There's a company called Pitchblack Playback, which runs events where you listen to music in complete darkness. According to its website, this gives attendees the opportunity to “meditate on music”. Nice idea! However, if listening to our favourite tunes with the lights out meant we couldn't admire the aesthetic beauty of the Rega Planar 2 at the same time, then, frankly, we'd be having none of it.
Much like the Rega Planar 3 Elys 2 that heads up our best record players guide right now, this is one good-looking turntable. In fact, you’ll find the Planar 2 in our guide to the best budget turntables.
Launched in 2016, the Rega Planar 2 is a significantly revamped version of an identically named turntable that the British company brought to the market way back in 1977 and has tweaked a few times since. The original was much-loved by vinyl enthusiasts, with many viewing it as the most affordable serious record player on the market. As for this revitalised model, it's certainly affordable at £429, but should you take it seriously? Let's take a closer look.
- Cheap vinyl records (opens in new tab): Top rock, metal and prog vinyl on sale
- Best portable record players: Perfect players for small spaces
Rega Planar 2 review: Design
With a 41-year gap between their launches, it's no surprise that the new Planar 2 looks almost nothing like its 1977 ancestor. It's still very minimalist – Rega has a reputation for it – but the original's wood-trimmed chipboard plinth has long gone, replaced now with a stiffer, acrylic high-gloss slab that looks much more contemporary, if not a little futuristic.
Adding to the ultra-modern aesthetic is a new 10mm Pilkington Optiwhite glass platter. In much the same way as a glass coffee table lets you stare at your feet underneath, the clear platter enables you to see the drive belt – at least for the few seconds before you lay your record down. The other good thing about Optiwhite glass is that it's self-cleaning, meaning you shouldn't need to take a rag to it very often.
Speaking of the belt, you'll need to take off the platter and manually adjust it to change the speed from 331/3 to 45rpm. No, we're not particularly keen on this method, either – it's a good job we rarely play singles.
The only other thing visible atop the plinth (apart from the P2 logo on the front right) is the tonearm. A new launch at the time this turntable came out, the RB220 is a nine-inch aluminium number with ultra-low friction bearings, automatic bias adjustment and a non-detachable headshell. With a sturdy yet smooth action, it's satisfying as hell. And with a Rega Carbon moving-magnet cartridge pre-fitted, all you need to do to get it ready is balance the arm (which takes about a minute).
One last thing to say about the design is that the power button has been moved to the underside of the plinth. Presumably, Rega did this to keep the Planar 2's surface looking as sparse as possible. But it's slightly inconvenient – especially if you've necked one too many ales.
Rega Planar 2 review: Features
The Planar 2's minimalism isn't just limited to how it looks. There really aren't many whistles and bells here – no Bluetooth, no built-in phono preamp, no pitch control. The features this turntable does come with are designed specifically to improve the sound quality.
So, there's a new 24V low-noise, low-vibration motor, an advanced EBLT drive belt that's built for accurate speed and stability, a newly designed central bearing and a set of feet that have been re-engineered to minimise vibration.
The turntable also comes with a dust cover as standard, but, while you might want to put this on when you're not listening to records, we found that removing it during our music sessions improved the sound quality ever so slightly.
Rega Planar 2 review: Sound
Just prior to testing the Rega Planar 2, this writer was reminiscing about his university days and rocking out to Lenny Kravitz's third studio LP Are You Gonna Go My Way. Seemed like a reasonable choice for trying out this turntable.
As the title track – and the first single from the album – kicked in, full of youthful exuberance and post-Hendrix guitar riffery, the Planar 2 handled the pounding funk rhythms with agility and confidence. The soundstage was spacious, the bass tighter than Kravitz's leather trousers.
Next up, we dropped the needle on Believe, a brooding slice of balladry that was released as the second single from the album. Here, Kravitz's vocals sounded crisp and detailed, while the Wurlitzer-led backing was deliciously smooth. Rega has done a good job of keeping noise levels to a minimum, and our overall impression was that the Planar 2 sounds better than you'd expect from a turntable at this price level.
Rega Planar 2 review: The alternatives
If £429 is out of your price range, you can still get your hands on an excellent Rega turntable. The Planar 1 (£249) doesn't have the gorgeous gloss finish of its more expensive brother, nor the latest RB220 tonearm. But for sound quality, you'll really struggle to find better for less than £300.
Fancy something other than a Rega? At £429, the Pro-Ject Juke Box E is similarly priced to the Planar 2, but comes with Bluetooth connectability and a built-in phono preamp. It also looks rather snazzy, especially in red.