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Why listen to vinyl? Ft. The Rega Planar 8

Why listen to vinyl? Ft. The Rega Planar 8

Today we sit down with the Rega Planar 8 and answer the age old question, Is vinyl still the best way to listen to music?

From a technical point of view, no. Streaming can be higher resolution, cleaner, more accurate and obviously no pops and crackles but I think we all understand that there is much more to enjoying our music than clarity alone.

Music is art, it should move us, and make us feel, and as a long time vinyl listener (and streamer) I strongly believe having a tangible, physical touch to that music allows us to connect to it in a different way.

The Rega Planar 8 is a thing of beauty and incredible design, from first look you can tell it’s not trying to be another boring rectangular turntable.
The skeleton like plinth is made from an ultralight weight and strong foam core called Tancast 8 that was designed for spaceships with a double braced frame and high pressure laminate to keep it in place, basically the plinth prevents A LOT of unwanted resonance, energy absorption and vibration transfer from you speakers and the motor that keep the turntable extremely quiet and sensitive.
Paired up with the excellent RB880 Tonearm and a 3 piece laminated glass platter designed in collaboration with a British glass engineering company. I could go on and on about the level of engineering and design on the P8 but design doesn't mean much if it doesn't sound good.

On the P8 we have the Rega Ania MC moving coil cartridge running into the Rega Aria Phono Preamp through a Yamaha A-S2200 and JBL L100 Classic speakers for the purpose of today's listening session (I've said it before and I'll say it again, I’m in love with these JBL’s).

Kicking off with ‘Waiting’ on Santana’s 1969 self-titled album, it was evident that the Planar 8 presented this album much warmer and smoother than the Tidal stream I was comparing against coming from a NAD C658 Streamer into the same amp.

As an older album, the recording quality was noticeable, but much more tolerable on vinyl than it was to stream. There was more stereo separation, more dynamics and just an overall sense of realism whilst still having an extreme level of detail.
It's like all the harsh edges of the stream were worn down ever so slightly to give the album more richness and romance.

The harmonies of ‘Evil Ways’ felt more immersive and rounded, I think lush is the right word. Streaming was definitely sharper and made pinpointing individual parts easier but again, I was missing the natural air and analogue flavour of vinyl. The percussion intro on ‘Shades Of Time’ just felt right.
I could go on and on but ultimately for older, instrument heavy recordings like Santana that were originally created for vinyl, the Planar 8 blew me away.

I was feeling a little aggressive so decided to give the P8 more of a test with Eminem’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ to see how it copes with fast vocal annunciation and heavy punchy basslines. ‘The Way I Am’ had weight! The bass was fat and punchy and took full advantage of the JBL’s 12” woofers. Part of this has to come down to the Rega Aria phono stage for its control and presentation but altogether it was big and it was chunky and it was GOOD. To mix things up I connected directly to the A-S2200’s MC phono input which was a little brighter and crisper but the Aria is clearly the right fit for this TT and Cart pairing.

This was however the first song I could not decide whether I preferred streaming or vinyl. Streaming had a little better control of the kick and didn’t suffer as much sibilance when Marshall decided to get real angry but ultimately they’re as good as each other. The fact that I don’t have work email notifications pop up while looking at the vinyl makes it the winner for me.

Of course I had to listen to ‘The Real Slim Shady’ which reiterates the above. The quality of the Ania cartridge shined through here with a perfect stereo balance and separation between voice and instrumentation and I’ve gotta say it performs better than its counterparts. Not as squeaky clean as an Ortofon Quintet Black or Bronze but richer and more lifelike.

The sun was setting, a glass a whiskey was poured and Eminem had given me some well overdue anger management so it was time to wind down with my number 2 lady, Diana Krall (you’ll always be #1 Mum). Vinyl really won the battle with Diana’s voice. Tidal was clearer, sure, but lacked any sense of life and dynamics, it really just felt ‘digital’.
The Rega TT, Cart and Phono stage combo truly created a certain sparkle with accompanying weight and warmth. Her voice was silky and oily and the instruments blended their way into the background to give her the stage, making themselves known only when needed.
Streaming was like watching the live set on youtube, vinyl was sitting front row of a jazz bar while she personally sang just to me.

So what’s my verdict?
An impossible question to answer as nowadays I will always need both. I can't play vinyl in the car, or at the gym, it’s too much effort to change records every single track when i'm on my RnB Fridays vibe and definitely can't afford $60/record for every new album release but in those times when it counts, there is no experience like vinyl.

It's physical, it’s emotional, there’s no screens, there’s no internet, the album in full how the artist intended and ultimately, it’s just fun.
Turntables are fun, the album art is fun, record stores are an adults playground full of rides you never knew existed, once you have the album no subscription service can ever take that away and at the bottom line, vinyl is by far the best way to support your favourite artists financially so they can keep making music for us to enjoy. 


Test Equipment:

Rega Planar 8 w/ Neo MK2 PSU
Rega Ania MC Moving Coil Cartridge
Rega Aria Phono Preamplifier
Yamaha A-S2200 Integrated Amplifier
JBL L100 MKII Classic Series Loudspeakers

Test Albums:
Santana - Santana
Diana Krall - The Look Of Love
Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP

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