We built a truly superb yet very affordable five-star turntable system

Turntable system
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

We confess we have taken a slight detour with this turntable set-up. If funds are tight you can bring the overall system price down to less than £1000 by replacing the speakers with their 12.1 standmount siblings – although you would still need to budget for stands to place them on, of course. And we don’t often include floorstanders in our systems, so this seems a splendid opportunity. 

We didn’t have any pause for thought about the other two pieces of electronics in this set-up, though. The Rega pairing here is rather a no-brainer at this sort of money; and the family ties lend a lovely synergy that can only improve the sound the duo provides.

The system

Turntable: Rega Planar 1  (£299 / $345 / AU$649)

Integrated amplifier: Rega io (£420 / $725 / AU$949 )

Floorstanding speakers: Wharfedale Diamond 12.3 (£499 / $998 / AU$1275)

Total:  £1218 / $2413 / AU$2873

Turntable: Rega Planar 1

Turntable: Rega Planar 1

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Regular readers will be not the slightest bit surprised to see the Planar 1 playing the lead role in this turntable system. It has won a What Hi-Fi? Best Buy Award for the past seven years, after all, and we love its fast-paced, confident musical presentation. It is certainly not ‘entry-level’ in any terms – other, happily, than price.

It brings an energetic, solid sound that doesn’t make the mistake of erring too far via the excessive warmth that many of its near rivals seem to stray into. That you can have too much of those fabled analogue ‘strengths’ becomes clear with a direct comparison between the Planar 1 and the opposition.

Timing is also a strength of this Rega, and with that precision comes an ability with dynamics that feels way above its pay-grade. It is simple, with this deck, to distinguish whether a guitar string has been brushed or plucked, or with how much force a piano key has been struck. It’s a remarkably impressive, assured performance.

Integrated amplifier: Rega io

Integrated amplifier: Rega io

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

As we touched on above, Rega's Planar 1 turntable is wonderfully complemented by the partnering Rega io integrated amplifier that sits between the record player and the loudspeakers. You can’t ask for much more than rhythmic, agile, punchy, detailed and fun – all words we use to describe the sound provided by this little half-sized amp in our full review. 

All of that, of course, plays into the hands of its turntable sibling. But it’s the sense of momentum that the amp imparts that really sets this pairing apart. Playing hand in hand with the Planar 1’s dynamic ability, it brings a truly remarkable musical performance for the money.  

Floorstanding speakers: Wharfedale Diamond 12.3

Floorstanding speakers: Wharfedale Diamond 12.3

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Which brings us to those loudspeakers. The Wharfedale Diamond 12.3 really punch above their weight as far as affordable floorstanders go – which is why we have taken the plunge with them here.

They share system space with the Rega pairing because they too are terrifically accomplished for the money. Most importantly, they have a musical performance that, if anything, impresses us even more than that delivered by the lauded Diamond 12.1 standmounters.

These aren’t huge speakers for floorstanders – they stand around 98cm tall. As with most speakers they need just a bit of space around them to perform at their best. We put them 90cm from the rear wall, although you should be fine as close as 50cm out. Don’t stick them right on the side of the room either; place them about 70cm away from the sidewalls if you want to maximise stereo imaging, sonic balance and clarity.

Once you have experimented with placement (and do have a play – it can make all the difference) you will be able to appreciate the wonderful layered sound that the Diamond 12.3 can provide. 

They are detailed, but also organised and controlled – traits that mean these speakers perform noticeably better at lower volumes than close rivals; it’s a difficult trick to pull off. 

As we say in our review of the floorstanders: “As we move to Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love, we appreciate the 12.3’s articulate and expressive midrange and the seamless integration between the drive units. We like how Wharfedale has avoided excess; there’s enough bass weight to satisfy but not so much that it spoils the balance of the presentation.”


All of which marries so nicely with the Rega pairing that we are tempted to take back our concerns about including floorstanders in this set-up. Despite, on the face of it, the added price (but don’t forget the need to budget for supports with standmounters) we can’t help but feel the extra cash has paid off in sonic dividends. This trio makes for a great set-up that, for its comparatively affordable price tag, will breathe life into your vinyl collection.


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Jonathan Evans
Editor, What Hi-Fi? magazine

Jonathan Evans is the editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine, and has been with the title for 17 years or so. He has been a journalist for getting on for three decades now, working on a variety of technology and motoring titles, including Stuff, Autocar and Jaguar. With his background in sub-editing and magazine production, he likes nothing more than a discussion on the finer points of grammar. And golf.

  • Pete326
    @ Johnathan Evans; Which speaker cable and interconnects did you use when testing the trio? Also how would the Rega Brio work instead of the io?