Rega Saturn-R CD-player

Audio brands, which are always thought to be adherents of analog sound, can hardly survive in modern digital world. Willy-nilly you have to go to meet progress and introduce fashion features into your devices. Just take a look, how Rega gets out of this dodgy situation.

Everything inside the elements of this brand is always under the veil of secrecy. Rega doesn't like opening technical nuances; however, particularly they make the elements of this brand different from the others - both engineering concept and sound. I won't go into technical wilds and limit myself to basic information in order to focus exactly on the sound. In addition, testing technique on "black box" principal is more interesting.

Both elements - integral amplifier Elicit-R and CD player/DAC Saturn-R - were presented by the company last year. Their design has the same style. Blocks are quite heavy and assembled on a solid chassis. The amplifier has electromechanical selector with 5 lineal inputs; one of them can be switched to a built-in phono pre-amp with a help of the button on the back panel. There are two record inputs and one with preliminary section. Volume control is performed not by custom potentiometer, but electric system with programmed levels. The output stage is a key feature of Elicit-R, which emulates operating mode in "A" class and also the power supply on the toroidal transformer.

Saturn-R player is based on Isis flagship model: for example, it has similar transport of upper loading. Concerning with previous models, all supply circuits and the accuracy of working of step synchronization scheme were seriously improved. Above all, the combination of two high quality DAC Wolfson WM8742 and advanced asynchronous interface with galvanic isolation essentially extends the functionality of the player. Now you can use it as external USB-DAC, which will go with other digital channels. Besides USB terminal, you will find two coaxial and two optical inputs on the back panel.

Setting the integral amplifier aside for a while, I connected the player/DAC to our editorial system. And I wasn't surprised by the results at all. How does Rega make the CD player sounding like analog? The musical picture is extremely airy, volume and clear. There is no any hint of digital straightness and hardness. For example, high frequencies seem to be smooth, stingy on the dynamics, but, at the same time, they sound beautiful, clear and detail. The noises of old analog recordings in phonogram from CD sound absolutely neutral and don't make any pressure. The copper is excellently worked trough. In addition, low "chest" part sounds sumptuously in middle register. I say about bass in brief - there are no claims. Perhaps the device underacts low echoes for a little, simplifies complex bass signature, but attack, dynamics and rhythm are impeccable.

It is interesting that existing switch-controlled filter is not activated while playing CD. The engineers decided to leave for this case only one mode, which, in their opinion, is most corresponding for the features of optical media playing. But if you connect external digital channel to the Saturn-R inputs, you could try different variations of digital afterwork - linear-phase, smooth or sharp decay and so on.

I did it in the same way, connecting, by coaxial cable, DAC input with output of the CD player Bryston. It's hard to say, what filter position is the most correct. To my mind, the third position is the nearest to the truth. At least it provides the most correct and visible sound scene. In the first position, Saturn-R places emphasis on atmosphere, "air". On the contrary, the second position turns out to be chamber - some deafness appears, recording becomes poorer by reverberation echoes- thereby, this amplify the meaning of main sound image. In the forth position all sound space slightly draws back, but supposed channels become bigger - as if you look at them through a magnifying glass. In fifth position this effect is more expressed and the scene takes a panoramic view once and for all - it is not so deep, but wide and quite scaled. By the way, only in last case a tone balance transforms for a little - more bright colors. In all other cases tone structure of a sound stays the same; only vividness changes. Well, the filter is so interesting.

When I became listening HD files with digitization of 96 or 192 kHz by USB, I noticed slightly better micro dynamic resolution, more complicated tone transfer and fuller bass. However, the changes are minimal. Even in this case the device submits by almost analog, delicate character. By the way, in HD mode the deference between filter positions isn't already evidenced. It does not disappear totally, but you don't have to puzzle over what position is right. Every position has advantages and no one damages the whole sound.

Final test: with native amplifier. After powerful Bryston the difference turned out to be considerable. Elicit-R skillfully forces the dynamics on the high frequencies - not only by power, but specifics. The directness and clarity is the motto of this amplifier. It perfectly works through all metallic descants. The middle turns out to be brighter, but it is convex, magnificent and rich. Bass is intensive, but not strict. Despite of the fact that in low part the amplifier doesn't control the most complex fragments all the time, allowing the existence of light, humming noise, anyway, you trust this reproducible bass. But the scene amazes most of all. Even on the earliest recordings of stereophonic era, which differs by primitive effect, the sound picture turns out to be realistic, full and air.

Rega Saturn-R CD-player photo