Rega RP1 or Rega RP3: How do you decide?

As their name suggests, both the Rega RP1 and Rega RP3 are from the same brand. In fact, the two products were released within of year of each other as the Rega RP1 was first released in 2010 while the Rega RP3 was released in 2011. So, you may ask what’s the difference?

Upon further testing of these two products, you will discover that they are nearly worlds apart! While there are some similarities such as both products being completely manual and belt-driven, there are pertinent differences in terms of the tonearm, cartridge and platter material.

Ease of Set-up

In terms of ease of setting up, both products take roughly the same amount of time. The cartridges for each turntable are pre-fitted and the ideal counterweight position is already marked on the arm. On your own, you need to insert the counterweight at the back of the tonearm. Also, you need to set the bias adjustment slider to the same figure as the cartridge tracking force pressure quoted by your cartridge manufacturer.

Retail Value

The Rega RP1 and RP3 cater to different audiences. The RP1 is marketed by Rega as an entry-level turntable for beginners while the RP3 is a more high-end turntable and is marketed to more experienced audiophiles. As such, the RP1, with the tonearm and cartridge included, costs around $450. Whereas, the Rega RP3 retails at $1095 with the inclusion of the tonearm and cartridge. Needless to say, the price difference is staggering.

Why is this so? Let’s find out why by further examining the components of each turntable.

Cartridges and Tonearms

Both products use different cartridges and tonearms. The newer model of the Rega RP1 turntable is fitted with a Rega RB101 tone-arm and the Rega Carbon Moving Magnet (MM) Cartridge. On the other hand, the Rega RP3 turntable uses a RB303 tonearm and the Elys 2 Moving Magnet (MM) Cartridge.

Although the tonearms of the RB303 and RB101 both use high tensile strength stainless steel, there are other features that distinguish the two tonearms.

  • The RB303 tonearm is an upgrade from the RB101 as it further increases rigidity at the bearing housing and headshell mount.
  • The RB303 tonearm also uses a more resonant-resistant shape for the armtube and a more rigid three-point arm mount.
  • The stylus of the Elys 2 Cartridge uses elliptical needles which enables greater groove contact and this increases audio quality.
  • With the three-point mounting system in the RB303 tonearm and the Elys 2 Cartridge, cartridge vibrations and sound distortions are minimised.
  • Furthermore, the stylus in the Elys 2 Cartridge is non-removable. Rega reasoned that this minimises “energy loss” and allows “higher output”.
  • Thus, in comparison to the RP1, the RB303 and Elys 2 work together to better produce a deeper bass, lower noise and increased detail in terms of sonic reproduction.

RB303 tonearm  Elys 2 cartridge

 

Does this mean that we should totally dismiss the RP1 in favour of the RP3?

Well, not exactly. While the RP3 features a more technologically advanced tonearm and cartridge, it comes at a cost. If you are a savant of turntables, you might not mind paying for one of the best turntables in the market.  However, if you are on a budget, the Rega RP1 turntable would be a more appealing option.

The RB101 tonearm and Carbon Cartridge in the RP1 turntable are by no means poor substitutes.

  • Unlike other entry-level budget turntables, records played by RP1 do not sound “light” or lacking in impact.
  • In fact, the RP1 offers a pleasantly full, well-balanced sound and a very decent bottom-octave performance. The bass is clean and tidy along with a decent tonal structure through the mid-range.
  • When it comes to electric bass and kick drum in “pop” records, the RP1 produces a satisfying amount of weight and “oomph”.
  • The Carbon MM Cartridge combined with the RB101 also enables a strong rhythmic performance with good timing.
  • Best of all is the price of a Carbon Cartridge which retails at just US$34. The cartridge itself will not wear down easily but on the off-chance that it is damaged, it will not cost a fortune to replace unlike the Elys 2.

Rega RP1 RB101 tonearm Rega RP1 Carbon MM cartridge

 

The Platter: Is Glass always better?

Another significant difference between the Rega RP1 and the RP3 is the platter material.

  • The Rega RP1’s newer platter is made of phenolic resin, a kind of phenol formaldehyde-based plastic which boasts excellent speed stability.
  • The top surface of the platter is textured, which reduces slippage between the platter and the felt mat.

Rega RP1

In contrast, the platter used in the RP3 is made of glass.

  • It is marketed to be better than previous platters. According to Analogue Seduction, the glass platter is much denser and 5 to 6 times heavier than RP1’s platter.
  • Thus, this reduces resonance and improves speed stability, pitch definition, pace and rhythm.
  • Consequently, the glass platter fetches a higher price than other types of platters.

Rega RP3 Glass Platter

However, is the glass platter always preferred? Upon surfing through reviews, it appears that the audiophile community is split. While some users are greatly satisfied with the glass platter in their RP3 turntable, other users prefer an acrylic platter or the more expensive ceramic platter, instead of the glass platter.

Based on what I gathered, there is obviously no clear answer on the “ideal” platter. Once again, the preferred platter material is dependent upon an individual’s budget and their perception of sound quality. 

The Final Scorecard

In terms of sound quality and technological ingenuity, the Rega RP3 turntable certainly overshadows the Rega RP1 model. The sound quality of the RP3 turntable is remarkable given its superior tonearm and cartridge. Clearly, the Rega RP3 is a high-performance product that can better capture the nuances of any record of any genre. If you are an experienced user with a penchant for manual high-end turntables, the Rega RP3 model would be a more suitable choice.

rega rp3

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However, the Rega RP1 turntable also has its merits. While the RP1 is not as technologically advanced as the RP3, it is still able to deliver on sound. The RP1 offers a solid performance and is a wonderful platform for novices to start listening to vinyl. Furthermore, the RP1 is an absolute bargain for vinyl listeners on a budget as it packs an excellent punch at a rather small cost. Ultimately, the final decision lies in your hands.

rega rp1

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