Many great things in life have been happy accidents: velcro, penicillin, The Rolling Stones. And so too, the destiny of the Rega Naiad turntable. Never heard of the Naiad? Don’t worry, not many have.
The Naiad started out as purely a research and development engineering exercise; a proving ground to show how Rega's ideas on low mass and high rigidity were the correct approach to turntables. The goal was to create the ultimate turntable – just the one – and so Rega threw all rules and restrictions out of the window, somewhat at odds with its approach to all other products.
For this no-compromise deck, there were no cost restrictions, so only the best materials and engineering solutions were chosen. There was also little consideration for manufacturing practicalities, as it was never intended to reach production.
Not a ‘one-off’ for long
The upshot, five years later, was indeed the best record player Rega could make. Job done? Not quite.
As noted in Rega's A Vibration Measuring Machine book, Tony McCombie of GT Audio (Rega’s French distributor), happened to be visiting the factory during one of the listening sessions. He found himself taking part and expressed an interest in the testbed turntable. “It’s so good, I know I could sell five,” he said, despite being told that it would cost in the region of £10,000.
Rega was bowled over by that interest, and it sowed the seeds for the company to make more units. It was originally going to be ten, but to make the carbon fibre plinths (the most expensive single component Rega has ever produced) a minimum order of 50 was required.
As suppliers replicated parts and techniques were developed to manufacture them in greater numbers, the marginal costs came down. Word was spreading too, with demand starting to build and advanced orders coming in.
That’s how the Naiad unintentionally became an actual turntable, albeit a limited edition one, available to purchase. It costs £30,000 and over 30 units have been ordered and sold, to date. There's still time to bag one, although the current lead time is between four and six months.
The name Naiad was chosen as a tribute to Rega co-founder Roy Gandy’s mother, who originally inspired his love of music. Recalling her playing the piano when he was a child, he named it after her favourite piano piece. The name itself refers to the water nymphs said to inhabit rivers, springs or waterfalls in classic Greek mythology.
Nifty Naiad construction
Each Naiad is painstakingly handmade and assembled by just three of Rega’s highly skilled craftsmen, including CEO Phil Freeman.
The chassis exudes minimalist elegance, with its stressed skin construction around the Rohacell core that stands on three steel feet. Its black carbon finish gives the appearance of a snakeskin ‘winklepicker’ shoe, as Rega says.
Twin aluminium oxide braces above and below connect the diamond-machined zirconium main bearing with the base of the precision built tonearm, which uses titanium bearing assembly.
On the main bearing sits an alloy sub-platter, the lower half carrying the triple drive belt linked to the spindle, which is driven by a 24v, low-vibration motor fixed beneath the chassis. The motor sits in an enclosure entirely made of mu-metal, a nickel-iron alloy developed in the early 1920s for undersea telegraph cables and noted for its high magnetic permeability.
The top half of the platter, comprises a three-point form that carries the white aluminium oxide platter, upon which sits a white wool mat.
It doesn’t stop there
Unfortunately, we've never tested the Naiad – not even in our Temptations section. But, given Rega's track record and the stellar performance of subsequent Rega turntables that contain the Naiad’s DNA, it's fair to assume it sounds pretty special.
Rega’s Planar 8 (£2199 with cartridge) and Planar 10 (£4499 with cartridge), launched in 2018 and 2019 respectively, both take inspiration from the Naiad. In fact, they could be considered ‘baby Naiads’ rather than evolutions of the RP8 or RP10.
The Planar 8 is designed to encapsulate the essence of the Naiad at a more affordable price – you only have to glance at its skeletal frame to see that it does. Like the Naiad, the whole idea is to minimise plinth mass while increasing rigidity.
However, the Planar 10 is the closest the company has come to a production version of the Naiad. We called it “quite some engineering statement… unarguably the most sonically capable turntable we’ve heard at this price”.
So yeah, we think the Naiad would be in with a good shout of similar flattery.