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Rega IO Review (stereo amplifier)

Rate this amplifier:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 262 87.9%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 20 6.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 4 1.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 12 4.0%

  • Total voters
    298

pablolie

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I did get a Rega from a popular online shop in the USA that I have purchased a lot of stuff from over the years. I did not get the hype. I sent it back.

To be honest, I think the differences between competently designed electronics are not huge these days. But I do however think there are now new designs that simply seem to be more flexible, provide a more balanced presentation at different volume levels etc.

I also think there is a lot of hype with some British brands that I don't quite share. Naim is another one, IMO. I don't get the raves. To me it's sonically indistinguishable from stuff that offer similar functionality but is priced lower and doesn't have some of the design quirks I have no use for (big dials on top of the chassis for example). Chord is another company that designs unnecessarily quirky stuff. WhatHifi do their best to pimp every British product as much as they can, they are basically a publicity house for the British audio industry - they'll reliably deduct a star from anything that is not British in any category, pretty much - and never provide measurements either, it's entirely subjective stuff... :-D

Note I am not saying the Rega sounded *bad* - it just didn't seem to provide any discernible edge over what I already had.
 

tonycollinet

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Similarly I had a loan Brio to try at home. I convinced myself I could tell it apart from my Sony AVR it was to replace and ordered one. Fortuntately I came here soon enough to have my ears opened, checked again and realised I couldn't. I cancelled the order just in time.
 

MacCali

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Another set of independent measurements for Elicit-R, again in Russia, https://www.pult.ru/articles/stereousiliteli/integrirovannyy-usilitel-rega-elicit-r/ globally Ok but nothing exceptional as far as I can see.
When I am going to spend 1000's I would like a little more detail. I do appreciate all who partake in bring forth something, definitely not bad[Elicit R] or ground breaking. But I do believe the amps I am using now, manufactured in the early 2000's beat them and I got two of these amps for 800 dollars, which I am running in mono.

I got to say to be crystal clear, we have a post on here for some crappy hybrid monoprice tube amp which I purchased for 20 dollars on clearance. I believe the sinad was 36 db or something beyond grotesquem, the measurements were beyond the beyond of bad. I got no clue man, I listen to the amp on occasion with my only pair of high sensitivity speakers and they sound good. Honestly even amir stated that youre going to hear noise when the speakers aren't playing anything and honestly it's very very low, I actually didn't even notice it until putting my ear very close to the tweeter. I am not here to say it's the most spectacular sounding amp I have ever heard, nor do I have massive experience so the learning curve maybe a factor, yet makes me wonder what is really something horrible sounding via amplification.

But this goes back to my earlier point, if you want me to dish out a lot of money you better have something to say hey this is worth that much. I dont expect competence in a 150 dollar amp but when it comes to 2000 give me something, cause we can all just assume it's really bad. Like the statement we just listen.. well my 20 dollar amp that I listened to isn't an abomination, so that doesn't mean you can provide me with the same for even a 1000 lol
 

BicycleJoe

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Rega IO stereo integrated amplifier with phono input. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $649 on Amazon including Prime shipping. It is designed and built in UK and price there seems much more reasonable (379 pounds).

The front panel doesn't do much for me:

View attachment 162324

It is function though with a simple input switch and power. The inclusion of remote control is a nice touch:

View attachment 162325

Courtesy of the company heritage in building turntables, it has phono input built-in. No digital inputs which is an odd omission in this day and age.

Rega IO Amplifier Measurements
With power amplifiers I let them run at about 5 watts into my 4 ohm load and watch their distortion+noise to see when it stabilizes. It did not in the case of Regao IO and contrary to audiophile belief, kept getting worse!

View attachment 162329

I watched every video review of this box while waiting but it would simply not stabilize. At around 23:00 minute, I started to sense the smell of electronics running too hot so I put my hand on it. That was a mistake as it darn near burned it! The sides were quite hot. I took an IR picture of it:

View attachment 162330

As you see the left and right bars run much hotter with the back end being at around 45 degrees C. This is in open air in cool weather where we live. Imagine what it would do at higher power delivery and when put in a cabinet. Not good. Company provides lifetime warranty but says it won't include wear and tear. Wonder if it cooks itself whether they repair it under warranty.

Anyway, let's get on with our testing starting with our dashboard:

View attachment 162332

A lot of things stand out. For starters, the channel gain is not matched. The mismatch seemed to be volume pot independent. Then there is the matter of very high levels of mains hum and harmonics. No matter what I did with grounding, it would not make any difference whatsoever. The mains noise is actually higher in energy than the harmonics. That is not a bad thing in that our sensitivity at lower frequencies is much lower than at higher ups.

SINAD sums all the noise and distortion and lands the IO in the "fair" category:

View attachment 162335

This is well below average of nearly 79 dB.

Signal to noise ratio as a result is nothing to write home about:

View attachment 162333

I was surprised that despite being a simple class AB design, it doesn't have flat response in audible band:

View attachment 162334

Most shocking measurement was that of crosstalk:

View attachment 162336

Here is our multitone test showing the impact of distortion:

View attachment 162344

Company specs the amp at just 30 watts into 8 ohm and good news is that it delivers that:

View attachment 162337

But this is not much power. Here is what we get into 4 ohm:

View attachment 162338

Thankfully being a class AB amplifier with unregulated power supply, it does better in burst mode:
View attachment 162339

Modern speakers are built in compact enclosure that reduces their efficiency greatly. I am not sure this is enough power.

Here is our frequency stepped response:

View attachment 162340

Class AB designs sport clean transfer functions and the Rega is no exception. Typical of all amps though, you lose power at very low frequencies. Usually you have a lot to loosing some is not super painful. Here though, you don't so that is not good news.

Phono Stage Measurements
There is no preamp output so I decided to use the headphone output to measure the RIAA equalization:

View attachment 162341

Good showing here assuming you prefer less bass to LP rumble.

Headphone Output Measurements
Company specifies the headphone output as having an impedance of > 100 ohm which is massive. It will cause frequency response error in vast number of headphones which have variable impedance. And on those flat ones which tend to be low, it will dissipate a lot of power internally:
View attachment 162342


View attachment 162343

This is basically a checklist feature and not something that you want to use for any serious headphone listening.

Conclusions
I have a soft spot for western companies trying to compete with Asian ones in budget audio products. Alas, performance has to be there to do the job and for the most part, it is not with Rega IO. Capability is poor as far as power output. Measurements like crosstalk are horrid. Headphone output is years behind times with super high impedance. And then we have the large amount of heat this generates. If this were a powerful amplifier I could understand idling high but not when all you have is 30 watts into 8 ohm. Amplifiers have a tough life and you want them to be reliable. I am not sure how long the IO will last given the elevated temps under which it operates.

I don't know that this is a terrible amplifier but when test after test makes me cringe, I have no choice but to withhold recommendation for Rega IO.

Edit: see teardown here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/rega-io-amplifier-teardown.27735/
------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
First Post here, thank you Amir for publishing a comprehensive review. I could not find any information other than regurgitated verbatim company copy. Just now I am resurrecting my vinyl after a 10 year absence. I am ordering the Deckert 34I and the ZP3 phono with a 14 month waiting list. I just had my JVCQLY 66F and its cartridge restored by Soundsmith.

Temporarily I put $60 down on a $600 open box Rega IO. It's a temporary solution that fits the budget for now since I have the expense of filling in the gaps while I build my idea of a budget audiophile tube system. Steve Deckert recommends a 5 mV output level, The Clear Audio Maestro V1 cartridge I have now is 3.6. That's why I'm here because you did comprehensive measurements which I could not find anywhere else.
Do you know what the Rega I/O phono section measured? I see you went through the headphone output but was wondering if you knew the answer to my question through other means?
 

BicycleJoe

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First Post here, thank you Amir for publishing a comprehensive review. I could not find any information other than regurgitated verbatim company copy. Just now I am resurrecting my vinyl after a 10 year absence. I am ordering the Deckert 34I and the ZP3 phono with a 14 month waiting list. I just had my JVCQLY 66F and its cartridge restored by Soundsmith.

Temporarily I put $60 down on a $600 open box Rega IO. It's a temporary solution that fits the budget for now since I have the expense of filling in the gaps while I build my idea of a budget audiophile tube system. Steve Deckert recommends a 5 mV output level, The Clear Audio Maestro V1 cartridge I have now is 3.6. That's why I'm here because you did comprehensive measurements which I could not find anywhere else.
Do you know what the Rega I/O phono section measured? I see you went through the headphone output but was wondering if you knew the answer to my question through other means?
Answering my own question
2.1mV @ 47kΩ in parallel with 220pF
 

3dcnc

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I have the Topping PA5 connected to the SMSL M500 Mk2 fed by a Raspberry PI PI2AES. I was tempted to get the Rega IO as an alternative amp to all my D amps. Once again Audio Science has probably saved me some money for the return Postage. Temptation gone . Thanks Amir
 

MacCali

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I have the Topping PA5 connected to the SMSL M500 Mk2 fed by a Raspberry PI PI2AES. I was tempted to get the Rega IO as an alternative amp to all my D amps. Once again Audio Science has probably saved me some money for the return Postage. Temptation gone . Thanks Amir
I guess certain amps have extra features which may come in handy. However, I did find this review to number of open box rega io and brios I see available for sale.

But simply for a phono stage and convenience I would definitely think a buying a separate phono and probably any NAD amp would be nearly the same price. If you’re looking for outside of class D.

Really like the old B.E.E. Line from them, I’m guessing that’s a competent designer who was once part of the company. But I would say the 316 is another amp that runs out of steam quick.

I own the 326BEE and that was my first integrated amp and think for the money it’s outstanding. Only paid 300 not sure what msrp is think 500 and it is a barebones amplifier but I guess it does provide sufficient current. I’ve never really gone past ~130 on the dial and it’s very loud at that point. In a bedroom.
 

3dcnc

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I guess certain amps have extra features which may come in handy. However, I did find this review to number of open box rega io and brios I see available for sale.

But simply for a phono stage and convenience I would definitely think a buying a separate phono and probably any NAD amp would be nearly the same price. If you’re looking for outside of class D.

Really like the old B.E.E. Line from them, I’m guessing that’s a competent designer who was once part of the company. But I would say the 316 is another amp that runs out of steam quick.

I own the 326BEE and that was my first integrated amp and think for the money it’s outstanding. Only paid 300 not sure what msrp is think 500 and it is a barebones amplifier but I guess it does provide sufficient current. I’ve never really gone past ~130 on the dial and it’s very loud at that point. In a bedroom.
My problem is actually also space. I have my setup in my office on my desk. Thanks for the suggestion . I also came across a few open box Rega IO in ebay. "Apparently" the Sabaj A10 has got a "NAD" sound - warm and full. Lacks some of the detail of the PA5
. I really should not be buying any more audio stuff.
 

AvPioneer

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This amp is a gem regardless of measurements. Go listen to it and put it up against comparable prices gear and get back to me. You’re not listening to graphs, you’re listening to music. You think highly of yourself if you think you’re going to hear what you’d be worried about looking at the measurements here.

I’d take this at lower listening level over my Pioneer SX-828 and Creek 50A. Both are respected amps but this little thing makes music punch and sparkle watt for watt. The vinyl stage sounds amazing as well.

Sleeping on it without hearing is your own loss, imo. I say this with love, lol
 

Chagall

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This amp is a gem regardless of measurements. Go listen to it and put it up against comparable prices gear and get back to me. You’re not listening to graphs, you’re listening to music. You think highly of yourself if you think you’re going to hear what you’d be worried about looking at the measurements here.

I’d take this at lower listening level over my Pioneer SX-828 and Creek 50A. Both are respected amps but this little thing makes music punch and sparkle watt for watt. The vinyl stage sounds amazing as well.

Sleeping on it without hearing is your own loss, imo. I say this with love, lol

We love listening to music...In fact we love listening to music so much that we want our amps to be as transparent as possible!
So why would we want to spoil it with this:
Untitled-1ggg.png
 

Yevhen

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This amp is a gem regardless of measurements. Go listen to it and put it up against comparable prices gear and get back to me. You’re not listening to graphs, you’re listening to music. You think highly of yourself if you think you’re going to hear what you’d be worried about looking at the measurements here.

I’d take this at lower listening level over my Pioneer SX-828 and Creek 50A. Both are respected amps but this little thing makes music punch and sparkle watt for watt. The vinyl stage sounds amazing as well.

Sleeping on it without hearing is your own loss, imo. I say this with love, lol
I also tend to liking gear with higher distortion but only during the first minutes/hours/days. This sparkle you mention might indeed give some feeling of extra drive.

Still, after careful long term comparison I start noticing how many details are hidden. And the measurements easily explain it. Check the 32 tone test, all those details below -80...-90dB are masked in the deep forest of intermodulation products.

I think Audiolab 8300 is doing much better job for the same money. And if you can spend a bit more on top Hyper or Purifi DIY... That's a life-changing experience :)
 

MacCali

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This amp is a gem regardless of measurements. Go listen to it and put it up against comparable prices gear and get back to me. You’re not listening to graphs, you’re listening to music. You think highly of yourself if you think you’re going to hear what you’d be worried about looking at the measurements here.

I’d take this at lower listening level over my Pioneer SX-828 and Creek 50A. Both are respected amps but this little thing makes music punch and sparkle watt for watt. The vinyl stage sounds amazing as well.

Sleeping on it without hearing is your own loss, imo. I say this with love, lol
I personally would say I think this is a very niche amplifier. I do accept measurements and I totally understand why you don’t.

I ain’t mad at you or want to duel

Even equipment with a sinad of -40 doesn’t sound as bad as you would imagine. So this will definitely sound good to you.

However, you can get away with cheaper and better performance with a few additions that the Rega has.

But if you are not using those extras you basically got ripped off pretty sick, not saying you. Merely for anyone in general.
 

KEFCarver

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I personally would say I think this is a very niche amplifier. I do accept measurements and I totally understand why you don’t.

I ain’t mad at you or want to duel

Even equipment with a sinad of -40 doesn’t sound as bad as you would imagine. So this will definitely sound good to you.

However, you can get away with cheaper and better performance with a few additions that the Rega has.

But if you are not using those extras you basically got ripped off pretty sick, not saying you. Merely for anyone in general.
Great reply & I agree with you about a sinad of -40 not necessarily sounding bad. Great picture for your Avatar!!
 

Whitecanhifi

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I sold the IO soon after this ASR review… and then rebought it a few weeks ago.

It is a heck of a good amp. Quick, slightly warm tone.

But beware if you use a 4-ohm speaker at high volumes. It will get hot (but I have never had the io shut off with its safety trigger).

But with 8-ohm speakers (I use CSS 1-tdx) and 6 ohm (klh model 5), combined with the Bluesound node… brilliant.

I prefer the combination over my su-g700 AND decware amp.

JUST DON’T USE A 4-OHM SPEAKER and you’ll be fine.
 

MacCali

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My problem is actually also space. I have my setup in my office on my desk. Thanks for the suggestion . I also came across a few open box Rega IO in ebay. "Apparently" the Sabaj A10 has got a "NAD" sound - warm and full. Lacks some of the detail of the PA5
. I really should not be buying any more audio stuff.
Yea like I said seems like the built in phono stage and size are the basic strong points for this amp.

Yet as you can see for the price plus the build is basically sloppy and neglected makes it a tough choice.

When you look back at my previous comments when I reached out to Rega they say there’s no measurements on the units. They listen and don’t measure.

Yet we have or had another user point out measurements on higher end units are actually more competitive. So clearly they do measure or are aware of how to implement a proper design which leads to quality sound.
 

AvPioneer

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I sold the IO soon after this ASR review… and then rebought it a few weeks ago.

It is a heck of a good amp. Quick, slightly warm tone.

But beware if you use a 4-ohm speaker at high volumes. It will get hot (but I have never had the io shut off with its safety trigger).

But with 8-ohm speakers (I use CSS 1-tdx) and 6 ohm (klh model 5), combined with the Bluesound node… brilliant.

I prefer the combination over my su-g700 AND decware amp.

JUST DON’T USE A 4-OHM SPEAKER and you’ll be fine.
Exactly. I think retail retrieval is fantastic but every piece of gear I own seems to convey depth and detail with different priorities. Some are neutral and I could understand if someone would say they are more boring to listen to. Others simply boogie. They are immediately fun to listen to.

I think my ears are decent. I would say I keep nothing that absolutely sucks at sound/data retrieval and I’m sorry but it’s proactively objective that the the IO is way more dynamic but seems to miss not much in terms of detail in the process of being dynamic and punchy.

So, sure. Could be other options that compete well or better it. My point was that MAYBE people should remember that the charts won’t tell you exactly what you’re going to hear and how it will make you feel. Listen to it first if you can before dismissing is all I was trying to say.
 

bsas

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I sold the IO soon after this ASR review… and then rebought it a few weeks ago.

It is a heck of a good amp. Quick, slightly warm tone.

But beware if you use a 4-ohm speaker at high volumes. It will get hot (but I have never had the io shut off with its safety trigger).

But with 8-ohm speakers (I use CSS 1-tdx) and 6 ohm (klh model 5), combined with the Bluesound node… brilliant.

I prefer the combination over my su-g700 AND decware amp.

JUST DON’T USE A 4-OHM SPEAKER and you’ll be fine.

I have the same two speakers (KLH Model 5 and the CSS Criton 1TD-X). Which one is your favorite and why? What do you mean by “combining” them, do you play both at the same time???
 

DSJR

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Like I keep saying, the Io distorts around the same as many 80's enthusiast amps do and it should be transparent enough at low levels (it was for me when I spent a morning with one). Sure the performance is old fashioned and it would appear the slim shoebox stylee does the performance no favours either. Thing is, in many years time, it should be serviceable if needs be. Could the same be said for the far eastern wonder-boxes being raved about here for under four hundred notes? (the Io is under £400 in the UK). It's part of their baby record playing system and fits that brief well. Such a bloody shame that the US price is so much higher, but I still think it's a valid product here in the UK, if not the kind of box that SINAD wet dreams are made of...

I dunno, just sayin'
 

Whitecanhifi

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I have the same two speakers (KLH Model 5 and the CSS Criton 1TD-X). Which one is your favorite and why? What do you mean by “combining” them, do you play both at the same time???
I rotate the speakers. 1TD-X is the most regular in my system, and I might sell the KLH (I just don't like floor standers). I find that the Bluesound Node is a great addition to this amp (and allows for adding a subwoofer, B&W DB4S).
 
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AvPioneer

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So, picked up some original LS50’s and gave them a whirl with the Rega IO and honestly? Sounds magical. Tried them with my Creek and once again, just not as exciting of an amp as the IO.

I’m not blasting the LS50’s and don’t expect that approach would work out as well (as mentioned by KEF) but in terms of 70-80db performance in a smaller home theater room? A really nice pairing sonically, imo. Another reminder to observe measurements but also just let your ears tell you what sounds killer :)

Also doesn’t hurt that I paid $370 for the Rega. I mean…once heck of a deal considering how quickly it put my other gear to bed indefinitely.
 
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