40 Rega P1+ dThe market for entry level turntables may be hot but it’s going to take more heat than this to change some people. Take the guy who runs my local hi fi shop. He started selling turntables before anyone had even heard of CDs, let alone downloads, and all the latest bells and whistles aren’t going to change his views.

For example, Pro-Ject started making turntables in 1991 which is, for the great bulk of turntable buyers, a long time ago. They sound terrific and are brilliant value, and 27 years later Pro-Ject is the biggest selling turntable brand in the world. My guy still regards it as ‘new’.

He stocks the brand and his salespeople keep it turning over, but when I asked him how Pro-Ject was doing he was only half-hearted, admitting this was all about him and not about the product. “I’ve been selling Regas to people getting into turntables since I started in this business,” he said. “I’ve seen no reason to change.”

40 Rega P1+ cWhat he likes most is that he seldom hears complaints, seldom processes warranty claims and usually only sees the customers again when they want to spend more money. This, to hi fi dealers, is as good as life gets because such customers cost them nothing and tend to become very loyal.

Fair enough, but really he should be paying more attention. There’s a lot happening among entry level turntables. Vinyl sales grew 70 per cent in 2016 and 19 per cent last year; that’s seven successive years of growth, and the ambitious folk at Pro-Ject have capitalised on it, making life tough for Rega. Yamaha’s return to this market is making it harder still, but with people like my guy at the coalface Rega will never go broke. Back at the factory in England, however, they’re wide awake to the competition. And so we have a new model at the entry level of the brand, the P1 Plus.

The P1 has been around since 1975 when it was just called the Planar. There were feature upgrades in 2004 and 2009 with different platters, now there’s the P1 Plus with an in-built moving magnet phono pre-amp, made in-house by Rega, meaning it can be plugged directly into an amplifier without a ‘phono’ input. The pre-amp is located directly beneath the tonearm so the shielded tonearm wires can be soldered directly to it, reducing possible electrical interference.

40 Rega P1+ aThat pre-amp is the feature my man will be selling, but in fact both the P1 and the P1 Plus are now almost new from the ground up. The only components carried over from the superseded P1 are the drive belt, the sub platter and the dust cover.

Both are now equipped with a 24-volt low noise synchronous motor for reduced vibration (if there was any it wasn’t noticeable anyway) and have a new tonearm with a hub bearing made specifically for the job.

But what will appeal most to first-time buyers is the ease of setting them up. Rega’s Carbon cartridge is factory fitted and the bias force on the new tonearm has been preset, meaning no mucking about with a tiny counterweight on the end of a tiny length of fishing line as happens with some of the Pro-Jects. The only setup required is to slide the balance weight onto the rear of the tonearm as far as it will go, remove the stylus guard, connect the amp with the supplied RCA cable and put on a record. One minute. Two for beginners.

The P1 is $549, the P1 Plus $699.

First published by smh.com.au October 2018.


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