Rega’s Fono MM has been our go-to recommendation for an affordable phono stage for more years than we care to remember. It is about as minimalist as such things get at this level, being a moving magnet-only design with just the basic input and output connections.
The company clearly doesn’t want to spoil a winning recipe, so the revisions for this new Mk5 version amount to a change of casework to match some of the brand’s newer products and… well that’s it. The internals have remained unchanged from the last generation, but given that it was a clear class leader maybe that is not such a bad thing.
Build & design
Unlike some rivals, the Fono MM Mk5 is not compatible with moving-coil cartridges, though Rega does make a dedicated MC version for that job. A gain of just over 41dB is more than enough for any price-compatible moving-magnet cartridge. And provided the Fono is placed with a bit of care, hum and other noise levels are respectably low.
This Rega is a small box, about the size of a paperback, so it is easy to tuck away out of sight. The new design is as understated as we’ve come to expect from the British brand and the quality of build and finish is perfectly fine for the money. Connectivity is as simple as they come with stereo RCAs as the input and output. Just connect the wall wart power supply and off you go.
We try Rega’s Planar 3/Elys record player with the Fono MM Mk5, as well as our reference Technics SL-1000R/Vertere Sabre combination to gauge how well the phono stage does. The short answer is very well.
Once it has had a few hours to settle, this little phono stage turns in a strong performance. It has a fast, punchy sound that works a treat with the likes of Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run set. There is plenty of drive to the title track with the Rega conveying the hard-charging energy of the track well. Things are rock solid rhythmically and there is enough in the way of low-end power to satisfy. Those lows are taut and tuneful without being overbearing.
Moving magnet? Yes
Moving coil? No
Cartridge loading adjustment? No
Dimensions (hwd) 45 x 180 x 150mm
Detail resolution is good too. This isn’t the most pristine of productions but the Fono MM can uncover a good amount of detail and organise it into a cohesive and musical whole. Springsteen’s distinctive, textured vocals come through with all the power and passion they deserve and the result is as musically involving as we have heard from a phono stage at this level.
We switch to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and this little Rega continues to impress. It makes a decent fist of conveying the scale and authority of the music and is full of enthusiasm when it comes to thumping out the music’s dramatic dynamic shifts.
In a budget system context, there is little to complain about here, as the presentation is decently balanced when it comes to tonality, and the soundstage, while not the most expansive or spacious, is perfectly acceptable.
Sure, this isn’t the most refined performer we’ve heard, and its treble could be a bit sweeter, but the Fono MM does such a good job delivering the musical message that it feels overly harsh to complain too much. At the price, this performance is hard to better.
Rega may not have pushed the boat out with this latest upgrade, but it really didn’t need to. The new casework is smart enough, though the secret to the Fono MM’s success really comes down to its performance. Judged by sound quality, the Rega Fono MM Mk5 phono stage remains the one to beat at this level.
- Sound 5
- Build 4
- Features 3
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