- Best stereo amplifier £700-£1,000/$1,050-$1,500, Awards 2015. Rega builds on the strengths of the excellent Brio-R and give us another terrifically musical amplifier
- An agile and articulate performer that gets straight to the heart of the music
- Fine rhythmic ability
- Good phono stage
- Solid build and good finish
- Remote handset could be classier
If you’re on the lookout for an upmarket stereo amplifier, you certainly shouldn’t ignore Rega’s Elex-R, which just won the What Hi-Fi? Award for Best Stereo Amplifier between £700/$1,050 and £1,000/$1,500.
Despite the win there’s no rest for the Rega, with Arcam’s A29 and Audiolab’s 8300A offering some new competition.
You should think of this integrated amp as a more muscular Brio-R (£480/$720) and you’ll be pretty close to the mark.
By using the much admired Brio-R as a base, and adding circuit elements from the unquestionably talented Elicit-R (£1,600/$2,400) into the mix, Rega has created one of the most talented sub-£1,000/$1,500 amplifiers we’ve heard.
It’s the fashion for integrated amplifiers to eschew a phono stage. Not this Rega which shines with good turntables
Anyone familiar with Rega’s current amplifier range will find the Elex-R’s sonic character entirely familiar. It delivers a fast, agile sound that’s as rhythmically surefooted as we’ve heard at this level.
It demonstrates authority and scale better than anything we’ve heard at this price, including the powerhouse Naim Nait 5si.
Play a piece of music like alt-J’s Breezeblocks and the Rega is right at home. It’s happy to deliver that thickly-layered bassline with power and has no trouble rendering dynamic shifts and changes of pace with enthusiasm.
There’s an addictive sense of liveliness and energy, something most rivals tend to tone down in the search for greater refinement.
Nina Simone comes through with a newfound sense of rawness and realism in her rendition of I Put A Spell On You. The Creek audio Evolution 50A nears this level of midrange transparency, but the Rega better captures the nuances in Simone’s deep, guttural voice – and with greater solidity.
Avoid bright-sounding partners. The Rega won’t tone down their excesses
Tonally, the Rega edges towards leanness, though if partnered with care – avoiding sources and speakers that err too far towards brightness or harshness – then all will be fine.
We use a range of speakers from Dali’s lively Zensor 3s and B&W’s 685s right the way to PMC’s mighty Twenty 26s and at no point does the Rega fail to shine.
Of course a power output of 72.5-watts per channel into 8ohms (Rega likes to be specific, it seems) isn’t enough to make the floor shake in really large rooms, but we think this amplifier is capable of decent levels in most set-ups.
It’s as happy picking out finer threads of detail in the convoluted sections of Hans Zimmer’s Mountains from the Interstellar soundtrack – often the first to be overlooked by less scrupulous amps – as it is unveiling variation in dense electric guitar notes in Band of Horses’ NW Apt.
We are pleased with the resolution on offer, and at no time is there a sense the Elex-R is overlooking subtleties for the benefit of the bigger picture. We notice, again, that this amplifier is terrific at communicating the drama of the music. It has us hooked from the first note, right through to the end of the piece.
With hi-fi this good, it’s easy for listening sessions to extend well in to the night.
Build and design
Move away from sound and the Rega remains on sure ground, as long as all you want is a traditional stereo amplifier. There are no digital inputs, though we think Rega would direct you to its talented DAC for number-crunching duties.
Instead you get a good quality MM phono stage, one that’s talented enough to make the most of £1,000/$1,500 turntable packages like Rega’s own RP6 (what a surprise).
It’s a relatively quiet circuit, one that keeps all the good sonic points we noted in the line stages. There are four line-level inputs, one tape out and a single preamp output, should you need to add a bit more muscle.
That’s probably enough for most purist stereo set-ups, although we would have liked a built-in headphone output. Build quality is as solid as we expect from Rega.
Casework is functional rather than luxurious but it’s finished neatly. Everything feels like it will last for years. We’re a little disappointed with the remote handset.
It lacks the solidity of rival handsets, although it works well enough.
The Elex-R is a fine achievement. It’s the kind of product that gets straight to the heart of the music and conveys all the emotion in the recording with ease.
A year ago we said we wouldn’t be surprised even the Rega was still on top of the stereo amp pile in this price bracket.
A year has passed and despite the good and great amps around the £1,000/$1,500 mark, the Rega has more than enough talent across the board to shine even in this formidable company.