Best turntable hi-fi system under £1500

The key to system synergy is finding components that know how to bring out the best in each other. Often one of the straightforward ways to do this is to choose components from the same company - if they complement each other visually, they'll complement each other audibly. Right?

Of course, blindly pairing kit based on brand is not the way to go, but you can reasonably expect two items from the same manufacturer to have a similar character and, if picked carefully, share strengths that can really make your system sing.

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The system

Turntable - Rega Planar 2 £375

Stereo amplifier - Rega Brio-R £480

Stereo speakers - Dali Zensor 3 £300

Total price - £1155

Brand compatibility

The two Rega components in this system are proof of this.

Though the half-size Brio-R is a few years old now, it still offers one of the best phono stages in any integrated amp at this price, and a level of transparency and consistency in the line stages that’s second to none.

That’s vital for a turntable-led system like this, and provides the perfect platform for the Planar 2 deck to shine.

It’s also worth noting that it will – should your budget allow – work well with the Planar 3 too, such is the Brio-R’s ability. It's able to hold its own with far pricier kit than most nominal rivals.

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A worthwhile sacrifice

What’s not so flexible is its connectivity. There are competitors that give you far more by way of input variety, but the Brio-R’s upfront, musical character really gels with the natural musicality and authority the Planar 2 has to offer. And that’s what really counts here.

Their strengths mirror and complement each other perfectly. Both agile and light on their feet, they tag-team to tackle tough rhythmic patterns with ease, and despite its relatively modest output of 50W per channel the Brio-R is an amp able to convey the large-scale dynamic sweeps from the Planar 2 with decent power and precision.

Both are equally enthusiastic and keen to please, but it’s perhaps their way of making sense of a piece of music that’s most endearing.

Tying all the musical strands of a song together and painting them on a precise and spacious canvas comes easily to this Rega combo. It’s in that sense, most of all, that this pairing just works.

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The fun factor

Of course, this is only two-thirds of the system puzzle. We’ve chosen the Dali Zensor 3s to complete the picture – and for very particular reason.

They aren’t the most refined speakers at this price, but they’re a really fun listen and are hugely engaging, complementing the lively and exciting Rega character perfectly while sharing the amplifier/turntable combo’s strengths in terms of dynamics, timing and organisation.

These speakers offer a slightly weightier balance than that of the other two components, helping to temper the brighter and more upfront character of the Brio-R - and delivering a healthy dose of scale, power and deep bass in the process.

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Know your place

You will want to play around with the speaker placement to make sure you get the maximum impact of the Dali’s abilities though – despite the Zensor 3’s bass response being pretty impressive for the size of its cabinets, placed too far from a wall they can allow a little brightness to creep back in.

We place the Zensor 3s about 50cm from a back wall, not toed in at all, and problems are negligible. Positioned with care, they deliver a punchy low end and have solidity in the midrange alongside a crisp, clear treble.

It all comes together to make for a truly spirited listen, full of detail and expression, with a strong sense of timing that doesn’t miss a beat. Now that’s what we call synergy.

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