Many companies make a few different categories of product, indeed quite a few will lay claim to be able to see you right with a ‘system’ of devices of source and amplifier that control the signal from start to finish. Where things get rarer is a company that can make electronics and speakers… although nowhere near as rare as a company that can make a system where they build everything from the stylus of a record player, through electronics and into speakers that all come together in the same building as the result of the same engineering philosophy. Rega is one of those companies and it seemed only fitting to try their new Aya loudspeaker in the context of a complete Rega system.
This is because Aya speakers are nothing if not bold.
The vast majority of speakers at or anywhere near this price are made of MDF sections, secured together and given a domestically acceptable finish. Rega no longer feels that this is possible to do in the UK at the price they wish to sell speakers for. The Aya is the result of ten years of experiments as to whether glass reinforced composite (GRC) could be used to make a speaker cabinet. The Aya has two sections; the cabinet back and the front baffle which mounts a ‘ZRR’ tweeter; a soft dome design developed by Rega that is designed to reduce reflections coming back through the dome, as well as a 5 inch mid and 7 inch bass driver. A large port is also present on the front and this is divided from the driver by an internal filter slotted into the rear of the cabinet.
The Planar 6 turntable selected to partner the Aya is no less innovative.
Rega turntables are all about the removal of mass where it’s not wanted and the careful application of where it is. In the Planar 6 this means that the plinth is made of Tan Cast 8; an expanding foam developed for the building industry. Contained in a high pressure laminate outer, the result is an extremely light and stiff plinth that keeps the bearing and arm in the correct position to one another via an external brace. The external power supply ensures a clean feed for the motor and allows for electronic speed control without having to lift the glass platter. The RB330 arm gains an improved counterweight and can be fitted with an Ania moving coil cartridge. Our review version, it is fitted with the Exact moving magnet unit.
This is because it allows you to connect the Planar 6 directly to the Elex Mk4 integrated amplifier.
As the name suggests, this is the latest iteration of a long running amplifier design that takes the smaller award winning Brio and scales it up, giving more power and a more optimal layout. As well as the phono stage, there are four analogue line inputs, a tape loop and a pre-out. What you also get in a rather recent development for Rega is a pair of digital inputs; one optical and one coaxial, making the business of connecting certain devices (a television for example) easier than before. The 72 watt output is likely to be more than sufficient for the 6ohm, usefully sensitive Aya.
It’s important to stress with the Rega system – and every other company I can think of come to that – is that, simply because all the components involved come from the same place, doesn’t mean that they all sound the same and so it is the case here. The important thing is whether the result hangs together well or if the differences jar.
In some ways though, the Aya and Planar 6 do have some traits in common. These are both ‘fast’ sounding devices; there’s precious little sense of inertia or sluggishness to the sound they create which means that even fast and complex material is dealt with exceptional confidence and immediacy. What they also both do is deliver plenty of bass at the same time which is rather harder than it sounds. Indeed, the Aya makes fine use of that relatively large seven inch driver to hit with commendable heft both with percussion type bass but also low piano and bass guitar notes. The result is a system where rivals that can go as deep are rarely as fast and vice versa.
Where both devices have a shared trait that needs a little more care is that they’re both very revealing bits of kit – there is no place to hide for iffy recordings. On the plus side, you get excellent levels of fine detail from recordings that is effortlessly worked into the wider mix. Excellent quality pressings absolutely fly on the Planar 6, benefitting from its minimal noise floor and outstanding clarity. The Aya responds with quite remarkable transparency of its own. Placed with any care, it simply vanishes from the soundstage it creates. The caveat to that is that, given less well mastered material, they can be fractionally unforgiving.
This is where the Elex Mk4 arrives to tie everything together. It’s still not a ‘warm’ amp but there’s enough forgiveness in what it does to make the trio something that works that little bit better with less than perfect pressings. The internal phono stage is more than up to the job of making sure that the Exact cartridge gets everything out of the groove and that nothing is lost from unwanted noise. 72 watts isn’t a vast power output but, partnered with the efficient Aya, it’s enough.
And, more than any of these things, the resulting combination is fun. Without compromising on a single technical attribute, the Rega system is fun to listen to in manner than ensures you aren’t simply there, trying to explain its technical worth to your mates. Instead you’re winding the volume on and singing along. In this area, the shared DNA of the components is readily apparent. This is a system made by people that listen to a lot of music and it really shows.
As we’ve already noted, the Aya is fairly sympathetic in placement terms and it abounds with some nice details. Rega could have expended a lot of effort making the Aya look more ‘normal’ and it’s to the company's credit that instead, they’ve leaned into the differences. Only the front baffle is ‘finished’ in a brushed effect while the rear wears its raw GRC to the outside world. It looks different to just about any other speaker anywhere near the price. One excellent feature is that the Aya comes out of the box with feet attached and good to go. The fact that grilles are extra will annoy a few people but the tweeter has a protective cover and they look good without.
The Planar 6 shares a grey tone with the Aya (white is also available) but in some ways has the toughest job of any Rega Turntable. All the cleverness in its construction isn’t immediately obvious and this means it can be taken to be a slightly sober looking Planar 3. This cuts both ways though. Like the Planar 3, it’s a joy to set up and use and standard of build is very high. As an unsuspended design, it does do its best work on wall shelf of which Rega makes an example.
The Elex Mk4 is the most affordable of the devices here but you wouldn’t know it to look at it. It’s built like a lorry and has the new Rega Electronics house styling which is handsome in an understated way. Some rivals have more digital inputs but the connectivity of the Elex Mk4- so long as you don’t mind cycling through it rather than accessing it directly- is usefully comprehensive. The Elex is £800 less than the next rung up, the Elicit and you get a huge amount of the performance included.
It’s easy to assume that a company that makes as many different categories of product as Rega (we haven’t even touched on digital here either) can’t be good at all of them but, blow me, if they don’t seem to be in reality. This is a handsome, well made and easy to use system that represents great value for money. It goes on to deliver a level of performance that is absolutely top notch and extremely hard to rival at the price. The new Aya loudspeaker is a radical looking thing and a brave engineering decision but the performance it offers is absolutely sensational and a great complement to the electronics range.
Steve Earle and the Dukes Ghosts of West Virginia
A powerful tribute to the human costs of mining, the Rega captures the immediacy and power in this collection of songs.
Hot Chip Freakout/Release
A lively, pop adjacent record that, when played through a system as good as this one reveals some surprising hifi qualities… and that it is a laugh a minute.
Warrington Runcorn New Town Development Plan The Nation’s Most Central Location,
The Regas’ handle on excellent bass is needed here to let this monstrous piece of brooding electronica sound as it should.
If you want a clever, flexible and well made system that genuinely delivers on the promise of synergy between the bits, there’s very little out there that will keep this one honest.