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Rega DAC-R DAC Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 242 72.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 71 21.2%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

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

    Votes: 10 3.0%

  • Total voters
    335

antcollinet

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This just shows that Roy Gandy has no clue about digital audio, sad.
I'd be prepared to bet that RG - in his 50+ years in the industry has forgotten more about audio tech than many here have ever known.

Not everyone has the same view of hifi - and it would be a pretty boring world if we all did. One of his takes on the subject:
WHF: What made you interested in hi-fi?
RG:
I don’t think I’ve ever been interested in hi-fi as such. The concept of high fidelity seems a bit strange to me, but I am passionate about music. I’m a qualified mechanical engineer and view the bits of hi-fi equipment as tools.
 

MacClintock

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I'd be prepared to bet that RG - in his 50+ years in the industry has forgotten more about audio tech than many here have ever known.

Not everyone has the same view of hifi - and it would be a pretty boring world if we all did. One of his takes on the subject:
WHF: What made you interested in hi-fi?
RG: I don’t think I’ve ever been interested in hi-fi as such. The concept of high fidelity seems a bit strange to me, but I am passionate about music. I’m a qualified mechanical engineer and view the bits of hi-fi equipment as tools.
So he admits that he is not adhering to hifi but something else, whatever that may be. I am interested in the best possible and most accurate playback of the recording, i.e. hifi. So what he does or wants is not what me interests, nor would I ever spend money on any of these obscure products. It is this attitude that is plain wrong and ridiculous. These people also go to the museum wearing pink glasses, because the Picasso paintings look better this way?
 

antcollinet

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I am interested in the best possible and most accurate playback of the recording
Which is fine. As am I. But that isn't the only way to enjoy it.

It is this attitude that is plain wrong and ridiculous
What is wrong and ridiculous is thinking that someone being interested in something you are not is therefore wrong. That is simple zealotry.
 
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amirm

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I'd be prepared to bet that RG - in his 50+ years in the industry has forgotten more about audio tech than many here have ever known.
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.

I don't know "RG." But do know what he/company has written in the manual for DAC-R:

"The Rega DAC-R is a 16/20/24-bit at 32kHz to 192kHz digital to analogue converter. Incorporating an enhanced version of the Rega designed circuit, the DAC-R offers the highest possible resolution over all inputs including fully asynchronous USB with the addition of remote functionality.

Developed to be simple to set up and use, the Rega DAC-R is designed to optimise performance from any two channel PCM digital audio source.

With the PC now widely accepted as a credible medium for storing and streaming music, the use of high quality lossless files such as WAV, FLAC and ALAC offer performance through the DAC-R equal to and in some cases better than Red Book CD. Great care has been taken to remove noise generated by the PC and other input sources. (During development this was identified as a major drawback with many DAC’s on the market today)."


Measurements clearly show that the "highest possible resolution" was not remotely met. Nor was the concept of "removing" noise as the thing self-generates noise. So if this is a major drawback, then by their own definition, they have failed at this "audio tech."

All of these engineers clearly know circuit design as a product like this has a lot of complexity and doesn't come out without that. Problem is that these designers don't know what they need to know about "audio tech" and didn't deploy measurements to know what they think they have designed, is really what they have design. Nor do they know about psychoacoustics or even simple concepts like blind listening tests. The result is that they believe their own hype because of the fluff reviews they get from magazines and poor audiophiles who buy on that basis.

These engineers as a result, have no business being in audio business. They should have gone to other fields in electronics where their knowledge and talent would have been properly put to use toward something meaningful. Instead they have just contributed to collective confusion in audio world.
 

MacClintock

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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.

I don't know "RG." But do know what he/company has written in the manual for DAC-R:

"The Rega DAC-R is a 16/20/24-bit at 32kHz to 192kHz digital to analogue converter. Incorporating an enhanced version of the Rega designed circuit, the DAC-R offers the highest possible resolution over all inputs including fully asynchronous USB with the addition of remote functionality.

Developed to be simple to set up and use, the Rega DAC-R is designed to optimise performance from any two channel PCM digital audio source.

With the PC now widely accepted as a credible medium for storing and streaming music, the use of high quality lossless files such as WAV, FLAC and ALAC offer performance through the DAC-R equal to and in some cases better than Red Book CD. Great care has been taken to remove noise generated by the PC and other input sources. (During development this was identified as a major drawback with many DAC’s on the market today)."


Measurements clearly show that the "highest possible resolution" was not remotely met. Nor was the concept of "removing" noise as the thing self-generates noise. So if this is a major drawback, then by their own definition, they have failed at this "audio tech."

All of these engineers clearly know circuit design as a product like this has a lot of complexity and doesn't come out without that. Problem is that these designers don't know what they need to know about "audio tech" and didn't deploy measurements to know what they think they have designed, is really what they have design. Nor do they know about psychoacoustics or even simple concepts like blind listening tests. The result is that they believe their own hype because of the fluff reviews they get from magazines and poor audiophiles who buy on that basis.

These engineers as a result, have no business being in audio business. They should have gone to other fields in electronics where their knowledge and talent would have been properly put to use toward something meaningful. Instead they have just contributed to collective confusion in audio world.
Thanks, Amir. So by the manual, they were TRYING to develop a hifi product, aiming at faithful reproduction, but failed miserable.
 

musicforcities

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Stereophile never tested anything they did not like it seems.

It’s an older design. Maybe more affordable used. But I think I’d rather just buy an effectively perfect 100-300 offering by Smsl, topping, etc….and with balanced outputs!

I’ve never seen a “vintage DAC” that gives any aura of “romantic”/nostalgic feeling an old and good preamp/integrated/amp or a turntable might.
 

musicforcities

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This Rega R dac dont use any IC at the analog output. Its a discreet design. It mirrors the sound of an older Linn Klimax DS, almost the same dacs used ( Wolfson 8742 and 8741) and using filter 2 on the rega has about the same filter caracteristics as a Klimax.

Regarding the Rega , its a very polite sound without any digital glare combined with a very good and tight bass drive .
Maybe a coloration, but its a good one:)
How do you measure “digital glare”? Please tell me where I can find see it in a graph etc.? Or are you referring instead to the inherent SN and dynamic range limitations of vynil and analogue tape?

DACs only have to be as transparent as possible. That’s it. Nothing more nothing less.

If you want extra noise injected get a $30 tub buffer. That’ll take all the glare out. If you want tonal shaping, do it precisely with filters, dsp or tone controls.
 

musicforcities

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So it seems to have very similar performance to this thing I've had for a few years, if you compare the reviews.

Difference is, this dates from 2 years earlier (2013) and cost me about £50 when I got it.

Similarly the contrast between the Rega, and the one reviewed immediately prior, couldn't be more stark.

View attachment 320280
Is that an early Chord Hugo prototype?
 

Ken Tajalli

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The Leema DAC that I sent in, was even older than this unit, yet the performance was far better, with excellent analogue preamp performance, balanced outputs etc.
I do remember, they used to sell for similar money in UK, but rega was more famous than Leema. The Leema hardly got any reviews or recommendations, yet rega was always regarded very highly.
See for yourselves:
 

NHL99

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The Leema DAC that I sent in, was even older than this unit, yet the performance was far better, with excellent analogue preamp performance, balanced outputs etc.
I do remember, they used to sell for similar money in UK, but rega was more famous than Leema. The Leema hardly got any reviews or recommendations, yet rega was always regarded very highly.
See for yourselves:
i had the Leema phono and the Rega phono (What HiFi rave reviews), different leagues, don't have to tell which one to pick.
 

daniboun

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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"

Stereophile is clearly “marketing” oriented. Their contradictory conclusion misleads consumers. Thank you Amir for helping us discern the true from the false)
 

Ken Tajalli

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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?
It seems you have a soft spot for rega! (am I wrong?). rega wasn't bad at all, indeed it was one of the better, cheaper manufacturers. Their turntables, arms etc. were exceptional at their price brackets, but with digital equipments, I think it was a side line to them.
But slagging off rega, comparing them to the likes of present-day Toppings of the world, is way unfair.

Don't know about 2009, but this Leema is from 2011 or so (about 4 years before this rega), it is from UK, and I paid £999 for it 10 years ago.
Just compare yourself.
 
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amirm

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Absolutely! This is something most people do not realize and blame mains residuals to “PSU”.
Looks like you are confusing the "why" with the "what."
 

DanielT

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Thanks for the test Amir!:)

If you look at Rega's website the focus is on turntables, tonearms and cartridges. Rega doesn't even seem to sell DACs these days, from what I can see:


It seems to make sense because, originally from Latin:
sutor, ne ultra crepidam...
A cobbler should stick to his last
Zapatero a tus zapateros
Schuster, bleib bei deinem Leisten
Skomakare, bliv vid din läst


And so on. :)
 
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antcollinet

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If you look at Rega's website the focus is on turntables, tonearms and cartridges. Rega doesn't even seem to sell DACs these days, from what I can see:
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.
 

DanielT

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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.
As the icing on the cake, they also cost a decent penny:


$12,295.00....o_O

Insanity if you ask me. If, says IF, if you're going to use physical media, you might as well take a cheap Blu-ray player with digital output and plug in a good external DAC.:)
 

antcollinet

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As the icing on the cake, they also cost a decent penny:


$12,295.00....o_O

Insanity if you ask me. If, says IF, if you're going to use physical media, you might as well take a cheap Blu-ray player with digital output and plug in a good external DAC.:)
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.
 
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