As a manufacturer with a hard-won reputation for hi-fi excellence at a range of price points, Rega is exactly the sort of company we look to for an effective DAC at real-world money.
Just because the firm ran out of creative juice when the time came to name its new baby (‘DAC’ is admirably to the point but hardly inspiring) the scale of Rega’s achievement with this impressive product shouldn’t be underestimated – it’s exactly what we hoped it would be.
Mind you, in some ways it’s not at all what we were expecting. Sure, it’s compact and slightly concave, as per the Rega style rules, and the selection of sockets (digital optical, digital coaxial and asynchronous type-B USB inputs, with the first two able to deal with 24bit/192kHz information, stereo RCA outputs) is right on the money, but we can’t imagine any prospective customer demanding 10 different filtering options.
Five of these filter settings are for inputs with a sampling rate below 48kHz and the other five for those above – but in practice the differences are so subtle as to be negligible.
By all means adjust to your own preference, but we’d be staggered if any user found themselves shuffling between filter settings depending on the specific file they’re listening to.
Sit back and enjoy the show
No, owners are much more likely to be found in their favourite listening chair with a big smile on their face. The Rega DAC is, to put it in the most basic terms, a tremendously engaging product.
Given a nice big 192kHz file of Comet Gain’s Saturday Night Facts Of Life to deal with, the Rega serves the song up with real verve – it’s dynamically effortless, absolutely packed with detail, strikes a balance between energy and refinement brilliantly and describes a soundstage explicitly.
There’s no detachment here: the Rega sounds fully engaged with any music your care to play through it. It’s not quite as expansive in terms of soundstaging as its Musical Fidelity rival, but where timing, rhythmic surefootedness, insight and simple musicality is concerned the Rega is beyond reproach.
As we’ve observed before when reviewing the Rega DAC, there are no significant downsides to ownership. As long as your system justifies the outlay and you’ve got the cash at your disposal, you absolutely have to hear it.