Rega Planar 2 Test and Review
I have owned my Rega Planar 2 turntable for a couple of years now. And I think it is long overdue to give it a proper review.
Rega Planar 2 is a classic turntable that sounds engaging and looks fantastic. It feels very expensive and well made. It is easy to set up and use. Its only weak point is the stock Rega Exact cartridge, which is easily upgradeable. The Rega Planar 2 can easily be the best turntable under $1000.
– Sounds engaging
– Elegant design
– Easy to set-up
– Needs a cartridge upgrade to fully shine
Click here to check current pricing on Amazon.
I have upgraded my Rega Planar 2 with a high-end Rega Exact cartridge. So I will also include a section on how the Rega Planar 2 performs with a very high-quality cartridge. But the main focus will be on the stock Rega Carbon cartridge.
The Rega Planar 2
Rega Planar 2 sits between the great entry-level Raga Planar 1 and the audiophile approved Rega Planar 3. It is tricky to categorize the Planar 2 but I will call it “audiophile light”.
It is higher performing than most (all) entry-level and midrange turntables, but might struggle to get approved as audiophile by hardcore vinyl enthusiasts. Especially when used with the stock Rega Carbon cartridge, which without question is an entry-level cartridge.
Is the Rega Planar 2 an audiophile turntable that comes stock with an entry-level cartridge then?
That might be spot on.
I will give you a few suggestions on how to transform the Rega Planar 2 into a real audiophile turntable later in this article.
The Rega Planar 2 was first launched in 1976, as one of the very first turntables Rega put on the market. It is definitely a turntable with a respectable heritage. It was renamed P2 in the mid 80s, but is now sold under its original name, Planar 2.
How does the Planar 2 differ from the less expensive Planar 1 and the more expensive Planar 3?
Here are the main differences between the Planar 1 and the Planar 2.
- The Planar 1 has a plastic platter while the Planar 2 has a glass platter
- The Planar 1 comes with the RB110 tonearm while the Planar 2 comes with a more sophisticated RB220 tonearm
- The Planar 1 can be bought with a built-in phono preamp (Rega Planar 1 Plus) while there is no option for a built-in preamp for the Planar 2
Here are the main differences between the Planar 2 and the Planar 3.
- The Planar 3 has a slightly thicker and heavier glass platter than the Planar 2
- The planar 3 has a slightly better and more precise central bearing
- The Planar 3 can be upgraded with Rega’s external speed control, the NEO-PSU
- The Planar 2 comes with the RB220 tonearm while the Planar 3 comes with the more sophisticated and fully adjustable RB330 tonearm
- The Planar 2 comes stock with the Rega Carbon cartridge while the Planar 3 can be bought without cartridge or with a factory assembled Rega Elys cartridge
Rega Planar 2 – Design
The Planar 2 comes with a high gloss acrylic laminated plinth, that I personally think looks fantastic. Rega simply make their turntables look more elegant and more expensive than their competitors, in my opinion.
The plinth is super slick with the start/stop button elegantly hidden underneath. There is nothing on the top beside the tonearm, the platter and a label that elegantly states that this is the Planar 2.
It comes in three different colors. Black, white and red.
The platter is made of 10mm “optiwhite” class that’s not only great for sonic performance, but also attributes to the total design.
Rega Planar 2 – Specs and Features
The Rega Planar 2 was developed alongside the audiophile rated Rega Planar 3, and has undoubtedly benefited from being co-developed alongside its more expensive and highly respected brother.
What’s new on the current Rega Planar 2 iteration includes a brand new RB220 tonearm, a new motor, and newly designed central bearings.
The Rega Planar 2 doesn’t come with a built-in phono preamp, so you will need a separate phono preamp or an amplifier with one built-in.
I have tested my Planar 2 with many different phono preamps and personally I think the Rega Fono Mini A2D is the overall best phono preamp to combine with the Planar 2. It has a detailed warm-ish sound with a lot of punch in the lower end.
The Planar 2 is belt drive. It plays 33 and 45 RPM and require you to manually reposition the belt to change between the two. Not ideal if you change a lot between playing 33 and 45, but I guess most of us more or less stick to 33s anyway.
The fitted RB220 tonearm has automatic bias adjustment and manual tracking force adjustment. This allows for a very easy setup. The RB220 incorporates Rega designed ultra-low friction bearings, housed within a brand new, stiffer and lightweight bearing housing.
The Planar 2 is built with a very stiff high gloss acrylic laminated plinth.
Standard fitted is also the Rega Carbon MM cartridge. It might not be a cartridge that justify being paired with such a great turntable, but it enables the Rega Planar 2 to sell for a lucrative price. Having a cartridge fitted from the factory also make the Planar 2 more or less plug and play.
Most buyers will probably start with the Rega Carbon and upgrade to a better cartridge later.
Most stereo shops will fit a cartridge upgrade on your turntable for free if you buy one, so that is nothing to worry about. Replacing the cartridge is also very easy to do yourself due to Rega’s three-point-mount system.
Rega Planar 2 – Setting up
Setting up the Rega Planar 2 is very easy.
You simply have to unbox it, place the platter on the central bearing, set the tracking force of the tonearm and connect it to the amplifier.
The correct tonearm tracking force is achieved by first adjusting the balance weight so that the tonearm floats freely with the stylus about 1mm clear of the record. Then you simply turn the balance weight one time (360 degrees) to achieve the recommended 2 gram tracking force.
You find the instructions in Rega’s Planar 2 quick start guide.
Rega Planar 2 – Sound
Rega turntables are known to sound balanced and natural with drama and engagement.
When I upgraded from a $300 Audio-Technica AT-LP120 to the Rega Planar 2, the first thing I noticed was that the music sounded much more detailed and engaging.
The Planar 2 is simply more enjoyable to listen to.
The Planar 2 delivers impressive punch and control in the bass range. And especially so when it is paired with the awesome Rega FONO Mini A2D preamp.
The powerful bass lines on Pink Floyd’s The Wall sounds punchy and dramatic. And the guitars on AC/DC’s Back in Black are delivered with power and authority.
And when I want to chill out and play some jazz from Diana Krall or Miles Davis, the music sounds real, precise and detailed.
In short, I were very impressed by the sound of the Rega Planar 2 from the get-go. And I am still impressed. There is no other turntable I would rather spend my money on if I had a $1000 turntable budget.
Rega Planar 2 – Cartridge upgrades
I’ve already mentioned that the Rega Planar 2 is too good to come stock with the Rega Carbon cartridge.
I do, however, think that Rega do the right thing when they fit the entry-level Rega Carbon as standard. It makes the Planar 2 more affordable and available to more people.
But to extract the Planar 2’s full potential, a cartridge upgrade is necessary at some point.
And I think it is quite clever to buy a turntable that can be taken to the next level sonically with a simple cartridge upgrade.
The Rega Carbon sit on the bottom of Rega’s MM cartridge range, which consists of the following cartridges sorted from entry-level to high-end.
When I upgraded the cartridge on my Planar 2 I went straight to the Exact. I wanted the very best. And I wanted I cartridge that could perform well on a Planar 3 if I would choose to upgrade my turntable at some point.
You can read the story in my Best Cartridge Upgrade for Rega Planar 2 article. Upgrading to the Rega Exact transformed the Planar 2 from very good to outstanding. It really showed how much “hidden potential” the Planar 2 has.
Many readers have later emailed me and said that I probably took it too far when I went for the Rega Exact. And they might be right.
Readers have told me that they have had great success with upgrading to the much more affordable Rega Bias cartridge. And that he Bias might be the ideal cartridge for the Planar 2 if we take cost and value for money into consideration.
Rega also include the Bias cartridge in the Planar 2 Performance Pack that we will look at in a second.
There are also good cartridge options for the Planar 2 outside Rega’s own cartridge line. The Ortofon 2M Blue or 2M Bronze are two valid options. As well as the Denon DL-103R if you want to go moving coil.
Some cartridges will require spacers under the tonearm because they are taller than Rega’s in-house cartridges. This is one reason to stay within the Rega cartridge line when upgrading. But if you are technically savvy or have the stereo shop replace the cartridge for you, this is no problem. You’ll find spacers on the Rega website.
Rega Planar 2 – Performance Pack
Rega actually offers a performance pack for the Planar 2. Which is probably a strong confirmation that there is a lot more performance in the turntable left to be tapped into.
The Planar 2 performance pack includes:
- The Bias 2 moving magnet cartridge
- Upgrade drive belt
- 100% natural wool turntable mat
I think the performance pack is a great offering and an affordable way to get more performance from the Rega Planar 2.
Rega Planar 2 – Recommended Preamps
I have tested the Planar 2 with a whole range of different preamps and the one I think is the best option when both cost and performance is taken into consideration is the Rega Fono Mini A2D.
The FONO Mini A2D seems to extract even more of the good qualities the Planar 2 is known for. Compared to cheaper preamps I have tested, it adds a touch more control and drama in the low end and it also make the music sounds bit smoother and warmer which is a trait I really like.
That said, you do not need to invest in a high-quality preamp right away to enjoy the Rega Planar 2. A good preamp might add a bit if seasoning to an already good dish, but it isn’t absolutely necessary.
Personally, I would prioritize the turntable first. Then cartridge. Then preamp. In that order.
Rega Planar 2 – Conclusion
The Rega Planar 2 is a fantastic turntable, and in my opinion, the best sounding and looking turntable you can buy under $1000. And the journey doesn’t stop when you get the Planar 2 in the house. It has a lot more sonic potential that can be tapped into if upgraded with a higher quality cartridge and a well-matched phono preamp if you have the determination and budget down the line.
The Raga Planar 2 is one of the products I appreciate the most here at Vinyl Restart.