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Rega DAC-R DAC Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 241 72.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 71 21.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 12 3.6%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 10 3.0%

  • Total voters
    334

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Rega DAC-R stereo DAC. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1,195 when it came out in 2015.
Rega DAC-R stereo user DAC Review.jpg

I suspect extra money had gone into making the top curved down but it doesn't do anything for me. Fortunately the user interface makes up for the plain looks in how easy it is to select inputs and filters.

Back panel shows rather rich set of inputs and outputs for a DAC:
Rega DAC-R stereo user DAC back panel Review.jpg


Sadly, no balanced analog output is provided. I did not get a remote with it so wonder if one had come with it.

Rega DAC-R Measurements
As usual we start with our dashboard:
Rega DAC-R stereo user DAC measurements.png

I saw some mains noise but no matter what I did, I could not impact it even a bit. I suspect that is coming out of the power supply and going into the reference voltage of the DAC. It is strong enough to create sidebands around the 1 kHz signal. Distortion is quite high even for a 2015 DAC, placing the DAC-R squarely in our "poor" category:
Best british dac review.png


Noise performance is not had:
Rega DAC-R stereo user DAC DNR measurements.png


IMD shows early saturation of output:
Rega DAC-R stereo user DAC IMD distortion measurements.png


As a result, multitone makes a more positive showing as its level is lower than the 1 kHz in the dashboard:
Rega DAC-R stereo user DAC Multitone measurements.png


For compatibility with Stereophile tests, let's run it at 50 Hz into 600 ohm load:
Rega DAC-R stereo user DAC 50 Hz measurements.png


And compare it to their measurements:
815Regafig09.jpg

2nd harmonic matches theirs. But they show higher third harmonic. Still, we are in the ballpark.

Jitter test shows high noise floor and power supply induced interference patterns:
Rega DAC-R stereo user DAC Jitter measurements.png


Linearity is not so good:
Rega DAC-R stereo user DAC Linearity measurements.png

Here is the response of the three included filters:

Rega DAC-R stereo user DAC Filter measurements.png


Rega DAC-R stereo user DAC Frequency Response measurements.png


Finally, we have our wideband distortion and noise vs frequency:
Rega DAC-R stereo user DAC THD+N vs frequency distortion measurements.png


Conclusions
We can make a bit of dispensation for an older design but this is still poor. There is no good excuse for power supply noise interference no matter when the DAC came out. Or high level of distortion. Sadly, a strong pass was given to them by Stereophile even though some of the same issues were found in their measurements: "Other than that minor issue, the Rega DAC-R offered measured performance that was beyond reproach.—John Atkinson"

Sigh.

Owner tells me that this DAC had a well-respected reputation (hence the reason I accepted testing it). That doesn't seem well deserved to me.


Product Specifications
  • Signal to noise ratio
-105dB
  • Freqency repsonse
44.1/48kHz = 10Hz
  • Dimensions (HxWxD) in mm
80 x 215 x 320
  • THD
0.006% @ 1kHz
  • Maximum Output
2.175V into 100KO load
  • Weight
4 kg

----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome. Click here if you have some audio gear you want me to test.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Tangband

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Rega DAC-R stereo DAC. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1,195 when it came out in 2015.
View attachment 320248
I suspect extra money had gone into making the top curved down but it doesn't do anything for me. Fortunately the user interface makes up for the plain looks in how easy it is to select inputs and filters.

Back panel shows rather rich set of inputs and outputs for a DAC:
View attachment 320249

Sadly, no balanced analog output is provided. I did not get a remote with it so wonder if one had come with it.

Rega DAC-R Measurements
As usual we start with our dashboard:
View attachment 320250
I saw some mains noise but no matter what I did, I could not impact it even a bit. I suspect that is coming out of the power supply and going into the reference voltage of the DAC. It is strong enough to create sidebands around the 1 kHz signal. Distortion is quite high even for a 2015 DAC, placing the DAC-R squarely in our "poor" category:
View attachment 320252

Noise performance is not had:
View attachment 320253

IMD shows early saturation of output:
View attachment 320254

As a result, multitone makes a more positive showing as its level is lower than the 1 kHz in the dashboard:
View attachment 320255

For compatibility with Stereophile tests, let's run it at 50 Hz into 600 ohm load:
View attachment 320256

And compare it to their measurements:
815Regafig09.jpg

2nd harmonic matches theirs. But they show higher third harmonic. Still, we are in the ballpark.

Jitter test shows high noise floor and power supply induced interference patterns:View attachment 320257

Linearity is not so good:
View attachment 320261
Here is the response of the three included filters:

View attachment 320258

View attachment 320259

Finally, we have our wideband distortion and noise vs frequency:
View attachment 320262

Conclusions
We can make a bit of dispensation for an older design but this is still poor. There is no good excuse for power supply noise interference no matter when the DAC came out. Or high level of distortion. Sadly, a strong pass was given to them by Stereophile even though some of the same issues were found in their measurements: "Other than that minor issue, the Rega DAC-R offered measured performance that was beyond reproach.—John Atkinson"

Sigh.

Owner tells me that this DAC had a well-respected reputation (hence the reason I accepted testing it). That doesn't seem well deserved to me.

----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome. Click here if you have some audio gear you want me to test.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
Interesting review ! :)

As JA has discovered in stereophile - this unit has higher jitter and distortion at higher levels . At -40 dB , the jitter is very low , and looks like this :

IMG_4195.jpeg



This is probably deliberately , trying to make a dac that sounds earfriendly. The sound to my ears is very good and one can listen for hours .

I use this dac myself and wouldnt trade it for a cheaper topping , Yamaha or smsl .
 
Last edited:

horias2000

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Insides:

View attachment 320263

Cabling is all over the place,no wonder about the mains noise and performance.
That's unfortunate.

Thanks Amir!
I agree that it measures poorly but the cabling is not allover the place in my opinion. The yellow and green wires are earth wires and it's OK to have them like this. The mains noise comes from poor PCB design most probably (see the short yellow/green wire that sits on the PCB). As far as I can tell from the picture, the dac uses 2x Wolfson Media chips (probably 2x WM8740 or 2x WM8741 in mono mode). These were great chips back in the day and this design does not leverage the max performance that these chips can do. I'll stick with my SU-9n :)
 

Tangband

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I agree that it measures poorly but the cabling is not allover the place in my opinion. The yellow and green wires are earth wires and it's OK to have them like this. The mains noise comes from poor PCB design most probably (see the short yellow/green wire that sits on the PCB). As far as I can tell from the picture, the dac uses 2x Wolfson Media chips (probably 2x WM8740 or 2x WM8741 in mono mode). These were great chips back in the day and this design does not leverage the max performance that these chips can do. I'll stick with my SU-9n :)
Its two Wolfson 8742.
 

TonyJZX

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rega people like the rega sound

that's it

this unit does have a remote... there's a manual too

lot of reviews.... what hifi loves it, so does stereophile stereonet and even darko so i dont know whats wrong with ASR not liking it.. inconceivable!
 

NHL99

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I had a Rega Elex-R, no 1 in numerous group tests, but couldn't find any improvement in the sound from the Denon low-end DAB, that it replaced. Snake oil amplifier.
 

Grotti

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rega people like the rega sound

that's it

this unit does have a remote... there's a manual too

lot of reviews.... what hifi loves it, so does stereophile stereonet and even darko so i dont know whats wrong with ASR not liking it.. inconceivable!
You name it: REGA is a marketing based manufacturer and people "like the REGA sound" because they are told by stereophile, Darko etc.

Thank god we have people like Amir to show everybody how mediocre this DAC measures. And having quite a lot of experience with their earlier electronics (had to sell their stuff until about 9 years ago) I am confident, that the rest of their lineup doesn't perform better.
 

Feargal

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I agree that it measures poorly but the cabling is not allover the place in my opinion. The yellow and green wires are earth wires and it's OK to have them like this. The mains noise comes from poor PCB design most probably (see the short yellow/green wire that sits on the PCB). As far as I can tell from the picture, the dac uses 2x Wolfson Media chips (probably 2x WM8740 or 2x WM8741 in mono mode). These were great chips back in the day and this design does not leverage the max performance that these chips can do. I'll stick with my SU-9n :)

No earth pin on the power IEC connector though weirdly.
 

DSJR

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I kind-of knew this day would come :mad:

Rega prices are obscenely high away from the UK market and visuals aside @Mart68, you'd need to sit down and properly evaluate a Technics modern vinyl deck with a Rega 3, let alone a 6 which may not have as good a drive, but the RB330 arm is in a different world - and does actually measure close to the very best in terms of friction and resonances which the Technics tonearms never will! My RB330 is far better finished too than its predecessors which I know only too well ;) I agree their home made MM's are awful (a leftover from the early 80's) but their MC's are good if you can afford them (I'm more an AT OC9 these days bit still). This dac, like Linn's early ones, was/is being sold into the rather closed-off and blinkered vinyl world so although totally alien to the ethos of this site, a valid product *in that world.*

This dac started life in the late noughties I recall and yes, those who listen to music primarily rather than the gear, actually liked what it does. It was around five hundred quid at the time and as none of the far eastern or Schiit wonder-dacs were around back then, in the UK it was hard to find anything better and cheaper, although I believe M-F and Cambridge? did something (flogged out through a discount chain so not really sellable or easy to compare through a specialist dealer). The Stereophile tests weren't that wonderful and of course here, the blanket good performance from sub $/£250 dacs in recent times makes this thing a kind of anachronism today and very much a 'vintage' design (note the reference to EL84 valves on the circuit board which will tell you all you need to know :D ). This brand here is sold as a step up to Naim or Linn by a lot of dealers it seems today as well, so regarded as more a 'starter-brand in those circles...

I still rate the company from an after-care point of view (almost all the far eastern cheap dacs are landfill if they fail I believe and not everyone can afford to basically waste $/£200 a pop), but I have to accept that the design is now way out of date from an increasingly bygone era (of which I was a tiny part) and maybe not that wonderful (designed to be 'good enough' as a lot of UK gear was) when first launched all those years ago (they fought asynchronous inputs for years I gather).

R.I.P...
 
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Sokel

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I agree that it measures poorly but the cabling is not allover the place in my opinion. The yellow and green wires are earth wires and it's OK to have them like this. The mains noise comes from poor PCB design most probably (see the short yellow/green wire that sits on the PCB). As far as I can tell from the picture, the dac uses 2x Wolfson Media chips (probably 2x WM8740 or 2x WM8741 in mono mode). These were great chips back in the day and this design does not leverage the max performance that these chips can do. I'll stick with my SU-9n :)
I'm not talking about earth wires (who are cosmetically ugly at least) ,I mostly talk about the mains that goes to trafo,routing over the PCB,loosely paralleling with the screen ribbons,dangling to On switch,etc.
That's a nightmare!
 
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