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Best Cartridge Upgrade for Rega Planar 1

Rega Planar 1

The Rega Planar 1 comes standard with a Rega Carbon cartridge. It is a good cartridge, but it is not great. The Rega Planar 1 can become an even better sounding turntable with a simple cartridge upgrade.

When I upgraded from the Rega Carbon cartridge to a Rega Exact cartridge on my Rega Planar 2, it absolutely transformed the turntable.

The sound became more detailed, more precise, more open, and more dramatic. The whole vinyl listening experience simply became more engaging and enjoyable.

I also experienced a significant increase in music volume because the Rega Carbon has a very low output level of only 2.5mV. Whereas the Rega Exact has a more normal output level for MM cartridges at 7.0mV.

The Rega Exact is probably overkill for the Planar 1. Many readers have told me that it is overkill for my Planar 2 as well. It is expensive.

So, we’ll focus at cartridges that are less expensive than the Rega Exact in this article. But still good enough to significantly increase the sonic performance of the Rega Planar 1.

Below are 7 great cartridges to consider if you want to take your Rega Planar 1 to the next level.

#1 – Rega Bias 2

When readers email me comments on my Best Cartridge Upgrade for Rega Planar 2 article, more often than not they criticize me for not including the Rega Bias 2 in that discussion.

The comment is often that the Rega Bias 2 is a big step up from the Rega Carbon. And that they have experienced great results from upgrading from the Rega Carbon to the Rega Bias 2.

The Rega Bias 2 definitely has a bigger standing among Rega Planar owners that I initially thought.

You will experience a dramatic increase in music volume if you upgrade from a Rega Carbon to a Rega Bias 2. The output level is nearly 3 times higher.

And you will experience a significant increase in overall sound quality.

The Rega Bias 2 has the same height and the same 3-point mount system as the Rega Carbon and will be very easy to fit on the Rega Planar 1. Since it has the same height, it will not require spacers to get the VTA spot on.

The Rega Bias 2 is also a relatively affordable cartridge. It is probably the lowest priced cartridge on this list of seven great cartridges.

KEY SPECIFICATIONS

TypeMoving Magnet
Output7.0 mV
StylusElliptical
Height14 mm
MountRega 3-Point

Choosing the Rega Bias 2 is a great way to give your Rega Planar 1 the cartridge it deserves. It is easy to fit and an affordable way to take your Rega Planar 1 to the next level sonically.

Click here to check price on Amazon.

#2 – Ortofon 2M Blue

The 2M cartridge range from Ortofon is often reported to be the best selling cartridge series in the world. The Ortofon 2M Blue sits between the $100 Ortofon 2M Red and the $500 Ortofon 2M Bronze.

The Ortofon 2M Red is a good candidate for the Rega Planar 1, but I think it will provide less improvement over the Rega Carbon than most Planar 1 upgraders are looking for.

The Ortofon 2M bronze is definitely a fantastic cartridge that will take the Planar 1 to a very high level. But it is also quite expensive.

So the Ortofon 2M Blue stands out as the best fit for Rega Planar 1 when we are looking for a good balance between cost and performance.

The Ortofon 2M Blue is a very popular cartridge that has lots of fans in the vinyl community. It has a sound character that is slightly on the detailed and bright side. And can be a very good cartridge if your system have a lot of warmth but lack a bit of details and openness.

KEY SPECIFICATIONS

TypeMoving Magnet
Output5.5 mV
StylusNude Elliptical
Height18 mm
MountStandard

The Ortofon 2M Blue will definitely open up the sound of your Rega Planar 1 and is one of the very best cartridge upgrades to pick for the Planar 1.

Click here to check price on Amazon.

#3 – Audio-Technica VM540ML

The Audio-Technica VM540ML replaces the discontinued and very popular AT440MLa/b.

During all my research on cartridges, which is probably hundreds of hours, I rarely come across a cartridge that gets as much love from vinyl enthusiasts as the VM540ML and its predecessors.

It seems to be the go-to cartridge upgrade for a big part of the vinyl community.

It has great neutral sound and tracks very well on most tonearms.

I replaced the standard fitted AT95E on my AT-LP120 turntable with a VM540ML and it made a huge difference. More openness. More punch. Bigger soundstage. More drama. And more enjoyment.

KEY SPECIFICATIONS

TypeMoving Magnet
Output4.0 mV
StylusMicroLine diamond
Height17 mm
MountStandard

The VM540ML is simply an awesome cartridge that will have a significant positive impact on the sound of your Rega Planar 1. Highly recommended.

Click here to check price on Amazon.

#4 – Rega Elys 2

The Rega Elys 2 sits between the Rega Bias 2 and the top-of-the-line Rega Exact. It is the cartridge that comes standard with the audiophile rated Rega Planar 3.

It is highly rated by critics and Hi-Fi publication but might start to get expensive for most Rega Planar 1 owners.

I seriously considered the Rega Elys 2 when I was picking a cartridge for my Rega Planar 2. But I wanted the very best and chose the top-the-line Rega Exact in the end.

When I initially researched great cartridges for my Rega Planar 2, I got the feeling that the vinyl community wasn’t that enthusiastic about the Rega Elys.

But as I have done more and more research, that picture has changed a lot and I am now confident that the Rega Elys 2 is a very good cartridge. And actually, highly rated by the vinyl community.

There is probably a reason why Rega put the Elys 2 on their extremely popular audiophile rated Rega Planar 3 turntable. It is because it is good!

The Rega Elys 2 is often considered as a smooth and pleasant sounding phono cartridge. Not bright or harsh.

KEY SPECIFICATIONS

TypeMoving Magnet
Output7.0 mV
StylusElliptical
Height14 mm
MountRega 3-Point

If you are looking for a very good cartridge for the Rega Planar 1, and have a decent budget for a cartridge, then the Rega Elys 2 is a very good choice.

Click here to check price on Amazon.

#5 – Denon DL-103R

The Denon DL-103R provides a budget option into the world of awesome sounding high-end MC cartridges. A world where cartridges often costs thousands of dollar.

It is often reported to sound as good (or better) than high-end MC cartridges that cost many times more.

The DL-103R is an upgrade of the legendary DL-103 and is considered significantly better than its predecessor.

The DL-103R is probably the next cartridge I will buy. For some reason, I overlooked this cartridge when I upgraded my turntables. But it is now on my Amazon wish list. Just need to save up.

KEY SPECIFICATIONS

TypeMoving Coil
(Low Output)
Output0.25 mV
StylusConical
Height17 mm
MountStandard

This cartridge will require a MC phono preamp, and will not work with a regular MM phono cartridge.

It will also require a decent budget.

But if you want to swing for the fences, this cartridge will take your Rega Planar 1 to very high levels. Probably overkill, but still.

Click here to check price on Amazon.

#6 – Audio-Technica VM530EN

The VM530EN replaces the discontinued AT120E.

It is a great cartridge, but somehow left a little bit in the shadows by its bigger brother, the VM540ML we reviewed earlier.

The VM530EN is a budget friendly version of the VM540ML. It is a significantly better cartridge than the stock Rega Carbon, but not fully as good as the VM540ML.

KEY SPECIFICATION

TypeMoving Magnet
Output4.5 mV
StylusElliptical
Height17 mm
MountStandard

The VM530EN is a great cartridge upgrade for the Rega Planar 1 for a quite reasonable price.

Click here to check price on Amazon.

#7 – Denon DL-110

The Denon DL-110 is a very popular cartridge and has a very high standing in the vinyl community.

It is a moving coil cartridge, but has a high enough output level to be used with standard MM phono preamps.

The benefit the Denon DL-110 has over the Denon DL-103R we reviewed earlier is the lower price and the possibility to use it with a regular MM phono preamp.

But it won’t invite you into the world of high-end moving coil cartridges in the same way as the Denon DL-103R does.

It is known to be a cartridge with a lot of grunt that is great for rock music.

KEY SPECIFICATIONS

TypeMoving Coil
(High Output)
Output1.6 mV
StylusElliptical diamond
Height17 mm
MountStandard

If you want an affordable moving coil cartridge to use with your Rega Planar 1, the Denon DL-110 is a great choice.

Click here to check price on Amazon.

Conclusion

When I was choosing a cartridge upgrade for my Rega Planar 2, I chose the Rega Exact for two main reasons.

  1. It offers great performance for the money
  2. It is Regas own product which guarantees a risk free and hassle free assembly and performance with Rega tonearms

I would use the same selection process if I were looking for a cartridge upgrade for the Rega Planar 1 as well.

If Rega has a cartridge that offers great performance, then I would choose that one.

Based on that, my top recommendation is the Rega Bias.

Why?

  1. I have received lots of feedback from readers saying that it is a great performer, and much better than the stock Rega Carbon.
  2. It is Rega’s product. It will be easy to fit and perform perfectly on Rega’s tonearm.

It is also quite affordable. It has a price that is very sensible for the Rega Planar 1.

If you want to swing for the fences, and spend a lot more money, I would choose the Denon DL-103R. When there is an option to get true high-end moving coil performance for the fraction of the price of most top-of-the-line MC cartridges, that is just very tempting.

That said, all the cartridges on reviewed above are truly great cartridges that comes up over and over again when I research great phono cartridges for turntables. You won’t go wrong with any of them.

Fitting a new cartridge on Rega Planar 1

The tonearm on Rega Planar 2 does not have height adjustment. That means that the horizontal angel of the tonearm (VTA) will be slightly off if you fit a cartridge that has significantly different height than the standard Rega Carbon.

And most third party cartridges are 2-4 mm higher than Regas’s own cartridge range.

To solve this, Rega provides 2mm spacers that can be installed under the base of the tonearm if you fit a cartridge that is higher than the standard Rega Carbon.

One spacer will lift the tonearm 2mm. Two spacers will life the tonearm 4mm.

VTA is a controversial topic. It seems that Rega’s point of view is that a slightly altered VTA will not impact the quality of the sound in most cases. So the spacer might not be necessary. But they are available for those that are geeky about VTA.

Fitting a cartridge from Regas own cartridge line, such as a Rega Bias 2, will not alter the VTA. And will not require spacers.

Also, the tonearm on Rega Planar 1 uses Rega’s 3-point mount system. Which makes it easier to get the alignment correct if you select a cartridge from Rega’s lineup as your upgrade cartridge.

Worry free installation was one of my selection criteria when choosing a cartridge upgrade for my Planar 2. And part of the reason I choose the Rega Exact.

If you want a guaranteed worry free cartridge installation on your Rega Planar 1, it might be wise to give extra points to the Rega Bias 2 or the Rega Elys 2 when choosing your cartridge.

Cartridge break-in time

A new cartridge will need about 30 hours of vinyl spinning before it starts to sound its best. The bearings need time to loosen up.

So don’t judge the success of your cartridge upgrade too early.

Many readers, that have acted upon my cartridge recommendations on this site, have emailed me and said that their cartridge upgrade didn’t give the expected results.

My response is always:

Give it time to break in.

Then they often email me again a bit later and say:

Wow, break-in time is real. It now sounds great.

Break-in time is real. No question about that.

The Rega Carbon cartridge

The Rega Carbon is Rega’s most affordable cartridge. It costs around $50 to buy separate and is, according to the vinyl community, based on the AT-91 that costs about $25.

It is the cartridge that comes standard fitted with both the Rega Planar 1 and Rega Planar 2.

It is regarded as a very good cartridge for the price.

But it still an entry-level cartridge.

I suspect that the Rega engineers would very much like to ship the Planar 1 and Planar 2 with a higher-quality cartridge than the Rega Carbon.

You definitely need a better cartridge than the Rega Carbon to unleash the true potential of these turntables. In my opinion.

Fitting an entry-level cartridge as standard does, however, lower the total price of the turntables. Which makes Rega’s turntables attainable for more people. Which is good for vinyl spinners. And good for Rega’s sales department.

And Rega probably knows that their most dedicated customers will upgrade their turntables with their favorite cartridges anyway. Which is what this article is all about.

Resources

Rega Cartridges

Ortofon Cartridges

Denon Cartridges

Audio-Technica Cartridges