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Amplifier Rega Elex review

Although turntables now play second fiddle to CD players in the mainstream hi-fi market, Rega has shown no enthusiasm whatsoever for jumping on that bandwagon. However, the company has widened its activities from record player specialist to full systems manufacturer, by introducing loudspeakers and amplifiers.

Hence the ?298 Elex, now the centre-piece of Rega’s three-strong range and its first amplifiers in nearly 20 years of trading. This unit plays baby brother to the ?730 Elicit, and has inputs for one tape deck, three line sources and one MM-equipped turntable. Yet to dismiss the Elex as ‘minimalist’ would be an injustice, for Rega has clearly spent time, money and effort in its styling.

In fact the Rega Elex is exceptionally rugged, with two diecast halves that are fluted for decoration as much as heatsinking, sandwiching a single PCB between them. On this lies fully symmetrical and complementary circuitry, from the power supply, discrete MM vinyl disc network, op-amp line stage and the power amp. Even the Alps volume control is displaced onto the very centre of the board, midway between the dual-mono L/R channels.

Sound quality

Any character or indeed weaknesses betrayed by the Elex were consistent from input to input, and included a detached treble and a brashness and stridency that briskly strips the gloss from its music. Paganini’s violin sounded peaky and unnatural, complemented in this instance by a strangely dead-sounding piano.

Vocals, by contrast, are pushed forward with plenty of superficial sharpness and clarity yet very little body or authority. Peter Gabriel certainly seemed expressive enough ‘but this apparent articulation shouldn’t be confused with detail’ added one listener. Vinyl surface noise also seemed more irritating than usual.

On a more positive note our Tracy Chapman CD sounded quick and responsive. The bass was clean if a little lightweight but still sufficiently bold to convey the rhythm of the piece. Nevertheless, our listeners continued to remark upon the detached feel of the music, an opinion which was only strengthened by our classical selection which lacked some feeling of ensemble and involvement. ‘Perhaps’, concluded the panel, ‘if its imagery and soundstaging were more solid, subtler shortcomings would have been less obvious’.

Conclusion

‘Clear, sharpand quick-sounding’ intheview of our listeners, ‘but not a terribly capable performer’. Which is a pity because this is a meticulous design that shows considerable attention to detail throughout. Perhaps the combination with other Rega components in a vinyl oriented system would have made all the difference.

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