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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

DanielT

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I'm not keen on BRP as CD transports - inadequate display/controls and mechanical noise. (Typically)

However there are plenty of new CDP's at a reasonable price, or used, like my £20 Maranz which when used with an external DAC will sound identical to (or better than) any "high end" CD player at any price.
I agree with you about this with mechanical noise and BRP. Some may have it. Can be an annoying noise. Then your solution is better.:)

Rega DAC-R , $1,195 in 2015 there is some kind of contact with reality but a CD player that costs $12,295.00 in 2023 is completely crazy. I doubt that even the Rega brand is enough to justify that price to potential buyers, but I could be wrong.

Edit:
Nothing that really justifies the price, but you know the brand sells.
 

DSJR

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I'm not keen on BRP as CD transports - inadequate display/controls and mechanical noise. (Typically)

However there are plenty of new CDP's at a reasonable price, or used, like my £20 Maranz which when used with an external DAC will sound identical to (or better than) any "high end" CD player at any price.
I knew the Valve Isis well. It (gets ready to run for cover) sounds very 'musical' :p and it offered a lovely wide and deep soundstage without the musicians appearing to be clumped together in a compacted area. Artificial? haven't an effin' clue, but it sure was a great listening experience whenever I heard it. Top loading goes with their territory I'm afraid...

See, when this one was introduced, dealers compared it to the Naim 555 CD player at double its price and the Isis Valve wasn't found wanting ;) Compare with an old used Marantz with modern cheap dac? Do leave off :D - And I'm not disagreeing with you at all on that 'cos that's where I am in thinking and finances these days :)

Needless to say, the Isis didn't seem to sell much in the UK and the few initial 'Reference Dealer' demo units were sold off for half price many years ago now. I suspect the valve output stage puts lots of comfy noise and even order harmonics in, albeit I suspect at a low enough level for it not to be too intrusive to such owners. See reference to EL84's on the Rega dac board.................


P.S. The Rega dac looks to have been discontinued now as said above, along with the Apollo R CD player. Like I said in my post above, R.I.P. as in the UK market, it did a nice job ;)
 
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Sokel

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Absolutely! This is something most people do not realize and blame mains residuals to “PSU”.
I'm sure you're right but as long as I have seen and with my poor-poor experience in some cases mains noise goes to nothing by just rotating the trafo a little,or by using a clever cabling without the mains running half the box,pass over the pcb and land on the other side.

We have even see it here,in wolf's measurement (look at second page also) which by rotating and shield a little the trafo the main noise went away.
I have seen it myself too in my silly projects (look at the difference between the first and the last measurement )

Of course is right that a good pcb design can reject all that.
Good pcb design would be nice but in this case on top of the (obviously) bad one we have this weird choice of mains cabling going over,under,over again,etc.

Edit:links
 
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oceansize

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Interesting. I hadn't noticed that. Their only digital offerings are a trio of CD players (with horrible top load mechs). One of which has a vavle based analogue stage. o_O


It seems the "vinyl renaissance" has saved them from having to diversify. Or at least allowed them to rollback some of that diversification.
The current Saturn is marketed as a CD-DAC Player - it has Toslink, Coaxial and USB inputs. Also, the current Elex and Elicit amps have digital inputs - so some of their products have diversified. It would be interesting to see how their current offerings do, but I'm not holding my breath expecting Rega to send some units to Amir for testing.
 

AudioSceptic

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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.


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

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That is poor. I expected at least basic competence but this fails even to reach CD standards. Inexcusable in 2015, and how could they justify the price?
 

AudioSceptic

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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...
I agree with a lot of that, but this came out in 2015, was hardly cheap, even in the UK, where it was about £600, and couldn't even reach CD standards. What Hi-Fi liked it, of course <https://www.whathifi.com/rega/dac-r/review>.

The Rega arms were and are a great product, as were the original Planar TTs, but most of the recent stuff seems far too pricey. I've got an original RB300, about £90 when the other "super arms" were £200+, but £415 now for an RB330 seems a lot.
 

Purité Audio

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It is fascinating how products ( seemingly all U.K. manufacturers) were lauded by the ( mostly U.K. ) hi-fi press yet a simple set of measurements would have exposed them for their actual worth, not much!
What a great site ASR is, without sounding too obsequious thank you Amir ( although the U.K. Hi-Fi industry may not feel the same)!
Keith
 

AudioSceptic

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Martin sir, FIFTEEN years ago and long before ASR, this DAC was beer budget in the UK market, the Cambridge, M-F and so on regarded as little more than toys, as I now regard my old 'dac-for-a-fiver' from 2012 or so which measures badly today, but which 'sounds' fine on red-book material!

I'm sure Rega's designer (Terry Bateman?) would have done basic measurements on it. I'm happy to be objectively proved otherwise, but were other dacs around the world at the same price as the Rega back in 2009 or so (say, $750 - $800?) as good or better?

Remember, 'enthusiastic' domestic brands don't design to get good ASR reviews (SINAD and Spinorams/Klippell based) and firms like Rega would never release a product on spec alone I feel/ Remember where they came from - look up the frequency response of an Elys 2 or Exact 2 cartridge - it's awfully old fashioned but if you use toppy speakers as theirs were and then slip in a neutral digital source into that system, the results wouldn't have been that nice!

I was going to say again that until the more vociferous posters here and possibly elsewhere started severely complaining, 'Good Enough' really was good enough!!! if you can't *hear it* under normal conditions, in their eyes wouldn't that have been 'good enough' back then? Look at the Hegel dac-amp review! It 'sounds' fine subjectively, but old fashioned gain structures inside seem to affect the figures somewhat, not that anyone in the real world would notice I suspect...

Long before the 'ESS distortion hump' was properly measured here and elsewhere, I remember some subjectivists disliking the 'overly squeaky clean' sound that said dac chips were supposed to give. Whether this was pure imagination or whether that distortion hump (now long ago sorted by those designers who researched it) really was affecting lower level mid-high frequency signals, I have no idea as I was out of it by then.

Like I said, modern dac products under £/$200 are two a penny/cent almost and change rapidly, almost every few months once a large production batch is sold through and on to the next revision.. This dac is ancient by modern standards and what was 'Good Enough' back in 2010 or whenever, obviously isn't good enough today. Just DON'T test an Apollo R CD player with its need for 50k amp loading (the original Planet player from the late 90's was exactly the same here ;) )

I'd best shut the feck up and crawl back under my stone. This little box is far too expensive outside of its home market when cheap far eastern imports cost much the same all over and time and recent dac advances haven't looked kindly on it. So, how well does say a DCS multi-box system compare these days? The Chord dacs have already been through the mincer here so what about DCS then - does anyone have one to send in?
Not by Amir, but this was linked in a thread not long ago. <https://goldensound.audio/2021/10/12/dcs-bartok-with-headphone-amp-measurements/> Competent, but at that price I'd bloody hope so!
 

DanielT

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The current Saturn is marketed as a CD-DAC Player - it has Toslink, Coaxial and USB inputs. Also, the current Elex and Elicit amps have digital inputs - so some of their products have diversified. It would be interesting to see how their current offerings do, but I'm not holding my breath expecting Rega to send some units to Amir for testing.
But Rega don't make stand alone DAC these days as far as I can see.
 

DanielT

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It is fascinating how products ( seemingly all U.K. manufacturers) were lauded by the ( mostly U.K. ) hi-fi press yet a simple set of measurements would have exposed them for their actual worth, not much!
What a great site ASR is, without sounding too obsequious thank you Amir ( although the U.K. Hi-Fi industry may not feel the same)!
Keith
Not all. KEF and Wharfedale for example are lauded and often measure well.:)
 

AudioSceptic

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It is fascinating how products ( seemingly all U.K. manufacturers) were lauded by the ( mostly U.K. ) hi-fi press yet a simple set of measurements would have exposed them for their actual worth, not much!
What a great site ASR is, without sounding too obsequious thank you Amir ( although the U.K. Hi-Fi industry may not feel the same)!
Keith
Yes, but audio journos in the UK used to do proper measurements. Some still do, but then somehow seem to ignore them when it comes to judging VFM and giving recommendations. I still don't know if that's just because they want to support the industry and know that beyond a certain point, measurements really don't matter.

BTW I see that one of the few mags that did measurements, Hi-Fi World, is no longer around.
 

Palladium

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NOT IT'S NOT - o_O:mad::facepalm:

FFS, on launch, this dac was CHEAP, as is most of the Rega range here in the UK. Topping, SMSL and a host of other new cheap far eastern made boxes didn't exist back then and a Topping chip amp was a rarity I remember long before the dacs came along. If a far eastern made dac sells for $120 (£150) how much would the ex-works price be and how many would they need to manufacture in a batch to keep prices that low? I suspect this one is made in what, batches of fifty at a time (no idea really) and I also suspect that some hand soldering is also involved (can those electrolytics be fitted by an automated board-stuffer? (showing my dated memories of circuit board stuffing now). The bowed case-top hails back to the early 2000's electronics (Mira and Planet 2000 stylee) so not new at all.

As I've said earlier, this dac has technically been left behind by ever newer (every few months or so?) baby boxes with fantastic performance to suit sites such as this one, but to claim it doesn't do the job very well or is actually snake oil, makes my blood boil frankly in a tribal sense, at least for a short while ;) It does actually 'sound' very good indeed and never ever draws attention to itself when used to enjoy music. In the home market at least, Rega are an honourable company and in my professional dealings with them (and also dealer pals who still deal with them) practically ALWAYS took the customers' side if any issues cropped up and did it quickly and efficiently!!!

Let's face it, I wonder how many posters here could 'hear' sinad of 60 - 70 in a source or amp component playing music if the distortion was lower order harmonics in comparison with a sota example and also, adding a touch of noise to the signal can also help (I can't point to research done, but most of us old enough to enjoy BBC Radio 3 live concerts were never ever bothered by the 13 bit signal with -70 odd dB noise floor and brick-walled 15kHz upper frequency limit).


Forget 15 years ago (2008), this M-Audio <$200 card was from 2002 and still has 10dB better at multitone at least. So your point is?
 

KxDx

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That reminds me of sitting in front of the top exec at Samsung in charge of phone designs before the iPhone came out. He showed me his latest flip phone which I found ugly and told him that we were hearing rumors of Apple coming out with a phone. He got angry and told me that Apple would not have a clue how to design a Phone compared to them. We know how that ended. So let's not resort to hero worshiping.
Heh at least Samsung pivoted and prospered. Microsoft and Blackberry bet on the dinosaurs instead of the asteroid.
 

Talisman

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Heh at least Samsung pivoted and prospered. Microsoft and Blackberry bet on the dinosaurs instead of the asteroid.
In reality Windows Phone was a fantastic mobile operating system, when the basic Android models were slow, clumsy, full of lag and exhausting to use, on hardware of the same level Windows Phone ran lightning fast, so much so that it rivaled the experience of use with top of the range Android devices of the time, furthermore the Lumias all had a cutting-edge camera system.
With the hardware improvement of the basic range, the advantage of Windows Phone has disappeared and the versatility and customizability of Android has prevailed
 

DSJR

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Not all. KEF and Wharfedale for example are lauded and often measure well.:)
Made for relative peanuts in China though, compared to more expensive UK or US manufacturing...

I remember a UK 5* reviewed speaker which sold for £319 or thereabouts twenty odd years back. Great finish and sounded a bit like a much refined B&W 601 in original form before the series 2 tweeter stripped paint.. I'm reliably told it entered the UK from China boxed and ready to ship for FOURTEEN DOLLARS the pair landed cost! Another speaker model from a firm not known especially for speakers, tested here I recall and selling for $300 or so the pair, came to the UK for sixty quid the pair or so..

Rega never used to run on the much higher mark-ups that Linn and Naim did (Roy G was very candid about it in a dealer meetup I remember) and dealer margins weren't that wonderful either, smaller dealers running on pro-forma rather than 30 day accounts. Rather than having a go at Rega for supposedly ripping their customer base off, perhaps laud the inexpensive far eastern products for flooding our markets with high performance and far cheaper alternatives in dinky little boxes with displays of various quality on the front...
 
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DSJR

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Yes, but audio journos in the UK used to do proper measurements. Some still do, but then somehow seem to ignore them when it comes to judging VFM and giving recommendations. I still don't know if that's just because they want to support the industry and know that beyond a certain point, measurements really don't matter.

BTW I see that one of the few mags that did measurements, Hi-Fi World, is no longer around.
HiFi World had their favourites which could do no wrong even if the measurements suggested otherwise. Valve amps with hideous distortions and high output impedances were loved quite often - just use them with Tannoys or similar ;) They were amazed how 'nice' a Quad 909 was in a power amp group test (I suspect this is also way off the beam today, but I still rate that basic design and it was the first domestic Quyad amp that happily drove a four ohm load with out current limiting getting in the way...

Sure I'm upset that UK-cheap companies like Rega are seemingly still so insular as regards what's really going on out there, but it's a smaller world now I have to admit...
 

KxDx

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In reality Windows Phone was a fantastic mobile operating system, when the basic Android models were slow, clumsy, full of lag and exhausting to use, on hardware of the same level Windows Phone ran lightning fast, so much so that it rivaled the experience of use with top of the range Android devices of the time, furthermore the Lumias all had a cutting-edge camera system.
With the hardware improvement of the basic range, the advantage of Windows Phone has disappeared and the versatility and customizability of Android has prevailed
My favorite phone ever still remains the BB Passport. The OS was fantastic and to this day some of its best features haven't been implemented.

But... the rage at the time was not OS or UI, was also not hardware, but software. Apple and Google had the apps, and any phone without App Store or Play Store couldn't survive. Blackberry's first phone with their final OS bombed because people bought it, found out there was no Skype or Netflix (two "must haves" in 2013) to be had, and returned it for an iphone or Samsung. The company never recovered from that. Microsoft ran into much the same problem, even though they had far greater financial resources. Developers just didn't want to support more than the 2 platforms they were locked into.
 

nygafre

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HiFi World had their favourites which could do no wrong even if the measurements suggested otherwise. Valve amps with hideous distortions and high output impedances were loved quite often - just use them with Tannoys or similar ;) They were amazed how 'nice' a Quad 909 was in a power amp group test (I suspect this is also way off the beam today, but I still rate that basic design and it was the first domestic Quyad amp that happily drove a four ohm load with out current limiting getting in the way...

Sure I'm upset that UK-cheap companies like Rega are seemingly still so insular as regards what's really going on out there, but it's a smaller world now I have to admit...
Yeah, but they did admit to too much/good competion in the DAC segment, causing them to cease the DAC-R. And like most companies; why not go there if there is a market available.

The HiFi press has done them very(!) well over the years. I’m personally a former Elex-R, Saturn-R (contains a DAC section equivalent to the DAC-R) and Rega speaker owner. I’ll admit that I still find the design of the Elex-R really cool for my tastes (there was an element of owners enjoyment with Rega).. but it was a sigh of relief the day I understood there was nothing magical about either Rega dacs, amps or speakers.. (in reality, that ‘day’ probably lasted something like 2 years :p).

I reallyyy want to see some Rega speakers measured on ASR one day (I sold mine before getting into REW). Prediction: incredibly ‘colored’ frequency response!

Here’s a pic of my formerly ‘beloved’ Rega setup.
IMG_5517.jpeg

Not that I think anyone here would be impressed :D

They did one thing right imo.. using red for the indicator/display lights. A lot more chill at night than piercing blue.
 
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AudioSceptic

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Forget 15 years ago (2008), this M-Audio <$200 card was from 2002 and still has 10dB better at multitone at least. So your point is?
Didn't the original Apple iPods also have measured performance better than most "audiophile" DACs? I thought Ken Rockwell measured one but I can't find that anymore, or was it someone else?
 
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