out there, but that wasn't my purpose—nor did I have room for many more boxes in my dungeon. I just wanted to hear what some well-regarded budget analog gear would sound like compared to each other, to my reference TNT, and to the dreaded seedees.

Mikey unboxed!
First out of the box was the Moth turntable, equipped with an OEM version of Rega's superb RB 300 arm mounted to a thick wooden plinth. The Moth I received uses an MDF platter, into which is inserted a Rega-built bearing spindle. A stepped aluminum pulley (33/45) drives the platter via an $wO-ring around its perimeter.

There's a hinged dust cover, an On/Off switch, three rubber feet that look like they were stolen off some old man's cane...and that's it! The suspensionless compact unit fits perfectly atop a Seismic Sink designed, I was told by someone at Townshend Audio, for the Rega 'tables.

While my sample came with the bearing spindle already inserted into the bottom of the platter, normally it's the purchaser's job to mate the two. The instructions warn you to proceed carefully lest the platter not spin level. Indeed, my sample wobbled slightly, and short of prying the bearing out with a screwdriver and starting over, or grabbing the spindle with vise-grips and trying to straighten it out (and thus ruining the bearing), I was unable to correct the wobble no matter what I did.

Also, no matter how I positioned the aluminum pulley on the motor shaft, the belt slipped off the platter at 45rpm—and not because of the wobble problem. With the pulley firmly planted on the motor spindle, the belt slipped off immediately. With the pulley barely seated on the motor shaft, the belt still slipped off.

Nonetheless, wobble and all, the platter did turn at exactly 331/3, and with a variety of cartridges the Moth sounded impressive—comparable to the similarly priced Rega 3. But because of the wobble problem and the bearing/platter interface, I simply could not take the Moth seriously, priced as it is: the same as the Rega 3.

Before submitting this column, I called the Moth importer, Music For Others, to check on some facts. I was informed that, sometime after receiving my sample, the design was changed because...guess what? the platter tended to wobble! The newer version uses the Rega bearing/hub assembly—sort of a 4" sub-platter—which Rega uses on its 'tables. The MDF platter rests on the hub via a cutout on its bottom surface.

This much more sensible, stable bearing/platter interface puts the Moth back into contention. But it opens a giant can of caterpillars. Is the OEM 300 arm (the Moth Mk.III) the same as the RB 300? Is the OEM 250 (the Moth Mk.I) the same as the Rega 250? Rega says no. Others say yes. They look identical, but looks can be deceiving: All of the ClearAudio cartridges may look alike, but, priced from under a thousand dollars to $7500, they certainly don't sound alike.

Steve Lauerman of Lauerman Audio Imports, Rega's new American importer, claims that the big difference between Rega's arms and the ones it supplies OEM to other manufacturers is bearing quality and tolerances. Lauerman claims the bearings in the Rega arms are of much higher quality and are selected for much tighter tolerances than the ones that end up on the OEM product. If this is true, I don't have to tell you what a difference it would make to the arm's sonic performance.

One of America's largest mail-order dealers claims the Moth arms look and sound identical to the Rega models. In fact, the dealer has been marketing the arms ("special-pricing" the Moth Mk.I for $200 and the Mk.III for $300) using quotes from Rega reviews. Lauerman Audio Imports tell me that they have filed a cease-and-desist order against the dealer, who has apparently complied. Complicating matters further is that the Moth importer, Music For Others in Saint Louis, Missouri, is the former Rega importer. Are we having fun yet?

You're going to have to sort out the implications of this groovy news for yourself. Me? I'm not sure. It seems unlikely Rega would purposely manufacture two grades of arm. It also doesn't make sense that they'd price an OEM product identical to their own at so low a price it would be in competition with its own brand.

On the other hand, it's very possible that they'd OEM "seconds''—units that don't quite make the Rega grade. Music For Others' Craig Gulley says he can't hear the difference between the RB 300 and the OEM 300, but guess what? Steve Lauerman says he can. He says the bearings are not nearly as "tight" on the OEM arms. Oy vay! I'm sure Audio Note, Townshend, and other OEM 300 modifiers will throw in their two grams in the near future.

Rega Planar 2 & 3 turntables
Roy Gandy, Rega's designer and main man, is a confirmed iconoclast. In the instructions that come with both models, he implores you to use the dustcover. Mainstream thinking on dustcovers these days is that they act like giant resonating chambers that cloud the sound. Gandy says "use 'em," both because they keep the dust off the record and because they may make the turntable sound better. I don't see why that would be the case, but who am I to argue with a guy who makes his platters out of glass and gets great sound anyway?

Gandy also warns against cleaning records with fluids and/or cleaning machines. He claims a little dust isn't really a problem, because the stylus simply pushes it out of the way. Better a little dust, he figures, than cleaning the record with liquids on a machine. I don't agree with any of this, but I pass it on for your consideration.

The Rega Planar 2 and 3 turntables are basically the same design executed to different price points. The 2 retails in the US for $450 and features an unsuspended MDF plinth that sits on three of those cane-tip–like rubber feet. The Rega RB250's substantial arm post is mounted via a hole in the plinth. The drive system consists of an Airpax AC synchronous motor (manufactured in the Netherlands) mounted from below in close proximity to the platter bearing.

Drive is via a plastic pulley mounted on the motor shaft, and a small $wO-ring that fits around a diminutive 4"-diameter subplatter/bearing/spindle assembly. The record spindle protrudes through a hole in the center of the glass platter and rests on the subplatter, centered via a raised area around the spindle. Topping the platter is the ubiquitous hairy British felt mat.

The Rega Planar 3 uses the same motor as the 2, but it's better isolated from the thicker, heavier plinth via a rubber suspension. The glass platter is also thicker, as is the felt mat. The RB 300 arm features higher-tolerance bearings, a decoupled counterweight, an at-the-pivot coil-spring–type VTF adjustment scheme, and higher-quality interconnect cables. Both arms feature spring-type anti-skating compensation; neither offers VTA or azimuth adjustment.

I used a variety of test discs to check out the two 'tables' speed accuracy, wow and flutter, noise level, rumble, etc., and the arms' tracking ability and resonance points when fitted with a variety of cartridges. All tests were performed with the 'tables resting on a Townshend Seismic Sink sitting on a spiked, four-tiered Target stand resting on four A.R.T. Q-Damper feet.

Keep in mind that the floor beneath my carpet is concrete. A turntable without a suspension—even a turntable with a suspension—is susceptible to serious floor-induced feedback, and worse, when placed on a "bouncy" floor. In my previous abode, I had my TNT on the TNT stand filled with lead shot and sand, and I still had occasional stylus bounce because the floor of my old house was springy. If your floor bounces, you're going to have to put the 'table on a wall-/stud-mounted platform, or at the very least "ground" the floor stand to a wall—I did that by wedging a block of wood between the stand and the wall behind.

Back to the cement world: Both 'tables ran at precisely 331/3. Using wow/flutter test tracks on Stereo Review's handy-dandy SRT14-A Test Record, I found wow and flutter to be "very low indeed," as Julian Hirsch would say. Both 'tables exhibited very low noise on "silent groove" bands, and both arms handled all of the cartridges in exemplary fashion.

The arm/cartridge resonance points were always very low where you want them, but not so low that they'd be excited by the normal warp/wow on most records. Sorry, I'm generalizing like hell here—something I don't do in full reviews—but in "Analog Corner" I've got to worry about the final frontier (that's space for you non-Trekkies).

Neither the Rega 250 nor the 300 could track Telarc's 1812 Overture cannon shot at the third level on the Omnidisc. Not surprisingly, the Rockport arm sailed through. But on the other Telarc "tests" using real music, the arms performed extremely well, exhibiting outstanding control with all of the cartridges I tried.

None of this is surprising given the outstanding reputation Rega turntables and arms have garnered over the many years they've been in production. The drive system is simple yet effective, providing a great deal of torque along with accurate speed. Why a glass platter doesn't ring and sound hard even with a felt mat is a question perhaps Gandy will answer for me when I speak with him about his top-of-the-line Rega Planar 9 (which uses a high-tech ceramic platter and will get a full review shortly).

But the real stars of the show are the arms. While writing about the VPI JMW Memorial arm (review to appear next month), I asked VPI's Harry Weisfeld how Rega can sell two such outstanding arms for so little. Both are extremely rigid, well-damped, and feature tight-tolerance bearing sets, precision-cast arm tubes with tapered wall thicknesses, and decent-quality internal wiring and interconnects. These arms feel good and sound good too. While you can't adjust VTA (vertical tracking angle), the large-diameter post that mounts to the plinth ensures an extremely rigid connection.

"Why don't you make an inexpensive cast arm?" I asked him. "Cost," he replied. "Making the die is very expensive. It's only after you sell large quantities of arms that you recoup your initial expenses." Back when Rega made the outlay, analog was the only game in town. Today, every arm they sell is gravy.

The Rega Planar 3

How do they sound?
While I've recommended Regas turntables and arms to many friends and to readers who've contacted me, and I've heard them in other people's systems, until now I hadn't had one in my own listening room. I'm glad I finally got the opportunity: Now I can say, with complete confidence, that the Regas are incredible bargains. They sound and perform even better than I'd previously thought. (The Moth's sound was comparable, but because the wobble took it out of serious contention, I returned it to the box and didn't bother with "head to head" comparisons.)

The Rega 2 came fitted with a Rega Super Bias moving-magnet cartridge ($175), which I ran through the quiet, neutral-sounding Gold Aero Signature dB45 phono section ($999). Even after a long break-in period I was not impressed: The Super Bias was grainy and fatiguing, turning applause into rain on a tin roof. It lacked any semblance of low-level resolution, was bright on top and bulbous on bottom, and accentuated surface noise to the point where you were always aware that a stylus was digging through a groove. Not a good start.

Of course, at that point I didn't know whether I was hearing the cartridge, the turntable, or both, so I substituted the low-output Benz MC Gold (which I was already familiar with), and even though it lifted the front of the arm a bit higher than was optimal, the sound became much smoother and more refined. Not surprising—the cartridge is twice as expensive.

In the end I tried both Ortofons, the Rega Elys, the Benz MC Gold, and a Grado Signature Jr. ($125) on the Rega 2 and 3, and both 'tables were capable of extracting outstanding performance from all of these cartridges. I was so impressed with the stylus-caressing abilities of the arms that I ended up mounting heavy hitters like the AudioQuest Fe5 and Clavis D.C. to accurately gauge the sound of the 'tables relative to the TNT Mk.3.

Given the $200 difference in price between the Rega 2 and 3, go for the 3 if you can afford it. The RB 300 arm is a better performer, and while the 2 did nothing really wrong, the 3 offered somewhat deeper and tighter bass, better dynamics at both ends of the scale, a better sensation of "quiet," and smoother overall performance. Because of space limitations I'm going to skip the 2's sound and tell you about the 3. (Lower the bar a few notches and you've got the 2.)

The Rega 3's sound with any of the cartridges I used was extremely well balanced tonally—that was the biggest surprise. I expected a slight metallic hardness on top and some bloat on bottom; what I got was very tight, ballsy bass that in some ways worked better on blues and rock than what I got from the TNT with the Rockport arm!

For instance, on the terrific new Blues Union (AudioQuest AQ-1039), with Ronnie Earl and Joe Beard, there was a "crack" to the snare and a meatiness to the bass that reminded me of what I hear in a club sitting close to the stage. Through the TNT it was more laid-back, more refined, like what you hear in a studio—which is, of course, the actual venue. But the excitement generated by the Rega was incredible—and in some ways preferable.

The Rega excelled at providing the rhythmic thrust of the music, which I think the Brits pay more attention to than Americans do. The Naim CD-2 CD player offers the same kind of outstanding throb (for CDs) relative to the EAD 9000/Audio Alchemy DDS Pro combo.

In general the Rega 3 tended to move the soundstage forward, putting the images closer to the plane of the loudspeakers; it slightly brightened the overall tonality and provided more of a stiff, etched feel to cymbals, female voices, and other sources with lots of high-frequency energy.

I still had the stack of records out that I'd used to evaluate the VPI arm, so I played the tracks from each I'd used for that review, which included "New York State of Mind" from Mel Tormé's Live At Marty's two-LP set, Elvis Costello's "New Lace Sleeve" from a British pressing of Trust, "Betty Ball's Blues" from Conjure, "The Syncopated Clock" from the Mercury Living Presence LP of Music of Leroy Anderson, Vol.2, "Surrey with the Fringe on the Top" from Nat King Cole at the Sands ($Bget this Capitol gatefold LP!), Sinatra's "When You're Smiling" off of MoFi's superb Sinatra's Swingin' Session!!! (part of the boxed set), "You Turn Me On I'm a Radio" from Joni Mitchell's For The Roses (original Atlantic-pressed, George Piros–mastered, white-label Asylum—skip the later blue-cloud label Elektra/Asylum version), Classic's reissue of Reiner's Pictures at an Exhibition, and DCC's superb new reissue of Bonnie Raitt's Nick of Time.

While each cartridge offered a somewhat different perspective, in general the focus on Sinatra's and Tormé's voices was surprisingly close to what I got from the TNT, with just a bit of extra size to the image, a bit of flattening, and slightly less overall harmonic coherence. Female voices sounded somewhat more aggressive, less velvety and round, but still had that certain PP (palpable presence) you don't get from CDs

In fact, a new Reprise two-CD HDCD Joni Mitchell collection showed up during the listening sessions, and it's quite impressive-sounding, decoded or not. But I still preferred my 24-year-old original pressing of For the Roses for its warm, luxurious-sounding acoustic guitars (the CD guitar sounds bodiless and thin by comparison), and its ability to focus all of the instruments and background voices on the soundstage. While Mitchell's voice was rendered quite cleanly on the CD, the LP sounded more like a human being sitting before me and singing.

The bottom line is that considered on its own terms, the Rega 3 offers outstanding performance: it's quiet, dynamic (check out the opening to Pictures), free of obvious tracking distortion or other supposed analog problems, extremely well-balanced top to bottom, offers very deep and reasonably tight bass, and will do no damage to your precious records.

It's only when you compare the Rega to the much more expensive TNT that you notice what it doesn't do. Even then, if you don't listen to classical music, you won't be too disappointed. If you do listen to classical, you'll find the noise floor—or at least the perceived noise floor—somewhat audible, the strings somewhat harder, the overtones somewhat squelched, and ambience and decay a bit truncated.

The overall sound on all of the records I auditioned was more like a recording and less like real life on the Rega 3 than on the TNT. Not surprising, but I'd bet that with the more modestly priced systems likely to be used with the Rega, you'll feel no pain at all.

And if you're an all-CD kind of audiophile, here's the kicker: I think the Rega 3 will blow your mind even if you have a very-high-priced spread. While good CDs sounded somewhat smoother and quieter than records played on the Rega, the vinyl, as usual, was more emotionally compelling, better focused, better nuanced harmonically, kept my attention longer, and provided a much bigger, airier picture.

Which cartridge on the Regas?
Since the Rega arms don't offer VTA adjustment, you have to be sure to use a cartridge that puts the arm close to parallel when installed. Here, a knowledgeable dealer or cartridge seller is crucial. The Rega cartridges, of course, do just that. While the Super Bias didn't do anything for me, the purple-bodied moving-magnet Elys, which tracked well at 1.75 grams, offered high output, vivid tonal balance, and good extension top and bottom. It features a three-screw mount that offers a tight ride and, save for zenith, makes overhang automatic. (The RB 300 has a third screw hole pre-drilled.) On the down side, like its less expensive sibling, it too accentuated surface noise and was less than exemplary at the very bottom.

For $50 less, the high-output Ortofon X1-MC (tracks well at 2 grams) offered a leaner bottom with pretty good overall balance and surprisingly good low-level resolution, though with a bit more grain on top than the Super Bias, and did a better job of masking surface noise—a very good performer for the money. Its height tilted the arm back a bit more than I'd like, but the styli in these inexpensive cartridges make VTA setting somewhat less critical.

In the low-output category (0.35mV), the Ortofon Super MC 15 II was a real sleeper, offering very neutral tonal balance—a bit lean, if anything—good ambience retrieval, fine extension on top without grain or glare, good control below, and impressive overall dynamics. It required a bit more tracking force than I like—about 2.2 grams—but it provided a quiet background from which the music emerged. It interfaced reasonably well with the RB 300 arm, again with more lift in front than I'd like to see, but the final arbiter is the sound. I was impressed.

The low-output Benz MC Gold (0.4mV output) at $350 was a real smoothy, offering the most luxurious, refined top-end of the bunch, and the greatest sense of background quiet. It tracked well at 2 grams, and offered a greater sense of liquidity and ease than the others, but dynamically it was a bit compressed, and its bass was not as punchy as some of the others'. Its lower profile mated well with the RB 300 arm, but I suspect its more finicky stylus footprint (0.3 by 0.7 mil) made it more susceptible to VTA changes than some of the others.

Finally, the Grado Signature Jr. ($125), with a very high output of 5mV and 0.2 by 0.2 mil stylus, despite being very tall and lifting the front of the arm way up, sounded much better than the setup looked—probably due to its stylus shape, which is basically impervious to VTA changes. The Grado makes a good-sounding, inexpensive, very safe choice for the Rega 3—especially with inexpensive electronics.

Sorry I don't have space here to be more specific and detailed about the sonic performance of these cartridges in the Rega 3. That's where a good analog dealer, or one of the mail-order guys who specializes in cartridges, can come in handy. Get as much advice as you can from all of them before making your final choice. I've been told by a few that the $150 Ortofon high-output (3.3mV) MC 1 Turbo is a good match for the Rega. And don't forget the Sumiko Blue Points!

Ortofon X1-MC phono cartridge

Thorens td 320 mk.iii
Unboxing the Thorens was like entering a time machine: I'd unboxed and set up many Thorens 'tables over the years, and the German company has stuck to its guns, doing what it does best, providing extremely high quality and good performance—and some conveniences not found on the Regas.

At about $1000, the 320 offers an adjustable leaf-spring platter/arm sub-suspension, an electro/optical "auto-off" at record's end, switchable 33/45 operation via a plinth-mounted lever, and front-mounted cueing—all "old school" conveniences. The heavy (+6 lbs) two-piece aluminum platter is dynamically balanced (they spin and balance it like a car wheel) after being "aged" in storage. The platter is topped with a thick, flat rubber mat (though mine came bumpy, which caused the arm to rise and fall slightly with each revolution).

Drive is via a precision, hand-ground, flat drive belt, and a 24-pole electronically controlled synchronous motor and precision pulley. The thick spindle and bearings are hard, mirror-polished steel.

The arm is Thorens's excellent TP 90, which features high-quality bearings, spring anti-skating, adjustable VTA, and a removable headshell using a long, rigid bayonet-type connector. Overhang is set with the headshell off, using a Thorens-supplied jig and a mirror for setting zenith (the cantilever's angle around the vertical axis).

Parts and build quality are easily worth the difference in price between the Thorens and the Rega 3—and then some! Had Thorens designed this 'table today instead of relying on parts and designs from the past, the cost would probably be double.

I didn't use the Thorens overhang setup, preferring an on-arm adjustment from results triangulated from a MoFi Geo-Disc, a Dennesen protractor, and the Lyle Cartridges device. I prefer to have the stylus pressurized during the procedure to account for the deflection.

Setup is straightforward, with VTA adjustment via a screw-in rod similar to what you'll find on an SME V. You loosen two set screws, raise the arm, adjust the rod until it just touches the plinth surface, and then you slowly raise the rod until the arm is lowered to the desired height. Then you tighten the set screws.

Even though I could adjust VTA to get the most out of all of the cartridges, there was a lack of rhythmic excitement and punch, a loss of inner detail and instrumental focus, and a general sonic malaise that left me kind of bored—sort of like driving a Lincoln Town Car instead of a Dodge Viper.

I hate to raise the bar for the Thorens because, in terms of value per dollar, the 320 beats the pants off the Rega or anything else near this price point. But (I suspect) its combination of rubber mat, springy suspension, and detachable headshell (even though it's well-engineered for what it is) give the 320 a distinctly "old fashioned" sound: pleasant, enjoyable, utterly noise-free, but somewhat soft and amorphous. Speed control was outstanding—it ran right on the mark—and wow and flutter were very low. As was the noise floor, with a black, velvety quiet below the music.

The sense of warmth and quiet provided by the Thorens bettered the Regas', and there was a sonic luxuriousness about the ride—but no balls, no transient snap. This is not a 'table for rockers, but if you have a collection of classical music you'd like to resurrect, or if you're getting into analog to buy the Classic, Analog Productions, Alto, Speakers Corner, DCC, Telefunken, or the other classical reissues, you might prefer the Thorens's smooth, lavish sound to the brash, taut picture painted by the Regas.

The Ortofon MC 15 Super II was my cartridge of choice with the Thorens. The leaner, the faster, the better. I wonder what this platter/bearing combo would sound like with no suspension, the two-piece aluminum platter fused together somehow and topped with a layer of acrylic or some other vinyl impedance-matched material, and a nondetachable headshell? One thing's for sure: The Thorens is one 'table you'll probably be able to pass down to your analog-loving grandchildren with no loss of performance. I suspect, though, that most of you would happily give up power windows and automatic transmission for some road-hugging excitement. Right?

I began this column with the Rega 3/Clavis D.C. combo, and that's where I'll end it. That combo was scary-good, as was the AudioQuest Fe5/Rega 3 combo. The better the cartridge, the closer I got to the TNT! (But believe me, TNT owners need not second-guess their investment.) My conclusion from all of this playing around is, if you're on a limited budget, better to get a Rega 3 and an expensive cartridge than an expensive turntable with a cheap cartridge (Footnote 1). I'm surprised by this, but that's what I found. Of course, if your electronics can't do justice to a low-output MC, the point is moot. I tried a Dynavector XX-1 ($1100) high-output cartridge, and that combination scored high marks with me. Unfortunately, it's a very heavy cartridge; I had the counterweight almost hanging off the back of the arm. Still...

And what about the Moth? At $699, priced about the same as the Rega, the latest version is clearly an option. But unless you have a Moth dealer handy and no Rega dealer in sight, I don't know why you'd choose it over the 3.

Finally, finally: If you don't own a turntable and you've gotten this far, you're screwed! You're going analog whether you want to or not. If you're like the dozens and dozens of readers who've taken the plunge (I've lost count of the letters I've gotten), you won't regret it. In fact, you'll probably thank me!

Footnote 1: I think it's a tribute to the Rega record player that it will work with an expensive cartridge. But dollar for dollar, my experience has been that you get better sound from a relatively inexpensive cartridge on an expensive tonearm/turntable combination than the other way around.—JA