Although Aristotle is widely thought to have introduced the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts (an idea adopted in the 20th Century by the Gestalt school of psychology), it is perhaps most poignantly explained in the 2010 movie Flipped, based on Wendelin Van Draanen's 2001 novel of the same name.
When Richard Baker utters “A painting is more than the sum of its parts. A cow by itself is just a cow, a meadow by itself is just grass, flowers... and the sun peeking through the trees is just a beam of light, but you put them all together... and it can be magic,” he could easily be talking about music, dance, opera or the human experience. And so it is with hi-fi – your system is so much more than a collection of cold, inanimate separates.
The three-product vinyl set-up under our noses here is the entry-level Rega System One. The question is, when you add two 2021 Award winners – namely Rega’s excellent Planar 1 turntable and integrated io amp – to an untested set of Rega speakers (and save some money on the price of buying them separately) are we witnessing the completion of a masterpiece, or an unfortunate late smear on the canvas?
Rega unveiled its System One at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show back in February 2020 (when life was so very different) with a price-tag of £999 (around $1350 / AU$1900). At that time, the firm’s new Kyte speakers came with a suggested asking price of £429 (around $580 / AU$815) if bought on their own.
However, it actually took the British hi-fi specialist until December 2021 to ready the complete proposition as available to buy, and today the Rega System One comes with an RRP of £1199 / $2115 / AU$2599. The Kyte speakers will now set you back £550 / $895 / AU$1199 if bought alone – plus £50 / $95 (around AU$95) for the plinth-like adapter stands if you’re looking to stand mount them (which is something we would always advise).
Despite the £200 (around $270 / AU$380) price hike, that £1199 / $2115 / AU$2599 total still represents a saving of £70 / $100 / AU$398 compared with buying the products separately today – the Rega Planar 1 (£299 / $595 / AU$849), Rega io (£420 / $725 / AU$949) and Rega Kyte speakers (£550 / $895 / AU$1199) add up to £1269 / $2215 / AU$2997 if bought individually.
But we’re not done here. In the UK, several dealerships are offering hybrid systems that pair Rega’s five-star tried and tested turntable and integrated amp with the similarly five-star Dali Oberon 1 (£349) standmounts for £969 – so one of the most useful things we can do with this review is to deduce whether you should opt for that, or shell out a little more for Rega’s own speaker creation specially designed for the purpose.
The entire Rega System One arrives in a package roughly the depth and width of a large pizza box that comes up to just below the belly of our quad muscles when we first set it down. The last item we find upon unboxing it all is the Kyte speakers and as a cohesive lot, the shared aesthetic of the system is pleasing, if somewhat devoid of flair. Although the Planar 1 is available in matt white as well as matt black, as a complete system, the latter is your only option.
Rega Kyte is a compact, rear-ported two-way design, built using phenolic resin for the cabinet (an unusual material, chosen for its stiffness) that’s further reinforced by internal bracing. In terms of drivers, you’re getting Rega’s handmade MX-125 bass-mid unit, which incorporates a four layer voice coil, and the Rega-designed ZRR tweeter.
The speakers are supplied without grilles and we don’t miss them. The edges of the cabinet are rounded, but across the front baffle where it meets the enclosure proper, there is a fairly sharp lip.
Overall, we think the Kytes look functional at best and lack the visual class expected at their price. Sitting them next to the Dali Oberon 1 simply confirms that impression.
Rega System One:
Power 30W per channel
Inputs RCA x2, MM phono
Outputs 3.5mm headphone jack
Dimensions (hwd) 6.8 x 18 x 29cm
Rega Planar 1:
Tonearm Hand assembled RB110
Cartridge Factory fitted Carbon moving magnet
Motor 24v low noise motor
Platter Phenolic resin platter
Dimensions (lid closed, hwd) 117 x 447 x 360mm
Weight 4.2 kg
System 2 way
Enclosure Design Bass reflex, rear ported
Cabinet Construction Phenolic resin
Mid / Bass Unit Rega MX-125
Impedance Nominal 6 ohms
High Frequency Unit Rega ZRR
Dimensions with rear foot fitted (hwd) 325 x 188 x 232mm
Weight 3.73 kg
Rega’s Kyte speakers are also supplied with two T-shaped feet. You’re supposed to attach one to the back of each speaker using two screws apiece, to lift the rear of the speaker and thus angle it directly forwards. However, due to the depth of the enclosure, doing so makes these speakers too deep for quite a few of the popular stands on the market; the foot simply hangs off the back.
Aside from fitting said feet, getting the Rega System One up and running is incredibly easy, with two 3m Rega-specification multi-strand (56 per core) copper cables included. Anyone familiar with our Rega Planar 1 review will know that it is one of the most novice-friendly turntables we’ve ever set down on our hi-fi rack, with a balance weight that simply slides on, a pre-fitted cartridge and a captive lead-out cable.
The Rega io, meanwhile, is only slightly larger than a hefty hardback book, and as we hook it up to the Kytes everything feels as if it’s truly meant to be connected – because it is. The io amplifier includes a good-quality built-in moving magnet phono stage, two line-level inputs and a headphone socket. It actually uses the same power amplifier stage as Rega’s splendid Brio amp, but re-designed to run at 30W per channel into 8 ohms (rather than the 50 watts of its pricier sibling).
We find the Rega Kyte speakers refreshingly unfussy when it comes to placement, but we settle on angling them slightly inwards towards the listening position and fairly close to, but not up against the rear wall.
A 3.5mm headphone jack sits on the front panel of the io, alongside a volume dial and a small plastic button that cycles through the inputs. As well as listening to vinyl through your cans, you can also scroll through the io’s inputs or alter volume with the demure remote control. Despite its low-key aesthetic, the remote is useful and will doubtless appeal to the hi-fi purist.
The Planar 1 record player sports an on/off switch on the underside of the plinth, on the front left corner, plus a lovely visual aid on the tonearm to line up the stylus with the record as you lower it. This is also the first of Rega’s entry-level turntables to house a 24v synchronous AC motor with an aluminium pulley, which the company claims offers low noise and better speed stability.
As a complete plug and play turntable system, fledgling vinyl enthusiasts could not reasonably wish for any more – and thanks to those extra inputs, there’s scope for a little expansion too.
We start by lowering Michael Jackson’s 1987 album Bad onto the Planar 1 platter. At the outset of Man In The Mirror, the treble sparkles happily and without any added brightness or harsh edges from the Rega Kyte speakers. As the track progresses, the various backing vocals resonate in a well-timed and cohesive mix, supplemented by a three-dimensional, impactful and emotive gospel choir.
During Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ People Ain’t No Good, the keys feel clear and well-judged around Cave’s juicy lower registers in a spacious soundstage that offers plenty of excitement and bass clout.
During Ravel’s Bolero, as performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, the dynamic build of the piece (which was written for a ballet, wherein a solo dancer is gradually joined by more and more bodies until a whole corps de ballet is performing as one onstage) is a marginal shade off excellent, but at this level it’s a small issue as the Kytes continue to deliver an engaging, toe-tapping and energetic display, whatever genre of music we dig out from our collection.
When comparing the Kytes directly to the cheaper Dali Oberon 1s in this particular system, Mary J Blige’s Family Affair sounds meatier, fuller and more zealous through the Rega product. Detail levels are similar, but while the Dalis might just edge it for dynamic sensitivity, their slightly more forward-focused presentation means that they come off just a tad congested within this system. Especially during heavier tracks, but also across the course of our testing proper, we find the extra ounce of snap and space through the low end sees us handing it to Rega again and again. Although there’s no shortage of quality competition for the Kytes when judged in isolation, in this system they really work well.
Judged as a complete package, the System One gets the basics of music reproduction spot-on, delivering musical cohesion and dynamic expression in a way that eludes most alternative set-ups. If you’re after a simple-to-use vinyl set-up that’s a great deal of fun to listen to, this is a great place to start.
- Build 4
- Features 5
- Sound 5